Monday, April 28, 2008

Grinning from Ear to Ear...

I woke up to something beautiful on Sunday morning. It was early... real early... bottle time to be exact. But, it was worth it.

After I fed Rylan his morning breakfast bottle, I placed him in his little glider seat. I noticed he was staring at me so I started to talk to him. Then, he started to really coo and smile. So I grabbed the camera and took about 57 pictures of it. One of which is shown at the right. Good news is, Rylan is doing great! Thanks for all of your prayers and kind words. As you can see from the picture, they worked and God is good!

A little while later, Will wandered into the room and started playing Webkinz on the laptop. I took this opportunity to teach him how to babysit his brother. And as you can see, Rylan was pretty content watching big bro' type away. God has been so good to Marci and I.

Thank you Lord for allowing me and giving me the honor to live this life!!!




Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting Fit...



I used to be in good physical shape. Actually, I used to be in great shape and could run and not get tired. But, then I got out of the Army (1999) and it all went to pot. So, 9 years later, I am embarking on a journey of mythical proportions as I seek to recapture the fitness of my youth... well, when I was younger.

I was inspired by my friend Will that is also seeking to regain his military form. He started training and even started a blog to chart his ups, downs, and HOOAHS! over at Help Will Train. Because of him, I am also charting my journey to fitness at a new blog over at:

Gotta' Get Fit to Keep Coming Alive

So, I'm off and running! But I warn you, this new blog will be really, really, really, really boring...



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Death is Precious...

Today, I attended my friend Grant's funeral. I still can't believe that he is gone... 45 years old, 4 year old son, beautiful wife of 18 years, and the world by the coat tails... It doesn't make since why, but I know where he is and that when God called him home Sunday, it was his time to go. Everyone is missing him, but heaven is a whole lot richer today because of his presence.

What struck me right between the eyes was the message the Pastor carried from God and gave to us today. He lingered on the verse that simply says:

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" --Psalm 116:15

Sure, I've heard this verse before, but I don't think I have ever really thought it through, or ruminated over it. Actually, I don't think I'm alone when I say that I've never thought about death being "Precious". I've always associated death with bad things such as loss, pain, suffering, etc... but never precious. That is, until God spoke to me through this preacher today.

When we see death, we see a person that leaves us forever. There is no more interaction with them. No kisses, hugs, handshakes, conversations, or any other thing that we can call person to person sharing. All that our brain can see is the fact that the person is gone and we will never see them again. As Christians, we know that we will see them again (if they were a Christian), but our own petty little psyche is hurt and missing them. I guess we are selfish that way. Anyway, that's how we earthly humans see it.

God on the other hand, looks at the death of one of his children as precious, because of His holiness. You see, when we die, we shed our dirty, stinking earthly body, and our pure spirit leaves it behind to be carted off and buried. Since God is Holy and He can't stand sin, He is overjoyed when our spirit leaves the filthy bag of bones and flesh that it once lived in, and goes to be with Him. The only way that I can even fathom how God may feel is that when a child of His dies, He feels much like a new parent that has just witnessed the birth of their child. Our spirit has been given a new realm of existence, and all new level of holiness that is pleasing to God. We've finished the race and been rewarded with a new holiness with our creator.

Today, I'm missing my friend. But I know that I will see him again one day. I also know that he would not come back for anything in the world. His soul is in communion with God and all of those that have gone on before. There is no more pain or suffering. So long my friend until I see you again one day...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Losing a Friend...

Early Sunday morning I got a call from a buddy of mine. Sadly, I missed his call because I didn't hear my cellphone ringing. When I saw that a call had come in, I picked up the voicemail and was kind of bewildered as to why he called me so early on a Sunday. But when I heard his voice, I could tell something was up by his tone...

"They found Grant Johnson dead this morning... We don't know what happened to him but he told his wife he felt bad and she went to get him something to drink. When she returned, she found him unresponsive. Call me..."

Within about five seconds, I experienced shock, horror, sadness, sorrow, and about ten different memories of the friend that Grant was to me. When I told Marci, I could see it on her face that she was experiencing the same feelings. All that we could say was simply, "Why?".

I met Grant last Spring when I led the men's group at his Church through a study of my book. We instantly hit it off and became friends. We both had boys that were about the same age and both were interested in soccer. One of the things that I admired to the utmost about him was the fact that he and his wife had adopted their son Carson from Central America, brought him home, and become his mom and dad. I got to coach Carson in soccer and Grant helped me out. He was a great guy...

So today, I'm still asking a plethora of "Whys?". Why did he have to go so soon? Why did he have to leave this wife and little boy? Why him? Why? Why? Why? Sure, I've been through this before, but I still don't have the answer. I don't understand God's ways, but I do know that His are much higher and mysterious than any human's could ever be. It just hurts...

In a couple of days, I'll say my goodbyes to Grant. I know that he wouldn't come back from heaven for anything, even though that is what we want. His memory will live on in his blog though. It's over at GIVE ME BOLDNESS.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Inheritance...

SABLE, THREE WOLVES' HEADS, ERASED, ARGENT.
ON A CHIEF OR, LION PASSANT OF THE FIRST.
CREST: A PEGASUS COURANT, SABLE, DUCALLY GORGED


If you know me, you know that I have an affinity for English and early American history. I guess this interest grew from my childhood when my Dad researched our family tree. What he found was that our tree does fork.. several times to be exact! But seriously, he traced the Prater family blood line from me, all the way back to the time of the Norman Conquest of England (circa 1066).

What my Dad found is fascinating. His discoveries indicate that my ancestor (Grandfather) came to England with William the Conqueror and was one of his subjects, most likely a knight. He was a Norman that had descended from a group of Vikings that settled in the Norman peninsula in 911. After William conquered England in 1072, he gave my Grandfather a large amount of land in western England where my ancestors lived and prospered for many generations.

So back to the Prater Coat of Arms...

A coat of arms is also known as a family crest. Crests were used at one time to signify the person or family that carried them. What's even more interesting is that these crests also signify where the family came from and accomplished. For example, the wolves heads on the bottom of the Prater Coat of Arms signify that one of my Grandmothers was a direct descendant of the Yscitheor Prince of Powys because the black (sable) field and the three wolves heads are his symbol. SO, that's my claim to Welsh Royalty.

BUT, the greatest claim is the fact that my coat of arms contains a lion. But not just any lion... This lion is the same style as signified in the Royalty of England. The "Lion Passant" means that it is simply walking and it was the symbol of William the Conqueror that had to give my Grandfather permission to use it. What's neat is the fact that this Lion appears so often in todays world because three lions in the symbol of England. SO, that's my claim to English royalty.

And, to cap it all off, there's a really cool knight's helmet and a winged Pegasus wearing a crown on top of the shield. The Praters must have really been something in Middle Ages England.

But what about your spiritual ancestory? If you think about it, all of us have a spiritual crest that is written on our heart showing where we've been and what we've inherited from our spiritual forefathers. Each is unique and each one tells our story as written by the author of our faith. And what's really cool is the fact that all Christians are royalty because we are a child of the King! What a pedigree!!!

So, I have earthly royal blood from Welsh and English/Norman stock running through my veins. Maybe I should give Princes Harry and William a call sometime...

Nah, what's more important is the fact that I have spiritual royalty from God. He is above all kings and kingdoms on earth, and his inheritance is one that cannot be matched in worldly things.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Feeling Words...


"I wish I could just go somewhere and cry."

Marci said this to me just after we crossed over the Ohio River, leaving Cincinnati behind. It's not that we had a bad experience, but rather they were tears of joy because of the AWESOME news we had received.

On Monday, we loaded Rylan up in our truck and headed for Cincinnati Children's Hospital. This appointment had been looming on the horizon for a month, and I have to say, we were dreading it. After all that we have been through with our little miracle baby, we were scared that we would take him up there and would be told he was sick, needed surgery, or any other number of things that we could imagine. But we went...

The first thing I noticed as we walked through the facility was that it was unlike any hospital I've ever been in. First of all, there were kids everywhere and in all different states of health. I saw bald headed kids, kids with masks, kids with IV's, and kids with no outward appearance of any medical treatment or sickness. As I carried our baby through the hospital, my own level of anxiety began to rise. I was scared...

The Doctor we went to see is known as the "guru" of Ear, Nose, and Throat Pediatric Surgeons. Dr. Robin Cotton is his name and he has been at the hospital for over 35 years and has done everything from airway reconstruction to cleft pallet repairs. His list of Medical Boards he is a member of is substantial, and he is world renknowned as the best of the best for kids with breathing problems.

When he walked into our room, he was a pleasant enough guy and he examined Rylan very carefully. He told us he wanted to do a scope and see what was going on. Obviously, the word "SCOPE" hit our panic button because that is what caused Rylan's lungs to collapse in the first place. We asked if there was a chance of this happening again, and he told us absolutely not because he would be going up through the nose and only looking at the top of the trachea. I think he was a bit confused as to why Rylan was scoped to begin with...

As I held Rylan, he inserted the scope into Rylan's nose and began looking around. Obviously, Rylan threw a fit and turned as red as molten steel. While I watched the doctor look through the scope, I'll never forget him saying,

"He's got Laryngeal Malasia but only a mild case"

Within 3 minutes, the scope was done and the Doctor had told us this great news. He sent us for Xrays and then reviewed them with us. Dr. Cotton told us the Xrays were normal and that Rylan would grow out of the malasia within a year, and that he didn't need to see him again, EVER!!!!!

As you can imagine, we were all relieved/happy/walking on air. We had just gone from scared at 1:30 to driving home on air at 3:15!!! Which leads me up to the title of this post:

When Marci told me she wished she could go somewhere and just cry, what she was saying was that she felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. We had been told by others that Rylan was OK and even some of the Doctors we know have told us the same thing. But it wasn't until we heard it from a true expert in Pediatric Airways that we actually FELT it.

There is a huge difference in hearing words, and feeling them...
Especially when it comes to God.








Friday, April 4, 2008

Getting God...

I love to read, but I read really, really, really slow. Sometimes I feel as though I can write a whole lot quicker than I read. I don't think it's because the cogs in my brain turn at a lousy rate. It's simply that I like to read every word so that I can take in what the writer is saying, and have ample food for thought to digest later. Well, this morning I'm digesting heavily on something I read in the book 'Amazing Grace' last night.

'Amazing Grace' is the story of an Englishman named William Wilberforce. It was turned into a major motion picture and was released in February 2007 (I need to go to Walmart and buy it). If you haven't heard of Wilberforce, you have really missed out on a remarkable person and man of God. He was the one single person on earth that God used to take a stand against the slave trade and lead a campaign against it. But what makes it interesting is that he completely changed the minds of everyone for a practice that had been around since earliest of times. Up until his time (late 1700's), slavery was just something that happened and slaves were no more important that any other piece of property one could own. It was actually viewed as vital to the economy of not only England, which was the greatest colonial power in the world, but also to every nation on the planet

Wilberforce realized that slavery was quite simply put, wrong. And, he devoted his entire life to making everyone else realize it too. He took a stand for what was the right thing to do and eventually he fought his way through the toughest of MP's (Members of Parliament) to see that slavery and the trade of slaves be outlawed throughout the British empire. This is one of, if not, most monumental changes that has taken place in the last 400 years.

As you can imagine the tentacles of slavery caused the fallout to be enormous. Slave trade was outlawed in the Empire, so all countries (including our own) found it tougher to get slaves. And, it wasn't until our nation's Civil War that slavery was once and for all put to bed under the leadership of Abe Lincoln. Actually, Abe Lincoln considered Wilberforce one of his idols.

The thing that jumps out at me is that Wilberforce didn't go on his crusade against slavery until after his conversion. Like many of us, he had a Christian upbringing, went to church, played the part, and he was a good person... but not born again. It was not until he spent a few months in the summer of 1785, riding across Europe in a stage coach with the great theologian Isaac Milner that he "Got It". Here's the line I read last night that gives a peek into what he "Got":

"What madness is the course I am pursuing. I believe all the great truths of the Christian religion, but I am not acting as though I did. Should I die in this state I must go into a place of misery... Yet I may become religious. Has God not promised His Holy Spirit on them that ask Him?"

Obviously, he was under conviction that made him realize where he stood with God. And with the help of a great man of God like Milner, who never rammed Christianity down his throat, only discussed it, Wilberforce was changed. He went on to work out his salvation and make a complete 180 degree turn and start living for God rather than of his own desires. This was his Damascus Road conversion and also the day he took the job that God had written on his heart when He created him. On that day, he realized that all men are created equal and that slavery must be abolished. He worked tirelessly and had set back after set back but finally, he saw the vision God had cast before him come to fruition 1807 with the passage of the Slave Trade Act.

So, let me ask you this: Do you "Get God"? If anything, most of us simply go through the motions without asking God what He wants us to do, and do what we desire instead. William Wilberforce listened and allowed himself to be used and he changed the world.

Are you getting what He's telling you?

Or are you just spinning your wheels?

Are you a good person playing the part?

I'm listening God, speak...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

TMI Post of the Year...

"I'm growing older but not up,
My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck,
Let the winds of time blow over my head,
I'd rather die while I'm living,
than live while I'm dead"

--Jimmy Buffett



-It's not that I'm 36 years old...

-It's not because a friend of mine asked if it seems possible that we are coming up on 20 years out of High School...

-AND, It's not that the kid at the gas station calls me "Sir"...

This morning, I saw something that scared me. Actually, it put "THE FEAR OF GOD" in me and has caused me to reevaluate my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health status. And when I saw it, I began making a list of "I GOTTA's" such as:

I Gotta' loose weight, take vitamins, pray more, get that life insurance policy, make out a will.....

STOP! All of this over the fact that I noticed something poking out of my ear and waving at me like a passenger on a ship pulling out of port. Was it a mole? No... A Tumor? NO!!!

What I noticed this morning was that I have a couple of tiny little clear hairs sticking out of my right ear. These hairs are not the little hairs that are "Cute" like the ones around my infant son's ears. Not at all... The ones that I'm talking about are 2" long and snow white!

Should I be scared? Should I get an AARP membership? Should I wait until I look like this guy, even though I already feel like I do?

Well, I can already tell you that I am not going to try to set a record for the longest ear hair. From the looks of things, this guy would be pretty hard to beat. So I simply took the scissors and snipped them off one by one to get a better look at my new enemy. Upon closer examination, they are thin and probably no one would even notice them because of their color... But I did snip them, and I added them to the list of "Things to Do When Looking in the Mirror".

So there you go! This is my official TMI (To Much Information) Post for the year. However, it's made me realize that it's always a good time to reevaluate and take inventory of everything physical and spiritual, to make sure you're getting the care and exercise you need. I know that I need to do a whole lot more conditioning and I'm starting asap. I'm going to start a physical fitness routine that involves walking my dog a few miles each night. I'm going to incorporate spiritual fitness into it by using this time to walk and talk with God too.

AND, I'm buying one of those fancy little trimmers as well...