Monday, July 1, 2024

Gettysburg Day 1 (and the Necessity of Preparation)

At 11:00 a.m. on July 1, 1863, Union General George Meade learned that the Southern troops were advancing in strong force a mere 15 miles away. "Good God!" he exclaimed. "If the enemy gets to Gettysburg, we are lost!" John Buford's Federal cavalry was putting up a stiff defense against A.P. Hill's corps that was approaching down the Chambersburg Pike from the west. Thus both armies began their inevitable collision on the outskirts of Gettysburg.

That morning, Union general John Reynolds conferred with Buford at what is today one of the most iconic buildings in Gettysburg. 

For a few dollars, you can climb the steps to the copula and, using your imagination, see what the Federals saw -- Confederate troops overlapping the flanks of the Federal I and XI Corps. Union soldiers began retreating through the streets of Gettysburg, finally coming to a halt on a hill just south of town. Meade's plans to fight a defensive battle on Pipe Creek literally just went up in smoke. Cemetery Hill was now the keystone of the Union defense.

This small plot of real estate would witness fierce combat over the next three days. The Union's defensive line is often described as a fish hook, with the barb at Culp's Hill, then curving around Cemetery Hill, and ending at the Round Tops. Meade looked over the landscape, then quietly said to himself, "Well, we may fight it out here just as well as anywhere else."

Soon enough, the battle would end with a great Union victory. But at 11:00 a.m. on July 1, no one could know that, least of all George Gordon Meade. The only question that mattered now was: "Are we prepared for the coming fight?" 

Today we have a standing army in the U.S. God forbid that it should have to go to war again. But if that time were to come, heaven help us if we are not prepared. My pastor when I was in college once said to me, "It's better to be prepared and not called than to be called and not prepared. Just ask anyone in the Marine Corps." His point was, "Dave, I know you're anxious to finish your studies and get out there in ministry. But your years of preparation at the seminary aren't a waste of time. Yes, the Lord could return before you begin your career. But if he should tarry, you need to be ready to serve him to the very best of your ability."

Preparedness applies to so many areas of our lives. If you'll excuse a shift to a very mundane subject, it applies even to weight lifting. This morning I worked on doing bench presses. But as you can see here, you can't just lie on the bench and begin lifting. 

You first have to:

  • Grip the bar and squeeze it hard.
  • Set up your arch, creating a slight curve in your back by tucking your shoulder blades in while puffing your chest up. 
  • Press the bar up and arc it forward with locked elbows until your arms are pointed angled out. 
  • Bend your elbows slightly in so that they are about a 45 degree angle on the negative.
  • Finally, move the bar down and slightly forward without bouncing it. Make soft contact with your chest and from there push the bar back up while pressing your feet into the floor. 

This is your bench press check list. If you can tick off all 5, you have proper form. 

Remember: Preparation for a bench press is just as important as the exercise is.

Have a wonderful day!