The Summer of 1975

Everyone needs a place to go to be a kid.  For my buddies and me, that place was ten minutes from home if you walked it.  It was a world all its own. All the kids from that sleepy little Ohio town would gather there. It is where we grew up.  

Together.

That summer, the place to be was Teagarden’s Pool in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

So many things happened there… so many memories.

But of course, none of it was permanent.  Unless you count the flashes of images and thoughts of a time not cluttered with the responsibilities of adulthood.

Each day was filled with the shrieks of laughter and catcalls, as me and all my friends would swim on endless summer days.

Sure, they called it Teagarden’s Pool, but we knew better.   That pool… belonged to us.

On one beautiful day in June, I was at the pool to take a Junior Lifesaving course.   I had known how to swim since I was five.   I had worked my way through the Tadpole, Guppy, Dolphin and Shark divisions.   Now I was on my way to becoming a “lifeguard”.  

Looking back on it now, I probably took all of those classes because of the fact that they were taught by girls, not just any girls… but older girls… girls in bikinis.

And on this particular day, this pretty girl was there to take the class.    Now I knew all the girls in my age group from our little town of Oak Harbor, Ohio.   But this girl wasn’t a girl that I knew… she was “new”.    A rare find in our little town.

I tried not to look like I was staring.  I quickly looked away if I saw the slightest twitch that she may look in my direction.   I sat there trying to look like I was paying attention to our “instructor-in-the-bikini”, but I couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful stranger that was dropped from heaven.   Who was this new girl?   Where was she from?   Where was she living and more importantly was she staying?

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who eyes were fixated on the new visitor.   I looked around the class and every hometown girl who was taking the class was staring as well.  The evaluation was in full motion.   As my eyes and all of the others boys were looking in approval, the other girls there were judgmental and critical of new-found competition.

As fate would have it, when it was time to break up into groups for our first activity of the class, I was placed in the same group with her.   I couldn’t believe it, what luck!

She was walking my way and my mind was racing a million miles per hour.    I was going to be the first to talk to her.   I was desperately trying to think of something witty to say, something profound. Something to break the ice… something to let her see I was a “cool” guy.

I was sure I did not want to say something like…”Hi, my name is David.   What’s yours?  Where are you from?   How old are you?   Why are you here?   Did you move here?   Why are you taking this class? “

No… I did not want to say these things… but I did.

As a matter of fact, I said it without taking a breath and yes, I said this whole statement in less than 1.2 seconds.  

A world record I’m sure.

She was just staring at me.   The look on her face was evident that she thought she just  met Oak Harbor’s village idiot.

Her jaw dropped and I could see that she was trying not to laugh at the jumbled mess that just came out of my mouth.   She was trying to respond, but could not for fear that she would make fun of the village idiot.   So she spoke in precise, deliberate and painfully slow words.   She spoke loud.   You know, like when you talk to someone who is deaf or from a foreign country.    Like somehow if she talked louder, I would be able to understand what she was saying.   “MY NAME IS KAREN” she slowly exclaimed!

It was evident that I lost any chance of convincing her that I was a normal “cool” guy.   So I relaxed.   I interrupted her and told her that I wasn’t deaf and I was at least smart enough to follow what she was saying.   I tried to be coy and told her I might not understand everything she said but I would at least try.   She told me she was 15 and was from Cleveland.   She was camping at a local campground for few weeks with her grandparents.    She was bored at the campground so they let her take this class.

I was so glad that she didn’t catch me staring at her.  I mean, I already made an absolute fool out of myself; I did not want her to think I was a pervert as well.

Maybe she was just a kind-hearted soul that took pity on village idiots or she indeed liked being with me, because for the next two weeks we were inseparable.    I would wake each morning and hurry down to the pool at 8:00 AM and sure enough there she would be waiting there for me.  

After class we would stay at the pool until it closed that night.    We would swim and talk for hours.    We never left the pool.   Karen told me about everything in her life.    She told me about her school, her friends and her family.   She never had or wanted a boyfriend.    She told me how her father died when she was two and her mom had recently remarried a man she did not like.   He made her feel uncomfortable.   Always making comments and touching her in ways that made her feel uneasy.   That was really why she was in Oak Harbor in the first place. She was trying to get away from some things she did not want to deal with.

We talked and talked. I didn’t mind.   She told me things that she said she never told anyone else.   I guess in some way, I made her feel comfortable. Maybe she knew that she could say exactly what was on her mind and not feel judged because of it.  She was sharing her memories, feelings and her dreams as she spoke them to me.

At times, she would just stop talking and get real quiet. She wanted me to just to talk to her about my life.   We would talk about my brother’s death and life in a small town.   We talked about religion and what we believed.   We shared our love for music and what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives.    It was special because we could talk, knowing that we could say anything and we would not be judged like we would have been had we been talking to our friends that we grew up with.  

And we both knew…it couldn’t last forever.

Soon that inevitable time came upon us and neither one of us wanted to admit was taking place.   She had two more days before she was going to go back home.   It was Friday and she would have to leave Sunday morning.   As the pool closed that warm summer Friday night, we stayed a little longer talking at the gate before her grandparents picked her up.   She looked nervous and I asked her what was wrong.   She just looked at me and stared.    With the sun setting in the distance and the color of her blue eyes reflecting off the last remaining rays of light, she looked up and kissed me.

No… it wasn’t my first kiss.  Maybe it was her first kiss, I don’t know.    But I do know that this was different.   This was not about a boy and a girl.    For in fact, in the two weeks we spent together we had not as much as held hands.   This was about friendship and the special time we spent together.

Karen placed a letter in my hand and asked me to promise not to open it until I got home that night. We had one more day together and we made plans to meet the next day at the pool, like always.

And in an instant she was gone.

I took my time walking home that summer night. I wanted to remember and etch it in my memory.

I read her letter.  She wrote of our first meeting at the pool.   She told me that she thought it was cute how I kept staring at her that first day and how I tried to look away when she looked over at me.   She had caught me staring!!  I thought I had hidden it.   She talked about the pool and all of our talks we had.   She told me she would miss me.  She told me goodbye.   Her grandparents were leaving early on Saturday morning, not Sunday. She wouldn’t be coming back to the pool.

I knew at that moment, that life was not fair.   In the haste of the last night together, I never got her address.   It was hopeless. When you’re fifteen, Cleveland is so far away. 

It might as well have been on he other side of the world.

I’d never felt like that before in my entire life.   The next day I ran down to the pool in the fleeting hope that she would be there.   Maybe there was a chance she would stop by before she left for home.   She wouldn’t come to the pool that day.  

Our time together that summer was over.

That was 40 years ago.   Even today, I think about a friendship that lasted for two weeks that I have carried with me for all these years.    I wonder what ever happened to her.  I wonder what would she be doing now and if some of her dreams came true.  I wonder if she still thinks about a skinny kid from Oak Harbor, Ohio.

I like to think so.

I kept that letter she wrote me in an old shoe box.   Over the years, I took it out every now and then, unfolded the tattered, yellowed pages and I was immediately taken back to another place and time.   Suddenly for a few moments, I was fifteen again and life wasn’t filled with the responsibilities I have today.

I have no idea where that letter is today.  It was probably thrown out with the trash when I wasn’t paying attention to what was in that old shoe box.

But I still have the memory.

Memory has a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are and the things you never want to lose.

Cause when you’re fifteen, it’s a long way to Cleveland.

 

Two Pennies

“While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box.  Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.   For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”                                                                        

Luke 21:1-4

As I have grown older, I admit that I don’t think I do much for God that matters.  I have always tried to convince myself that over the past 8-9 years that I was doing something worthwhile in my writing.

But in truth… it really hasn’t amounted to anything.

There was a time, years ago, when I really felt that I was part of something that was doing something for the Lord.  In light of where I am in life, it is very clear to me that since 1995… I have been on the shelf. Not really doing anything of significance for the Lord. I used to say, like Moses, I was on the backside of the desert and I was on journey that would bring me back to where I could be used once more for God.

That is just something that I don’t believe any longer.

I am convinced that the reason I am still “on the shelf” is because I have always been waiting for the opportunity to teach an adult Bible class. I have not been willing to do the “small” stuff.  I was waiting to be reconciled to the point that I could once again open a Bible and teach like I did all those years ago.  And as much as it pains me to admit, I see now that I still struggle to truly give the little I have to offer to do the small stuff to be used of Him.  I have been looking for something bigger to do. 

Here is the truth… God knows my heart.  He knows my pride.  He knows my intention. 

It’s been 21 years and I am still not far enough on my journey to be completely restored.  I have more miles to walk and I have more layers of my heart that need to be stripped of my pride.

Now before anyone who stumbles upon this post and may  think that I am feeling sorry for myself, I’m not.  What I have come to realize is that I have been the one that has kept me on this journey away from serving God and I have exiled myself to the shelf. 

This is not a place where God has put me.  I have done this to myself.

When I look at the world around me and all that is happening I am tempted to ask, “So what difference can I make?  What I could do will not change a thing.”  

As I read this story this morning, once more I watch Jesus highlight the little things…the things we miss.   He tells the disciples, “Hey, did you see that?  That was amazing!”  And they reply, “What? What? We didn’t see anything.”  Jesus responds, “That woman who put two cents in the offering, did you see that?”  I’m sure they were thinking, are you kidding me?  What difference does that make?

To God it was big, to us it was nothing.

I am convinced that I miss the big things because they seemed so small to me.

God sees the small things, the things done for Him.

Yes, even when no one else sees them, God sees.

He sees our intentions.

He sees our hearts.

He sees who we really are.

We’re not fooling anybody.

What Can I Say? It’s Part of My Story

A few months ago I wrote on my other blog about the death of Prince.

Since then, a few people have questioned why I would honor Prince.

He was, after all, controversial, edgy and so on.

I’ve asked myself why when I heard of his passing.

It took me a few days to process why and I have finally come up with the answer.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself.

It boils down to this – Prince is a part of my story. 

Now before you fall off your chair from laughter, let me first clarify something. While I liked some of his songs, I am not nor have I ever been a purple rain loving, party like it’s 1999, little red corvette driving, let’s go crazy, raspberry beret wearing, sad when dove’s cry crazed fan.

But to say that Prince wasn’t part of my story would not be telling the truth.

I have written about it before but I have based almost every lasting memory around the music that I was surrounded by at the time of the event.

For me, the music memories are so vivid that at times they overtake the memory itself. You see, music, invokes such memory that at times I can even remember the smells associated to those memories.  A simple melody has the power to burn a memory in my mind—engraving its memory on me so that every time I hear it I return to that emotional place.

I love that—the power of a song.

I first felt the impact when I was nine years old. Listening to CKLW out of Detroit and hearing the song “I’ll Be There” by Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five.

Over 45 years later, when I hear that song, it invokes memories of my brother Bobby.

It was such a big song… #1 from October all the way through November 14th 1970.  My brother was killed on a Thursday, November 5th, 1970.

Normally, I have always struggled to remember my brother.  I was five years younger and he was too old to really play with me when I was really little and at the age of nine, I was just a pest to him and his other fourteen year old friends.  He was taken too soon and I never really got to know him.  I was devastated by the loss but this song brings him back to memusic memories.  I only think of him every time I hear it.  It invokes good memories and softens the hurt that came so many years ago.  It is when I remember him most.

I could tell every story that is associated to a song that is burned into my memory.  But that would be a really long post so I will just leave it at that.  I am sure you understand what I mean.  I will write about those memories and songs as I continue to write this blog.

Music influences every post I ever write. No matter how well I map out what I am going to write, I can’t catch my flow of words until I have music playing in my headphones. And almost always it’s the music that reveals what I need to write about.

While I always have music playing when I write, I can’t stop myself from singing along with it.  I envy the writer and the way lyricists can tell a story in a few stanzas.  I struggle to put a sentence together, let alone a song.  It is one of the great mysteries of life that I ponder. The whole process of writing a song is one of the great mysteries in life.  I do not have the talent to write lyrics and for me, someone who can write lyrics has truly a gift from God.  My favorite artists are those that sing and write their own music.

So, basically, for as much as I love music, I’m locked out of the process of making it. I really can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument, and I can’t write lyrics. But the artists who can?  They rock. I wish I could do it.

So there you have iMusic Storyt.  Music is what I use to define periods of my life.  Music tells my story.  It’s that important to me.  It allows me to write pages of my life and my music will tell you more about me than I ever will.

I’ve learned that until you fully embrace your story, you can’t move forward writing new pages. The story will include good and bad. There will be wonderful memories and times you wish you could erase. Removing those memories, removes pages from your story. It minimizes what made you who you are.

So now back to Prince. Prince was big in the early 80’s and at a time when I was in my college years.  I was going to a Christian college and trying to hide the fact that I loved music.  Most of which was banned at that time when I was in college.  Rock music wasn’t allowed and I had to be very discreet with my music. I was a young man trying to figure things out, in time when legalism flourished in the church.  Anything with drums was taught as being evil and I tried to hide it as best I could.  It was a time of friends and dates.  It was the age of excess with big hair, fluorescent clothes and the music.

Oh… the music.

I could go on and on and tell so many stories from those years. They are treasured.

Sure, there were broken hearts and scars. There was puppy love and having no clue how to treat our dates. But we were writing our story. We were learning the mistakes to teach our children to avoid at all costs. The habits, the trials and the things our parents said we should avoid.  These memories are locked into the music from that time.

I’ll leave you with one last thought.  My parents bought a VCR in the summer of 1984. Not everyone had one. We finally got ours. I had just returned from a summer of traveling across South Africa.  I came home to find that VCR hooked up to our TV.  I made my first trip to the movie rental place.  The first video I ever rented and watched was one I have never had the guts to admit to until now.

The movie?

“Purple Rain” by Prince. Not exactly the way to bring confidence to the purchases you make. It was edgy. It was a little raunchy. It wasn’t a highlight for me choosing movies for sure.

But now you know the rest of the story.

What can I say? It’s a part of my story.

I embrace it. I lived it, loved it, recovered from it and at times, miss the simplicity of it.

That’s why I mourned Prince when he died.

I mourned another reminder that my story, my songs and my history is slipping away.

Thinking Back; Looking Forward

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 55th birthday. “Celebrated” is an interesting use of the English language. Because, in truth, I more “endured” my 55th birthday than any thing else.

Have you ever thoughthttps://i2.wp.com/www.meducom.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Thinking-back-looking-forward.jpg about why we even bother to celebrate birthdays? When you think about it, they’re really just another opportunity for your family to congratulate you for surviving another year.

I get it… it is scientifically proven that those that have more birthdays live longer.  Right?

So it was my birthday. I don’t have to be happy about it. Who needs to be, annually, reminded that you are one year older and closer to ‘…knock, knock knocking on Heaven’s door.’

I personally believe that after 50, all birthdays should be ignored and that dreadful question of ‘is this the big one?’ posed by well-meaning friends be confined to the scrap heap.

At 55… I hit the “BIG ONE” five years ago.

Hello, people, after 50 they are all big ones!

Like many my age, I’m thinking back and looking forward.

Life has happened so quickly, passed by so rapidly, that I suddenly look around and exclaim, “hey, wait a minute, that ride went way too fast!!”

Life is short.

I heard that said when I was young, but never believed it.

In the early years of life we think time crawls, but as we age it moves more quickly and soon it’s hard to keep up.

It seems only a few days ago that Bryan Blakely and I were riding bikes and exploring the world in our small town of Oak Harbor, Ohio.  We chased dogs, built forts, pretended https://img0.etsystatic.com/031/0/6533227/il_fullxfull.642836572_ohia.jpgto be soldiers on secret missions. The imagination is such a wonderful gift to young boys. The only requirement had been that we were home by the time the street lights came on. After that, we were confined to our block.  It was a time of great memories.

Our mother’s had no idea where we were, but it was rural Northwest Ohio, and it was the days when life was much safer.  Those days when you did not have to worry about your picture ending up on a milk carton.

School days, summer loves, college, travel, marriage, kids, diapers, a new job here, a move there… time kept passing and before I realized what was happening the kids were grown and I am left wondering where did the time go.

All that to say, at this moment in time, the most important thing I ever did in my entire life was trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and surrender my life to Him.

All the rest, both the good and the bad, have a completely different color and a different taste because of that one decision in 1970.

Again… life is short.

Enjoy every moment, but know this – trusting Christ and surrendering your life to him is the most important thing you will ever do.

There is nothing more important than that. 

How wonderful to look back and know that God has worked in my life and to look ahead and see Him at the finish line.

To be honest…  I am in no hurry to get to heaven and on to eternity. 

I’m still good.  I have a lot to live for and to look forward to.

My expiration date hasn’t come up just yet.    

Not Fooling Anybody

A few weeks ago, a co-worker popped his head in my office. He said “So, are you ready for next Wednesday?

I sat there going through my mental calendar and couldn’t come up with what the significance Wednesday had. I finally had to ask “What’s Wednesday?”

He then reminded me that Wednesday was the day on the calendar that I age one more year. He asked if I had any words to impart to impart the wisdom I’ve gained in my many years.

Nope.

To be honest, I was just happy that he reminded me what Wednesday was because I needed to renew my license tags.  That summed up the depth of the wisdom that was flowing through my brain. I mumbled that I would write a post about “all the wisdom I’ve gained over all my years”.  He laughed and said sarcastically that he “couldn’t wait” to read it and something about that it should be a short read.

That Saturday, as I sat at the DMV, I was reminded of this conversation I had the previous day. I thought about what wisdom or perspective I could have actually shared.  What gold nuggets of wisdom have I gained? What words can I put in a post?

I had nothing.

But I valiantly tried to post something. I spent the next few days writing a post that I published a week or so ago. I called it “Thinking Back, Looking Forward”  Click here to read

I’ve spent the days since that posting going round and round about this subject.  While I liked the article I posted, something just told me that I needed to share something more. 

What could I write that would show what I truly have learned over the years? What I have learned in these years on this big rock that I can pass on to my kids and grandkids, not to mention, anyone else that might read this? 

Then it hit me… while staring at a picture that sits on my desk.  I had actually wrote about him in my post that is linked above.  My closest childhood friend, Bryan Blakley died the day after my birthday in 2009.  I have written about him a number of times and I have always felt a part of me is missing since his passing.  We lost him all too soon. I could never deny the influence that Bryan had in my life.  I can’t say that all of the “influence” was good either.  I got in trouble with Bryan on many occasions and there are secrets of things that we did that I will take to my grave. 

But the one thing that I could always say about Bryan is that he was true to himself.  He lived what he believed.  Even if he was wrong.  He never tried to hide who he really was.  I always tried to hide and fool people into thinking I was some kind of innocent kid. 

I wasn’t innocent.

Bryan was a person that really did not care what people thought of him.  He was who he was 24 hours a day. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I always looked up to that because he was true to his convictions and to what he believed.  He never tried to fool anyone.  I thought back to the words I spoke at his funeral. A simple sentence that I still believe summed up Bryan’s life and in it a truth that sticks with me to this very day…

You can say what you think but you’ll live what you believe.

That’s it. 

That basically is the foundation of all wisdom.  In other words,  to quote Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true”.  Under all that we think, lives a life that really shows what we truly believe.

I’ve said multiple times that it is really easy to sit behind the keyboard and act like you’ve got the world on a string. For 9 years, I have posted personal thoughts and hopefully, https://itsyet2bt0ld.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/img_3064.pngshared the struggles too. Life has knocked me down a few times. Those events have shown me things about myself I never wanted to see.  I believe that in those events, I caught the glimpse of who I truly was. 

It’s like really seeing yourself in a mirror.  What if we honestly just saw our character instead of our image in a mirror? In reality, that is how God sees us all the time.  Because He sees through the fake image we try to show the world. What God sees in those moments is the character that sums up who we are.  It scares me to consider what God thinks when He sees and hears the lies we tell Him and others.

I have often thought about what a book about my life would look like.  How would it read? How would it be perceived?  I have even gone as far as coming up with the title.

 “Not Fooling Anybody (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

What I have learned about life is that I haven’t really fooled anybody.  More importantly, I know I haven’t fooled God.  I don’t think many people understand that.  I think there are many people who think they are fooling others, they in turn fool themselves into thhttps://i0.wp.com/notfoolinganybody.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo.pnginking that they have fooled God.  It is not possible to fool God.  I have learned the hard way this great truth.

Sometimes, late at night, when I am trying to go to sleep. I am reminded of the conversations that I had with people over the years.  Those conversations when I tried to defend my sin. Those conversations when I tried to fool people that I had my act together and I was living the kind of life that God would be proud of.  Those conversations when I tried to fool myself that I was something that I knew in my heart I wasn’t. I have memory of more of these conversations than I care to remember.

My life has always been either honored or betrayed by the “storefronts” that I have built over the years.  The people who have known me over the years can stroll down the main street of my life and see the evidence of my life that is seen in the storefront windows that line the street.  Like in times of old, before the malls, when people would shop local and go window shopping.  The product that each store sold was placed in that window for all to see.  I have many “storefronts.” Most of them are good.  However, there are a few that I wish I could make go away.  Now before you think I dwell on these “bad storefronts,” I don’t.  I know that God has dealt with me about the content of those storefronts and He has forgiven me and has allowed me to live a great life. But I would be lying if I said that in the quiet times that I am alone, that these storefronts don’t flash in front of my eyes and I am reminded of them. They do.  Some bring me happiness and others embarrassment. 

Such is life.

At the end of the day, I hope that whenever my number is called, those that knew me personally or from afar will all be able to say the same thing. I hope they will say that I said what I thought and it matched the way that I lived and what I believed.  I know that this was not true in my younger years.  I have had to be shaped, molded, poked and prodded by God to fix many areas of my life. 

Even at 55, I am a work in progress. 

We all are.

I hope, before I die,  I can point others to Jesus Christ and the salvation that is found in Him.

I hope that I can encourage others to create a life that feels good on the inside and not just one that looks good on the outside.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just speak highly of my wife, I honestly treasure and honor her above all others.

I hope you’ll see that I love my kids. Even if I disagree with some of the choices they have made. I made it my goal to treasure each moment and never leave a doubt in their mind as to how I felt about them.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t throw around the word “friend” like it’s something you accept on a social media site. I believed that relationships are important and that people – no matter who they are – matter.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just talk about faith to be high and mighty. I live a life filled with questions, doubts, struggles, fears and wrestled through the journey to be not high and mighty, but second and humble.

I hope that you see that I didn’t intend fool anybody.  I was what I claimed to be… a sinner, saved by grace.

That sums up the wisdom in this small brain of mine. 

Maybe this was too long to convey a simple point of wisdom but that’s the best I’ve got.

The calendar turned on another year older.

It’s another chance to say what I think, live what I believe and more importantly….

Have another chance to get it right.

What Can I Say? It’s a Part of My Story

I’ve read where a few people have questioned why people would honor Prince.

He was, after all, controversial, edgy and so on.

I’ve asked myself why I was saddened last week when I heard of his passing too. It took me a few days to process why and I have finally come up with the answer.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself.

It boils down to this – Prince is a part of my story.  Now before you fall off your chair from laughter, let me first clarify something. While I liked some of his songs, I am not nor have I ever been a purple rain loving, party like it’s 1999, little red corvette driving, let’s go crazy, raspberry beret wearing, sad when dove’s cry crazed fan.

But to say that Prince wasn’t part of my story would not be telling the truth.

I have written about it before but I have based almost every lasting memory around the music that I was surrounded by at the time of the event.

For me, the music memories are so vivid that at times they overtake the memory itself. You see, music, invokes such memory that at times I can even remember the smells associated to those memories.  A simple melody has the power to burn a memory in my mind—engraving its memory on me so that every time I hear it I return to that emotional place.

I love that—the power of a song.

I first felt the impact when I was nine years old. Listening to CKLW out of Detroit and hearing the song “I’ll Be There” by Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five.

Over 45 years later, when I hear that song, it invokes memories of my brother Bobby.

It was such a big song… #1 from October all the way through November 14th 1970.  My brother was killed on a Thursday, November 5th. Normally, I have always struggled to remember my brother.  I was five years younger and he was too old to really play with me when I was really little and at the age of nine, I was just a pest to him and his other fourteen year old friends.  He was taken too soon and I never really got to know him.  I was devastated by the loss but this song brings him back to memusic memories.  I only think of him every time I hear it.  It invokes good memories and softens the hurt that came so many years ago.  It is when I remember him most.

I could tell every story that is associated to a song that is burned into my memory.  But that would be a really long post so I will just leave it at that.  I am sure you understand what I mean.  I will write about those memories and songs as I continue to write this blog.

Music influences every post I ever write. No matter how well I map out what I am going to write, I can’t catch my flow of words until I have music playing in my headphones. And almost always it’s the music that reveals what I need to write about.

While I always have music playing when I write, I can’t stop myself from singing along with it.  I envy the writer and the way lyricists can tell a story in a few stanzas.  I struggle to put a sentence together, let alone a song.  It is one of the great mysteries of life that I ponder. The whole process of writing a song is one of the great mysteries in life.  I do not have the talent to write lyrics and for me, someone who can write lyrics has truly a gift from God.  My favorite artists are those that sing and write their own music.

So, basically, for as much as I love music, I’m locked out of the process of making it. I really can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument, and I can’t write lyrics. But the artists who can?  They rock. I wish I could do it.

So there you have iMusic Storyt.  Music is what I use to define periods of my life.  Music tells my story.  It’s that important to me.  It allows me to write pages of my life and my music will tell you more about me than I ever will.

I’ve learned that until you fully embrace your story, you can’t move forward writing new pages. The story will include good and bad. There will be wonderful memories and times you wish you could erase. Removing those memories, removes pages from your story. It minimizes what made you who you are.

So now back to Prince. Prince was big in the early 80’s and at a time when I was in my college years.  I was going to a Christian college and trying to hide the fact that I loved music.  Most of which was banned at that time when I was in college.  Rock wasn’t allowed and I had to be very discreet with my music. I was a young man trying to figure things out, in time when legalism flourished in the church.  Anything with drums was taught as being evil and I tried to hide it as best I could.  It was a time of friends and dates.  It was the age of excess with big hair, fluorescent clothes and the music.

Oh… the music.

I could go on and on and tell so many stories from those years. They are treasured. Sure, there were broken hearts and scars. There was puppy love and having no clue how to treat our dates. But we were writing our story. We were learning the mistakes to teach our children to avoid at all costs. The habits, the trials and the things our parents said we should avoid.  These memories are locked into the music from that time.

I’ll leave you with one last thought.  My parents bought a VCR in the summer of 1984. Not everyone had one. We finally got ours. I had just returned from a summer of travelling across South Africa.  I came home to find that VCR hooked up to our TV.  I made my first trip to the movie rental place.  The first video I ever rented and watched was one I have never had the guts to admit to until now.

The movie?

“Purple Rain” by Prince. Not exactly the way to bring confidence to the purchases you make. It was edgy. It was a little raunchy. It wasn’t a highlight for me choosing movies for sure.

But now you know the rest of the story.

What can I say? It’s a part of my story.

I embrace it. I lived it, loved it, recovered from it and at times, miss the simplicity of it.

That’s why I mourned Prince last week. I mourned another reminder that my story, my songs and my history is slipping away.

 

The Donald, Bernie, Hillary, Ted and God

I have watched the politics of these days play out in front of me… so much posturing and people speaking their opinion on things that most of them do not understand. 

I see a lot of fear in the comments made by many of these people.  The words go https://i2.wp.com/gdb.rferl.org/A6A5A683-AB53-4E5F-BB53-C1C70E3202A9_mw1024_s_n.jpgsomething like this, “We can’t let that candidate win.  Our country will never be the same if they win!!!” 

Now… let me make this clear… the purpose of this post is not to promote or disparage any of the candidates running for president.  They do that pretty well all by themselves.  My decision was made a long time ago on which candidate I will support in the coming election.  I am of the personal belief that almost everyone who is going to vote has already made up their mind as well. 

I keep hearing the volume get turned up over the past few weeks of the campaign and it all becomes a mishmash of meaningless drivel and catcalls of who is lying more than the other person.  I have come to the conclusion that what is driving all this rhetoric is a fear that reveals a poor understanding of who is really in charge.

To think we have 8 more months of this.  It’s exhausting.

This has been an election cycle that has brought out the worst in people.

And this “worst” applies to EVERYONE. 

NO ONE gets a pass on this.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have given people a chance to do and say pretty much whatever they want to any person they wish.  As a result many people do a lot of things which they would never contemplate doing in real life or face to face  – and it seems more prevalent because there are so many platforms for people to use in expressing their opinions.

Both political parties – Republicans and Democrats – are known for getting carelessly carried away with name calling when stakes and tensions are high in the political arena. Regardless, there is no excuse for this type of name-calling that has surfaced, especially if you are a Christian.

What you speak are not just words.  They mean something.  They reveal something about you.

In the last 24 hours, I have been called ignorant, judgmental, a moron, uneducated, naive, racist, stupid, a woman-hater, a hypocrite, a bigot, a pinhead,  an idiot,  a rape-loving, gay-bashing wing-nut and a slew of other names that are not fit for repeating on this website. 

All while getting lectured by an 22-year-old college student enlightening to me on the failures of George W. Bush that have caused ALL of our current problems and the finer nuances of the political process. Informing me how great Obama has been and that I am un-American and I represent all of these names if I don’t support Bernie.

This phenomenon occurs when someone becomes ten foot tall and bullet proof when addressing others on FACEBOOK.  It is a common practice for them to make bold statements, on the internet, knowing there is no way to be held accountable.

If you’re selling anger and scorn against conservative Christians, the market is hot.

Now for the record… I do not offend easily.  Pretty much you can say what you want to my face and I can handle it.  At work, I hear bad language all the time and I do not wear my Christianity on my sleeve to the point that I get offended at the drop of a hat.  So I want to make clear that these hateful words were not written specifically towards me, but were thrown in my direction and posted on Facebook last night.  These words were posted to anyone who supports anyone other than Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. 

The saddest truth is… that most of these words but not all were posted by a young man who calls himself a born again Christian.

Whether or not this young man is a believer or not is not mine to judge. 

God will do that one day. 

However, I wanted to so much respond to his rant and express to him that I had t-shirts that were older than him and that I wasn’t the person that was so naive. 

He was all of six years old when George Bush took office and what possible life experiences could he possibly have that would give him the unmitigated gall to lecture others about George Bush, Obama, Hillary, Bernie, Trump or the political process.

I wanted to go “Chuck Norris” on him and give him a piece of my mind… but I didn’t.  

As a matter of fact, the only comments about politics I have made in the previous months leading up to tonight were to make sure you voted.

I have held my tongue… I am glad I have.  I have learned long ago that NOTHING changes by your political posts on FACEBOOK.

It makes me wonder whatever happened to common sense among those in politics and those who make it their business to opine about politics and politicians.  The incredibly ill-received and offensive comments about rape and abortion that were flung from politicians during this election cycle are among the most horrendous assertions I have ever heard.

Shame on each and every one of us who have been unable to control their verbal outbursts, as well as their written feelings during this campaign season. 

That goes for EVERYONE… Christian’s included. 

Our Facebook and Twitter accounts do not give us free rein to say whatever we want without ramifications.  There is a price to be paid and each one of us are going to have to give account to God for our actions.  I found it enlightening that after an hour or so of just berating and tearing down Hillary or Trump supporters (depending on your position) some of these same people were trying to post comments about how great  God is and He is in control. But you surely wouldn’t know that by their earlier posts. 

I want to desperately scream for everybody to just take a deep breath and play nice.  I want to tell them to take time to censor yourself… learn some self-control in how you respond.  Others read and do judge you by the comments that you put out there on Facebook and Twitter… you can’t take them back.  Once posted it is out there for people to read what is truly going on in your head and in your heart.  What I have read is hate… and you can’t cover that up by posting a “spiritual” comment a few minutes later.  They do not offset each other equally.

Being incredibly insensitive and unnecessarily offensive in your comments sets a bad example for all.  It ruins friendships and it divides families.  I have had to make the sad choice to delete some people off my friends list because of their comments over the past few days.  These include people who I hope are embarrassed at what they posted in the heat of the moment.  However, for me, I saw really what was in the hearts of some of my friends and it scares me.  I do understand that mistakes happen,  I have made my fair share and I know that I am not perfect but I have to take a stand somewhere.

Furthermore, the entire world is watching those who claim Christ as Savior and many people are embarrassing themselves and their testimony for Christ.  I hope they learn to express their strong, differing views in a way that shows the world that as believer’s  – with their right to free speech – can express their political differences respectfully no matter which side they are on.

News Flash!!!  God is not surprised by or wringing His hands in fear over the political process that is going on in America.

Do not automatically assume your support of a candidate is equal to God’s approval.  There is a BIG difference between God’s approval and what He will allow to happen. 

We need to measure politics and policies by God’s unchanging character and revealed truth.  For those who wonder where we are headed as a country, I don’t know where all of could lead.  It will keep all of us up some nights I am sure but remember not all is lost.

Questions arise when fearsome things happen.

Fear is natural.   We ask ourselves what’s next?   What will happen to us?  What are we supposed to do in times like these?  How did God allow this to happen?  It is during times like these when we have no real understanding as to the “why” and all we really want is answers.

Now I don’t know the answers why things like this happen.  I know that they have been going on since the beginning of time.  Throughout the ages God has allowed these type of things to happen. 

It is not for us to question.

I think that during these times we have to remain confident that God is indeed in control and understand that He has a plan.

God’s redemption and God’s presence are the reasons we need to trust God and  understand that He is control.   In the midst of difficult days, the reassurance of God’s redemption for the future and His presence in our lives will sustain us during the trials at hand.   Do not fear because our today’s and tomorrow’s are all taken care of.   God has a plan and He is with us. 

I think these ripples of chaos are only the first glimpses of what is tohttps://i2.wp.com/www.mikaelakate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Mikaela-Kate-Are-You-Ready.jpg come.

The Bible is clear about what is going to happen in the end times.  There are those who are predicting the end of times, however, I will not go there. I am not one to make predictions. Mainly because I believe that Jesus Christ could come back at any time… maybe even today.

The Lord’s coming is closer than it has ever been.

The question is are you ready?

Warning Lights

Pain sucks. If I’m 100% transparent, it’s not the pain that bothers me.

It’s the fear that comes with the pain.

I’ve told my doctor on multiple visits that “the pain doesn’t bother me, I can deal with it. What I want is to make sure of is that it’s not killing me.”

I’ve owned seven Fords. Seven. No particular reason, it’s just the way that it always worked out.

Every last one of those Fords followed the same dreadful path. I was told each time that “the ‘whatever-whatever’ engine will run ya forever.”

Seven. Every Ford had a multitude of dashboard lights on when I traded it in or sold it. In every case but one, the car still ran pretty well (beyond the normal age and wear and tear) but all of those warning lights were on.

https://conversation.which.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/warninglights.jpgI have warning lights all over my body.  I have a bad shoulder that needs replaced for a second time. I have type 2 diabetes and have peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet due to the diabetes.  Severe hearing loss and I am over-weight. All of these issues lead to pain and I’ve got dashboard lights on all over my body. Some more serious than others. I burn oil. I get overheated. I have to regularly check the tires for slow leaks. But I’m still going.

This old body I call a car still gets me from point a to point b. But when I get concerned is when another new dash light comes on. Is this the one? Will this be the one that will lead them to find the cause of all the other lights? Will we get the news that this one can’t be repaired and I’ve got limited miles left?

That’s my pain. I could lie and say it’s led me to a closer relationship with Christ. I could give you stories about hours in prayer and some incredible peace I’ve found.

I’d be lying.

It sounds good on a Sunday morning video but it’s not real. What I have learned to accept is the “thorn” that Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 12.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I’ve prayed that God would take pain away more times than I can count. I’ve done it in the middle of the night when I feared I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I’ve done it in the morning hoping to get through one day pain-free. But for whatever reason, He hasn’t taken it away.

So my dashboard lights will continue to glow until I trade this “vehicle” in one day. I hope that day is long after I’ve seen my grandchildren grow and made more forever memories with my beautiful wife.

Until then, I’ll keep the oil filled, air in the tires and do my best to enjoy every mile we spend together.

A Voice in The Quiet

Quiet… it’s really so rare.

It’s so hard to find.

All around us is noise.

Noise that captivates our moments.

Noise that keeps us from thinking.

We long for silence.

Silence slows down our life.

It allows us to pause and reflect.

He waits.

He waits for us to be still in the silence.

Longing for us to be quiet.

It’s in the silence when we hear

the most important sound ever…

the voice of God.

A Voice in the Quiet.

Living Life When God Surprises You

I hate surprises.

I don’t like them at all. I hate surprise birthday parties.  I don’t like being surprised at Christmas and most assuredly I hate situations when I don’t know what is going to happen.  I like a plan and I try my best to know the outcome of whatever I am a part of.

Of course I have had to adapt because there is no way I can control every aspect of life.  Life throws you curves and unexpected things.  There are forks in the road and decisions that take place everyday in our life that will result in a “surprise”. There is no doubt that God allows these curves and unexpected things in life to take place.  They are not surprises to Him.

God is full of surprises. Many times we expect Him to do one thing, and He does another. We anticipate His movement in one direction, but often it is in another. Sometimes we trust Him to handle something immediately, and He waits and it seems to take forever. Then other times we anticipate waiting for a long time, and almost overnight He has solved what appeared to be the impossible.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been surprised by the events that have affected my life.  I have had to be “surprised” on two different occasions, when I have had to deal with people I looked up to had passed away.  Similar to 2009, when a few of my closest friends died, 2016 has started off going down a path that I hope doesn’t continue. 

I thought about it and my thoughts wandered to all the surprises that I have had in recent days. They were events that I did not see coming.  I guess that living my life without the expectation of events that turn into surprises is part of my problem.  I need to understand that God has prepared the “surprise” long before the day of the event.  Again, God does not call them surprises, and make no mistake He has prepared them for all of us. 

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.                                                                                                                                                         1 Corinthians 2:9

We live in the potential of a surprise from God all the time.  We just live our life without really considering the things that could happen.  I believe that is how we should live our life. We cannot live in fear of the future.  We cannot be paralyzed by the surprises of life. Of course, it will challenge our faith and our trust in Him and its human nature to question and to wonder why God would allow certain things to happen. When God surprises us with an opportunity, our first reaction is to view it from the god supperspective of our own sufficiency. We fear the unknown, we fear the loss and we fear the uncertainty.

What gives us the most hope every day is God’s grace.  We know that God is going to give us enough grace and strength to get through anything we am going through.  None of this is a surprise to God and if we trust Him to forgive us of our sins and our past, we must then be willing to allow Him to guide our future.  Even if that includes a few future surprises that we don’t like. 

With every surprise and opportunity God also brings answers for our fears, objections, and defenses. His answers in every instance point to Himself and His own sufficiency to meet our every need.

I believe that there are five promises God’s answers for us when we are subject to the surprises that we have to face:

1. His Plan.  There is a sovereign purpose and plan for everything including our lives. He planned the events with us in mind. What we consider surprises in life are not surprises to God. They are part of His plan for His ultimate glory and we are a meaningful part of His plan. There was a reason for it happening.

2. His Presence.  We are not alone as we participate in fulfilling God’s plan. Many times we allow ourselves to be alienated from Him when we go through the bad surprises of life.  He hasn’t forsaken us.  He’s there and knowing He is always with us brings peace amid tumultuous times and comfort amid challenging days.

3. His Provision.  God designed us so He knows exactly what we need. God is sufficient not just for comfort but for all our needs in every situation He surprises us with.

4. His Power. Our weakness is not a defense against doing what God asks. We are told to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. And when His power is at work through us His plan and purpose will be fulfilled.

5. His Promise. God has promised to never leave nor forsake us. He will be there… always.

The next time God surprises us with an opportunity, a challenge, or a change in life, we need to take a moment to pause before we get into defense mode. We need to think about who we are focusing on—ourselves and our limitations, or God and His unlimited sufficiency.

Knowing He is sufficient in every way we will begin to accept these surprises with more grace.  We read in God’s word,

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”                  Proverbs 19:21.

We may make our own plans, set our own course and directions for our lives, and soon discover that it is God’s purpose that will prevail.

For me, I have had a week of trying to put all of this in perspective. I have come to accept that there was nothing anyone could do to change what happened.  We like to think we could have changed God’s mind or influenced the end result.  The bottom line is that many of our prayers are opportunities for us to accept that which is His will and not change the outcome of what was planned by God himself.

Living life when God surprises you can be difficult. It challenges our faith and our confidence. At the end of these surprises, we may not understand it completely but God will still make sure that things turn out for our good and His glory.

Hold on. Stay Strong.

God loves to do the things that we have absolutely no power over, and that’s the way He has planned it for our lives.

Strong in the Broken Places… A Birthday Tribute to My Mother

She loved you before she even knew you.

And from the moment you met in person, it was all over for her.  

She’s sacrificed her own possibilities for the chance that you could have, do and become more. She hurts when you hurt. She hopes when you can’t find hope. She dreams bigger dreams for you than you’ve ever dreamed for yourself.

And she’s convinced you’re worthy of it all…because you’re special… to her you always have been.

Her love is beautifully irrational.  She looks beyond your faults and flaws and sees the very best version of you. She believes that’s who you are.

If belief alone could get you there, she’d hand-deliver you to your destiny.

It’s all because of a woman we call MOM.

Today is my Mom’s birthday. It’s a special day.

Truly, a mother’s love and influence are among the most powerful things a person could ever find in this world.  If you doubt it, compare notes with someone who no longer has their Mom – or someone who never had her to begin with.

For better or worse, no one shapes our lives more than our mothers because they do it from the inside out.  We find their fingerprints on everything – from our grandest deeds to our most tucked away thoughts.

And she was always there for me – and for my brother and my sister (and for many others). Always. Ma, Mom, Mommy. She took this role very seriously and never wavered.  No matter what.

So I will do my best today to say, “Thank you, Mom. I want you to know that I know there’s no way I’d be who I am – or where I am – without you.”

I have said it before and I will say it to my dying breath…  any good quality that I show in my life is directly given to me by my mother.  I have written about her before (click here to read)  in my post called “Confessions of a Momma’s Boy”.  

Hemingway once wrote: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

Hemmingway 2My mother was one of those people who healed stronger in the broken places. Despite great obstacles she bounced back repeatedly: an extremely difficult childhood, choices she shouldn’t have had to make at such an early life, scant financial resources, losing a child at thirty-nine, losing her dearest friend (Leta Chandler) and I could add many more examples of things my mom endured but came out stronger and better on the other side.

My mother is a petite woman, but there is nothing small about her legacy, or the impact she has had on others.  It is a strong, beautiful, vibrant, legacy.

So as I sit here and think of the influence of my mother I want to share a few of her traits that I am most grateful for…

Generous, kind, loving, sweet, caring, honest, fastidious, brave, strong, energetic, resilient, thoughtful, hopeful, selfless. My mother possessed all of these qualities for sure.  But if I had to put it to one word  it would be…

Sacrifice.

In today’s society this word has much less meaning than it did in the past, but this single word describes my mother best.

A child and mother’s life is deeply connected. There is this love that a mother feels for her child. Mothers carry their young and take care of them until they become adults. Mothers make sure that their children are safe and happy. Mothers sacrifice their own happiness just for the wellness of their children.

My mother sacrificed her life for her children.

I am humbled when I think of all that she sacrificed for me.  Being thankful  seems trite but it truly is what I feel.

Thank you Mom for giving me the freedom and space to dream.

Thank you for creating order in our house despite the disorder that you tried to shield us from.

Thank you for pushing me to go to college even when everyone told me I wouldn’t make it.  Though you never had tIMG_0247he chance to go… you are still the smartest person I know.

Thank you for allowing me to disagree with you when we have our “discussions”.  I guess that is just other ways I am like you… strong in principle and knowing what you believe and not being afraid to defend it… even if it’s not popular or easy.

Thank you for showing me how to be a real friend. Thank you for teaching me how to be compassionate and forgiving. Thank you for telling me you loved me every time we see each other and every time before we hang up the phone.

Thank you for being strong in the broken places.

Thank you Mom, you are my rock, my anchor, and my one true North.

I Love You and Happy Birthday Mom!!

Leaving The Porch Light On

One week ago, I had the honor of speaking at my daughter’s wedding ceremony.  Not many get that opportunity to speak and share from their heart at such a special occasion. 

It was just about a year ago, I received a call from Cassidy and she told me he popped the question and she said yes.  I already knew that this was going to happen because the young man who was asking for her hand in marriage, had already talked to me and asked permission.

None-the-less, it was a shock to my system that it really was going to happen.  I wrote about it here: Then They Do (click on this link).

So flash forward 11 months and I finally give some advice to them about their new life together. A number of people have asked me if I could share what I said, so I am posting my speech in its entirety. It’s not word-for-word but it is close… here goes:

Good afternoon everyone. I’d like to welcome the friends and relatives of both families who are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Cassidy and Andre.

Thank you for taking time from your busy lives to join us on this afternoon.

Some of you have traveled quite a distance to be here. And we are thankful for that.

We hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the evening and we hope you will remember this day as fondly as we will.

Wedding1I feel so proud today to be standing here given the opportunity to take part in this special day.

I am also extremely grateful for the chance to speak to you today.

That being said, there will be three ways I will remember this speech… the one I practiced, the one I am about to give and the one I wish I would have given.

Hopefully… You will hear the one that is closest to the one I wish I would have given. But I make no promises.

I’ve learned that life is circular, it’s full of beginnings and endings, there are times of extreme joy that can be followed by hard and difficult times.

New chapters of life begin while others will come to a close. I believe that life is meant to be lived looking forward. It is to be enjoyed. As James 4:14 says, Life is just a vapor… it appears for a short time and then vanishes away.

Life moves fast and before you know it your child is standing in front of their friends and family committing their life in marriage to another person.

As parents, on many levels our job is done. While we will never stop being a parent, a new chapter is starting for us.

One season is unfolding into another and we will close the chapter of raising our children. The responsibility of raising them has been lifted.

All you can do as a parent is thank God for the opportunity and hope that some of the wisdom of our life experience was passed down.

Just like many othPam and Davider parents, we spent the vast majority of our lives raising our children to become productive adults and become good people.

The journey of being a parent is not for the faint of heart.

There are twists and turns, surprises and disappointments. There are moments of extreme pride and moments of regret.

It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

As a parent you sojourn through the good times and the hard times because that is your job. It is what you do.

You do all you can to protect them, you provide for them and try to take care of their every need. In most examples, there is not a need in your child’s life they have not been given.

Then in many situations … somewhere around the age of 16 they look at you and tell you they can’t wait to move out of your home. They inform you that they “WILL NEVER raise their children the way you did.

It leaves many parents wondering what they did wrong.

But let me make something perfectly clear today. That is not the story of Cassidy.

As a child, Cassidy was strong-willed but loving.  This strong-willed aspect is something she and I had the opportunity to discuss many times in her younger years.

CassidyThis loving, strong-willed little girl brought those traits into her adult life. In times when she could have made other decisions, she kept her “will” strong in serving the Lord when it would have been easy to go the other direction.

Along the way Cassidy has picked up many skills, some from her life experience and some as gifts from God.

Cassidy has always worked hard at becoming a better person. Always strived to become better at what she does, and becoming the caring person that she is today. She has made me unbelievably proud. I am thankful that I have been able to be part of her life.

If I am honest today, I cannot deny that I feel a loss. After all, for the first time in many years, when I go home tonight, I will turn the light out on the porch knowing that she will not be coming home.

Our little house is the one home on our street where the porch light burns. porch Light

As it burned for her sister before she got married, a light has always been left on until Cassidy came home at night. 

When I turn that light out tonight, I will cry. But they won’t all be tears of sadness.

Rob and Leslie, Pam and I, have raised her to get to this point in time. We all spent time preparing her for this day and this new adventure.

For the past twenty-two years, this house where the porch light burns has been her home.

You know… we could have moved from that old house on Stilwell Ave. We even made plans to do so. We could have moved from the house where we raised four children with only one bathroom.

But there are reasons we didn’t.

One reason is because of a door jamb in our kitchen.

A door jamb where pencil marks measure the growth of a family. Each mark a memory and each  mark with a date written beside it to note the growth.

This door jamb tells the story of children growing up and becoming adults.

Each dated mark one step closer to this very day.

These marks will remain on that door jamb until one day the new owners of our home decide to paint over them and make marks of their own.

Another reason why we have not moved is something that I want to share specifically with the two of you.

You know that I have profound hearing loss. As I grow older my hearing will get worse. 

I hope not… but there may be a day when I lose the ability to hear all together.

But for now, I hear things that most people don’t.

You see… this little home where the porch light burns, speaks to me.

In the quiet, I can hear the echo’s of our children laughing. I hear the chatter of you having your friends over for movie nights. I hear the sounds of the TV marathons you had, watching the complete series of Friends, The Gilmore Girls, Supernatural, Full House, Boy Meets World just to mention a few.

To be honest… I sometimes wish I could un-hear the sounds of how many times you watched the Disney High School Musicals.

The walls of our home reverberate with the sounds of Birthday parties, of long talks at the dinner table, and the precious sounds of Christmas celebrations.

If I really concentrate, I can hear the click of the door closing behind you when you were out at night. That wonderful sound that you were home, safe and secure.Cassidy Singing

One of my favorite sounds that still ring through the walls of our home is listening to you sing as you got ready for school or work. Cassidy, you will always be my favorite singer.

The walls of our home emit sounds of a family that was trying to find their way in this life.

It surely wasn’t perfect but the wonderful sounds that come from the walls of our home, far out-weigh any noise of discord that there may have been.

In time… these wonderful sounds will fade… many are already being replaced by the laughter and the banter of our grandsons playing in the living room. 

When it is time, you guys can help in filling our home with the sounds of future grandchildren that will be absorbed into the walls of our home.

My challenge to you and Andre is to fill your home with sounds of love, sounds of joy and sounds of happiness. If the walls of your home would speak, may they share sounds of forgiveness and acceptance. More importantly, may the walls speak of a young couple that loved the Lord and made Christ the center of their home.

Too many homes todawedding2y are filled with discord… filled with hateful words and fighting. My prayer is that the walls of your home will never be saturated with these kind of sounds.

In closing, every parent wishes that one day their child will find the right person for them to spend the rest of their life with. The fear of any parent is their child making the wrong decision about that.

When I first met Andre, I learned quickly that he was a good man, and would not be the type to hurt Cassidy. Once I got to know Andre, I couldn’t have chosen anyone more suitable. He let her be herself and did not try to change her to make him happy. He’s very considerate and thoughtful. I appreciate the way he treats and makes Cassidy feel about herself, I cannot thank him enough. We are confident that he will take good care of her.

Traditionally, at this point, I guess I should offer some advice… so here goes.

Andre… Always leave the porch light on for your wife.

Cassidy… Anything Andre says in anger 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all negative comments made by Andre become null and void after 7 days.

Andre… Cassidy is not a morning person. Stay clear… enough said?

Cassidy… Andre is not a mind reader and he never will be. His lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how much or how little he loves you.

Andre… Whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, Take pleasure in knowing that you are and then keep it to yourself.  Just keep it to yourself!!!

Cassidy… leave the porch light on for your husband.

I cannot encourage the two of you more than to have your home filled with sounds of happiness, forgiveness and love.

May you continue to serve the Lord with your life and in your marriage.Speech

You both have been raised in love. You have been raised by parents that love you more than life itself.

We are filled with joy that you are getting married today. It’s a new journey and a new beginning for you and for us. May your love always be an example to all of us that are here to witness your vows to each other.

One last thing… in the future… remember to leave the porch light on…  so that your children can always find their way home.

So that’s it… we are one week in to being “empty nesters”. 

We could not be happier for Cassidy and Andre!!! 

We are excited to see what the future holds for them and for us. It will be new adventures for all of us!!!

And while our children are now all on their own, all becoming productive adults and good people. 

I’ll still leave the porch light on… just in case they ever want to find their way home.

Viewing Life Through A Broken Lens

About a year ago, I bought a used IPAD from a friend. I was told upfront thcrackedat the screen was cracked.  

And then I saw it. 

All along the left hand side of the screen was cracked.  It was bigger than I expected but I was committed to get it fixed right away.

For the first few days, it’s all I thought about when I tried to use it.  It was right in my face.  It seemed to be staring at me. 

It was the first thing I noticed every single time I used it.  No matter where I looked, it taunted me and contorted my view of the pictures on the screen.  I couldn’t wait to have it fixed now, but I needed to delay it for a few days.  I had a lot on my plate, so I planned to take it to get fixed the following week.

But within a few days, the cracks began to fade into the background.  A week later, and I’d all but forgotten the cracked screen.  

I barely noticed it.

In those few short days, I grew accustomed to the cracks in my window.  I compensated for them.  I accepted them and the distorted view that came with them.  What had once been an obvious, irritating distraction became familiar enough that I looked right past it.  It was almost like it wasn’t there.

But it was there.

It’s like looking through glasses with a broken lens.  It distorts our view.  We don’t see things as we broken-glassesshould. An obvious lesson here is that when we ignore small problems, they grow bigger and spread.

When we avoid paying the smaller cost today, we’ll likely pay a larger one tomorrow.

But there’s an even more important lesson for me.  Maybe for you too.

Where else am I looking at my life through broken glass?  Good and bad, what’s true about me that I refuse to see? What’s in my way that’s obvious to everyone but me?

This week I found some things that I have been ignoring.  The cracks and broken pieces of perspective have come back into focus to show me where I have been living in denial.  I have been living my life by not acknowledging the obvious.  The issues associated with growing old and having serious health problems belonged to someone else and surely not me.

My mind and eyes adjusted so quickly to my bad situation that I no longer even saw things as they were.  I ignored the problem so well that I didn’t see the thing right in front of my face obstructing my view.  I looked past it, even as it worsened.  It became normal to me.

I have been living there, in denial, for a while now. I have a serious problem with high blood pressure and I have diabetes. No matter how much I would like to deny that these issues are true, I cannot stop them from affecting my life.

Last week I was having chest pains.  You would think I would have said something to my wife but I didn’t. I couldn’t rest and I couldn’t sleep. Much like the crack on my IPAD, after a few days of pain I just looked past them in ignorance. The more I tried to ignore the increasing pains and pressure in my chest the more I started having this sinking feeling and thoughts that I was soon to die.  I thought of impending doom. Still I did nothing. Denial and pride kept me from reacting to what my body was telling me.

After almost a week of this I finally gave in.  I could no longer deny that something was seriously wrong. I sent a text to mSky Highy wife and told her that I was having issues.

I soon found myself heading to the ER.  When I got there I was immediately rushed in to the cardiac unit.  Initial tests showed that my blood pressure was “sky-high” as the doctor put it.  I was about as close a person can get without having a stroke or a massive heart attack.  The reason for why this was happening was still lost to me but was obvious to the doctors that were treating me. I was soon going to get a real clear picture of why I was in the hospital and in the condition I was.

It was painfully obvious and acknowledged that I had not been taking my medications the way I should have.  My broken “lens” was ignored and I looked past these health issues as if they belonged to someone else.

They had to bring my blood pressure down slowly so as to not induce a stroke so I was subjected to a few days of tests and treatment to bring it down and get my diabetes under control. I can no longer look past these medical issues.  The good news is that my heart is in pretty good condition considering it’s owner. No blockages and the potential of stopping any more damage if I can get back on the path of good health.  I want to live another 30 or so years, and it was made real clear that I that will not happen unless I make some changes in my life. 

Another second chance.

I am home today… still having residual chest pains that will go away with continued treatment as prescribed. Reminders of a fool who still viewed his heath problems through a cracked lens. The signs were all around me. I just never let myself see them.

I have to ask myself some real important life questions.

Where else am I looking at my life through broken glass? 

Good and bad, what’s true about me that I refuse to see?

What’s in my way that’s obvious to everyone but me?

These are painful questions to wrestle with, and trust me, I’m aching having gone a few rounds with them.  But who wants to live a life seeing things as they aren’t?

We all need to see our circumstances as they truly are.  We cannot continue to look at life through a broken lens. Our challenge is to not ignore what’s broken.

If life isn’t shaping up as you’d hoped – If you’ve been circling back to the same person or problem again and again – If you’re in a destructive relationship – especially if it’s with yourself.

Maybe you’ve got a crack in your window. Maybe there’s something right in front of you obstructing your view, keeping you from seeing things as they really are,keeping you from being who you were meant to be.

What is it?  It’s not a mystery.  It’s in plain sight.  Once we name it, we can deal with it and move on.

So, go a few rounds with these questions that are taking me to the mat.

Am I viewing my life through a broken lens?

What does it keep me from seeing about myself?

What am I denying about the circumstances I’ve created?

What old pain have I grown accustomed to and embraced?

What if I laid it down?

What would be possible if you could see yourself and your circumstances as they truly are?

Answer them before it’s too late.

Everything is a Gift From God

I am going to let you in on a little secret.

A few weeks ago, I was driving to Columbus for work and usually when I drive alone, I have the music blaring.

That isn‘t the secret. 

This is…

I like to sing along at the tTommyBoyop of my lungs like Tommy Boy (sorry for the mental picture… just be thankful you did not have to hear it). 

Oh yeah… I let er rip!!!!

I was completely overtaken with the sheer pleasure of singing as loud as I possibly could. The music was so good and I suddenly felt myself drift off into my imagination of me being on stage, singing “in concert” at a huge venue.

I suddenly found myself in a full-blown dance routine behind the wheel. Now for the record… I grew up Baptist.  Baptist’s do not know how to dance. I am no exception. 

Oh… the moves I was making.  I was definitely singing better than the singer on the radio as well.  I was so into it, in fact, to the point of being mesmerized by it.  

They say that texting and driving is bad.  I agree wholeheartedly.  But when you get so “into” the song on the radio that you lose yourself it is just as bad. 

And then there’s that moment when you find yourself at a stoplight and make the slow head turn to your right to see the car next you laughing so hard that they are crying because they have watched you for the past mile or so make a complete fool of yourself.

As my face turned a deep red from embarrassment, the light turned green and I waved to them and drove off.  Their car didn’t move.  They could not stop laughing. 

A few miles down the road, I had enough courage to turn the radio on again.

Then the thought crossed my mind, “I wish God would have given me the talent to sing.  Then, I wouldn’t have to resort to singing to the steering wheel.”

And yet, as I thought about it, I suddenly realized that nothing is mine!

It was then I realized that was the exact reason God did not give me the talent to sing.  Because it would have been about me and not about Him.  Whatever talent, or lack of talent I have is given by God. 

There is a reason we are the way we are.

It was a profound and yet simple truth that I need to be reminded of. Nothing is really mine. 

We claim ownership of so much…my time, my car, my house, my job, my wife….and on the list goes.  “Mine!” is probably the most used word in our language as we lay claim to portions of what God gave us.Everyday+is+a+gift+form+God

Everything, literally everything is a gift from the hand of God…my life, my day, my time, my talents, my job, my house and even my voice…. everything comes from Him.

When I change the descriptive word “mine” to “His” it changes how I view the things I think are mine to own, to control, to be angry about if lost.  So much of my life is fretting over “mine.”

I know this stuff.  I mean I heard it all before. Perhaps you have as well. But once more I am made aware that everything, literally everything is a gift from God’s wonderful gracious hand.

It’s great to be reminded once more of God’s gifts in your life.

It creates amazing opportunities to give thanks that I ignored before, when it was “mine.”  In reality it’s really His, given as a gift for my use, my time is now free to give away because it’s really His time and He can use it as He wishes.  And when I have a moment to sit and think, to rest and relax, I can thank Him for that sweet gift.

When IMusic wake up to a new day, I can thank Him for the gift of the day ahead, the moments to enjoy more of His gracious hand.  When I drive to work, singing at the steering wheel at the top of my lungs, I now thank Him for the gift of life.

Everything is a gift from God’s gracious hand.  

As you go through your day take moments and thank Him for letting you have and use His things, His good blessing, His air, His sunshine and His love. 

It will change your life.

Everything… Everyday… and I mean everything and everyday is a gift from God.

Just be glad you don’t have to hear me sing as I pass you in my car. 

For you… that in itself is another gift from God.

 

Mr. Lee Died A Long Time Ago

The other day, a co-worker asked me some questions about my career in Education and my time of being a principal back in the day. When I began talking about it, I suddenly felt myself getting stressed.  I unconsciously began fidgeting with my hands, my voice changed slightly, and my breathing became shallow.  

It was like I was back in my old office again.

I quickly answered his basic question and laughed it off with a line I have used for some time now,

“That was 25 years ago, and Mr. Lee died a long time ago.”

I get different reactions when I say that.  Some get it… they realize that that was a long time ago.  I am no longer that person.

I have often told my wife that I have blocked out most of the memories of that period of my life when I was a teacher and principal of a Christian School in Fremont, Ohio.  Although she doesn’t really believe it, I hold to the fact that the statement is true.  I have watched videos that were taken during that period of me speaking and I don’t recognize the person that they say is me. I don’t know who that person is.  It surely is not me. It bears a resemblance of me, but I struggle to remember being a tca1part of any of the events.

For me, the years I spent there are much like watching a documentary on the History Channel.  I remember being taught that the events took place but I am not part of it. I vivid memories of the time I was in college.  My days at Liberty University are clear and I have wonderful memories of college life and being part of a missions team that traveled across America and around the world.  I can remember specific events and even conversations I had with people. I remember and think of these memories often, but memories of the school not so much.

In truth, I know that the memories are there.  I choose to block them from being in my daily thought process.  It is better to leave them where they are.  When I run into former students of mine, my memories of them are still stuck in the 80’s and 90’s.  They have not moved on in life and in my mind they are still in 8th grade and not the 40-year-old that stands before me.  When they address me as Mr. Lee, I quietly ask them to call me David.  Again… Mr. Lee died a long time ago.

When my co-worker asked me those questions, I was shocked at how easily I plunged back into that old reality.   It has been over twenty-five years since I was Mr. Lee.

I post that as a simple statement of the fact. If you think I make that statement as a reflection of something I view as negative, let me make something very clear… I don’t. 

I don’t view it as a negative time in my life at all.

No offense to any former student or staff member during my tenure there.  It is just some of those memories I’d really just rather not remember. That includes both good and bad memories.

I hold that time in my life as very precious and it took years for me to be able to move on.  It took me years to come to grips with the loss of my ministry.  When these memories are dredged up in my heart and mind I am reminded of the times I was in my office working or in the classroom teaching.  Those were the times I cherished and when I had clarity that I was doing what I was intended to do at that time. I was confident that I was doing what God wanted me to do.  

That was and is a wonderful place to be.  Being confident that you were doing exactly what you were supposed to do.  Not many people ever get to really experience that in their life. I am grateful for the 12 years I spent there. I cannot deny that there is a part of me where that office still resides deep inside of me.  Even after all these years, I still have a space in my soul that defined who I once was.

After I resigned my ministry, like a prodigal son… I ran.  theprodigal

I ran from God for a long time. As a matter of fact, I ran from Him for almost as long as I was in the ministry.  Twelve long years.  I avoided anything that had to do with my life as Mr. Lee.   I worked real hard to kill him.  I could not find any peace with God.  I could not forgive others and more importantly I could not forgive myself for what I allowed to happen.  I made sure that Mr. Lee was buried before I stopped running.

A prodigal son.  We all know one, have been one, or are waiting for one to come home.

Then a miracle happened.  No… I did not walk on water and no water was turned into wine.  But it was a miracle in my life and it’s significance could not be any less than of those.  I found a place where I could heal and I did not have to carry the baggage that I carried for all of those years.  I think of it in terms of being spiritually rescued. I had lost hope and a life line was thrown to me when I was about to go under for the last time.  Grace Community Church of Fremont, Ohio was that refuge that I needed and when I felt there was no place for me to turn to, I felt the warm embrace of fellow believer’s allowing me to sit in church without the  judgement and disdain I had felt in other places. 

I needed to sit. I needed to heal. I had felt so betrayed by the pastor’s I had worked with in the past that I had sworn that I would never be “pastored” again.  After running so long on my own, I realized that I needed to be under a pastor’s teaching and leadership once again.  I found that in Pastor Kevin Pinkerton.Grace-Logo-Color-011

So I sat.  I took the time to sit and be still, heal and be forgiven. Slowly God began working in my heart and I started to have forgiveness towards those I had felt had done me wrong.  I started to write this blog in 2008, and there is no doubt that for the past seven years it has almost filled the hole in my heart.

Finding a place to heal and recover from failure was a miracle to me.  We’re foolish to assume that miracles don’t happen anymore. I have learned that miracles come out of a gut-wrenching need and your last flashes of hope. If were not this way, we would not think of it as a miracle but as something common and not from God.  All things would then just be taken for granted. Finding a place to sit and heal, finding a place to forgive and be forgiven is nothing short of a miracle and I will never take it for granted. Still it took years to forgive myself.

Walking on the water means burning doubt and the terror of roaring seas, it’s not an option you choose for fun. It’s what you pick when you have to know that Jesus is big enough, and that He can come through when it’s devastating. Believing in miracles is one of life’s hard lessons I have learned.

I choose to still believe.

It is with that aspect that I still wonder what the future holds for me. What is next for me? As I wrote a few weeks ago in my post, The Next Big Thing  I am no longer looking for something “BIG” to happen for me. But I can say that I am open to whatever God would have me do.  I am looking for open doors of opportunity. 

Mr. Lee died a long time ago.  I want to leave him buried where he is.  I have no desire to bring him back. In so many ways…  I am a much better person than he was all those years ago.

The next stage of my life will not completely take the old memories away, but it will continue to redefine them and I can always pray the prayer from Psalm 139:22-23,

Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Try me and know my thoughts.
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Drop Your Stone

Because of recent events, I have to admit my hands have been full of rocks.

hand-holding-stonesI’ve wanted to throw them at certain people for quite some time now.  Every night after spending a short time scrolling down my FACEBOOK wall, I was adding names to my list of people who I felt needed a stone chucked in their direction.

I was getting rather upset.  My hands were packed full of rocks and I had quite a pile of them at my feet just waiting for me to pick up. To say that I was ready to begin catapulting them across the wide spectrum of people I disagreed with would be an understatement.  Many of my rocks were destined for those I have serious differences with. Particularly with those that have different beliefs than me. But some of these rocks I held were intended for some fellow believers.  Specifically those fellow believer’s that are part of  the ill-defined segment known vicariously as “Christian Millennials”.  Many of whom choose to take an opposing side of issues that are not in line with how they were raised.  Many turning their back on the very foundational principles that their parents taught them and then they spend most of their time and thoughts on bashing (throwing rocks) at this same foundation.  Many taking joy when a fellow believer fails in their Spiritual walk.

Defined as those that are 24 to 36 or so, depending on who you read.  They’ve been called the “Me, Me, Me Generation” by Time magazine.  There is a common belief that they feel “entitled” by just about everyone.  The bottom line is that these “millennials” believe they are right on just about every question of life.  Even if they do not think they are right, they just know that you are wrong.

And they are leaving the church in droves.

Now it would appear that I am making too broad of a statement and painting a picture that all people in this group are the same… they are not. Many are searching for the truth and the church truly does need to find common ground with them. Also, before I come across as just throwing judgmental hand grenades at them, please read this to the end.

It is said that 70 percent of those raised in the church disengage from it in their 20s.  One-third of Americans under 30 now claim “no belief in God or at least not the God they were raised to believe in.”

So there are 80 million millennialists (give or take) in the U.S.—and approximately the same number of suggestions for how to bring them back to the church.  But most of the proposals I’ve read fall into two camps.

The first goes something like this:  The church needs to be more hip and relevant. Drop stodgy traditions. Play louder music. Hire pastors with tattoos and fauxhawks. Few come right out and advocate for this approach, but it is clear they do not want their parents church.

Others demand a more fundamental change. They insist the church soften itjesus-thumps-up1s positions on key doctrines and social issues. They say, our culture is secularized. Let’s get with the times in order to attract the younger generation, they say. Let’s marginalize God and/or Jesus Christ as simply our “buddy” to help us out (with a wink and a smile) when we are in trouble and that everyone can live their life as they wish regardless of eternal consequence.  They believe we must abandon core beliefs and restrictive moral teachings of the traditional church. They believe the Bible is intended as a guideline, not necessarily absolute truth. They tend to question every story found in the Bible. It surly could not have happened the way the Bible said it did and if you do believe the Bible as fact, you are a racist, bigoted, hypocritical, uneducated homophobe.  More importantly… you are just plain wrong.

They really believe that Christianity must “change or die.”

I have issues with both approaches.

I want a pastor that is relevent and up to date with the issues of life for all members of my church. I want him to be aware of current events but he doesn’t have to look like me.  He shouldn’t have to look like them either.  Chasing just the “coolness” factor at church won’t work.

I have horrible memories of a pastor lecturing me at summer camp when I was a teenager about the evils of a rock band that had not put out an album in 10 years. He came to the “service” dressed like me and tried to use language that he thought would relate to me. He had no clue and more importantly he was trying to relate and be “cool” but failed miserably. 

In my experience, churches that try to be cool end up with a pathetic facsimile of what was cool about 5 years ago.  No one wants to see a 60-year-old pastor acting like he is 25.  It never comes off well.  Does this mean that a pastor is “done” in his ministry in his 50’s or heaven forbid his 40’s? What will be “cool” when these “Christian Millennialist’s”  turn 50?  Will they be as relevant as they present themselves today?  I think not. What will these, all-knowing (but have no real life experience) people do when the next generation comes along and has a different way doing things and have their own version of being “cool”? Will they see error in their ways? Or will it be too late to even matter?

The second tack is worse. Not only will we end up compromising core beliefs, we will shrink our churches as well. The advocates of this approach seem to have missed what happened to mainline liberal churches over the last few decades. Adopting liberal theologies and culturally acceptable beliefs has drastically reduced their attendance. When the premise of your take on Biblical accuracy of truth starts with “God couldn’t have” or “God didn’t” it is a slippery slope to complete unbelief.

In addition, I think  that in solely conceptualizing God as a nice, kind, “Jesus is my best friend,” lover of kittens and puppies way that we have, we lose some of the reverence for the righteousness of a Holy God. Make no mistake, there will be eternal consequences for the way we live our lives.

While I am still coming to terms with how to exactly handle my inner feelings in dealing with them, I still believe that people like me and those of the church need to find common ground with those that carry these beliefs.

Now back to my hand full of rocks…

throwing rocksI had enough. I was tired of seeing these people getting away with throwing rocks at other people who I felt did not deserve the bashing they were receiving. It was now my turn.  As I scrolled down my FACEBOOK feed and I was picking up more rocks and taking more names to receive them. I was going to respond to every post I disagreed with. Everyone was going to know what these people were really like.  I wanted to embarrass them. I wanted retaliation. I wanted to prove them wrong.

I threw a couple of rocks at a few of them.

But as I raised my arm to sling another of my well-deserved, verbal judgemental stones… a still small voice in my heart said:

“Before you throw another one… Maybe we need to have a little conversation as a reminder?”

Arguing, I began to tell the Lord that I was justified! They were wrong and I was right and it was important that everyone know!

As I thought about justifying my argument to set people straight, I was reminded of the story of a woman caught in the very act of adultery – which in Jesus’ culture was justifiably punishable by stoning.  Jesus faced this mob that was eager to stone this woman. He put a stop to it with a simple challenge: “anyone who has no sin in their life should step forward and throw the first stone”.  Jesus didn’t say, “If you’ve never committed adultery, pelt her now, as hard as you can!”

Nope. It was if you’re without sin. Without any sin.

Sin is sin is sin. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. 

Reminding myself of this story, I let a few stones drop from my hand.

I’ve never molested a child or shot anyone or taken something that didn’t belong to me, but guess what? I’m still a fallible human being. I’ve messed up. A lot.  I am not perfect and I need grace and forgiveness.

I can’t throw that “without sin” stone. Can you?

A few more stones fell from my hand to the ground.

I pondered three Biblical truths:

  • No one is without sin. (Romans 3:23)
  • Treat others as you want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12)
  • Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome.  It’s not my job.

Regardless of my “feelings” or “thoughts”, it is not my job to stone those who I think are wrong.

Maybe this is the common ground we need to have.  Instead of feeling like we need to throw stones at those we disagree with maybe we all need a reminder of our own sin. It is impossible to be self-righteous when you recognize the sin in your own life. I think we will struggle to judge others when the grace that covers our sin is front and center on your mind.

I dropped the remaining stones to the ground.

I am going back inside my glass house now.  First to wash my hands, secondly to wash my windows because it seems I haven’t been seeing things clearly.

Again, I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome.

Throwing stones…why does it seem as if everyone is guilty of doing this? Why are we so quick to judge?

Whatever you’re thinking of throwing… just don’t.

Drop your stone.

Bookmarks in The Pages of Life

Life is a book of pages. 

We laugh. We cry. We smile. We stumble. We stand. We fail. We succeed. We win and we suffer loss.

Every page defines who we really are. On some level we all “bookmark” the events in life so that we can bribookmarkng them up in our memory to be relived as we move on in life.

The goal in life is to have one perfect memory that is all about those moments, big or small, that make you wish they’d last forever. Those moments you want to stop in time, when everything feels perfect, even for just a split-second.

Snapshots of the mind. Moments to treasure forever.

It is easy to bookmark the great things that happen in our life.  We do not struggle to remember the events in our life that are good.  We can remember almost every single detail of  good life events.  Great memories of graduations, engagements, weddings and almost every detail of our child’s life from birth to this very moment.  These are easy to bookmark and if we are lucky enough, we are able to put a few of these pages together to create a nice “chapter” in our book of life memories. 

The sad part is that we all have bookmarked pages of life of things we do not want to remember.

Life is full of these bookmarked moments.

Life is complicated. It starts before we’re ready, it continues while we’re still trying to figure out the point of it. And it ends before we’ve worked out just what to do.

I’ve learned that in an instant life can change.
Just like that.
No warning.
No rewind button.
No pause or stop button.

Suddenly we are scrambling to “bookmark” memories as fast as we can in our minds.

Sadly, I have had to this a few times in my life.  

My brother Bobby and my grandfather in 1970. Just a few months before Bobby died.

At 9 years old, I had to scramble to bookmark memories of a 14-year-old brother that was taken from our family in a car-train accident.  I can remember almost every minute of that fateful day he was taken from us. But I think that over time when we block out the pain of loss, it causes us to lose some of the precious memories.  These “bookmarks” have faded with time and now at 54, I struggle to remember him.  

I lost my grandfather in 1986. I have great bookmarked memories of him.  He was a great influence on me and there isn’t a day I don’t wish I could talk to him one more time.  The funny thing is that I have some bookmarked memories of him that I choose not to open in my book of life memories.  I systematically only open the pages that make him larger than life.  I only open the pages that fit the image I have of him in my mind.  Those pages of him acting poorly or negatively, although bookmarked, will remained closed and locked. Never to be opened again in the confines of my mind. I guess we all do that on some level. When someone dies, we freely open the “good” pages and quietly put those bookmarks that would taint the memory of a loved one under lock and key. 

Me and Bryan Blakely in our our “Leisure Suits” getting ready to pick up our dates for the 1975 Homecoming Dance.

Many of the bookmarks in my life were influenced by Bryan Blakely, my childhood best friend.  The first pillar in my life.  The days of my early childhood were influenced by his presence in my life.  Not much happened in my life from the age of 5 to 16 that Bryan and I did not experience together.  Somewhere along the age of 16, we started to drift into different directions. Over the next 30 years whenever our paths crossed, we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets in Oak Harbor, Ohio.   He died in June of 2009. 

My best friend from my high school years took his own life.

Steve and I during our senior year in 1979.

Now that is a bookmark that I would rather not have to open. I was devastated.  I was confused.  I was filled with questions. I was overwhelmed with regret.  I was angry.  I was ashamed.  I was frustrated.  I was hurt.  I was all of these things and more.  

I will forever be grateful for spending 40 years of my life with the pleasure of knowing Steve Schueren.  Steve was my closest high school friend.  I looked up to Steve and I will always hold him in high regard as a man of God. All the bookmarked memories I have shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered.  All of us who knew Steve know that he will live forever in our hearts.

Bob Emrich

About the age of 16, I was introduced to a man who would become so influential throughout my teen and adult years.    He grew to be not only be my friend but he was no less a father figure in my life.  Our father/son relationship lasted for years.  Bob Emrich loved me as a son and he loved me unconditionally.  God took him home after a battle with cancer.  He wasn’t perfect but he taught me so much and I still miss him everyday.   There is no doubt of his influence in my life. Forever bookmarked in my memory.

One would think after reading this, I would have this bookmarking thing down.  But like most people, I move from day-to-day not really paying attention to how quickly things could change.

This past week I was reminded once again of making every effort to bookmark memories on the pages of my life.  Phil Disney is someone who I traveled with when I was in college.  As some of you may know, I traveled with a singing team all over the United States and the the world when I was a student at Liberty University.  Phil was a member of the same team I was on. To say that Phil and I are great friends would be an overstatement. We have the common bond of similar bookmarked memories of our time in college. We are friends on Facebook and every now and then we may comment to each other on something we post. But last week, I was shocked when I heard that his wife had suddenly passed away. 

Phil and Jana Disney
Phil and Jana Disney

There it is again… life can change in a moment.

By all accounts, Jana was a wonderful wife, mother and friend. More importantly, she was a true example of a Godly woman.  I spent a few hours this past week reading all of the comments and memories of her.  What a wonderful legacy she left upon her family and her friends.  All of these memories are the bookmarks that each and every one that knew her will retain for the rest of their lives. 

Another reminder to pay attention to all of our life moments because it all can change in an instant. 

Why does it take big kicks in the behind for us to realize what’s important in life?  Most of the time, I believe, it is because we get caught up in chasing things in life. Whether it be money, materials, certain experiences we think will solve our problems or even people. Sometimes we get so engaged with everything in the future or in the past and what it can bring us, that we forget about all that is right in front of our faces.

Are you paying full attention to the things you love? To each moment? What memories have you bookmarked in your memory? I implore you to start with one thing today. One thing you want to experience fully.  Maybe something that will be with your wife, husband, your children or grandchildren. 

Maybe you need to make yourself available to allow a loved one to make a bookmarked memory with you.  Remember your children are making bookmark memories with you as well.

I realize more and more how incredibly blessed my life has been and I know a good part of that must pay tribute to the people that surround my life, past, present and future.  

Lives that vary so greatly, the people I went to school with formed a good part of who I am today. The good, the bad and all of the in between!  

Time goes quickly and some stay in touch more than others, but there’s a bond in growing up in the small town of Oak Harbor, Ohio or in the time spent in a small Baptist Church and Christian School that only those there can understand.  I suppose it’s the pros and cons of living with a small group of people that knits our hearts together.  The losses that take their toll on such a small community can seem larger than life because of the percentage they take away from the whole. They can feel like holes that are irreparable.   But at the same time the wonderful memories of victories are celebrated as monumental events by one and all and are remembered fondly.

My challenge is for anyone reading this is to take the time to make memory bookmarks in the confines of the hearts and minds of your family.  In turn you will be able to do the same, before it’s too late.

If something were to happen and in that instant when everything would change for my family and friends, I  guess there wouldn’t be much more to say than this…

These Things Take Time

Years ago… I used to stay at my grandfather’s house for a week or so during the summer. I have so many great memories of those times and I think about them often. 

During one of these summer visits my grandfather and I planted a tree.  He told me that it would grow and that one day it would be huge.  He told me just to sit back and I could watch it grow.

I took him literally. I watched it all the time I was there and it didn’t do anything!  I was hoping to see it grow, but it Tree in a handdidn’t move, it didn’t change….it didn’t do anything! I’m sure you’re thinking, “You’re crazy, you can’t see a tree grow!” 

I remember the last day of my stay that summer and I asked him why the tree didn’t grow while I was there.  He looked at me, paused, chuckled and then he said,  “These things take time.” 

My grandfather knew that it would be a long time before his prediction would come to reality.  He knew that he would not live long enough to see the tree grow to its full majestic size.  He knew it would be something that I would remember in the future. And… sure enough few years ago… long after my grandfather died, my wife and I were driving and we found ourselves in the area of my grandparents place.  We drove by my grandfather’s old house and there was the tree that was planted all those years ago. It was huge.  The biggest tree on his old property. 

He was right…  these things take time.  

It was the completion of one of the many lessons that he taught me when I was a young boy.  He knew that there would be a day in the future from that hot summer day that I would drive past that tree and remember him and that special day we planted it.

But the lesson of this tree has taught me more than I ever could imagine.

I have always been a person to question things.  There are so many things I don’t understand.  There are many questions that I want answers for.   I get frustrated at times when I don’t get the answers I am looking for. I am not very patient. Sometimes the truth isn’t easy to find and I want to know all the answers.  It is during these frustrating times I have to remember that tree and remember that answers some times take time to receive.

I also used to get so frustrated when I would look at other believer’s. I could watch someone for months and they may not seem to change at all!  I could quickly conclude they weren’t really a Christian in the first place or they weren’t really Take Time“serious about their faith” because I couldn’t see their growth.

Why do we expect the growth of a person to be something we can see and measure?  I have learned that it’s usually not something I can see immediately.  True growth is slow, steady and calmly happening…it takes time….you won’t see it but it’s happening.

Again… these things take time.  

Paul wrote to the Christians  in Ephesus, “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” 

I have been a Christian for more than 45 years….most of my life…and I still have so many things that aren’t as they should be….but I’m growing.   One day, I will finish the race and become what God made me to be….until then I’m going to keep growing and look for the answers that I am seeking.

Be patient and just watch because these things take time.

In Search of Inspiration

I have needed some inspiration.  I have been through some dry spells when it comes to my writing before but this last spell has been a rough one.  I usually could come up with something to write Inspirationabout even if it was basically a repeat of something I had written about before.  Not this time… I could not bring myself to even type a word.

No words… no ideas… nothing to say.

I have to ask myself, “Is it time to close the book and pack this blog away with the other million or so blogs that are not being read by anyone?”

I wanted to make it last… I wanted to reach 500,000 visitors.  I am roughly 14,000 visitors short as of this writing. That sounds so self-centered… so… self-serving. But if you honestly know me, you know that I do not write to get recognition. I have turned down opportunities to try to promote my blog on different media sites.  That was not why I started writing in the first place.

I started writing again to fill a place in my life that was empty.  A place that was emptied by the choices I made in life and I needed to fill that place with inspiration and thought. With life running so fast, there’Young man reading small Bibles little time and energy left to try a muster up some inspiration to write.  To be honest with the truth, I long to have another opportunity to teach from the Bible again.  It has been over twenty years since I have had the honor of sharing from God’s Word in a classroom setting. There was always a small part me that believed that I would get the chance to once again be a part of a ministry besides sitting in the pew.  

It is evident to me as I think on these things that God has another plan. As much as I try to believe, I do not believe that it will ever happen. Through the small things and the biggest things, life has certainly taught me this lesson over and over. Things are harder for those who don’t believe. And they’re much easier for those who do. Lord knows that I’ve created a thousand life obstacles by crowding out my faith, or by blatantly ignoring what it was whispering to my heart. It has made life harder because I had to tear down a thousand walls brick by brick by finally believing they had to fall. This is one wall that I have not been able to tear down.

That being said, I must say that I have witnessed others who have endured a divorce and/or failure brickin marriage go on and teach and “do things” in the church as if it never happened.  That opportunity has never been offered to me.

I am not bitter about the price I have paid for my failure or the opportunities that others have been given. It just saps my ability to be inspired at times.

So it’s becoming more important to me that I not waste too much time dwelling on what will not happen and focus on what can be done because my time is running short.  Now before that gets misconstrued, I am not dying, at least I don’t have any plans on dying anytime soon. But blogs and websites like mine are dying daily.  I cannot help but think that this website… this blog… my stories… my words that I write will be the only voice that I will ever have. In no time at all it will be silenced.  

So what can keep me inspired until that day comes? I thought it would be nice to share one thing that has always brought inspiration to me.  As many of you know, I love music.  All types and all styles. It brings me inspiration and I never write unless I have music blaring through my headphones.

One of my favorites is one that I am sure not many people have ever heard of. I am blown away by the composer, Ólafur Arnalds. I discovered him on Spotify.  His album called, “Living Room Songs” is a masterpiece.  Each note has purpose.  The melodies are unique.  Emotion is ever-present.  It Living Roomtakes me on a journey every time I listen. Sometimes it breaks my heart. Sometimes it heals it. I always feel something.  I’m always inspired.

The story behind the album is that he committed to writing one new song each day for a week.  At the end of each day, he gathered a small string section, and there in his living room, they recorded  what he’d written that day on a live microphone. No editing and no overdubs.

It’s beautiful in its imperfection. Each time the piano bench cracks, the pedal squeaks or a violin string falters in pitch for a moment, I smile to myself.  I love that they moved ahead, not feeling the need to repair or hide the ‘mistake’. And somehow, the song actually becomes more beautiful for it.  At the end of the week, it was done, finished – created and shared with the world… all it’s flaws exposed.

That gives me hope.

I’m inspired by what he was able to accomplish in a day – in a week.  And I can’t help but consider what I could do if I lived with that kind of intention and fearlessness.  If I’m honest, it’s scary for me to commit to something before I’ve got it figured out and know what the outcome will be.  Listening to this music makes me want to fly without a net. And it makes me think I can.  It makes me braver.  Not because it’s perfect and grand – but because it’s imperfect.  The flaws are evident… but they still are powerfully touching.

Just like you and me.

We spend so much of our lives trying to cover up our flaws and shortcomings, but what if we could just embrace them and move on?  What if we didn’t let them stop us?  What if they simply became part of the story we’re sharing?

What if I didn’t have to have it all figured out before I was willing to begin? What if I were willing to fly without a net?  What if I lived my life with more intent and focus? What if I made peace with my imperfections and shortcomings?  What if I even embraced them and made them a part of my story? What could I share with the world? What might it inspire in others?

Regardless of the type of music you like, I think almost everyone reading this will fall in love with “Living Room Songs” by Ólafur Arnalds.  It’s perfect background music, especially on rainy days and Saturday mornings. It has become one of my favorites – because it’s more than a piece of music.

It’s an exercise in fearlessness and exposure to what is real, flaws and all.

And that… inspires me.

NOTE: I have attached a video of the process and recording of “Living Room Songs”.  Enjoy!!!

To Be Silent… to Listen… and to Hear

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

….a time to be silent and a time to speak….

                                                                   (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7)

Taking some time from writing… to be silent, to listen, and to hear.

Won’t you join me?

I Wonder… a lot…

I have been absent for a bit. I guess being busy with life and work has me distracted, but I wanted to share a few thoughts this morning before the day gets too busy.

wonderThese are just a few rambling queries, so don’t take them too serious, but they are thoughts that leave me silent and more often than not leave me with more questions than answers.

Here we go…

I wonder in five years from now, will I remember what I did yesterday? Will I remember what I do this week?

I wonder why life is so easily forgotten?

I wonder what we would do differently if we knew nobody would judge us?

I wonder if we knew that everyone we know was going to die tomorrow, who would we visit today?  Why are we not going to them now?

I wonder why we accept regret as an option for our behavior?

I wonder if my greatest fear will ever come true?

I wonder if I have been the kind of friend to someone who I would want as a friend?

I wonder why the older I get, I question what I once considered wrong is now not so bad?  Did it change or did I? Is it possible to know, without a doubt, everything that is good and what is bad?

I wonder which is worse, failing or never trying?

I wonder if not now, then when?

I wonder why God put us messed up broken people in charge of telling the world about Him? Didn’t He know how bad we would be at this?Question-Mark-Balls

I wonder why all the atheists I see are so mad at God? If they don’t believe in Him then why is He so significant in their life?  Why don’t they just talk about something else?

I wonder why people get so caught up in arguing about things of the Bible that really have no impact on eternity?  When you start your thoughts with “God couldn’t…” it is a slippery slope to true unbelief.

I wonder how can I live in such a way that I can show the love of God to others who don’t know Him? It often seems fake and “plastic”. I wish I could break down the walls between me and other people and really let them see God’s love.

I wonder why we are all so afraid? All around me are people with an underlying panic, a fear driven manic that keeps them moving so they don’t have to really think about their life.

I wonder what impact my life will honestly have on others?  How can a person live for 70 to 80 years and then be so quickly forgotten? Then I wonder why some people are always remembered? What is the secret? How does that happen?

I wonder if life is so I-Wonder-1920x1080short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?

I wonder if we are doing what we believe in, or are we settling for what we are doing?

I wonder why we live in this great battlefield for the souls of men? It seems so dark at times, but then God shows up. I’m looking forward to the day when the battle is over.

I wonder why we so easily value things above people?

I wonder what kind of life my grandchildren will have?  It also is followed by the fact that I fear for their future as well.

I wonder, and honestly so, how God makes all this work out for my good? But He does.

Just a few questions I am pondering on this day…

I wonder if you read them?

I wonder if they made you think?

I wonder… a lot…

The Journey

A few months ago marked my 44 years of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

However, in many ways, I still feel like a young Christian that is stumbling over nothing, falling The Journey Logodown and having to pick myself to try again.  I never thought that the journey to become like Christ was as long as it has been for me.  I thought I would be there by now, but it seems I’ve only just begun.

As I write those words, I wonder if I’ve been too open about my walk and struggle in my Christian walk. I have had people comment to me in the past about how shocked they were to hear how I had struggled in my life. They could not believe that I failed in my first marriage and in my ministry. The only words I could come up with in response was that I was sorry I let God and them down. 

It is something that I live with everyday. I am torn between what could have been in my ministry and where I am at today.  The lessons learned from my failure has made me so much more compassionate towards those that have failed or struggle in this life.  Something that I did not even consider in the years that I was in the ministry. 

My failure broke me.  The price of failure has been one that I am still paying for even after 20 years.  

Truth is, I am not a person that finds joy in sharing my failures.  But one thing iindexs true… I have had more than my fair share of them.  I have to be honest and try to not deceive anyone into thinking that I have everything in my Christian walk all together. I surely cannot deceive myself, I have to live with it everyday.

So how do I be an open book and not be honest about my past failures?  It would be easy to just write generic, short little gleeb articles that give advice with no experience. I see them all the time.  I cannot do that.  I try not to give advice.  I write to remind myself of the lessons learned by my failures and successes.  I try to influence by being an example of what can happen in your life when you take your eyes off of Jesus Christ. I try to give the reader something to ponder.  The truth is my life has been one to be used as an example of caution. If it can happen to me… it can happen to you.

My relationship with God cannot be summed up in a FACEBOOK post. I read catchy little Christian phrases on FACEBOOK that annoy me to no end. Often they are posted by people I know personally and I want to pull my hair out.  I get so frustrated because when people favorpost them, it seems to me that it dumbs down the real relationship a person should have with Jesus Christ.  That somehow by posting if you love God… re-post this message and He will do you a favor.

I do not want to speak for God but I do not think God is not in the business of doing favors for me or you just because we re-post this.

Here’s my up-front disclaimer: I’m not fond of Christian jokes and one-liners. I might be a terrible stick-in-the-mud, but when I pass a church marquee sign posting a “Christian” message, I wince. Although I fight the urge, I read it. And sometimes I need to seek God’s forgiveness for the thoughts that enter my mind after my car has passed by.

I drive about 30 miles to work everyday. On my drive I pass a church where they post phrases on their church marquee. They change it often.  Before Election Day, it read: “To find God, turn right and go straight.” I am sure every left-leaning friend I had would be outraged by what it said. 

Another time the sign read, “If God gave you the same priority you give Him, would you be saved?” My instinctive response was a low growl. I wasn’t being convicted by the Holy Spirit; I simply have an adverse reaction to being smacked in the head with weak theology. God gave me all the priority He intended by giving His Son to die on the cross for me. Salvation comes from the acceptance of His Son and His death that paid the price for my sin. My salvation is not dependent on my priority on any random day.

Why do we insist on using catch phrases to attract our community to Christ?

I understand people are well-meaning.  I am trying extremely hard to not judge but this week I have read FACEBOOK posts such as:

“God answers knee-mail,”

“God loves everyone, but probably prefers fruits of the spirit over religious nuts.”

“Sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”

“Why do some people change churches? What difference does it make which one you stay home from?”

“Don’t make me come down there–signed God.”

Or consider the church sign I passed while driving to work this week. 

It read, “WARNING! Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.”

My response is always the same: “Huh?”

Do we really want to guilt people into worshipping with us? When people read these messages and the out-loud response is, “See? THAT’S why I don’t go to church!” we’ve failed our community–and our faith.

Sure, I get it. But why does it make me crazy? Statements like these are patronizing, condescending, and place the reader on the defensive side of living.  It cheapens the journey that most of us are on.

StonesI am not innocent of doing it either, here’s one that I am guilty of posting –  “Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones.”  

As if!  You’re still on the ground with a bloody nose and scrapped knees and I’m trying to tell you how to take those stumbling places and grow? Come on!  Catchy little slogans do nothing to help you or me grow in Christ. I need Christ and I need Him constantly!

And, to be honest, it doesn’t take a stone to make me stumble.  I’m pretty good at stumbling over sand, over a crack in the sidewalk.  It’s never something big thing or I would avoid it.  It’s always the little things that cause my fall, my failing…..and then I grieve, beat myself up and tell God I’m sorry, I won’t do it again (but I will)….and that I should be past all of this by now, but I’m not.

And, then, like a child, embarrassed by my failings, but suffering in my pains, I run back to God and am welcomed by His grace, his love and forgiveness.  I’m always embarrassed to face Him, to come to Him and tell Him “I did it again!  I’m so sorry!!”  And He forgives, He bandages my wounds and He offers to walk with me even as I stumble along.

Are we really trying to reach out to those who are far from God? If the answer is “Yes,” we need to speak and write the words that others understand and will respond to positively.

The FACEBOOK audience is composed of moms and dads, children and grandparents, friends and facebook3neighbors that do not know Christ. They are overworked, tired and stretched to the limits emotionally, mentally and financially to consider the importance of having a relationship with Him. They are searching for something more meaningful than Christian one-liners. All too often they are searching in the wrong places.

We have an incredible opportunity to reach people for Christ.  But it will not happen with a catch-phrase posted on FACEBOOK and truth be told it will not come from any of my writings and postings to this blog site. It will only happen when we meet and love people where they are at in life.  It will happen when we develop relationships that are deeper than FACEBOOK postings.

My desire is to have my writings be an encouragement to those that want to reach others for Christ. I want to show people that my journey has been one to note because of the lessons that can be learned from it.  I have no belief that my words will reach the masses but maybe they will reach one WELCOME-your-churchthat will be encouraged to live for Christ in a deeper way and reach others for Him.

As far as reaching people on FACEBOOK.  Let me just say that if you insist on posting those Christian one-liners, please make sure your other postings and life live up to those postings. 

As for church marquee signs, perhaps we simply need to say, Sunday Services: 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 a.m. All Are Welcome!

With God’s spirit, those words might be more than enough.

Of Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men and Hoping To Find A Better Way

As I scan my timelines, I see battles. I see people taking sides over current events.

Good people.  Well-meaning people. All with different opinions.  All saying they are not arguing The-problem-with-arguing-with-idiotsbut just trying to prove they are right and that the person who disagrees with them is not just wrong but that they are an idiot.

Who is right and who is wrong?

To be honest most of the people I see making comments and posting on FACEBOOK do not have clue as to what they are talking about. Most of them have grown up in protected environments and have NEVER faced anything remotely close to what is going on in the news. That includes me as well.

I find it so ridiculous that so many of the posts on my FACEBOOK wall are re-posted from satire political sources. If you are re-posting stuff without doing some research to see that it is legit then why bother? All you are showing is your ignorance. If you’re getting your news from “The Onion” or any other satire site and thinking it is real then you have a serious problem.

Here is NEWS for you… ALL NEWS SOURCES and the Republicans, Democrats and the much hated, Tea-Party ALL have sites that are filled with propaganda. All of these “sources” have agendas and they play all of us. I constantly get posts that when truly researched there is just enough truth to stay on topic but the trouble starts in the details of the articles. Most of it is WRONG. Again… those of you posting  those things, please at least try to do some research.

People try to come off on FACEBOOK as if they have the answer… they are right and if you disagree wrong_thumbyou are naïve ,uneducated and/or just plain stupid. They present themselves as having the answer to all problems because so many of them post and comment on things such as the issues in Ferguson, the Eric Garner Death in New York, Immigration, Amnesty, the Keystone Pipeline, Voter ID laws, Fracking, Global Warming, Net Neutrality and a boatload of other topics.  Now most of these people I know. I know where they come from and I know where they grew up. In most cases I know their education level. Most of those I see post barely got out of high school and if they did go on to college they surely did not take the subject matter to be the experts and know-it-alls they come off to be on FACEBOOK.

Now before you think I am coming off as being the only “smart one”… I am not. I learned long ago that FACEBOOK is not the arena to discuss or have legitimate debate about issues of politics, science, music or Christianity.  Truth is… I don’t have all the answers and I don’t waste my time trying to convince people to change their mind on FACEBOOK.  I know what I believe and I know what I think.  People are entitled to have their opinion and have a right to believe what they believe. But just because you think differently from me does not make you right.

I have discovered that those issues I tried to convince people was right when I was 30 years old was really wrong now that life experience has shown me how wrong I was.

I don’t care if you post what you believe or even what you think… but if you are trying to use FACEBOOK as a platform to change people’s minds you are crazy. People do not want to discuss or debate…they want to ARGUE. I have yet to meet anyone that said…”Wow, I am glad you posted that article from (Blue Nation Review / Fox News) cause it changed my mind and now I am going to become a (liberal / conservative)”.

So who is right and who is wrong?  That’s not for me to decide.

Again, truth is… none of these well-meaning people have the “right” to tell the other that they are wrong or right.  It only causes a deeper divide in this country.

We are more polarized than ever. No matter what side of the coin you are on… each think that the person on the other side is wrong and an idiot. There once was a time that we could find common ground… now I think we have lost that in America… sadly I think our country will never be the same. HERE IS MORE NEWS… WE ARE ALL TO BLAME FOR THIS!!!

At least for a few moments can we experience  “peace on earth and good will to men” even if that simply means with those friends that disagree with you.

For this moment, for this season, can we put down our verbal weapons? Can we call a truce?

Can hate not be so strong?

There has to be a better way.

Can we try to finish 2014 and enter 2015 with peace and hope of goodwill where there once was division, hate, unrest and hateful words.

In this Christmas Season… let’s have our conversation stay out of the mine fields of division and let’s love our families while we can regardless of which side of the argument they fall on. My prayer that we honestly experience peace on earth in our relationships and in our families.

Merry Christmas and let us all hope for a better way.

Being Grateful Everyday

I cannot let November get away without doing something to reflect and remember why I should be grateful each and every day for my life. It is easy to let the negative in life over shadow the positive. I-will-be-grateful-for-this-dayI want to be grateful about my blessings each and every day of my life. 

I was reading today that the power of gratitude has been scientifically proven. According to the article, you can have more health, wealth, and increase happiness with being more grateful.

Why wouldn’t we all want that? 

That little question has helped me realize even on my hardest days I can always think of
things that made the day okay and make me grateful.

As I write this from my computer, I notice that my furnace is making my home warm.  My television is on in the background, music blares from my headphones and my wife is making dinner from a kitchen stocked with modern appliances and clean, running water. 

I don’t live in a big house. It’s not located in a neighborhood filled with SUVs and white picket fences.  But I’ve got more space than I need and I’ve got more things than I need.

Our bills are paid and sometimes, there’s even a little left over.

All things to be grateful for. 

But I am discovering that what keeps most people from being grateful is the false picture they have in their mind as to how it is supposed to be. So many people I know live this life with false expectations.  They feel entitled and deserving of things not worked for or earned.  It isn’t about “stuff”.  It’s not money or status…and it certainly won’t be found in the pursuit of those things.

The secret to gratefulness is hidden away in the ordinary moments we experience in search of the extraordinary ones.

That being sgratitude2aid, there needs to be a distinction between what being thankful is as to being grateful. The dictionary defines gratitude as a state of being grateful; Gratitude is a noun. Thankfulness is defined as aware and appreciative of a benefit; Thankfulness is an adjective.’

It seems gratitude is the state of being and thankfulness expresses that gratitude.

I choose being in a state of gratefulness.

Life should teach us that if we have food in the fridge, a roof over your head and spare change in your pocket we should be thankful – but they will never make you grateful. You can’t assess your true level of gratefulness by looking at your checking account or your 401k.  Because we struggle to feel satisfied. We fight urges to compare and complain. We wrestle with feelings of jealousy and failure.

Why is that? It’s simple really.

From my personal experience, I have discovered that you have to dig a little deeper to find that really makes you grateful.

Now time and space do not permit me to write about everything that I am grateful for but here are few things that being grateful is all about….

  • The old memories of a time you laughed so hard with childhood friends that it hurt, but you couldn’t stop and didn’t want to. These memories cross my mind often.
  • It’s growing up having a few great friends, and the one you tell your secrets without fear of judgement or betrayal.
  • It’s the remembered “innocence” of believing in the wonder of a Christmas morning.
  • It’s the love you have for your mother, the center of your universe growing up and the pride of your family.
  • It’s the memories of a brother and grandparents that have passed on before me.
  • It’s remembering the moment you accepted Jesus Christ and your life would never be the same.
  • It’s the memories of swimming and playing ball on long hot summer days.
  • It’s the memories of the first time you fell in love.
  • It’s receiving that diploma after working so hard for it.
  • It’s holding your child in your hands for the first time.
  • It’s the cherished memories of bedtime stories, ballgames, school plays and graduations.
  • It’s finding your one true love when you thought love had passed you by.
  • It’s picking yourself up and having an opportunity to start over… another second chance.
  • It’s still having to catch your breath when your wife walks in the room.
  • It’s having a true understanding how lucky you are to have her in your life.
  • It’s the smile on your wife’s face when you come home at night.
  • It’s the way she instinctively reaches for your hand when you walk by her side. 
  • It’s about the home she has made for you.
  • It’s date nights with my forever love, the long talks, and getting through the hard days together.
  • It’s fighting back the tears of joy when your grandson says, “Hey Grandpa”.
  • It’s when a young man takes you to dinner to ask for your blessing… and it’s when your daughter calls you to tell you she said “Yes!!”.
  • It’s when your children take time to talk to you.
  • It’s a heart that’s still beating strong.
  • It’s the phone call from your doctor saying the tests are clear.
  • It’s the clear memories of three close friends that are now in heaven.
  • It’s still having a friend that is as close to a brother as it can get. 
  • It’s the reminder of spiritual scars and the Grace of God that keep me focused on Jesus Christ.
  • It’s the picture frozen in your mind of the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen.
  • It’s looking back at the footprints that you left behind that are good and honorable and the ability to forgive yourself  for the footprints that weren’t.
  • And simply put…It’s family.

Don’t miss being truly grateful this Thanksgiving.

Remember… the secret to true gratefulness is hidden away in the ordinary moments we experience in search of the extraordinary ones.

Then They Do

(NOTE: I wrote this on Thursday, November 6th… I am just getting brave enough to post it.)

Oh yeah… tonight was a tough one.

When I say “tough” let me be quick to point out that the word is relative.

Then They doI knew that it was coming and I know that it is going to bring great joy to our family.  But it still was a tough night.

It is one of those nights when you try to look for that chapter in the parenting manual that covers how to handle these type of situations.

Truth is there is no manual. It doesn’t matter if you have been through it before, nothing prepares you for it.  Even when you know it is inevitable.

It is about seeing your child make a decision that they have waited their whole life to make. It is about pushing them where you can while allowing them to make their own choices.  It is about knowing the consequences of those choices.  It is about trust. Trusting them to apply everything you have tried to teach and them trusting you as a parent to let them go when it is time.

I must admit there are tears.  Yes… in the privacy of my hotel room, I am in tears… but not tears of sadness.

When you aAndre and Cassidyre a parent there is so much you anticipate. You assume things. You dream big dreams for your children. You want all of those dreams to come true for them.  You hope and you pray that the dreams you want for them will somehow become dreams that they want as well.

Her mom has waited for this moment since the day she was born. And I have been wishing for her dreams to be fulfilled since I married her mother. Yet, I feel thoroughly and utterly unprepared for this.

Just moments ago, Cassidy called me with the news, the news of a lifetime. Andre popped the question and she said yes. They both decided!—he is the one for her, and she is the one for him—they’ve each found their life partner. We are thrilled for them and my words cannot express how happy we are for them. And though the last few days I’ve known and anticipated this, I am speechless now as I ponder on what to write.

A lifetime of advice can’t come from one note. So I won’t try to cover everyCasssidy Ringthing here and now. And she doesn’t need me to. We have a year of planning.  I know that the time will go quickly but for now I want to stop and just say I am so proud of Cassidy.  Always have been. She has made our job as parents easy.  I trust her and I am confident in the decision she made tonight.

As it was when Crystal got married, I have a year before I will not have to wait up for her to get home at night. A year before it will no longer be my responsibility to make sure she is ok. I have waited for these days to come and you think you are prepared for them. You want all the dreams they have dreamed of to come true… then they do.

And it is then you realize you are not prepared at all.

These lyrics really hit home tonight…

I look over at their pictures,
Sittin’ in their frames.
I see them
as babies:
I guess that’ll never change.
You pray all their lives,
That someday they will find happiness.

Then they do, and that’s how it is.
It’s just quiet in the mornin’,
Can’t believe how much you miss,
All they do and all they did.
You want all the dreams they dreamed of to come true:
Then they do.

No more Monday PTA’s,
No carpools, or soccer games.
Your work is done.
Now you’ve got time that’s all your own.
You’ve been waitin’ for so long,
For those days to come.

Then they do, and that’s how it is.
It’s just quiet in the mornin’,
Can’t believe how much you miss,
All they do and all they did.
You want all the dreams they dreamed of to come true:
Then they do.

As a parent we will face moments when we will “help them find their wings but we can’t fly for ‘em.” Wisdom tells us there will be days when we wish we could step into the moment for them.

But it’s not our stage and it’s not our spotlight.

We’ve gotta let her go.  Life is to be lived moving forward.

You want all the dreams she dreamed of to come true… then they do.