The Way I Tend to Be

I was trying to fall asleep one night, when I started to think about the fact that we really do not know those who are around us… even our own family.

By that, I mean we as people… being who we are – whomever that may be and whatever that may look like.  My thoughts mainly focused around the idea of pigeonholing people. We like to think we have a particular person figured out. For example, I would love to say that I have completely figured out my wife.  I believe I do know her quite well, but I could never know exactly who she is.  Some days she is a complete mystery to me.   I guess I am a mystery to her as well.  That being said, my wife probably knows me better than anyone but I know that I still surprise her from time-to-time.  Sometimes that brings her frustration and other times happiness.   How could she not know me after knowing each other for over 35 years?  The question that really needs to be answered is, “How do I expect my wife to know me when I am not sure I know myself?”  There are things about me that stay the same because there are some things about me that are the same way I was when I was five. 

In other ways I keep changing.  Yes, I constantly change.  I am influenced by education, interactions, music, experiences, opportunities, all of that.   I keep discovering things about myself and sometimes what I find out is not pretty or good.  I am sad about that.  I wish I could hide those bad things from myself and more importantly from my family.   The truth is not that simple.  They see my faults before I do.
puzz

Like a puzzle, I have always made it a life goal to never be truly figured out.  I always wanted to keep ‘em guessing.  The problem is that I have finally figured out that I worked way too hard at that.  It’s been really easy for me to focus on the negative things I have learned, especially since I’m trying to improve my weaknesses as a husband, father and grandfather.   Lately, however, I’ve noticed more positive things. I’m discovering new things about myself that have me a little excited – and surprised. It’s not that these new things are so exciting in themselves; it’s that I’m understanding myself better and seeing more clearly who I am.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”  – Dr. Seuss

I thought I would have had this figured out a long time ago.  However; the excitement I’m feeling about discovering new things about myself is worth the pain of finding out things I don’t like. Thinking that I’m one thing and finding out I’m something else entirely is scary. I’ve certainly ran away from discovering things about myself before, and I’m absolutely sure that I’m not alone in that.

I want to show you who I am, but I really want to show you that I’m not who you think I am.  I’m different.  I am many things—and I am one thing.  That is for sure, but I am much more than that.

Who am I?  

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

I am a man.  I am a “brother” and I am a “son”.   I am a “father” and a “grandfather”.  

I am trustworthy and loyal, but at the same time I am no Boy Scout.  No, I am certainly not. I am quite the opposite, in fact. And by opposite I do not mean Girl Scout.

As a child I was known as the baby of the family.  I am also a “mommas boy”.  I was known as the “Lee boy” and Linda Lee’s little brother.  I was known as the brother of those that were killed in the car/train accident. 

I was picked first and I was picked last.  I was the center of attention and I was ignored.  I was loved and I was forced to grow up too soon. I was easily forgotten and lost in the crowd.  My elementary school classmates would have hard time ever remembering me.  Just a picture of someone they don’t remember.

leisure suitIn Junior High, I continued being known Linda Lee’s little brother.  I was known as a stutterer and a Smart Aleck to cover the embarrassment of my lack of confidence. I was sure that a light blue Leisure Suit was the solution for all my problems.

I was now known to usually to get into fights  because I was small for my age and I would not have anyone try to put me in my place.  My anger and temper would usually get the best of me and the opponent was usually bigger and older than me.  I never walked away from a fight.  I’d like to think I never lost one but I am sure there are those that would have a different opinion.

I was legendary at Nerf Basketball in my bedroom and I was sure that with every Beatle, ELO, Elton John, Areosmith, John Denver and Temptations record I sang with would make me a star one day.  

RunnerIn high school, I was still known as Linda Lee’s little brother but I was also known as a runner, the cross-country kid that got de-pantsed in front of the whole school.  I was known as the first student in my class to earn his Varsity Letter as a Freshman.  I was also known as a transfer student and a basketball player.

I was too short, too skinny, too tall, too angry, too jealous, too loud and too confident.

I was known as being smarter than I let anyone know.  I did what I had to do to stay eligible for sports.  I was a underachiever and at times I overachieved… far beyond my abilities.  I was lucky and I was cursed.  I was not expected to amount to anything and yet I surpassed everyone’s expectations of what I would do in my life. 

Truth is…  I have never reached my full potential.

There was one thing I was but I wasn’t known for it.   I was a “Born Again” Christian.   I had a very deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ but unfortunately very few people knew this about me.  What many knew about me was what they would see at the parties and other places.  I would hide this relationship with Jesus Christ yet I would freely show everyone the desperate attempts of a young man trying to fit in.  It is truly one of my greatest regrets of my childhood.  I wish I would have let others know of my faith.  I wish I would have been the witness that God wanted me to be and that includes the time I was a student at Temple Christian Academy. 

People have known me by many titles and nicknames.

My sister calls me Dave.  (she is the only one gets away with that to my face) She has also called me “Dew Worm” as long as I remember.  Why? Who knows?  My brother had other nicknames for me that will forever be confined to vaults of my memory and hopefully to those of my family.

--In high school, I was “Double Deuce”  not because of the modern Urban Dictionary definition of the act of sticking up both middle fingers instead of just one for added emphasis on the unspoken message; while that could have applied to me in some ways it was rather the fact that I wore the number “22″ for every sport I have ever played.  I was the original “22″. 

I was known as Pam’s ex-boyfriend and from time to time, Michael.

I was known as the first of my family to go to college.  Then as a traveler.  I left the small confines of that small Ohio town and swam in the Amazon River and sojourned the plains of Africa and shook the hands of two US Presidents all before I was the age of 22.

There was a time when I was known as the “Sound Man”.  I engineered the sound board for many of the popular Christian acts of the early ’80′s.  I was also known during this time as a roommate to some of my lifelong friends.  Then I was known as a college graduate and someone who they used to know.

There was a time when I was known as Mr. Lee; but he died a long time ago.

To some, I was known as Coach, to others the teacher and to some the Principal.  If you knew me then, you would much rather have “Pepsi and Popcorn” than “Coffee and Doughnuts” with me.  (An inside joke and shout out for all to whom it applies).

I also was known as an ordained minister… a Bible teacher… to some a youth pastor, to others a Sunday School teacher.

I am no longer any of these things.

Today… to some I am known as the boss and to some, David. 

I am a parent.  Parenting is the kind of job for which there is no practice.  You give it your best shot, and trust that it is enough.  You hope that God will make your children resilient enough that they don’t suffer too much from who you are.  I am “Dad” to Nathan and Adam and “David” to Crystal and Cassidy.  There is no such thing as “step” anything.  

I am my own worst critic. I am success.  I am failure.  I am the silent majority.  I am a loud minority. I am a friend and I can be a foe.  

I am the proud husband of Pamela Renee.

I’m not what I thought.  I’m more than I’ve been.

I am Indiana William and Brody Michael Kirchenbauer’s grandpa.

I am a man that has come to the conclusion that compassion, understanding and forgiveness  of others and their problems are far better than the  judgmental legalism he raised with.

I am a simple man looking for grace and forgiveness.

I guess I am just starting to get to really know who I am just because I have the unmitigated gall of taking the time to understand and know who I am.

This I know…

I am not the man I was 20 years ago when I failed in my first marriage and lost my ministry.  I am convinced that myMyStory story is one of caution.  Caution for all, because if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.

  It is a journey that is more common than anyone wants to recognize.  My story… follows a well-traveled spiritual pathway that leads from sin and failure right up to the Cross of Calvary, where our Savior died so we could know forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love.   That’s where you’ll find me today, gathered with all the other people who are scarred by their past but who’ve been forgiven, redeemed and gratefully clinging forever at the foot of the old rugged cross. 

If you’ve also made mistakes in your life and you long for restoration and wholeness, I hope you’ll come along and share my journey.  But please understand…these are my words and I am accountable for them. 

They tell my story, my journey and the way I tend to be. 

David Michael Lee

I AM CLEVELAND

It’s been over 48 hours now.   You and the rest of the world now know that Lebron is coming home.

I wanted to write about this yesterday but this is my first opportunity to get enough time to gather my thoughts together and put it all into words.

Before I really get into it, I need to unpack my mind of a few things.  Hopefully you’ll stick around for the whole post. Especially if you’re not from Cleveland or Ohio.  Even if you swore you’d never forgive what Lebron did or if you, like me, could care less about NBA basketball.

I need to make sure everyone knows… I AM CLEVELAND.  However, IACI was not born in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was born in Sandusky, Ohio.  That is about 60 miles from Cleveland.  Lebron James was born in Akron, Ohio which is about 40 miles from Cleveland.  Lebron says he is coming home and if “home” is 40 miles away from Cleveland then I will take liberty and say I am from Cleveland as well.  I mean what does 20 miles make when it comes to being home?  That being said, I have no ties to Cleveland other than the fact that it is “in Ohio”.  

My first loves of sports teams did not start in Cleveland, they were found in Baltimore.  Where Johnny Unitas threw the football and the Orioles were playing in the World Series. I did what kids have done since the beginning of time… I just followed where the championships were won and became a bandwagon fan.  Not because of the love of the team but because at the time that was all you could watch on TV.

Then as the championships faded away and those Baltimore teams fell into mediocrity, I became less and less interested in following them.  I could not identify with them. Then just like the first time you realize the existence of girls, my twelve-year-old mind and heart started searching  for something real, something I could love forever, something I could identify with.

I found it… or rather it found me in the city of Cleveland.

I don’t need to go through the list of heartache the City of Cleveland has endured cleveland-city-1when it comes to sports. The list is long and heartbreaking. I can tell you where I was when a majority of them happened. The City itself has had it’s share of tough times. It has rebounded and fallen again. It seems like just when the sun starts to shine on Cleveland, something happens and the clouds arrive again. I think that is why the people who love Cleveland live and die (more die than live) with their beloved sports teams. It’s their escape.  No matter how bad a team is, each season begins with it a hope that this is the year.  That “just once before I die” finally comes true.

It’s well documented but Lebron was one of our own.  He knew our long history of failure.  In a way that was both unhealthy and unfair, we thought he was going to be the guy.  He was just out of high school and we thought the storybook ending of one of our own delivering the thing that has eluded the city for so long was perfect.  I have always maintained that I wasn’t mad about his “decision” to leave. I was mad about HOW he went about it.  The “Decision” that took place four years ago wasn’t supposed to happen.

For the past four years I have always felt that Lebron was never comfortable in the role of villain.  He never wore that well.   He regretted the decision but it was something he had to do. Don’t we all chase something at some point in our lives? Sometimes it turns up as expected, but often it does not.  I always believed that Lebron would someday return, I just didn’t think it would happen now.

As the days passed the tension in Cleveland began to build.  I believed that if he chose Miami or anywhere else this time, it would crush Cleveland once again and I braced myself for that to happen.  This was not the 2010 decision.  He remained quiet.   Social media, national media and fan hysteria began to build like a title wave.   For days, twitter was a constant refresh and sports talk radio was filled with talk of Lebron.  Where was he?  What was he doing?   Who wewtam1100re the sources?   How would we know?   Web sites crashed.   Planes were tracked.  It was all a bit too crazy.

Then on Friday, I was driving back from Elyria with Cleveland Radio blaring in the background.  I also had my phone on just in case some news broke.  In a “where were you” moment, a “breaking news” alert came across the radio and my phone rang.   I listened as my brother-in-law (a devout Piston fan) yelled into the phone, “Your boy is coming home.”  Even he admitted that it was good for the people of Cleveland.

One after another after another, tweets linking Lebron’s essay on SI.com.  Apparently, Lebron wrote a letter explaining his decision and it was used as a press release.  The local radio hosts were going insane. It was a moment I will never forget.

And then they read the letter…..  (Click here to read)

I was smiling ear to ear as they began to read Lebron’s words.  Chills covered my arms and legs, as the radio host james16closed out the final words of his letter, he couldn’t finish.  He was choked to tears.  He paused, gathered himself and finished it out.  I understood everything he was feeling because I was misty eyed too.

Lebron was coming home.

But the emotion I was feeling wasn’t about Lebron… this wasn’t about basketball and it certainly wasn’t about sports.  This was about a love for a city.  This was about the city of Cleveland and it’s people.

I said this before and I say it again….with every fiber of my being, this is not about the Cleveland Cavaliers.  For me it’s not.  I am not even a fan of the NBA.  Oh sure… I sort of paid attention when Daugherty, Nance, Price, Hot Rod and Harper played for the Cavs many years ago.  But I am not even sure I will watch much more NBA now that Lebron is coming home than I did this past year… which was almost none.

I’m sure there are people who celebrated yesterday just because they believe this man will bring home a title.   For me, the last thing I thought about yesterday was titles and wins.  I thought about a City I call “home.” I thought about the financial implications.  I thought about the closed bars, restaurants and businesses that sit around the arena.  In true Cleveland fashion, they have fought and tried to come up with ways to give some kind of life to these establishments.  It’s been a struggle but they never quit.

With those three simple words, “I’m coming home”…  life and hope were delivered to a city I love.

People will come to downtown.  Life will be breathed into a city that desperately needs it.  People began to gather downtown as soon as the announcement went live yesterday.  The Cavs sold out their season ticket packages in record fashion.  Those are dollars that will be invested into the City.  They will arrive early and stay late.  They’ll support local businesses before, during and after the games.  Hopefully, they will continue to see a winning product on the court for years to come.

I can’t speak for all of us that are fans of Cleveland, but I think I can.  They, like me, love the City of Cleveland.sports They’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly and I’m not just referring to their sports teams. They want to see their city alive like we’ve seen it before. They want Cleveland to be something other than a punchline or report of some bad press. They know the beauty that lies on the shores of Lake Erie. We’ve heard all about the “mistake” by the lake but we know the “potential” of what Cleveland can be.

I don’t know who’ll read this. I don’t know what city you’re from.  Maybe it’s a city that has always been on top.  It’s easy to cheer for a winner… it’s tough to taste heartbreak and loss.  Maybe you rolled your eyes at the endless string of Lebron posts on social media sites yesterday.  Maybe you’ve never understood “Cleveland Fans” or their reactions to the misery. 

If you feel the need to hold up your hand and show how many championships your team may have won and/or you feel the need to always make Cleveland the butt of a joke then you just don’t get it and I feel sorry for you.  Because you will never understand nor appreciate what it is to be a Cleveland fan.

For one day, for a few crazy hours, Cleveland fans lost their mind.  Emotions ran wild and this time it was mostly positive.  Frustrations were released.  Like I said, many probably are dreaming of championships and now place a huge weight back on the very broad shoulders of Lebron James.   Fair or unfair, that challenge is going to be his responsibility to make it happen.

Today… I celebrate for the City of Cleveland.  I am glad that Lebron is coming home.

After all… I am Cleveland.