Heal The Wound But Leave The Scar

Earlier this month I posted the following statement on my Facebook wall.

Listening to throw- back Thursday on Proclaim FM… They are playing Michael W Smith’s “Friends are Friends” song. Suddenly… I am over whelmed with memories of a time in my life that I buried a long time ago… a time when I was known as Mr. Lee. He’s been dead for 20 years now.

I had posted that as a simple statement of the fact that the song brought back some memories of a time in my life when I was the Administrator of a Christian School. I had a few comments to my post about how that time in my life wasn’t all bad and I basically shouldn’t think of it as a negative time in my life.

Let me make something very clear…I don’t. 

TCAI don’t view it as a negative time in my life at all, but there are some memories from that period of my life that I would like to forget forever.  To be honest, there are things that I have honestly blocked out of my mind.  I will have former students come up to me and remind me of something I did or something happened in the school and I just don’t remember many of those events.  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 forget.   That includes both the 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 a song like the one mentioned above comes on and the memories flood my mind it brings back the hurt that I caused and it reminds me once again of my failure in my ministry.

God has been very gracious to me and has allowed me to move on.  The hurt is not what it once was and there are periods of times in my life that I don’t remember the hurt at all.  God has taken away much of the pain but the one thing He has not done is remove the spiritual scars that I earned during that time in my life. 

Truth is… I have many scars.

Not as often as in the past and honestly the only time I see the scars that I carry is when those memories are stirred by a conversation.  Or as in this example, a song.  The memories can be so vivid and that they  take me right back there again. I usually wrestle with the Lord a little, wondering what is the purpose of this remembering.

Why do we need to feel it all and hurt so much again? Now, it never goes away, there is always pain, but it may not be as intense as it can be sometimes. Something reminds us and the pain comes again. What is the Lord’s purpose in those painful memories and why are they still necessary?

Over the past few years I believe that I am coming to terms with accepting these memories.  I am starting to understand that these memories come up so we can remember not to lose our compassion for others, especially when there are many people are struggling in their life. Maybe we need to spend more time praying for others who we know are hurting.  Maybe we need to reach out and give a hand to one of these people.  It obvious that sometimes it takes a lot for the Lord to get our attention off our selves and put our focus on others.

I want to keep my scars.  Not from a sense of pride but for a reminder of what happens when you take your eyes off of Jesus Christ.  I have always been amazed that Jesus kept his physical scars.

Did you ever wonder why He kept the scars?  If He was the son of God, why not completely heal those hands and feet.  Why bear the scars?  Why did Jesus keep the scars, show the scars and why does He through eternity keep those scars?

Was it simply to show them that he was the same person that had been crucified?  Was it simply to historically verify that the same person who had been brutally treated, died, was buried, came to life again? Or was there a My Scarsdeeper meaning in his scars that he so willingly showed his disciples?

The most obvious reason He showed His disciples the scars, and continues to wear the scars even in eternity is because scars tell a story. Probably if each of us to survey our own body, we would be able to tell the story of virtually every scar that shows.  The reason for that – scars tell a story.

We all have wounds in our hearts, either from sin in our lives or painful things that happen along the journey. Whatever the wound is from is not important, what is important is that we have that scar to remind us of what God taught us through the pain.

My prayer is that each wound the Lord heals in my life I only hope He leaves the scar so I won’t forget.  Our scars should lead us to honor God for His mercy and remind us of His love and mercy for us.  They should lead us to have compassion for others.  

I thank the Lord for leaving the scars in my life.  I hope that they continue to tell a story of God’s forgiveness and healing in my life. 

May this be your prayer as well. May we always ask God to heal the wound but leave the scar.

Life Is A One Time Offer, Use It Well

Depression took another life yesterday.  Robin Williams is no longer with us.

Who can pretend to understand the brilliance like  Robin Williams had?  Meteoric, volcanic, fast, furious and funny.

Perhaps there is a price for such brilliance.

As I read about his life today, it is apparent that Robin Williams had lived for a long time with a darkness at the periphery of his vision.

I could not help but reflect on the fact that life is sshort-life-quotes-1hort.  

The Bible says repeatedly that it’s like a vapor, a mist that is quickly gone.  We are here for just a few years and then…..we are gone. 

Doesn’t seem fair but that is the way it has been since the beginning of time.

Robin Williams obviously was dealing with more than I can understand but what I do know is that all of the success and fame did not bring him the happiness and contentment he was looking for.  He was searching for something more than what he accomplished.

What do you think he was looking for?

I have lived long enough and have experienced enough loss that I am keenly aware that this life is a one time offer, use it well.  I am also at the point in my life that I am looking towards the next phase in my life and I realize that many of the options I had in life I once considered possible are not.

So… life is short…  what do you want?  What do you want to do?  What do you want to be remembered for?  What do you want to accomplish?  

I think, if we were honest, most of us would reply, “I DON’T KNOW!”

Our simple answers of wanting happiness, success, significance and other words freely spoken in our culture just don’t get to the real heart of the question.  Many philosophers have asked this and tried to answer it from their perspective.  It begins with “Why am I here?”, “What’s my purpose?” and ends with ultimate destiny, but let’s not goFigure-Out-What-You-Want-to-Do-With-Your-Life-in-8-Easy-Steps there today.  I would rather get to the heart of the question.

These are questions I’m pondering as I enter this next phase of my life.   What do I want?

It’s a hard question!  I could easily respond, I want to be happy.  I want to be remembered.  I want to do something significant with my life, but honestly…maybe too honestly…none of those are in my control.  

They are the things I hope will happen, but I can’t pursue them.  It just doesn’t work that way.

How about you ? What do you want?  

At the core of who we are comes down to the fact that we all want meaning. We all want to know our lives are not a waste. We want to matter.

Built into us as humans is a desire for something more than food and comfort.  We want to matter!  That’s not an animal instinct.  That comes from our Creator.  He made us to ask this question. God made us with a desire for more and it’s not success, a title, a name that’s remembered, a lot of money, a nice house or car.

It’s none of these things.

I personally believe that true contentment in this life can only be found in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

As we ponder the death of a celebrity that was as gifted as Robin Williams,  we have to accept the fact that all of his success was still not enough for him to feel content in this life.  I have my personal opinions on where he will spend eternity, but I am not going to judge Robin Williams… like all of us, he will have to give an account of his own life when he stands before his Creator.  For all of his talent and for all of his success he will still need the very same grace that we all need to be reconciled back to God.

My prayer is that for anyone reading this will accept the gift of salvation that is found in Jesus Christ.  Find your contentment in this short life through that relationship with Him. 

Because this life is a one time offer, use it well. 

Live What You Believe

The month of July seemed to just fly by.  My wife and I have been so busy this summer that I am afraid we are going to be knee deep in snow before we know it.  I really have not had time to write like I used to julybut I guess that is alright because we have accomplished so much this summer.  My wife and I have purged the house of  “stuff” we have accumulated over the years.  We had an epic garage sale that was one for the history books.  We had a tremendous turnout to the sale and it was a great success.

Somewhere along the line I had another birthday come and go.  I am at the point in my life that I really don’t pay any attention to the birthdays as they come and go.  About the only thing I look forward to is some of the “Happy Birthday” notes sent to me from friends and family.  One of those wishes came from a friend from my college years that I had lost contact with over the years and I was surprised to hear from him. 

He asked if I had any wisdom to impart that I’ve gained in my many years.

My first response and thought was nope.

I pondered what I could possibly share. What wisdom have I gained? What words can I share that I haven’t already shared?

I’ve got nothing.

I’ve spent weeks since my birthday, going round and round about what I could write that would express the wisdom I have gained in my 50 plus years. What I have learned in these years that I can pass on to my grandchildren and anyone else that might read this?

Then today it hit me….while I was thinking back to a friend that had a birthday close to mine.  Sadly he is no longer here.  We lost him all too soon.  I thought back to the words I spoke at his funeral.

A simple sentence that I still believe sums it all up…

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

LiveBelieveThat’s it. It’s funny that I share that in a blog post. 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 over 5 years I have posted thoughts and hopefully, shared the struggles too.  Social media has exploded over the years.  Now more than ever before I believe that statement has to be our filter. It’s easy to only post the great moments, the times when everything is going great.  But it is hard to write and share when things are going horribly wrong.  Hopefully you’ve seen my not so great moments through the words I write.  Hopefully, everyone will see my intent is to live what I believe and that the words I wrote were not just words on a page.

Either way, I hope that whenever my number is called and the Lord calls me home, 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 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 wasn’t bragging on my kids and my grandchildren, 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.

So that’s the best I’ve got.

The calendar turned on me and I am another year older.

It’s another chance to say what I think and most importantly….

Live what I believe.

Footsteps of Grace

I remember when I learned my first real lesson about grace.  I guess I should say that it was the first time I really understood the concept of grace.

I heard my mom’s footsteps outside of my bedroom door.  I knew it was time to pay the piper.  I took something that wasn’t mine.

I had been holed up in my bedroom for hours because I knew that I had to face my mom and give account for my actions.  She was going to kill me (or so I thought).

graceQuivering lower bottom lip.  Embarrassment on my face.  Tears forming in my eight year old eyes.  I opened my bedroom door.

It was judgment time….

While my human nature was screaming “I DIDN’T DO IT”, there was a still small voice.  It softly whispered “you know you are guilty… accept the penalty. ”

My mom motioned me to come and sit on her lap. She then wrapped her arms around me and simply, softly whispered that she knew what I did.  She explained that she knows what she is saying when she asks me to not do certain things.  She told me of the punishment I deserved.   She then told me that she loved me.  She told me that it was okay and that I had to make things right with the person that I wronged.

She wasn’t going to kill me.

A lesson taught and a lesson learned.

Grace.

Suddenly I was back in bed, my heart and spirit were still intact. 

Even now, some 45 years later,  there aren’t many days that go by that I don’t remember that event in my life.  It has convinced me that a parent’s love is a lot like that of God.

How many times have I done what I knew I should not have done?  How many times has it gone as predicted? How often have I experienced God’s grace in those circumstances? God has every reason to hold my every foolish decision and move over me. My list of wrongs is much longer than the list of things I get right. 

Every day I experience and appreciate  grace beyond my understanding.

Grace.

There’s only grace
There’s only love
There’s only mercy
And believe me,
it’s enough…

-Matthew West

I Am Cleveland (Thoughts on Lebron)

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.

The Broken Parts of Us

One night last week I was using super glue to fix and re-attach the handle to an antique porcelain tea-pot.  As hard as I tried, I cophoto-1uld not press the parts together hard enough to make the cracked lines disappear from the handle.  It frustrated me because this was such a nice collectors piece and I was disappointed in the results of my work.  I knew that it was broken and that I would never be able to get the true value of the piece because it was flawed but I wanted it to look better than it ended up looking. The handle was re-attached with all the skill and effort I could muster but it was forever flawed and it never would be as perfect as it once was.  It will forever carry the scars of the broken handle until one day when it will be thrown away and discarded with the trash.  I guess that should be expected because the once perfect little tea-pot had been damaged and whenever something is damaged it never really is “as good as new”.  Yes, it was functional and could be used again but it never again would be defined as in “mint condition”.

I placed the tea-pot on a shelf to dry for the night and I never gave it another thought.

The next morning, I was driving to the BMV to renew my license and I had the radio on.  Some preacher was talking but I was not listening to it at all.  The radio was just blaring but it was just background noise as I was thinking about what I had to accomplish for the day.    As this man finished his message, he closed in prayer… and while I was not really paying attention something made me clear my thoughts and I focused on the words of his closing prayer.  I heard him say these fateful words…

Lord, don’t allow me to hide the broken parts of me that I need to see.

Uh oh… I just got spiritually slapped up along the side of the head. 

What did he just say? What in the world does, Lord, don’t allow me to hide the broken parts of me that I need to see” mean anyway?  Flashes of my broken parts suddenly flood my thoughts.  Many of my broken parts are still lying right where I left them years ago… never fixed or cleaned up.  Just lying there, dormant in the recesses of my memory.  Some of my broken parts have been safely locked up in the corners of my mind.  Protected… safe and secure from further damage.  Some of the memories of my broken parts are like a puzzle… missing pieces that create empty spaces where something once belonged. 

Yes, many of my broken parts have been glued back together.  Some of these broken pieces you hardly see the crack but like the tea-pot, the scars of the damage will forever be there.

Broken parts of me that I have been hiding for years.

At least that is what I thought.

Then I realized that besides God there is one person in my life that knows all of my broken parts.  I mean ALL of my broken parts.

Yikes. 

I’m pretty sure my wife shouldn’t have to deal with the broken parts alone.super glue  She’s amazing, but that just isn’t fair. There’s a lot of weight there for her to carry.  She deserves better than that.  Plus she cannot carry enough super glue to fix me.

Not good.  Not good at all.

I don’t know what the standard for amount-of-people-that- should-know-your-broken-parts is, but I am guessing that one isn’t anywhere close.  There should be a community of people, brothers, friends around me that know those broken parts and are okay with them. People that know those ugly things and love me anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I know folks that love me….they just don’t know the broken parts.

It’s not how we were meant or designed to live.  I know that God knows and He doesn’t want us to bury those broken parts in our hearts.  He wants to fix them.  Like the tea-pot He wants us to be functional again.

God knows our sadness and the brokenness we try to hide from Him.

I have spent the greater part of the week since these events thinking about what lesson can I take from these illustrations and I have come to this conclusion.  I think we all try to put out the “best” of what we are for others to see.  We try to convince people that all is ok with us and the truth is they have no idea of the burden and weight of the world we carry on our shoulders due to those things we hide.  We try to hide that part of us we consider broken.  Like a discarded toy in the bottom of the toy box, we think we have buried it but the truth is all of that “broken stuff” that we carry in our heart and in our mind keeps us from being who we are meant to be.

So how do we fix these broken parts of us?  As I thought about it this week I just wish that God would talk to me directly and say, ” David… these things need addressed and you have to do quit hiding these things I want to fix” .

Honestly? I never understood what people meant when they said “I heard God’s voice.”  Because I never have.

I guess I always imagined that it would be a booming, loud shout from the heavens above sort of thing. Or maybe a smooth, soft and gentle whisper, like an easy listening radio DJ.  Or I’d be walking down the street and a bush would blow up in flames and out would pop Jesus!

I don’t know, really.  I am not sure what I would ever imagine God talking to me would be like. But a definite, audible voice, right? Yes. I assumed I would hear a voice.  And well, sorry, but no. Can’t say that ever happened. 

But make no mistake God was talking to me all this time.  I believe He was talking to me through the people He put in my life.  I believe that over the years God has sent people in my life to help me fix the broken parts of who I am.  My wife is a prime example of someone who has come into my life that has healed many of my broken parts. The problem is that there is more of me that needs fixed.  As I look back of the road of this life, there have been other people who were sent to lo7 daysok for me. They were there for the broken parts. I just never shared them. They did their part, I didn’t do mine.

I have always been waiting for the right moment, the right time, the right day to deal with the things I need to fix in my life.  That “someday” isn’t coming.  Life has taught me this lesson well. ‘Someday’ is never coming. If I want to be happy and healthy – if I want to love the work I do – if I want great relationships with my family, my community, myself and God, I can’t wait for some magical event to make it so.  It’s not gonna happen. The life I want doesn’t happen by accident.  I need to allow God to work in my heart and expose those parts of me that need fixed.

So today as I sit here at my desk, I look at that broken handle on the tea-pot and suddenly my heart is over-whelmed with the these words…

IN THE BROKEN PARTS, I AM THERE.

I do not recall thinking that up on my own.  I do not recall ever writing those words.  But what I do know is the all-knowing and incredibly moving emotion that is washing over me.

Maybe God does talk to me. Maybe not in a booming way.  Maybe with no harps.  He is not popping out of burning bushes, or soothing me with his easy listening voice.

But He is here.

He talks to me through broken handles. He speaks to me through random radio programs.  He talks to me by the people He puts in my life.  He is everywhere and anywhere, and He is most present in those places I expected He had abandoned.  Hiding in my wounds, resting in my broken parts, fully and beautifully alive.

He is there for you as well.  Placing people in our life and speaking to us through the most random things.  He is waiting for us to respond.  He is waiting for us to allow Him to deal with those things we try to hide even from ourselves.

Today is the day… open up and allow Him to make into all we can be for Him.

Because make no mistake… IN ALL OF OUR BROKEN PARTS, HE IS THERE.

 

 

 

 

Stuck? Overcoming The Pain of Your Past

When I was about 12, I was in a canoe with my older brother.  My family was camping and we decidecanoed to take a short jaunt on the boat.  I really did not realize that this was going to be an event that I would remember the rest of my life… and for all the wrong reasons.

It had been a stormy rainy day at the campground but the sun was just starting to come out and the opportunity to take a short trip in the canoe presented itself.  So off we go and launch the boat.  No sooner than we are out on the water, the skies start to darken again, the winds pick up and the water was getting rough.  

Sure enough the current of the water was making it hard for us to row the canoe the direction we wanted to go and to make matters worse the wind was pushing us farther away from shore.  My brother and I both realized it was time to get to the shore and get there as quick as we could.  

Drifting farther away from shore and knowing that we had to make land soon.  My brother wasn’t strong enough to do it on his own  and I wasn’t much help because I wasn’t strong enough to paddle through the current and the wind.  Soon we were caught in the middle of the storm and with the rain, the wind and the current our little canoe trip suddenly got real.  Real dangerous. 

The wind was just blowing so hard that the boat became unstable.  Next thing I knew we started to roll to one side and I remCapsizeember hitting the water.  Now for the record, I had a life jacket on.  I also was a good swimmer.  I had no “fear” of the water.  But when the canoe rolled over my brother was thrown clear of the boat.  However, I wasn’t so lucky.  My leg got caught and it was stuck and wedged around one of the cross members that made up the bench portion of the canoe.   Because the boat rolled so quickly, I did not have time to react and catch my breath. 

My leg was stuck and I couldn’t get it loose. I was completely submerged and no air to breathe. I started to inhale water and started to panic.  

I pulled myself up towards the boat and my head popped up above the water line for just enough time for me to gasp a quick breath.  Only to be dragged under again by the weight of the boat.  I was still frantic at not being able to free myself from the boat and I was doing everything I could but nothing seemed to work.  I don’t remember what I did to make it work but suddenly I was free from the boat and I was fighting my way to the surface to get another breath of fresh air.

It was a close call.  I really believe that had I not been freed from where I was stuck, I would have drowned.    I was scared and probably for the first time in my life I realized that I would not live forever and life was fragile. 

We held onto the boat and drifted for a while in the water. The wind was so strong that it eventually pushed us all the way to other side of the lake.  After about an hour of riding out the storm and being in the water we were able to reach the other side and get on land.

No lasting damage I guess… except for the memories… that as I hard as I try, I cannot forget.

Over 40 years later, one of my greatest fears is getting stuck somewhere where I cannot breathe.  It is one of my my worst nightmares. 

I am sure that is a common feeling.  No one wants to get stuck somewhere where they cannot free themselves.      

The truth is… we all get stuck… somewhere.

Stuck at points in our life that cripple us in the days, weeks, months and maybe even years ahead.

Stuck at some point where something happened.  Where we were hurt, wounded, broken, abused or sinned against. 

Maybe a parent died, a spouse left, a child became ill, and we got stuck at that terrible event…at that moment in our life.  Any for many… they have not been able to move on.  Years later they are still at that same point in their life.  Too hurt and afraid to move on in their life.

un stuckI’m finding that the problems in many people’s lives are often the result of their stuck places.  From that wound, that death, that divorce they are emotionally stuck and cannot go further, cannot grow, cannot walk away from the wound and so they carry our woundedness with them and sadly create stuck places for others they encounter.

They are the walking wounded, the mass of humanity stuck in the past hurts and wounds of their lives that have affected them and now affect those around them.

I am no different.  I have stuck places… places I remember vividly because of what someone had done to me, moments in time I have recorded in my brain that I can replay in high-definition detail. 

We all have experiences where we are stuck because of what happened, because of what someone said, what they did to us, how they hurt us. We remember every detail, every moment.

We all can become stuck.

Imagine this multiplied by 6 billion. The whole of humanity stuck in the pain and hurt, rejection and abuse of their pasts. Imagine the wounds that are still open, still tender, still bleeding from what has happened in our pasts.

Many times from these “stuck places” many find that they now “walk with a limp.”  Emotional scars and baggage. Permanent  reminders of the pain of the past.

Where was Jesus when you were hurt, when you were rejected, when you were abused?

Where was God when you got stuck?

He was right there with you, walking with you through your hurts, your abuse, your divorce, your rejection. It’s His great desire that we take our brokenness to Him, our stuckness if you will, and allow Him to heal, restore, and move you past the pain, past that moment that got you stuck.

Paul described it this way, 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creat2 Corinthians 5 vs.17ion (something brand new!) has come: The old has gone, the new is here (present tense)! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. (getting us “unstuck”) And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Imagine what can happen when even one person brings all their mess, all their stuck-ness to God to resolve.

Are you stuck? Jesus can fix that.  It’s available to everyone, no matter what happened, no matter where you got stuck, Jesus came to dissolve the glue of our past, erase the pain of our wounds, heal the scars of our encounters and make us new.

The Walk

For the past month I really have not been writing much.  I’ve been busy doing some things around the house.  Some minor repairs and getting the yard back in shape.  While I do these tasks around the house it allows me to really do sombook-the-walke thinking.  So I started focusing on and thinking about the Christian walk.  Specifically MY Christian walk. I’ve been trying to evaluate my route of recent years. Why has my odyssey gone this way or that way? Why have I struggled at different times and why have other days been easy and inspired? It’s clear that my walk with God has not been a progressively growing and problem free life.  I don’t think anyone has that kind of walk with God.

Let me see if I can describe the Christian walk from my own experiences.  For me, as I walk with God, it seems that my walk looks more like a long walk through the desert with an occasional stop at an oasis for refreshment and rest. 

An oasis is a strange place.  In the middle of miles of sand, suddenly and for no reason, water, trees and life appear. It’s at this oasis of life where a weary traveler can get spiritual rest, get spiritual water and gain new strength.

It is my experience that my walk with God can best be described this way…

There are many dry days as I continue to walk with God. 

All the way in my journey, I know God is with me and caring for me, but days of oasisjoy, inspiration and great victory are rare.  Then, suddenly and for no reason, I come to a spiritual oasis.  It’s wonderful!  Refreshment, rest, water and revival of spirit.   If I can, I linger at the oasis for a while…it’s such a great place, but as my life moves on, I know that at some point I must continue my odyssey and so I head back into the desert to my walk with God.

The oasis is great.  It’s needed.  I would get discouraged and might give up if it weren’t for the occasional oasis, but life with God has to be a life of dependence.   It must be a life in which I look to God and trust Him. I won’t find that relationship at the oasis. I have to go out into the desert to discover that kind of relationship with Him.

It’s the dry days when I learn to trust God the most. It’s the days in the desert when I look to him to help me and give me what I need for that day. It’s the dry days in the desert when I grow in my faith the most!

Some pray for an eternal oasis. They never want to leave the cool springs, the wonderful shade, the fig trees, and the comfort of the oasis.  Many find this oasis at their church.  Never wanting to venture too far from safe confines of their Sunday morning worship service.  While I too find comfort in my time at church, I have found that only lasts so long.  True ministry and true value of your walk with Christ in found in your journey in the real world.  In your community, at the gym, at the store as you shop or at your place of work.  In those dry places of your daily life you find true growth and a deeper understanding of your relationship and walk with God.  It is there where ministry and your Christian walk is most important.  Not just on Sunday morning because if you only focus on the oasis of the church for your spiritual growth you will never learn to depend on God. 

So, off to the desert we are led.  Led by God to meet with Him there.  Dry days when we will find our richest walk with God.

As I’ve tried desert_walkto think through my own walk with God I think this describes my odyssey so far. It’s not glorious. It’s not always full of great testimonies to share. It’s often dry and difficult, but it’s my time in the desert where I find an intimacy with God I can never find at the oasis.

To me…this is what I would call the normal Christian life.  At least it is the Christian life I have experienced for the past twenty years or so.  I think it’s the real life of every Christian. Many linger long at the oasis not wanting to leave the comfort there, but some find a hunger for God more powerful than the comfort of the oasis and so they head off into the desert. It’s there we find an intimacy and relationship with God that will never be found at the oasis. It’s this strange contrast between oasis and desert that describe the walk of the Christian.

It is not glorious and it certainly is not easy.  

There are days when the best we can say is, with God’s help, we got through that day.

In the end, between rests at the spiritual oasis and walking with God through the desert we grow in faith.  It is in this journey that I come so accustomed to that I see my walk will never be one that spends much time in the oasis.  Most of my journey has been and will continue to be one that sojourns the desert learning to depend upon God, seeking to grow in His grace and try to be used of Him as He would see fit.

Lace up your shoes believer’s… today looks dry with no oasis in site.  It’s going to be a good day.

Especially When It’s Over

For some reason I have had some strange dreams the last few nights.  I have been dreaming about watching my boy’s play sports back in the day.  Now why that is so strange is that it has been 8 or 10 years since my boy’s played sports. I have no idea why but I just had one dream right after another.

These dreams seemed so real… it was if I was right back to where I was all those years ago when I watched so many games and baseballcheered them on.  I always loved to watch them play.  Countless hours traveling to games and practices flood my memory.  During the winter months, being a gym rat made up most of my time in the early 2000’s.  In the summer, staying late hours at Roger Young Park watching baseball games took up much of my time.  I remember so vividly having to run between innings to see them play because their games would be going on at the same time. They were crazy times.

When you are in the middle of the journey of your children’s athletic careers…it seems like it will never end.  I have to admit that there was more than one time I would tell myself that I couldn’t wait until it was over.  But to be honest…  I miss those days.  If I had the chance to go back, I would tell myself to savour the time… it goes by so fast and then suddenly it is over.

Makes me remember a quote I read somewhere.

“We are here to be there for our kid’s when they score the game winning goal…and especially when they don’t.  We are to be there for them during the long seasons… and especially that day when it’s over.”

The quote always stuck with me.  I remember thinking “get ready for that day when it’s over” and wondering how I would handle it… “that day” came and went and apparently all these years later I still haven’t forgot to be there for my kids.

Back to my dreams I had the last few nights … 

In one of my dreams, both of my boys were asked to play in a basketball tournament with some of the other kids from the area.  I was asked to coach. It was a good team and collection of players.  In my dream, we only had one Natepractice so we were learning on the fly in the first game of the tournament. As expected, the results were a little rough the first half of the game.  Mostly because of my lack of expertise in coaching and the players were trying to figure one another out and run a brand new offensive set. By the second half of the game we had figured most of it out and were making a furious comeback.

In my dream, the final minute of the game was in full motion. We were playing with so much intensity that we came back and we’re only down by two points with 15 seconds to play.  The other team had the ball when suddenly my son, Nathan stole the ball and passed it to my other son, Adam and he was driving to the basket.  Just as the clock ran down to 11 seconds of time left, Adam took the shot. The ball was in the air and I heard the whistle.  As the ball rotated in slow motion it bounced off the rim.  I saw that Adam was fouled with our team down by two.  He was in the act of shooting so he would step to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game.

Both of my boy’s have always been a pretty good free throw shooters.  If there’s one thing they would tell you I’ve always told them since the day they picked up a basketball, it is this…”you gotta make your free throws”. 

Back to the game and my dream…

 With 10 seconds left in the game, Adam calmly Basketball Hoop 2stepped to the line and drained the first one.  Our team is now down by one point with one more free throw to go.  For reasons I’m still not sure of, maybe insanity, HIS coach…me, called a timeout.  Every one of the other players said “what are you doing? You’re going make him nervous!”.  I was “icing” my own son.

Sure enough, after the time out, Adam stepped to the line, shot the ball and it bounced out.

The other team rebounded it and we fouled them right away. With six seconds left in the game we headed down the court, only down by one.  They made their first free throw (we’re down 2 now) and missed the second.  Nathan jumped and grabbed the rebound and… get this.. was FOULED by the other team!!!  Back we go to the other end with mere seconds left on the clock and the opportunity to tie the game for overtime.

First shot…swish.  Even though I had one time out remaining, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.  Nathan’s second shot rimmed out.  The other team gets the rebound, the horn sounds, the game is over and my team is crushed.

After shaking hands, I can see that my boy’s are not taking the loss well.  They both blame themselves and say that it’s all their fault.  After the team huddle, the quote that I read years ago came thundering back to my mind. We took a walk and I put my arm around my boys. I reminded them that our team missed about 15 free throws (literally) during that game.  Their free throws just happened to come at the end of the game. I reminded them that this was a tournament and there would be more chances, Adam & Natemore free throws and more opportunities to win the game. My heart was breaking for them… it was then that I woke up from my dream.

In the first few seconds of waking up I wished so much that it was real.  I wished the there would be more games and more free throws to be made in their life. The reality is that it was over and it has been over for many years.

Over the many years that I was involved with my kids athletic career, I can honestly say that Pam and I have been there for our kids.  I know of parents who never came to any of their children’s games and I know of parents who took it way too seriously.  They would embarrass their children and embarrass themselves by the way they acted on the sidelines.

I think that the dreams I had this week were just  reminders that I will never stop being a parent to my kids.  I will be there for them in life until the day I die.  I may not always agree with the choices they make but I will always be there for them.

To be clear, I am proud of all four of my children.  All of them have given me great memories that I will always cherish.  Since my dream was about sports… I will also say that they all have given me great memories of their athletic careers.  I don’t know if they read this blog, but if they ever do… I’m so proud of them.  One for giving me great memories.  Two for playing with such passion and heart.  Three for caring about playing and not just about winning the game.  As adults, the character and the core of who they are far outweighs anything that they could ever accomplish on an athletic field.

So as you raise your child and as they get involved in sports always remember…  “We are here to be there for our kid’s when they score the game winning goal…and especially when they don’t.  We are to be there for them during the long seasons… and especially that day when it’s over.”

 

Strong in the Broken Places

She loved you before she even knew you.

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

Happy Mother'sShe’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.

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 we do our 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 shielded 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 the 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 Mother’s Day!!!

 

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