Monthly Archives: May 2011
I was listening to the local Christian radio station this morning as I drove to work. I was listening to the host of the morning show as he shared what God has been doing in his life. Overall he had a lot of good things to say, but I began to notice that when spoke he had a tendency to say things that I am not sure he wanted to convey. I think we all can do that, I have found myself saying things that if I would stop and evaluate the exact words I said, I probably would want to take them back. It is even true when I write, there are times when I read back the written words and I suddenly see the ideas were not as clearly described as I first thought.
As the DJ shared his story, he said the following statement,
“The gospel is a love story where Jesus is the hero. It’s all about Him, what He has done. It has nothing to do with us at all, nothing.”
It’s often true that when we continue to speak we say things we shouldn’t and in these three short sentences I so wish he had stopped after the first two. He spoke well at the beginning, but finished with an error. In fact, the work of salvation, the glory for all that was done indeed goes to Christ. That is true. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, He is the glory of the church, but it’s not true that it has nothing to do with us at all. In fact, it has everything to do with us!!! The whole purpose of the gospel was to provide a way of salvation to mankind. If mankind was able to save himself, there would have been no need for Jesus Christ to die on the cross.
The bottom line, is that the story of the gospel is the greatest love story ever written. It is a love story of God’s amazing rescue plan for the human race. It has EVERYTHING to do with us! We are the reason he came. The gospel is God’s wonderful good news for a lost race unable to rescue itself. All the glory and praise for salvation and grace go to Jesus, but the gospel has everything to do with us…..we are the objects of His love demonstrated at the cross. We are part of the gospel story and we are the reason He came!
God saw he was getting tired.
My friend, who once was so strong was now so very weak. He was slipping fast and I still am not sure he really believed that it was his time to go.
I got to spent the day with him. I took the day off so that I could spend one last day talking and reminiscing about the times of our lives. We talked for hours. He was too weak to leave that hospital bed, but that day we took a trip. A trip down a well-worn path we knew as our past.
It was his last “good” day.
He died a few days later on May 16th, 2009.
It still hurts me as much today as it did that Saturday night when I walked into his room as his wife, his sons and his family were gathered around his bed. I saw that my friend, mentor and brother-in-Christ had just passed. He was no longer on his journey in this life, but he was now taking up residence in heaven. I cried…not for him. I cried for me. He was in a better place. Me… I was still here.
I am still here.
My video tribute…
Two years later and I still am not over the fact that he is gone. There are days when I pick up my phone and start to call him and suddenly remind myself that he is no longer going to pick up the call. I still cannot delete his number off my cell phone. For years I had simply picked up the phone and dialed his number. He always picked up. Whether he was driving his truck across the flats roads of Iowa or through the hills of Tennessee…he always picked up. He would answer the phone by just saying my name. Never “Hello”…just “David!!”
He was the closest friend that I ever had on this earth. He loved me like a son.
I miss him.
I am still here.
Robert “Bob” Emrich 12/20/46 to 5/16/2009
Tomorrow… I will celebrate his life.
It was the first day of practice – I was late. I began to panic. Maybe I’d come on the wrong day…maybe I’d come to the wrong place! Every time I would open a door, there was another hallway. I couldn’t find the coaches – I couldn’t find any of the other players.
And that’s when it hit me, this was Jr. High School.
And I…was completely…and utterly…alone.
1973. It was a crazy time. Nixon and the Watergate scandal were the headlines and people were on the move…looking for answers…breaking new ground and wanting change.
Seemed like everyone was searching for a new identity. Me, I was breaking some ground of my own. That September I entered Rocky Ridge Junior High. I was looking forward to new adventures. I wanted to start my 7th grade year with a bang. I wanted to play sports…not just any sport but the sport of football to be exact.
After running down every hall of the school, I finally found the locker room and went in.
To say that they were less than pleased to see me come into the locker room more than 10 minutes late for the first day of practice is an understatement. For what it’s worth, it did get me noticed. More importantly, I gave the coaches a face of the one person they would ride and harass for the rest of the season.
I survived that first day and at the end the week, the coaches called out my name and they threw me my new football jersey. Christmas Green…with the number 80 blazoned in white on the front and in the back. I was now officially a member of the 7th grade football team for the Oak Harbor Rockets. I was so proud.
I had not even put on a pair of shoulder pads and here I was strutting around in my football jersey. We were told to wear the jersey to first day of school and I happily complied. I remember walking through the doors that first day of school with my bright Christmas green jersey on. I was way too cool and I remember walking about two foot off the ground.
I had no clue of what I was going to face in the coming days.
Considering the fact in 1973, I was a smidgen over 5 foot tall and weighed all of 70 lbs. I should have been keenly aware of what I was about to face. When I was finally fitted with my equipment, I realized that something was different. Running around with all these pads on was much different from what I was used to when the guys and I played backyard football in Blakely’s yard. This was going to take some time to adjust.
For the most part, I survived the first few practices by being pretty lucky and besides the prodding from the coaches I stayed out of the line of fire. Then the fateful event happened. We had a football drill called “hamburger”, which basically is a drill where two players lie on their back with their helmets touching. On the coach’s whistle, both players get up and run back four yards in opposite directions, where one player takes a handoff from one coach and the other slaps the hands of a waiting coach. At that point, they run at each other. The player with the ball tries to run through the tackler and the tackler tries to bring the ball carrier down. After the tackle is made, each player moves to the back of the line as all players take part in this drill.
I took my spot in line and as I got closer to my turn to participate in the drill, I looked across to the other line to see who my competition was going to be. I really wanted to make a good impression on the coaches and I wanted to make sure I was matched up with someone my size and if luck would have it, maybe even someone smaller than me. So I watched to see who was going to line up against me. I saw that it was someone who was bigger than me and I started to shuffle my way a spot further back in line where I would be matched with someone my size. I got to my preferred place in line when I heard the loudest whistle I think I have ever heard. Then I hear my coach screaming out my name, “LEE…front and center!!!” I had been caught cutting the line…which was a big no-no.
He grabbed me by the facemask and pulled me over to the spot where I would have to carry the ball. He makes me lie down at the spot and I hear him talking to other players but I cannot hear what he is saying. I hear the whistle and I jump up to take the hand off from my coach. Everything is good up to this point and I take the hand off and I turn to run the ball through the defensive player. Here is when things start to go south, because it is then I see him.
Earl Kashmere…that’s right and he was a monster. Earl Kashmere was Mr. Football of the Oak Harbor Junior High. He was no less than a foot taller than me and he was about 100 lbs. heavier as well. Earl was just staring at me, waiting for the kill and I thought just before he hit me that I saw a glimpse of a small smile come across his face.
I had never been hit so hard in my entire life. My body went completely numb and I saw stars. I remember hitting the ground and as all the air rushed from my lungs so did any current desire to play football.
Have you ever known those moments that changed your life? Do you remember a specific time, a special event that was life changing for you? I think it happens to all of us, I know it happened to me on that day. I suddenly realized that I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t quit. I stuck it out for the season. I wanted to play, but I just wasn’t good enough and so I took my position on the team as a bench warmer.
Profound moments of life are not all good moments. This moment for me was ego destroying and my quest from that day on was to make sure I “got in the game,” whatever the game might be…even if it wasn’t football. So my career was short-lived and I never played football again for the Rocket’s.
That was over 35 years ago and every now and then when I see that picture of me in that Christmas Green football jersey, I smile and wonder whatever happened to Earl Kashmere.
There were no two ways about it. When I was fourteen… I was a pretty cool kid. Not in the ninety-ninth-percentile of coolness, maybe, but definitely top third of my class. I knew the walk. I knew the talk. I had my own kinda… style.
But, like a lot of “cool” kids my age, I did have one tragic flaw. One terrible secret that threatened the very fabric of my fragile image. One secret that most teenagers try to hide… I was a momma’s boy.
When you’re a little boy, you don’t have to go very far to find the center of your universe. It’s your Mom. She’s always there. It’s a pretty good arrangement. No matter what happened in your life she was there. When you went to bed, when you got up in the morning, she would be there when you left for school and there when you came home. When you’re a young boy, all you can imagine is the fact that you will be with her for the rest of your life. In your mind, nothing could ever change that. She would always be there and never leave your side. I would always be momma’s boy and nothing could change that.
But around age fourteen, there starts to be… a problem. The problem then is…she’s always there. And I mean always.
Now a mom has to be a mom, but a guy’s gotta be a guy. And when the irresistible force of independence meets an immovable object… Sooner or later – somethings gotta give.
Unfortunately it did…
I guess I could tell a story of how we ended up having some big terrible fight or some extreme family crisis and that we didn’t talk to each other for years and we would reconcile years later…however, none of that would be true.
It may be a better story to be read than the one I’m telling…but what actually took place is something a little more sinister. Something more hurtful. Something filled with more regret. I did what teenagers have done since the beginning of time. I did something that I can never take back.
I ignored her.
When I say, I ignored her; I mean I took her for granted. I did not take the opportunity to spend more time with her. I started to make my own decisions and I left her out of most of my plans. I did not do it intentionally. It wasn’t meant to hurt her. It was a part of growing up and I regret it to this very day.
Over the past few years, I have spent much of my spare time writing the story of my family. I am intrigued at how we all came together and became a family. I do as much research as I possibly can. I’ve found that every American family has its own unique blend of personalities, my family is no exception.
Within our family tree we range the full spectrum of types.
From the flamboyant… to the demure.
From the repellent… to the ideal.
My mother set the standard of the “ideal” in my family tree…
(Photo of Agnes Clemens taken est 1952)
Agnes Elizabeth Clemens was born in November of 1931 in Washington, Pennsylvania. She was the oldest of eight children born to William and Lida Clemens.
Her young life was filled with events and situations that would have defeated and broke the spirit of most of the young girls her age. Times were hard and things were tough. That’s not to say there were not good times, but as I remember my mother telling me stories, there always seemed to be a common theme…nothing stayed “good” for long. She felt as if she had the responsibility of her family on her shoulders, with no real help in sight.
She was forced to grow up way too soon. She left home at 17 and left Pennsylvania and never looked back. She had to make decisions that would affect her for the rest of her life. Had not it been for that Greyhound Bus breaking down outside Sandusky, Ohio only God knows what would have happened to her.
( Agnes Clemens and Robert J. Lee on wedding day July 22, 1952)
She put her childhood and her past on the shelf, met and married my Dad, became a mother and looked to the future. Her dreams and desires for her life were now solely surrounded in her family…in particular her children. I have never known her to do one thing in this life where she did not put her children first. Her eyes sparkled when she looked at her children.
(Photo of Agnes Lee taken 1953)
Simply put…she found her happiness in her children…she found her destiny…she was meant to be…a mother.
She endured and persevered, but lost a part of herself when she lost a child, my brother Bobby on a cold November day in 1970. He was killed tragically in a car/train accident. That sparkle in her eyes was dimmed and I look back with wonder trying to figure out how she made it through. I can think of nothing worse than outliving your children.
That wonderful sparkle came back when she got to hold her grandchildren shortly after their birth. And now as she is part of the newest generation of “great grandchildren” and I am not sure that anything makes her happier. Whether as a child, grandchild or great grandchild, each one of us have been privileged to have her love and to be looked upon with that beautiful sparkle in her eyes.
(Agnes and Robert J. Lee in 2008)
I can never go back and fix the times in my life that I could have spent more time with her. She tells me that she wants to live to be at least 100, so she can see what the world will be like then. I don’t know about that. But what I do know is that I hope she makes it. Because there is more to this woman than I have ever learned and there is so much more to her that I want to know.
When it is all said and done, at the end of my life, I am sure there will be many things said about me. I have left a trail of failure and some footprints of success. I am sure that the words to describe me will vary about as much as the times I have been successful and the times I have failed.
Say what you will.
I can think of no higher honor than to have words that describe me as a man that loved his God, his wife Pamela, his children, grandchildren and that I was simply and proudly a “momma’s boy”.
Live long mom…
“Happy Mother’s Day”
It’s such a noisy world right now. All around, all the time there is noise. The noise of politics, of countries in chaos, angry people, frustrations over gas prices, and literally a thousand other things bring noise to our lives. The internet, Apple, Android, Skype, Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, Google, AOL, TV and Radio…it’s everywhere! And it’s deafening.
I know a little about being deaf. I have always had a hearing problem. I have failed every hearing test I have ever taken. That goes back to kindergarten and the advent of headphones and the 70′s didn’t help my hearing loss. The “cool quotient” in the 70′s was based upon how loud you could play your music, not necessarily how good the music was. As a result, I grew up reading lips as a way to understand what people were saying.
I learned to hide it pretty well. At times I am sure that when I was too loud it was just passed off as a young man just trying to get attention. The truth was, I had an 60% loss in my left ear and about 80% loss in my right. I never ever really realized how loud I actually was sometimes.
Some of you may know that I traveled with a singing group that promoted Missions and Liberty University in the early 80′s. I have always been able to sing but for almost four years I traveled all across America and over the world, not singing but running the soundboard for the group. Actually, I operated the soundboard and had the opportunity to mix the sound for a few of the top Christian Artists during that time. Go figure…I may have been the only deaf sound man in the United States. I still laugh about it from time to time.
If my hearing needed any more trauma other than what had come to me naturally, in addition to the loud music I listened to in the 70′s, I did not need the ear infection that started in my left (my better) ear in October of 2008. The result was a chronic infection that I dealt with for almost two years before I finally had to have a radical mastoidectomy. For me, it meant a surgical cut (incision) was made behind the ear. The mastoid bone was exposed and opened with a surgical drill. The infection was then removed. The eardrum and most of the middle ear structures were completely removed. The stapes (the “stirrup” shaped bone) was spared to help preserve some hearing. The end result was that I lost almost all (95%) of my hearing in left ear. That doesn’t mean there is silence because in my left ear all I hear is tinnitus, which is a constant loud ringing in my ear. Have you ever held up a sea shell to your ear and it sounds like the oceans waves? Well, multiply the volume of that by 1,000 times and now you know what I hear in my left ear. In addition, I have lost a good portion of my ability to taste because most of my tongue is numb and I still have a tingling in the tips of my fingers. All of these are side effects that could happen as a result of this surgery…seems to me that I got all of them.
In light of my deafness, you might find it interesting to know that the one thing I really want is silence. When I am exposed to loud noises it makes me anxious and uneasy. The dizzy effect that overcomes me when I am in a crowd or a loud restaurant has been difficult to adjust to. It is not just about volume of the noise either. When there is a lot of people talking at once it is so hard for me to pick up one voice because all I hear is all of them at once and it impossible for me to carry on a conversation or even concentrate. When I am in the lobby after church and everyone is talking and having friendly conversations, all I want is to head out to the car so that I can hear the sound of silence and have some peace of mind.
I think that’s why music is so enjoyable to me. I put on some headphones (at the appropriate volume), put on some great music and off I drift with my brain only focusing on one thing. Music….sweet music that allows me some isolation from the world around me. It’s life giving for me to have a few minutes of my music.
This “noise” that surrounds us today is deafening. I think that this is the feeling that most of us feel in times like these. I don’t think we were designed for all this noise going on in the world. The noise of politics, of countries in chaos, angry people, frustrations over gas prices, and literally a thousand other things bring this noise to our lives. Again, it is not just about the volume of the noise but rather the dizzying effect of all the noises happening all at once. I believe that we all need some quiet time. We need some time when all the noise is somewhere else and we can listen to God speak to our heart and our mind. With all the noise around us, I think that sometimes God has to shout to get our attention. If we could just get away sometimes and just find a few moments of quiet, we would hear God speak.
Even God had to tell David in Psalms, “BE STILL and know that I am God.” Sometimes we just have to find some silence, calm our fears and listen to God.
Now, I know that this post isn’t life changing, it isn’t really that interesting. But I know that lately it’s just a real need I have and I know others do as well.
The Sounds of Silence.
As you can, with all this noise around you, find a place to be quiet today. God is speaking and I know you will want to hear what it is that He is saying to you.