One of the memories that I cherish when I think of my son, Nathan, is that when he was a child he trusted me completely. He would stand at the edge of the pool and I would watch him try to work up enough courage to jump into the pool. He was just a little boy and he wasn’t too sure about what would happen if he just jumped in the water. He would look up at me with those big blue eyes and while he was trying to be brave and wanting me to be proud of him, he really just wanted me to be waiting in the water to catch him with my arms wide open.
On this day, I jumped in the pool and turned around and said, “Jump, Nathan!” and he did. No hesitation. He would blindly jump and trust that I would catch him. I never missed, I caught him every single time. His complete trust in me was evident because he never hesitated when it was time to jump. In his eyes, I was strong enough to catch him. I was there to protect him and he knew it and he could trust that I wouldn’t let him fall.
I actually remember the day when Nathan worked up the courage to jump into the pool without me being there to catch him. I told him how proud I was for his courage and how brave he was. Truth is, a little part of me is still sad because that seemingly trivial event was the beginning of his independence. He was growing up and he no longer needed me to be there to catch him. These days my 29-year-old son is far too big for me to catch him anymore. However, I still miss seeing that trust in his eyes. I long for him to jump, knowing that I would catch him and never let him fall.
I wonder sometimes if God looks at me the same way I look at my son? There was a time when my son needed me. He would not jump unless I was there to catch him. I think of my Heavenly Father with outstretched arms, lovingly drawing me, telling me to jump. He would catch me. He would protect me. I lived a good portion of my life completely trusting God, knowing that He would catch me. He would always allow me to fall into His arms and I would take comfort in that. He never missed. He caught me every single time.
Then one day something changed. I got confident in my own abilities. I no longer looked to God like I once had to catch me. I start to gain my independence and started to think I could make it on my own courage and with my own abilities. For a while I convinced myself that I was doing great and I didn’t need anyone or anything.
Then I fell. I came to the clear understanding that I could not make it on my own.
God, my heavenly Father, was waiting right there with His arms wide open to catch me. He didn’t miss.
For many reasons, we don’t always have that kind of image of God. Maybe we think of Him as “the boss” and we tiptoe around Him, afraid to make a mistake and get fired. Perhaps we see Him as “the big man upstairs” and we are afraid He is going to send a lightening bolt to zap us and punish us for not doing this or that. Honestly, I think we come up with more reasons why not to fall into God’s arms than why we would. I wonder if it makes our Father sad because all He really wants is for us to love Him and be near Him. Most of us have spent years in fear of God instead of in love with Him. Afraid of just about everything concerning God. And God knows that.
Aren’t you tired of trying to make it on your own? Trust in Him. He is just waiting there with outstretched arms waiting for us to jump and fall into His love and protection.
He will never miss. He is there with His arms wide open and He will catch you every single time.
She loved you before she even knew you.
And from the moment you met in person, it was all over for her.
She’s sacrificed her own possibilities for the chance that you could have, do and become more. She hurts when you hurt. She hopes when you can’t find hope. She dreams bigger dreams for you than you’ve ever dreamed for yourself.
And she’s convinced you’re worthy of it all…because you’re special… to her you always have been.
Her love is beautifully irrational. She looks beyond your faults and flaws and sees the very best version of you. She believes that’s who you are.
If belief alone could get you there, she’d hand-deliver you to your destiny.
It’s all because of a woman we call MOM.
Today is my Mom’s birthday. It’s a special day.
Truly, a mother’s love and influence are among the most powerful things a person could ever find in this world. If you doubt it, compare notes with someone who no longer has their Mom – or someone who never had her to begin with.
For better or worse, no one shapes our lives more than our mothers because they do it from the inside out. We find their fingerprints on everything – from our grandest deeds to our most tucked away thoughts.
And she was always there for me – and for my brother and my sister (and for many others). Always. Ma, Mom, Mommy. She took this role very seriously and never wavered. No matter what.
So I will do my best today to say, “Thank you, Mom. I want you to know that I know there’s no way I’d be who I am – or where I am – without you.”
I have said it before and I will say it to my dying breath… any good quality that I show in my life is directly given to me by my mother. I have written about her before (click here to read) in my post called “Confessions of a Momma’s Boy”.
Hemingway once wrote: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
My 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…
In today’s society this word has much less meaning than it did in the past, but this single word describes my mother best.
A child and mother’s life is deeply connected. There is this love that a mother feels for her child. Mothers carry their young and take care of them until they become adults. Mothers make sure that their children are safe and happy. Mothers sacrifice their own happiness just for the wellness of their children.
My mother sacrificed her life for her children.
I am humbled when I think of all that she sacrificed for me. Being thankful seems trite but it truly is what I feel.
Thank you Mom for giving me the freedom and space to dream.
Thank you for creating order in our house despite the disorder that you tried to shield us from.
Thank you for allowing me to disagree with you when we have our “discussions”. I guess that is just other ways I am like you… strong in principle and knowing what you believe and not being afraid to defend it… even if it’s not popular or easy.
Thank you for showing me how to be a real friend. Thank you for teaching me how to be compassionate and forgiving. Thank you for telling me you loved me every time we see each other and every time before we hang up the phone.
Thank you for being strong in the broken places.
Thank you Mom, you are my rock, my anchor, and my one true North.
I Love You and Happy Birthday Mom!!
Last night, as I scrolled through FACEBOOK, I saw post after post giving me a list to fix my life. Well-intentioned principles and keys to having a “good and successful” life. I even saw some posts that encouraged me to read the “secrets” on their list that were so freely given by other posts.
After scrolling through the same lists that I have read multiple times in my life, I have decided I have had enough! Although, I will say that I found it humorous that “The 7 Secrets to Success” had eight thumbs up in the picture.
I don’t need to know the “7 Secrets to Success” the “10 Steps to Prosperity” or even the “5 Keys to a Happy Marriage”.
I won’t remember the list, I can’t keep the secrets and I always lose the keys.
My life experience has definitely taught me that life isn’t as simple as a list of solutions. To be honest, as I’ve watched life for over five decades, it just gets messy.
There is no list that will fix it. It’s not that simple.
I know the list makers are just trying to help, but it isn’t helping! We all want an easy fix, but there is no easy fix, no list or secret that will make life simple.
It’s life… it’s an individual walk that often wanders around a bit, stumbling and fumbling to find it’s way.
I will tell you that your walk through this life will be hard. It will be filled with dispointment and loss. No matter how pretty a picture people want to convince you their life is on FACEBOOK, it isn’t. There are no keys and certainly no secrets.
Life has and ebb and flow to it. There will be good times and there will by hard times, difficult times filled with regret. None of us can avoid that. Nobody said it was easy. Why do we think we can solve it by a simple list of principles?
I won’t give you another list of things to do to be happy in this life. You won’t remember them, more importantly you won’t do them.
But I will tell you the reason most of these lists fail to bring the results everyone so eagerly desires.
He is the one who gets us through the hard, difficult times in this life.
As a matter of fact…He actually will at times go before us to pave the way through these difficult times.
I’m so glad God didn’t give us a list to get success, secrets to happiness. He made it so much simpler.
We will fail often, but God doesn’t abandon us. I’ll try the same thing at least three times before I realize it doesn’t work, but it’s worth the education.
Secrets, principles and keys…no thanks. Just remind me that life is messy, but God will hold our hand as we stumble through it together. And that is the best advice on making it through this life that anyone can cling to.
And in the end we will laugh at all the lists we created to fix what only a relationship with God could fix.
One week ago, I had the honor of speaking at my daughter’s wedding ceremony. Not many get that opportunity to speak and share from their heart at such a special occasion.
It was just about a year ago, I received a call from Cassidy and she told me he popped the question and she said yes. I already knew that this was going to happen because the young man who was asking for her hand in marriage, had already talked to me and asked permission.
None-the-less, it was a shock to my system that it really was going to happen. I wrote about it here: Then They Do (click on this link).
So flash forward 11 months and I finally give some advice to them about their new life together. A number of people have asked me if I could share what I said, so I am posting my speech in its entirety. It’s not word-for-word but it is close… here goes:
Good afternoon everyone. I’d like to welcome the friends and relatives of both families who are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Cassidy and Andre.
Thank you for taking time from your busy lives to join us on this afternoon.
Some of you have traveled quite a distance to be here. And we are thankful for that.
We hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the evening and we hope you will remember this day as fondly as we will.
I am also extremely grateful for the chance to speak to you today.
That being said, there will be three ways I will remember this speech… the one I practiced, the one I am about to give and the one I wish I would have given.
Hopefully… You will hear the one that is closest to the one I wish I would have given. But I make no promises.
I’ve learned that life is circular, it’s full of beginnings and endings, there are times of extreme joy that can be followed by hard and difficult times.
New chapters of life begin while others will come to a close. I believe that life is meant to be lived looking forward. It is to be enjoyed. As James 4:14 says, Life is just a vapor… it appears for a short time and then vanishes away.
Life moves fast and before you know it your child is standing in front of their friends and family committing their life in marriage to another person.
As parents, on many levels our job is done. While we will never stop being a parent, a new chapter is starting for us.
One season is unfolding into another and we will close the chapter of raising our children. The responsibility of raising them has been lifted.
All you can do as a parent is thank God for the opportunity and hope that some of the wisdom of our life experience was passed down.
The journey of being a parent is not for the faint of heart.
There are twists and turns, surprises and disappointments. There are moments of extreme pride and moments of regret.
It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.
As a parent you sojourn through the good times and the hard times because that is your job. It is what you do.
You do all you can to protect them, you provide for them and try to take care of their every need. In most examples, there is not a need in your child’s life they have not been given.
Then in many situations … somewhere around the age of 16 they look at you and tell you they can’t wait to move out of your home. They inform you that they “WILL NEVER raise their children the way you did.
It leaves many parents wondering what they did wrong.
But let me make something perfectly clear today. That is not the story of Cassidy.
As a child, Cassidy was strong-willed but loving. This strong-willed aspect is something she and I had the opportunity to discuss many times in her younger years.
This loving, strong-willed little girl brought those traits into her adult life. In times when she could have made other decisions, she kept her “will” strong in serving the Lord when it would have been easy to go the other direction.
Along the way Cassidy has picked up many skills, some from her life experience and some as gifts from God.
Cassidy has always worked hard at becoming a better person. Always strived to become better at what she does, and becoming the caring person that she is today. She has made me unbelievably proud. I am thankful that I have been able to be part of her life.
If I am honest today, I cannot deny that I feel a loss. After all, for the first time in many years, when I go home tonight, I will turn the light out on the porch knowing that she will not be coming home.
As it burned for her sister before she got married, a light has always been left on until Cassidy came home at night.
When I turn that light out tonight, I will cry. But they won’t all be tears of sadness.
Rob and Leslie, Pam and I, have raised her to get to this point in time. We all spent time preparing her for this day and this new adventure.
For the past twenty-two years, this house where the porch light burns has been her home.
You know… we could have moved from that old house on Stilwell Ave. We even made plans to do so. We could have moved from the house where we raised four children with only one bathroom.
But there are reasons we didn’t.
One reason is because of a door jamb in our kitchen.
This door jamb tells the story of children growing up and becoming adults.
Each dated mark one step closer to this very day.
These marks will remain on that door jamb until one day the new owners of our home decide to paint over them and make marks of their own.
Another reason why we have not moved is something that I want to share specifically with the two of you.
You know that I have profound hearing loss. As I grow older my hearing will get worse.
I hope not… but there may be a day when I lose the ability to hear all together.
But for now, I hear things that most people don’t.
You see… this little home where the porch light burns, speaks to me.
In the quiet, I can hear the echo’s of our children laughing. I hear the chatter of you having your friends over for movie nights. I hear the sounds of the TV marathons you had, watching the complete series of Friends, The Gilmore Girls, Supernatural, Full House, Boy Meets World just to mention a few.
To be honest… I sometimes wish I could un-hear the sounds of how many times you watched the Disney High School Musicals.
The walls of our home reverberate with the sounds of Birthday parties, of long talks at the dinner table, and the precious sounds of Christmas celebrations.
One of my favorite sounds that still ring through the walls of our home is listening to you sing as you got ready for school or work. Cassidy, you will always be my favorite singer.
The walls of our home emit sounds of a family that was trying to find their way in this life.
It surely wasn’t perfect but the wonderful sounds that come from the walls of our home, far out-weigh any noise of discord that there may have been.
In time… these wonderful sounds will fade… many are already being replaced by the laughter and the banter of our grandsons playing in the living room.
When it is time, you guys can help in filling our home with the sounds of future grandchildren that will be absorbed into the walls of our home.
My challenge to you and Andre is to fill your home with sounds of love, sounds of joy and sounds of happiness. If the walls of your home would speak, may they share sounds of forgiveness and acceptance. More importantly, may the walls speak of a young couple that loved the Lord and made Christ the center of their home.
Too many homes today are filled with discord… filled with hateful words and fighting. My prayer is that the walls of your home will never be saturated with these kind of sounds.
In closing, every parent wishes that one day their child will find the right person for them to spend the rest of their life with. The fear of any parent is their child making the wrong decision about that.
When I first met Andre, I learned quickly that he was a good man, and would not be the type to hurt Cassidy. Once I got to know Andre, I couldn’t have chosen anyone more suitable. He let her be herself and did not try to change her to make him happy. He’s very considerate and thoughtful. I appreciate the way he treats and makes Cassidy feel about herself, I cannot thank him enough. We are confident that he will take good care of her.
Traditionally, at this point, I guess I should offer some advice… so here goes.
Andre… Always leave the porch light on for your wife.
Cassidy… Anything Andre says in anger 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all negative comments made by Andre become null and void after 7 days.
Andre… Cassidy is not a morning person. Stay clear… enough said?
Cassidy… Andre is not a mind reader and he never will be. His lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how much or how little he loves you.
Andre… Whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, Take pleasure in knowing that you are and then keep it to yourself. Just keep it to yourself!!!
Cassidy… leave the porch light on for your husband.
I cannot encourage the two of you more than to have your home filled with sounds of happiness, forgiveness and love.
You both have been raised in love. You have been raised by parents that love you more than life itself.
We are filled with joy that you are getting married today. It’s a new journey and a new beginning for you and for us. May your love always be an example to all of us that are here to witness your vows to each other.
One last thing… in the future… remember to leave the porch light on… so that your children can always find their way home.
So that’s it… we are one week in to being “empty nesters”.
We could not be happier for Cassidy and Andre!!!
We are excited to see what the future holds for them and for us. It will be new adventures for all of us!!!
And while our children are now all on their own, all becoming productive adults and good people.
I’ll still leave the porch light on… just in case they ever want to find their way home.
I am a child of the sixties and seventies.
A time when AM radio was king.
No offense to anyone reading this… but if you never listened to AM radio on a transistor radio you probably will not understand the significance of this post. It’s not your fault, you just don’t know that you were cheated out of a great time period in history.
I have clear memories of long summer nights spent listening to CKLW out of Detroit on my transistor radio. I carry that Motown sound in my musical tastes even to this day.
All I have to do is put some music from that era and close my eyes and suddenly I am drawn back to another place and another time.
The strong aroma of chlorine from Teagarten’s pool in Oak Harbor, Ohio can suddenly fill my senses. I still remember all those hot summer days spent at that pool. In my mind, the pool was huge but I know that time has dulled my memory of how small it really was. Still… that pool shaped many of my memories of the summers of the late sixties and the early seventies.
Growing up in the confines of the little town NW Ohio was something special. We all got to experience the Friday night lights of the football game. Because you could get in the game for free at halftime, I remember many times watching the first half of the game from the top of the train tracks that passed a few yards from the fence at the West endzone. We would then spend our money we begged from our parents to go to the game on candy at the concession stand.
At school, if you had older siblings, your reputations begins wherever theirs left off. Here’s how it worked: on the first day of class, the teacher will do roll call and they get to your last name and pause. They look up and say, “Any relation to (older sibling’s name)?,” you say yes, and then the teacher will either inform you that your sibling is a perfect human specimen you can never live up to, or sigh dramatically and mutter, “Oh great, another one.”
Do you remember any of these?
- You used to drag “beer can ally” and if you swore, your parents knew about it within an hour.
- It was cool to date somebody from the neighboring town.
- The whole school went to the same party after graduation.
- You had no choice but to date your friends’ ex’s.
- Everyone considered a nearby town to be “trashy” or “snooty,” but it was actually exactly like your town.
- You could charge anything at any local store or write a check without any ID.
- The closest mall was a long drive.
- You thought nothing of seeing an old man riding through town on a riding lawn mower.
- Most people went by a nickname.
- We didn’t know it then but the luxuries of walking “uptown” to Van Atta’s restaurant and buying a cheeseburger would be a memory that we would long for… for the rest of our adult lives.
My family never owned a color TV so black and white TV was the entertainment not only for us but for many in my hometown. The cost of purchasing a color television was out of reach for many families. Back then we only had 3 channels ABC, CBS, and NBC. Our TV reception came either through a pair of rabbit ears antenna located on top of the TV or an antenna attached to the house. We had no idea what cable TV was or what it’s impact would be on our children.
A typical Friday night was watching my favorite shows like the Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch on the floor just in front of the TV because we did not have a remote and that way you could switch channels fast. Sitting there with a large bowl of popcorn with PEPSI being drank from bottle are some of my favorite memories.
Saturday mornings were spent watching cartoons and the afternoon watching American Bandstand so you could see the latest dance moves and the possibilty of seeing your favorite singer or band.
I remember when I couldn’t wait to watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and Disney on Sunday night with episodes of “Swamp Fox,” “Zorro” or even watch repeats of “Davy Crockett”. Each week at the beginning of Disney they played the song “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
It’s easy to find people who will sneeringly complain about how trapped they felt there as teenager. I was no different from most kids growing up there… we all began making plans of escape early on but we still got to experience the life of living in a small town when AM radio was king.
Oak Harbor held on to those days longer than most and that makes me smile even after all these years. But once the seeds of change are planted it is hard to ever go back to way it used to be.
It’s been thirty years since I called Oak Harbor home. I drive through the town every now and again and as the years pass, I no longer feel part of what it once was. But I still cannot deny that there are some roots of Oak Harbor still in me. I am sure very few people remember me from that small town in Ohio anymore. I am just a face on a picture in an old yearbook that no one looks at anymore. I am just someone they used to know.
It was a time, place and memory that my children and grandchildren will never experience. That makes me sad. They have been cheated.
I’ve wondered what it must look like to the younger generations who didn’t actually live through it. Are they awe-struck by the moon landing? Is teetering on the verge of nuclear war just the start of a good sci fi movie? Do the hippies seem quaint? Are the assassinations just more names and dates to memorize for a history exam?
Are the hippies, Vietnam, women’s lib, civil rights, space race, Cold War, British Invasion, Disco, pocket calculators, TANG, PONG, Sony Walkman’s, Microwave ovens, VCR’s, The Godfather, Leisure Suits, Charles Chips, Pet Rocks, Clackers, Green Stamps, Evel Knievel and who could forget Farrah Fawcett? — just evidence of random decades. I think not.
It’s inevitable that all of us would see that period through our own personal lense. The 60′ and 70’s were like the an epic blockbuster. Music, clothes, politics, social unrest, social change. There really hasn’t been anything like it since. So many historic events happened in that period.
But that doesn’t mean that I want to go back.
History has a knack of showing the flaws of the generation that planted the seeds to produce it.
That’s what all historians do: they look back and see things that were planted and the results of which may not be seen for years. While I love to look back and remember, it’s important that we don’t forget that many of the seeds that were planted all those years ago are the reasons we now see major political, social, and cultural changes in our society. We wonder how this generation of young people can be the way they are and the truth be told it is because of the seeds that were planted in the 60’s and 70’s.
We have made the mistake of ignoring the seeds that we planted. In many ways we don’t like the results and we are the one to blame. Our children pay the price of not having the freedom we had to play outside and have the run of the town. We now dare not let our young children out of our sight for fear that they may one day have their picture on a milk carton. We thought we had it under control, yet we act as if the change itself remains unexpected, invisible, even unimaginable to most people. We should never forget how surprisingly fast these changes can happen.
Nevertheless, looking back at the seeds planted when AM radio was king is a very important. Because it can help us pay more attention to seeds that are growing underground right now. Of course we can’t predict which seeds will connect up with which other ones to create significant change, and certainly not when or how it will happen. But history can teach us to watch more closely and optimistically for signs of change that might be coming surprisingly soon.
The seeds of change. I can fully appreciate how malleable history is and how its perspective changes with time. I imagine 40 years of perspective on any decade we’ve lived through would be interesting. Forty years from now, I’m confident that the Obama years will also look much different through the lens of history. I really regret that I won’t be reading it.
I enjoyed U.S. History more than most, but in the years that have passed, I’ve forgotten more names and dates than I remember. Our history is complicated and imperfect. There are facets I don’t fully understand.
But I do understand the heart of the man who wanted more for his children than he had for himself.
I sense his desperation. I feel his determination.
I respect his resolve.
If I’m quiet and still, I can imagine what it might have been like for the early settlers to carve a road where there was nothing – exploring completely uncharted territories, in search of a new and better life, a place to belong.
And setting their sights, slowly and painfully, they began to build. A barn. A cabin. A church with a steeple. A community of workers. A little town. A government. A country.
Hard as I try, I can’t imagine what it must have cost. But having paid that unimaginable price, I can understand why they’d risk their lives again to protect what they’d built.
What they built for me was wrapped up in what we had when AM radio was king. It’s gone now and we will never get it back. We have future generations that will never fully understand what it was like back in those days.
Again that makes me incredibly sad.
I long for the days when AM radio was king.
Climbing a mountain was never on my bucket list.
It wasn’t even on my radar.
“It will be fun!!! Come on!!! Get out of bed!!!” they said.
“Look you can see other hikers on the trail.” they told me. That did not encourage me. It took me a few minutes, but I gathered up my courage and started up the trail. It was then I looked up and I could see what looked to be ants moving on the mountain. That’s when doubt and I hit head on and suddenly we were in agreement, “NO WAY is that going to be me?!?! I’ll never be where they are!” I was too proud to tell the guys that I did not think I could make it up that side of the mountain. I decided to smile and nod. I shot a fake smile and squeaked through my clinched teeth, “Wow. That seems so far away. How exciting!”
Before I knew it, I was officially walking up the side of the mountain.
That’s how it’s done, people.
On the mountain you have a lot of time to think—and talk to yourself.
It was in the pauses that I realized the mini steps I’d been making for over an hour had accumulated beneath me and I was actually going somewhere.
I was higher.
I was farther.
I realized I was doing what I had set out to do and it felt good! Of course, it would feel better if I was done. Because it was already harder than I thought it might be, but taking a moment to look back at where I’d come from was just what I needed to turn around again and get back to it.
We were climbing a mountain that was linked with other mountains, and after nearly two hours we came upon this particular spot on our journey. It was the most incredible, beautiful spot we’d encountered up to that point. As we walked up to ridge, it was as if the horizon appeared out of nowhere. The wind was strong, but the clouds seemed reachable. I remember at the beginning seeing “ants” up here! NOW I was an ant to someone else!
My legs were a bit weary and my mind said, “Isn’t this view good enough? You could be satisfied with this height, couldn’t you?!?!” I knew I must keep going. And not just for his sake, but the higher I went, the more I wanted to continue. The beauty of God’s creation was before me and I couldn’t unsee this—and I didn’t want to. There was pain in this journey, but the beauty of the journey was becoming a prize worth knowing personally.
We moved onward and upward and there were more rocks. The incline at times left me baby-stepping my way up the mountain. The guys that I was with kept on encouraging me, “Keep moving… keep going… you can do it!”
Slowly and surely I put one step in front of the other.
And that’s when I stepped foot on the summit. The sky opened up to a 360 degree view. My eyes could not even take it all in. It was too beautiful for words—too glorious to capture in a sentence. It’s like trying to describe the hands of your newborn—and you realize the only thing that comes out is “Wow, look… You have to see his hands!” You can’t describe the beauty; all you can do is invite others into the splendor you are part of.
That’s when you know you are witnessing the fingerprints of God. His marvels cannot be explained with mere language, or captured in a song, or displayed through even the most beautiful of art.
We try, and it’s okay to try, but we’ll always fall short. God’s glory leaves one speechless.
I guess that’s how I feel about my journey with the Lord.
It feels like climbing a mountain some days. It feels like the journey is unreasonably long and too steep. There’s too many rocks and the obstacles in my way leave me wondering, “Why does it have to be this hard?”
Internally I wrestle with the risks, the suffering I’m enduring, the uncomfortability of the climb—and at times, I almost talk myself into retreating and quitting all together. But it’s in those moments that the Lord calls me to rest and reflect. He gives me a moment to catch my breath and turn around and see the progress I had made.
There are times in my life that I’ve looked back and been disappointed, feeling like I should be further along by now! And other times I’m surprised that I’ve even made it this far—recognizing the grace and sovereign hand of God that has brought me to this point.
There are moments when you think, “This is good enough. I could be satisfied enough with this view and head back.” But then you hear the encouragers, your spiritual cheerleaders, say, “But there’s more. You’ve come this far! Let’s keep going.” And so you keep moving on. You press onward and upward, wondering why you can’t be the one satisfied with the couch, but the truth is, you’re not. You’re not made for ease or settling.
So you put one foot in front of the other.
You obey His voice.
You trust Him.
You place your hope in His promises.
You ask Him for the strength.
And then you continue to put one foot in front of the other.
And then something beautiful happens—you reach the mountain’s peak. And that’s when you see the journey was not in vain. You see the beauty is that much more spectacular than you dared to dream. You realize there was purpose and beauty even in the pain. You know you can’t unsee this and you would never want to. Being in relationship with the God of the universe changes you. So much so, you want to tell others, but sometimes the only thing that comes out is, “I wish I could describe how much He loves you, but I just can’t. I wish I could put into words how great the climb really is, but my words aren’t enough. But… you are invited… invited to know for yourself—to see Him for yourself. Climb the mountain—He’ll never leave your side and you won’t be disappointed.”
But it isn’t reaching the summit that makes your experience great…
It’s the climb.
God has a mountain for you to climb. It’s there just in front of you. All you need to do is put one foot in front of the other and He will lead to where He wants you go. You’ll see things you never thought you would and you’ll find satisfaction you never thought was possible.
Climb your mountain. He’s waiting there just for you.
I know I’ve been missing in action. It’s been a bit intentional. I have needed some time to think, to reflect and to look at the world around me. There is so much going on, so many voices screaming in our ears that the noise is overwhelming.
For my part in this great noise, I want to find a place of silence to really hear God and know His voice, see His face, sense His heart….so I’ve taken some time to get away.
But today, I’ve found myself reading comments on Facebook. I know… huge mistake right?
It’s quite amusing really.
Now before I go on too much further, I need to clarify something. I am NOT an expert at anything. That is no surprise to those who know me. I do have an opinion but in no way do I try to pass myself off as an expert on any subject.
Reading comments from people who I know barely graduated high school is just amazing to me. They honestly think they are so smart and have all the answers.
With the Internet and the ability to be shielded by a keyboard and screen, everyone seems to be an expert on everything. It is hard for me to really take someone’s opinion on a subject if they cannot spell or talk like they grew up in the “hood”.
People… just don’t.
I have read more than my share of people using the word “no” for “know” as in, “Dos anyone no whut time the game starts?” or the often abused use of the variations of there, their and they’re as in, “There dog is running lose down the street.” These caught my attention as well, “I could not here cause the musac was to lawd.” and “I would like to take the time to address some roomers about me.”
For the record, most of the posts I read were not like the examples I am referring to. However, there were far more than I cared to read.
Before you think I am only reading posts from people I do not know… I’m not.
I know a few of them. I know where they come from and in most cases I know what level of education they have. Most of them have never traveled farther than 100 miles from their hometown except maybe for a trip or two to Disneyland. However they present themselves as experts on world diplomacy and the problems of this world.
We are a nation of experts without truth. It’s quite funny to read the bluster of words from someone trying to convince me they are right.
Truth is that the education level of today’s “millennials” is less than their parents. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities report on education shows that the U.S. ranks second among all nations in the proportion of the population aged 35-64 with a college degree, but 19th in the percentage of those aged 25-34 with an associate or high school diploma, which means that for the first time, the educational attainment of young people is lower than their parents.
So here we are. A culture of experts about nothing. They comment on things that they have no experience in nor do they have the education or training to be the experts they try and pass themselves off on being.
Everyone is suddenly an expert and, since we no longer believe in truth in our culture, the one who can bluster the most, act angry enough or overwhelm the discussion with confusion usually wins.
Or do they?
It seems we waste a lot of time with opinions, words, rhetoric and anger that does nothing at all.
And in the end… after all is said… nothing changes.
How about we start with truth, a foundation of some kind, and discuss issues from there? Oh, wait, we can’t….no one believes in absolute truth anymore.
One area that really gets to me is when I read what people write and comment about when it comes to things of the Bible. In most examples, it is discussions about things that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and the salvation that He provided on the cross. People get so caught up in discussions that have no impact on where they or others will spend eternity.
I wonder what God really thinks about these “discussions”? How silly this must sound to Him as people die without Christ. How many wasted hours discussing nothing of eternal significance? .
Yes… our culture is filled with people who believe they have all the answers.
I wonder what kind of expert commentary and answers people will give when they stand before God and have to give an account for their life?
My prayer is that I never fall into the trap of thinking that I am so wise that God thinks of me as a fool.
How about you?
And then I saw it.
All along the left hand side of the screen was cracked. It was bigger than I expected but I was committed to get it fixed right away.
For the first few days, it’s all I thought about when I tried to use it. It was right in my face. It seemed to be staring at me.
It was the first thing I noticed every single time I used it. No matter where I looked, it taunted me and contorted my view of the pictures on the screen. I couldn’t wait to have it fixed now, but I needed to delay it for a few days. I had a lot on my plate, so I planned to take it to get fixed the following week.
But within a few days, the cracks began to fade into the background. A week later, and I’d all but forgotten the cracked screen.
I barely noticed it.
In those few short days, I grew accustomed to the cracks in my window. I compensated for them. I accepted them and the distorted view that came with them. What had once been an obvious, irritating distraction became familiar enough that I looked right past it. It was almost like it wasn’t there.
But it was there.
It’s like looking through glasses with a broken lens. It distorts our view. We don’t see things as we should. An obvious lesson here is that when we ignore small problems, they grow bigger and spread.
When we avoid paying the smaller cost today, we’ll likely pay a larger one tomorrow.
But there’s an even more important lesson for me. Maybe for you too.
Where else am I looking at my life through broken glass? Good and bad, what’s true about me that I refuse to see? What’s in my way that’s obvious to everyone but me?
This week I found some things that I have been ignoring. The cracks and broken pieces of perspective have come back into focus to show me where I have been living in denial. I have been living my life by not acknowledging the obvious. The issues associated with growing old and having serious health problems belonged to someone else and surely not me.
My mind and eyes adjusted so quickly to my bad situation that I no longer even saw things as they were. I ignored the problem so well that I didn’t see the thing right in front of my face obstructing my view. I looked past it, even as it worsened. It became normal to me.
I have been living there, in denial, for a while now. I have a serious problem with high blood pressure and I have diabetes. No matter how much I would like to deny that these issues are true, I cannot stop them from affecting my life.
Last week I was having chest pains. You would think I would have said something to my wife but I didn’t. I couldn’t rest and I couldn’t sleep. Much like the crack on my IPAD, after a few days of pain I just looked past them in ignorance. The more I tried to ignore the increasing pains and pressure in my chest the more I started having this sinking feeling and thoughts that I was soon to die. I thought of impending doom. Still I did nothing. Denial and pride kept me from reacting to what my body was telling me.
I soon found myself heading to the ER. When I got there I was immediately rushed in to the cardiac unit. Initial tests showed that my blood pressure was “sky-high” as the doctor put it. I was about as close a person can get without having a stroke or a massive heart attack. The reason for why this was happening was still lost to me but was obvious to the doctors that were treating me. I was soon going to get a real clear picture of why I was in the hospital and in the condition I was.
It was painfully obvious and acknowledged that I had not been taking my medications the way I should have. My broken “lens” was ignored and I looked past these health issues as if they belonged to someone else.
They had to bring my blood pressure down slowly so as to not induce a stroke so I was subjected to a few days of tests and treatment to bring it down and get my diabetes under control. I can no longer look past these medical issues. The good news is that my heart is in pretty good condition considering it’s owner. No blockages and the potential of stopping any more damage if I can get back on the path of good health. I want to live another 30 or so years, and it was made real clear that I that will not happen unless I make some changes in my life.
Another second chance.
I am home today… still having residual chest pains that will go away with continued treatment as prescribed. Reminders of a fool who still viewed his heath problems through a cracked lens. The signs were all around me. I just never let myself see them.
I have to ask myself some real important life questions.
Where else am I looking at my life through broken glass?
Good and bad, what’s true about me that I refuse to see?
What’s in my way that’s obvious to everyone but me?
These are painful questions to wrestle with, and trust me, I’m aching having gone a few rounds with them. But who wants to live a life seeing things as they aren’t?
We all need to see our circumstances as they truly are. We cannot continue to look at life through a broken lens. Our challenge is to not ignore what’s broken.
If life isn’t shaping up as you’d hoped – If you’ve been circling back to the same person or problem again and again – If you’re in a destructive relationship – especially if it’s with yourself.
Maybe you’ve got a crack in your window. Maybe there’s something right in front of you obstructing your view, keeping you from seeing things as they really are,keeping you from being who you were meant to be.
What is it? It’s not a mystery. It’s in plain sight. Once we name it, we can deal with it and move on.
So, go a few rounds with these questions that are taking me to the mat.
Am I viewing my life through a broken lens?
What does it keep me from seeing about myself?
What am I denying about the circumstances I’ve created?
What old pain have I grown accustomed to and embraced?
What if I laid it down?
What would be possible if you could see yourself and your circumstances as they truly are?
Answer them before it’s too late.
Some of you know this, some of you don’t.
Some of you don’t even know me personally, maybe your just finding your way here by accident and giving me some of your time. For those of you in the latter category, I will try to keep this simple.
But, you know, at the end of all of these mistakes, I came out a lot smarter than I was when I started. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I could take a hit, even several hard hits and maybe a few devastating hits and still get up again. Even if it sometimes took a lot longer than I had wanted it to.
I am not alone. I am sure on some level we’ve all been there.
When the world you were cultivating suddenly becomes dark and the life you once enjoyed becomes void and quickly lost. Your plans and thoughts for your future dry up and they soon blow away like the leaves in late fall. During these times in our life, the search for clarity and direction can be a long, dark, quiet road at times. Every step forward comes with a question mark attached to it. It can feel like you don’t belong anywhere at all. The past is clearly behind you. You couldn’t go back, even if you wanted to. But the future seems unclear and far away – like a mirage in the distance. All you do is survive from one day to another.
Even if you can make out the shape of what might be up ahead, you find yourself asking, How do I get there from here? What if I can’t do it? Are my best days behind me? What do I do now?
You’re stuck…in the in-between.
I lived there in the “in-between” for a long time. Wasted years.
In between what once was and what will someday be. In between what was comfortable and the life we’re meant for…next.
It can be daunting, the in-between. It can be fertile soil for discouragement and doubt, frustration and fear. Some people never get to the other side and pull themselves out from the “in between”.
This is sad. Truth is… I believe that God doesn’t want us to live our lives in the in-between.
I write this because I have people close to me, people who I love that have been thrust into the “in between” and as someone who has made it through this “in between” phase of life, I feel some responsibility to give some advice on how to survive it. It isn’t easy.
So what do you do?
First of all, I think that reflection is one of the most important, and seldom-used, tools at our disposal. For the record, reflection is NOT living in the past. Reflection is taking an honest look back and being truthful with yourself about your failures. Most people never do this. They justify their actions or deny the facts that they know are true.
It is why a lot of people just sort of drift from day-to-day and suddenly find that they are 80 years old, with no real sense of how they got there, what the path they walked says about who they are, what they did, and how their lies and deeds affected others, loved ones and strangers alike.
I truly believe that before you can move on and start living life on the other side of the “in between”, you have to be honest with yourself, your family and your God.
You have to ask yourself, “What lie am I keeping that is holding me hostage?”
The unexamined life.
It breeds deception and it causes us to find lies that we tell to ourselves and others to hide who we really are.
My life in the “in between” has obliged me to look hard at my past and present, even when I didn’t want to. I had to deal with the lies I was telling to God, myself and to others.
How I have dealt with those lies I have covered over the last seven years of writing this blog. I will not spend a lot of time to list all of those lies here but rest assured they are real and there are times that as I reflect and time passes I uncover a few more. I deal with them as soon as I do. I choose not to be dragged back to the “in between”. More detail can be found in having the time to talk to me and asking. I will tell you the truth. I went for almost 15 years before I started to deal with the lies I was telling myself.
I know so many people who try to use the lie that “God wants me to be happy.” as an excuse to justify many decisions they make in life. Yes… I guess there is some truth in that God desires that we are content in where we are in life but no where in Scripture does God say He wants me to be HAPPY. I tried to justify the argument “God wants me to be happy” and made it often through the years. I’ve heard Christians defend all kinds of decisions based on the belief that God wants them to be happy.
But the truth is I’m not sure that He does.
The word “happy” appears six times in the Bible, none of those in reference to God’s intention for your life. This is not a bad thing, though. Happiness is almost always tied to the present. How quickly can that change? If we constantly lived for our current happiness, what a miserable life most of us would have.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that God delights in our misery. But I’m not sure that there’s any Biblical evidence to back up the claim that He wants us to be happy. In fact the Bible seems to teach that He is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. I lied to God, others and to myself about this.
Living day-to-day in the in-between is hard.
Most of the bad decisions I have ever made, I made when I was in the “in-between”. The problem is we are all free to choose what we want to do, but we are not free from the consequences of those choices we make.
The best choice is always one that requires us to wait on God to give us clear direction. I mean truly “waiting” on Him.
For me, these “in-between” periods of my life happened when I did not wait on God but told others and fooled myself into thinking that I had.
If you are caught in the “in-between”, you must remember that the waiting on God’s direction is your work for the moment. God has called us and has directed us to follow Him. Sometimes that means standing still and waiting for His perfect timing. This waiting is hard. It’s hard to not be able to work towards something and easy to get caught up in the not-yet.
If you are dealing with the in between, may you find joy in your wait. Hopefully you will find your purpose for the rest of your life.
Remember… God wants your holiness not your happiness.
May He strengthen your heart for this journey. May you wait and trust in Him and find life on the other side of living in the “in-between”.
It’s 11:00 pm.
I’m wrapping up my day, finishing some things for tomorrow’s work day, planning tomorrow’s details of what needs to be completed… and I just thought,
“Who says I even GET a tomorrow?
What if I didn’t – What would be left undone?’’
We’ve all heard Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying”.
We know we’re supposed to be living like we were dying, but on my last day, I actually don’t think I’d choose to go skydiving or mountain climbing – and if you see me getting on a bull named Fu-Man-Chu, please knock some sense back into me.
What would I actually do on my last day? What does it really mean to live like you were dying?
If I knew my breaths were numbered –
- I’d savor each one. I’d take the time to notice what it feels like to take a deep breath and exhale.
- I’d make a video for my grandchildren, telling them who their grandpa really is beyond what their young minds can understand.
- I’d write them notes to open for future major holidays and life events.
- I’d pray. I imagine I’d pray the most honest prayer I’ve ever prayed, with a fervor I’ve never had before.
- I’d call my family and my friends. I’d tell them exactly what they mean to me, and I’d beg them with everything I had left to run the rest of their race to the fullest.
- I’d name specific gifts I see in them.
- I’d right my wrongs as best as I could… If I needed to come clean with someone, I’d do it.
- I’d forgive those who’ve wronged me in half a heartbeat, and let them know they’re forgiven – whether they asked for it or not.
- I’d tie up loose ends. If someone was relying on me for something, I’d make sure they could pick up where I left off.
- I’d find someone who’d poured into my life and thank them for it.
- I’d hold the ones I love the most, tighter and longer than ever before.
- I’d lavish kind words and encouragement on them.
- I’d give away everything I’d accumulated to those who could still use it.
- I’d tell my wife everything – EVERYTHING she means to me – and I’d let go of our shortcomings as a couple. I’d let her know that I KNOW she’d made me the luckiest man in the world.
Interesting – nothing here about enjoying my stuff.
Wow… not one. Stunning.
The pursuit and maintaining of stuff occupies the majority of our time, and yet, in the end, it doesn’t matter at all.
When I started this post, my goal was to identify what I’d do if I knew I was dying. But as I’m wrapping up, I’m realizing that if these things are important enough to me to accomplish in my last days or hours, maybe I should make them more important right here and now.
What would YOU do if you knew your breaths were numbered?
Guess what? They are.
All of us need to be reminded what really matters now and then.