A Voice in The Quiet

Quiet… it’s really so rare.

It’s so hard to find.

All around us is noise.

Noise that captivates our moments.

Noise that keeps us from thinking.

We long for silence.

Silence slows down our life.

It allows us to pause and reflect.

He waits.

He waits for us to be still in the silence.

Longing for us to be quiet.

It’s in the silence when we hear

the most important sound ever…

the voice of God.

A Voice in the Quiet.

Living Life When God Surprises You

I hate surprises.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hold on. Stay Strong.

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

 

My Tribute to Hershel Case

Our history books tell us that great men change the whole world. 

It’s true, but they do it from a great distance, from a height almost all men will never reach. They cure a disease, lead men into battle, or walk on the moon.  They are extremely rare and almost always we only read about them in history books.

By the world’s standard, Hershel Case was not a great man. We will never read about him in our history books. He was never famous or rich; never led troops into battle or walked on the moon and he never found the cure for any disease.

So, as I say, by hershelthe world’s standard, he wasn’t a great man.

He was, however, something so much more.  Something so much more precious, something so much more important  –  he was a Good Man.

This is what I have come to understand.

Good men change the world around us. They change the world as we know it. Good men walk among us. We see them every day.  And in most examples it isn’t until they are taken from us do we realize what a wonderful gift they have given us.

For you see, Hershel Case gave us a gift. He had an impact on so much more than the world. The world may never take note but eternity was impacted because of the life of Hershel Case and that is much more honor than any history book would ever give him.

Hershel was indeed a good man, but he was even more than that. He was a better follower of Christ.  His commitment to Jesus Christ was evident in every aspect of his life. Seeing Christ in him wasn’t evident because of something that he did… it was who he was.

It was simply him.

I have known many Godly men but never anyone like Hershel.  He had the simple, but nearly miraculous gift of being himself in any situation and when he was with anyone.  He never put on airs, he was at ease and he put the people that he met at ease. I never saw him treat anyone of any nationality, religion, skin color, physical or mental condition with anything other than ungrudging respect.

I have never known a harder worker than Hershel.  He was a man that worked hard his whole life.  He was a talented builder.  He built more buildings, churches and houses than I could ever count.  But most of all he was a preacher.  He has led countless men, women and children to the Lord.  He sacrificed and he did it with joy in his heart. 

He never received the recognition in this life that he deserved but if you knew him he did it for the Lord.  He will be rewarded in eternity for the hard work and effort he did for Christ on this earth. His life was one that brought honor to his family and to his Savior.

I never met a better follower of Jesus Christ than him.

He was a masterful dispenser of good medicine: laughter. He had a genuine wit and he loved to laugh. I keep thinking of all the crying that’s been done over him in the last few days; and while I’m sure he’d have been touched, I’m equally sure he would have kidded us all about it.

No… he wasn’t perfect but he was the best example I have ever witnessed of what it is to live for Christ.

The measure of a person is not how many biographies are published about them, or how many buildings will bear his name, or how many testimonials are given. Rather, the true measure of a person’s lasting legacy is not tangible at all but how he set and lived his priorities. With Hershel, it was his Savior first, then his family. He loved his family.  Apart from Jesus Christ he was a dedicated husband to his wife of 53 years.  He was a loving father to his daughters and he was a wonderful grandfather to his grandchildren. 

He also was part of something that I have always watched in awe.  His relationship with his brothers and sisters is case family2something that I have always envied.  The bond with his siblings was a big part of his life.  It was something rare and I have been able to see it first hand.  It something that I have always secretly called “Case Strong”.  It was strong because of the love that binds them together.  There is genuine love that is seen in their bond that is called family.  I am honored to be apart of that family that is Case Strong.

As I write this, I am experiencing the distinct split between mourning and a sense of celebration for the life of a truly remarkable man. A friend once told me God places certain people in your life at certain times to help guide you, even though you may not recognize at the time you need the guidance. Make no mistake… Hershel Case gave me guidance and direction.

On January 14, 2016, he passed away… but in truth he began a new journey. It’s hard to believe that we now have to say good-bye. The time I spent with Hershel was far too short.

What will I miss about Hershel? Well, for starters is his humor. He was incredibly witty. Most people missed that about him. Then I would have to say his incredible intelligence, and his grasp on Biblical truth.  He was a scholar of God’s Word. Also, the interest he took in the lives of so many people. As I said before, the fact that he cared about and loved people was always front and center.

Hershel 1Simply put, He was just such a humorous, giving, caring, intelligent, Godly man. A good man. I have no doubt that the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  apply to him.  We know with confidence that Hershel is now with his Savior.

I loved Hershel, I admired him, I am honored to be part of his family but even more proud because I was his friend.   I know those of you that really knew him, loved him too. And while it is natural for us to be sad that he’s gone – it is infinitely more important for us to be happy he lived, and that we all got to share part of his life with him.

I will miss him.

My prayer is that what I am as a husband, a father and grandfather will forever be influenced by the legacy of Hershel Case.

So even if you didn’t know Hershel, I would ask all of you to do this:

Love those around you as if they could die tonight.  Hug them tighter.  Never let one day pass without them knowing just how much you deeply love them. 

Don’t hold grudges.  Love and love fully.  Love like Hershel did. 

Live as he did–with humility, dignity, kindness, respect, and total selflessness.  That will be his legacy.  His footprints have left a legacy of these very things.

Imagine what the world would be if there were more Hershel Case’s in it. 

That’s the world I want to live in. 

Until we meet again… Grace, peace and prayers of comfort for the Case family. 

#CaseStrong

 

Dear Santa… This Is All I Want For Christmas

With some trepidation, I decided to publish my personal letter to Santa this year.  All of my life I have kept my communications with Santa private in fear that it might hurt my chances of having my wishes fulfilled. Though my last 50 plus attempts have failed, at this point I don’t feel I have a lot to lose.

Dear Santa,

I think I have been good this year, or at least I’ve tried very hard to be good.  Ok, in all honesty, I could probably say that I have not been actively bad,  or at least I have not been actively bad “all that often”.  That being dear-santasaid, I guess I could use some clearer definitions on exactly how “you” define good.  That would be helpful in my future endeavors.

I’ll keep my list short because I know you’ve got to fill the stockings of all those so-called “innocent” children who are in fact riddled with dark, primal impulses and conditioned and overwhelmed by commercialism and the media.

That being said, let me take the opportunity to congratulate you on your years of marketing skills. (Yes, I am kissing up to you. You probably get that a lot this time of year) You must be very proud of the product you’ve sold each year. 

Over the years, you and your staff have done a wonderful job in “selling” Christmas to the masses.  As  a matter of fact, stores have put up Christmas displays as early as September and you have even convinced radio stations to play Christmas songs as Digital Image by Sean Locke Digital Planet Design www.digitalplanetdesign.comearly as October. Not to mention the endless loop of Christmas movies that play on the Hallmark Channel. 

Again kudos!!!

But I see trouble on the horizon and I understand that my previous letters to you have been unsuccessful and probably unread, but I am holding on to my wishes and remain hopeful that this year you will make an exception and read this one. 

After all, being a kid is a lot of fun even without Christmas, but being an adult is seriously not-fun most of the time.

I know you might consider that accepting a list from me would be setting a precedent that you do not want fulfill, but, in my opinion, the whole Christmas project needs to be radically re-envisioned. I don’t know if you’ve looked at your traditional client base lately, but they aren’t exactly filled with believers.

I hope you have a nice Christmas, but if you don’t turn up this year, I’m prepared not to believe in you any more, and frankly, you need all the followers you can get. Trust me, I know a lot of people who are having serious doubts. If you do exist, you need to re-target your market to include a more mature demographic. Because in case you haven’t noticed, it’s not the kids that keep you in business. It’s adults. And it won’t be hard to find someone else to put on a red suit, stick on a beard and work one day a year. Get what I’m saying?

There are a lot of movies that allude to the fact santathat you don’t exist. But I am holding on that you do indeed exist even if it is somewhere deep in the confines of my imagination.

So, Nick – if I may be so familiar – I was hoping to keep it real and talk man-to-Santa.

The things I really want for Christmas cannot be bought.  Like the Grinch, who learned that Christmas doesn’t come from a store, I am not asking for anything to be bought specifically for me. I am at the point in my life that if I want any thing that can be Christmas Morepurchased, I will buy it myself.

That does not mean that I am not asking for some things for me.  Honestly, I am not asking out of selfishness but out of a desire to be a better man tomorrow than the one I am today.

I learned a long time ago that Christmas means a little bit more than most people consider. No offense, but one thing is for sure, it’s not about you. More importantly it is not about me. It’s about Jesus Christ.  It is really only about HIM… but I’m sure you already know that. 

On that note, let me share with you my Christmas list this year.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to help out this year.

This year, in no particular order, I am asking for…

  • The ability to turn on the news without seeing acts of mass horror and terror.
  • That every person would truly understand the gift of grace that God offers to each one of us.
  • The good sense to be gracious for life and health.
  • The ability to live my life so that others see Christ in me.
  • The opportunity to make things right with those that have found fault in me.
  • An understanding that life is too short to worry about what everyone else is saying and doing. 
  • The opportunity to rid myself of selfishness, love of money, pride and rebellion.
  • The ability to humble myself before God and before others.
  • A deeper appreciation for my employer and the career I have been allowed to be a part of.
  • Knowledge to see the wealth in life that goes far beyond material things.
  • The closeness of true friends.
  • Thankfulness for the comfort of the home my wife has made for me.
  • Good health for all of my family.
  • Continued growth, health and protection for my grandsons.
  • The ability to lose any bitterness in my life.
  • That my heart will know nothing but love, forgiveness, and mercy for others.
  • A better 2016 than 2015.

So, in closing, Santa, that is what I am wishing for.  I could go on but I realize you are on a time constraint and it may take few hours for you to pull this together for me.  Again, if you choose to not visit me this year I will try to understand.

At the end of the day, please do your part to “Keep Christ in Christmas”.  It is important that you not forget this.keepchristbb350

In a time of multiple tragedies, fear and terrorism, we need love, mercy and compassion more than we ever have. Now is not the time to dwell on material things.    

Santa, if you can take anything from all of this, it would be that the things of this earth are not permanent and they will perish; if you are spending your whole life building it off of material things and not on the meaningful things, you will always find yourself missing something.

So if you’re celebrating Christmas this year, please remember all that our Savior has done for us and to make an effort to reciprocate that into the world around us.

No matter what you celebrate, or even if you don’t, Merry Christmas, and I wish upon you the utmost love and peace that only Christ can give.

Best Regards,

David

God Wins. I Promise.

The world is a hard, difficult place.

It is easy to seeGod Wins that with the events unfolding in San Bernardino, Paris and Beirut.

My heart is heavy watching the news.  I try to imagine what I would do in such a situation.

I pray my family will never have to face such terror.

I want to blame someone.  I can’t.

I want to fix it.  I can’t.

Why?

Because I believe that none of these horrific events are a surprise to God. They have taken place since the beginning of time. Why they are allowed to happen is a question I will never really understand.

But this is what I do know…

Men are Fallen 

Evil.

We have good days and many blessings, to be sure, especially living as Christians in the United States.  But we don’t have to look far to see a darker side of life around the world and here as well. Poverty, abuse, disaster, tragedy, corruption, violence, and sin are parts of our daily life. 

It surrounds us like never before.

How do we answer and live in these times?Fear1

The only answer that keeps filtering through my mind is that God did not give us a Spirit of Fear.  We need to trust Him.  We need to understand that His ways are not our ways.

When the evil of this world and sin press in so close to home, it feels much more personal.  We want to protect, and many times we have a gut reaction of anger, indignation and fear.

I get it.  

We want what is right and pure and holy to prevail.  

And it will.  

In the end…

God wins.  

I promise.

 

With Arms Wide Open

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.

Strong in the Broken Places… A Birthday Tribute to my Mom

She loved you before she even knew you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacrifice.

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

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

My mother sacrificed her life for her children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for being strong in the broken places.

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

I Love You and Happy Birthday Mom!!

 

Principles, Secrets and Keys to Life, Ummm, No Thank You

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 tthe-7-secrets-to-successo 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”.

List them any way you wish, call them anything you like…as far as I’m concerned they areordernow all a ridiculous waste of time! No matter how fast I ordered “now” life isn’t that simple.

Even if I pass up the “Limited-Time Offer!” that is “Now Only!” sold at $49.95 offer that wasecret-300x251s “Originally:” $79.95, it won’t make a difference in my life.

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 is hard_0

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. 

It’s God.

He is the one who gets us through the hard, difficult times in this life.

forsakeHe walks with us and stays with us.  Never abandons us, or forsakes us like our friends can and do 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.

Leaving The Porch Light On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

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

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

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

It leaves many parents wondering what they did wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there are reasons we didn’t.

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

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

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

Each dated mark one step closer to this very day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too many homes 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 rwedding2ight person for them to spend the rest of their life with. The fear of any parent is their child making the wrong decision about that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cassidy… leave the porch light on for your husband.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seeds Planted When AM Radio Was King

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 CKLWwere 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 ohexperience 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 recetvption 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.

astroI’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 6449the 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 logo-seeds-of-changechanges 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.

A Home.

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.

 

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