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.
I am going to let you in on a little secret.
A few weeks ago, I was driving to Columbus for work and usually when I drive alone, I have the music blaring.
That isn‘t the secret.
Oh yeah… I let er rip!!!!
I was completely overtaken with the sheer pleasure of singing as loud as I possibly could. The music was so good and I suddenly felt myself drift off into my imagination of me being on stage, singing “in concert” at a huge venue.
I suddenly found myself in a full-blown dance routine behind the wheel. Now for the record… I grew up Baptist. Baptist’s do not know how to dance. I am no exception.
Oh… the moves I was making. I was definitely singing better than the singer on the radio as well. I was so into it, in fact, to the point of being mesmerized by it.
They say that texting and driving is bad. I agree wholeheartedly. But when you get so “into” the song on the radio that you lose yourself it is just as bad.
And then there’s that moment when you find yourself at a stoplight and make the slow head turn to your right to see the car next you laughing so hard that they are crying because they have watched you for the past mile or so make a complete fool of yourself.
As my face turned a deep red from embarrassment, the light turned green and I waved to them and drove off. Their car didn’t move. They could not stop laughing.
A few miles down the road, I had enough courage to turn the radio on again.
Then the thought crossed my mind, “I wish God would have given me the talent to sing. Then, I wouldn’t have to resort to singing to the steering wheel.”
And yet, as I thought about it, I suddenly realized that nothing is mine!
It was then I realized that was the exact reason God did not give me the talent to sing. Because it would have been about me and not about Him. Whatever talent, or lack of talent I have is given by God.
There is a reason we are the way we are.
It was a profound and yet simple truth that I need to be reminded of. Nothing is really mine.
Everything, literally everything is a gift from the hand of God…my life, my day, my time, my talents, my job, my house and even my voice…. everything comes from Him.
When I change the descriptive word “mine” to “His” it changes how I view the things I think are mine to own, to control, to be angry about if lost. So much of my life is fretting over “mine.”
I know this stuff. I mean I heard it all before. Perhaps you have as well. But once more I am made aware that everything, literally everything is a gift from God’s wonderful gracious hand.
It’s great to be reminded once more of God’s gifts in your life.
It creates amazing opportunities to give thanks that I ignored before, when it was “mine.” In reality it’s really His, given as a gift for my use, my time is now free to give away because it’s really His time and He can use it as He wishes. And when I have a moment to sit and think, to rest and relax, I can thank Him for that sweet gift.
When I wake up to a new day, I can thank Him for the gift of the day ahead, the moments to enjoy more of His gracious hand. When I drive to work, singing at the steering wheel at the top of my lungs, I now thank Him for the gift of life.
Everything is a gift from God’s gracious hand.
As you go through your day take moments and thank Him for letting you have and use His things, His good blessing, His air, His sunshine and His love.
It will change your life.
Everything… Everyday… and I mean everything and everyday is a gift from God.
Just be glad you don’t have to hear me sing as I pass you in my car.
For you… that in itself is another gift from God.
I’ve made some seriously stupid mistakes.
I know you’re shocked right? You shouldn’t be.
Now I have been told that I don’t look or act like someone who has made stupid mistakes, but I can assure you, I’ve definitely knocked it out of Stupid Mistake Park before – multiple times. I’ve rounded those bases more times than I care to remember.
I am sure that everything happens for a reason. But I cannot avoid the truth. Sometimes the reason for things happening a certain way is that you’re stupid and make bad decisions.
That would be me. I know I’m not alone though. Remember that stupid thing you did that time? I’m not talking about your most embarrassing moment that makes for a cute story at dinner. I’m talking about that big kahuna mistake, the one that could take you down if you ever ran for public office.
I sometimes have a really bad dream. It is the same dream each time. All my co-workers are gathered in the conference room, watching each and every awful secret of my life played out on a big TV screen. The next thing I know, I have nowhere to hide and I just start running away as fast as I can. I can hear them talking about what they are seeing. I can hear myself talking and telling the joke you privately made about your friend’s baby’s ugly cone head and it didn’t stop there. Not only were they watching my actions and hearing my words, but they could read my thoughts. Yeah, I kept running because I knew it was going to get worse.
It is then I wake up in a cold sweat. The nightmare is over but I usually toss and turn the rest of the night because it seemed so real. I have had this dream many times in my life. Each time it ends the same way… me running as fast as I can to avoid the truth of my stupid mistakes.
To clarify… when I refer to “my stupid mistakes” I need to come clean and call them what they really were… “my guilty sins”.
If you’re like me, maybe you’ve got a nice, juicy handful of stupid things like that in your past (maybe even from this week). Believe it or not, despite our inclinations to the contrary and how hard we try to hide them, I think that the people who know us best ought to be well-aware of all of those things in our lives.
However, due to the fact that we all spend a great deal of our time trying to convince everyone we’ve got it all together, sharing this kind of sinful baggage with others doesn’t come naturally for most of us. But whether it comes naturally or not, if you’re on board with the Biblical message of confession, God requires us to verbally unload our sins with Him.
No fun, I know.
Wouldn’t it be even better if we could just pretend we never did that completely stupid thing that night, way back when?
Wouldn’t it be easier if we could just kind of mumble a generic prayer to God every time we screwed up? Oh wait!!! Isn’t that what most believer’s do? I am convinced that many believer’s have never really confessed verbally the depth and magnitude of the sins in their life to God. Many times it is masked by the line, “God, please forgive me of all my sins”.
Now… I do not want to be misunderstood. I believe that God does forgive us of all of our sin when we have prayed even that simple line. I just feel that the reason many people struggle with the forgiveness of their past is that they have not verbally laid it at feet of our forgiving God.
We are, indeed, told to confess our sins to God, who is “faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. But then we are also told, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16.
Assuming we all agree that we need to confess our sins to God (even the sins from that night way back when), then this raises two big questions about the need to confess our sins to one another. First, how do we know who to confess to? The second question is why it’s even necessary to air our dirty laundry to others.
For me, the first question of to whom do we confess our sins is fairly easy: I believe that we need to confess to the sins to another believer that I am accountable to. I believe in the concept of accountability of one brother to another. I don’t believe you should stand on the corner and confess every single sin you have ever committed to just anyone. I believe you need to confess and be accountable to another believer. Find a brother in Christ if you are a man and a sister in Christ if you are a woman. Find someone you can be held accountable to. That being said… in confession… I don’t do this as often as I should.
I think it’s because God understands how easy it is for us to cough out a confession to Him while we stare at the ceiling or to cry our eyes out until we feel like we’ve proven how bad we feel about being such losers. We sort of move on, but we never really know the pain of looking someone in the face and telling the truth about ourselves, nor do we experience the joy of receiving forgiveness in-person.
The aspect of confession has been on my mind and heart all week. God has reminded me in a clear way that He knows who I am.
He knows who you are.
We’re not fooling Him, and we’d do well to stop trying to fool others.
Life is never how you draw it up.
To think I would have a blog / website that would have over 500,000 visitors is beyond my comprehension.
It was never my intention.
If you look on the sidebar you will see that it says that I am at 498,363 visitors since September 3, 2008. Well… in poetic justice it has been stuck on that number for a week or so now. I have no idea why. I have tried everything I know to do with the website that tracks such things and to avail it seems to be forever stuck on this number. My only recourse is to reset the number back to zero. It is not that important and in some odd way it is better to leave it where it is. Maybe it is God’s way of keeping me humble.
Anyway… I have access to the daily number of visitors and I am now only a hundred visitors away. I will pass the mark sometime today.
A little history… writing a blog is hard. The last 100,000 visitors took three years to get. It seems easy but it is hard to maintain and keep going. It probably is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my walk with Christ.
Most people fail in writing a blog. It is common aspect in the blogosphere. Dead, unfinished, incompleted blogs that were started with good intentions. People who get the idea that they want to start a blog and start writing. Some with the delusional idea that they even want to write a book. It starts with the premise that they believe they have something to say, something that will be a help and will be an encouragement to another person. It is done with all the vigor and excitement that they can muster. The ideas are just flying all over the place. They sit down and empty themselves into a post and when that first post is revised a 100 times they finally post it and in many examples it usually isn’t that bad.
Then the problem starts. It doesn’t take them long to realize that writing is hard. They spent so much emotion and personal information in that first post that they find as they sit at the computer, they are staring at an empty page. If they are lucky, they may post a few more and then it happens.
As it does for the vast majority of those that start a blog it sits empty and eventually deleted because of inactivity. It is like the one-hit wonder of a rock band. They get one good song and they can’t seem to get past it and eventually the creativity is just a rehash of the original song. They all just start sounding the same. It is a common problem and one that I struggled with as well.
God has really blessed me with the opportunity to share my faith and I received a lot of encouragement along the way from other believers. I have made friends that I will never meet in person until I get to heaven as a direct result of this blog. I also have had my share of detractors. There are those that have taken the time to be extremely critical of things I would write. For the most part, I didn’t know those who would be so critical, but I have to admit there are a few people I once called a friend that have made known their displeasure in me and in the things I write.
Whether or not people read the words I write is really not that important. God knows the words I write because they are the words that reflect my heart. It has been a wonderful experience and I have no doubt that writing this blog was what I was supposed to do over these past seven years. It was my purpose in life. It was what I was supposed to do and more importantly it was a way I could still share my faith and have a part in a ministry that could help others in their walk with Christ.
What I have learned is that in spite of the failures in my life, God can still use me. I have failed a thousand different ways over the years and when I came back to Him, He was faithful and true to forgive me and though I cannot be used in the same way He did years ago. He still has a purpose for my life.
So… If you’re headed towards the brink, know that there is a way back.
I’ve learned that it doesn’t all come back.
But in all the change, loss and frustration, I never lost my faith. I never stopped believing.
I wouldn’t trade the lessons learned. I’ve learned things I never thought I would have to learn.
There are still layers to restore. Some will never be the same.
I am in the process of making a copy of all my posts so that there will be a hard copy to pass on to my grandsons and future grandchildren upon my passing. I want them to have something that was from me and my heart. Maybe 50 years from now they will read it and smile.
One thing I’ve always tried to do is share my journey and to do so honestly.
Sometimes that’s not for the best.
Thanks again to all those that have extended kind words and played along.
Some footprints leave a deeper imprint than others… those are the ones that later tell a story.
Life is never how you draw it up and sometimes that is a very good thing.
Until next time.
The other day, a co-worker asked me some questions about my career in Education and my time of being a principal back in the day. When I began talking about it, I suddenly felt myself getting stressed. I unconsciously began fidgeting with my hands, my voice changed slightly, and my breathing became shallow.
It was like I was back in my old office again.
I quickly answered his basic question and laughed it off with a line I have used for some time now,
“That was 25 years ago, and Mr. Lee died a long time ago.”
I get different reactions when I say that. Some get it… they realize that that was a long time ago. I am no longer that person.
I have often told my wife that I have blocked out most of the memories of that period of my life when I was a teacher and principal of a Christian School in Fremont, Ohio. Although she doesn’t really believe it, I hold to the fact that the statement is true. I have watched videos that were taken during that period of me speaking and I don’t recognize the person that they say is me. I don’t know who that person is. It surely is not me. It bears a resemblance of me, but I struggle to remember being a part of any of the events.
For me, the years I spent there are much like watching a documentary on the History Channel. I remember being taught that the events took place but I am not part of it. I vivid memories of the time I was in college. My days at Liberty University are clear and I have wonderful memories of college life and being part of a missions team that traveled across America and around the world. I can remember specific events and even conversations I had with people. I remember and think of these memories often, but memories of the school not so much.
In truth, I know that the memories are there. I choose to block them from being in my daily thought process. It is better to leave them where they are. When I run into former students of mine, my memories of them are still stuck in the 80’s and 90’s. They have not moved on in life and in my mind they are still in 8th grade and not the 40-year-old that stands before me. When they address me as Mr. Lee, I quietly ask them to call me David. Again… Mr. Lee died a long time ago.
When my co-worker asked me those questions, I was shocked at how easily I plunged back into that old reality. It has been over twenty-five years since I was Mr. Lee.
I post that as a simple statement of the fact. If you think I make that statement as a reflection of something I view as negative, let me make something very clear… I don’t.
I don’t view it as a negative time in my life at all.
No offense to any former student or staff member during my tenure there. It is just some of those memories I’d really just rather not remember. That includes both good and bad memories.
I hold that time in my life as very precious and it took years for me to be able to move on. It took me years to come to grips with the loss of my ministry. When these memories are dredged up in my heart and mind I am reminded of the times I was in my office working or in the classroom teaching. Those were the times I cherished and when I had clarity that I was doing what I was intended to do at that time. I was confident that I was doing what God wanted me to do.
That was and is a wonderful place to be. Being confident that you were doing exactly what you were supposed to do. Not many people ever get to really experience that in their life. I am grateful for the 12 years I spent there. I cannot deny that there is a part of me where that office still resides deep inside of me. Even after all these years, I still have a space in my soul that defined who I once was.
I ran from God for a long time. As a matter of fact, I ran from Him for almost as long as I was in the ministry. Twelve long years. I avoided anything that had to do with my life as Mr. Lee. I worked real hard to kill him. I could not find any peace with God. I could not forgive others and more importantly I could not forgive myself for what I allowed to happen. I made sure that Mr. Lee was buried before I stopped running.
A prodigal son. We all know one, have been one, or are waiting for one to come home.
Then a miracle happened. No… I did not walk on water and no water was turned into wine. But it was a miracle in my life and it’s significance could not be any less than of those. I found a place where I could heal and I did not have to carry the baggage that I carried for all of those years. I think of it in terms of being spiritually rescued. I had lost hope and a life line was thrown to me when I was about to go under for the last time. Grace Community Church of Fremont, Ohio was that refuge that I needed and when I felt there was no place for me to turn to, I felt the warm embrace of fellow believer’s allowing me to sit in church without the judgement and disdain I had felt in other places.
I needed to sit. I needed to heal. I had felt so betrayed by the pastor’s I had worked with in the past that I had sworn that I would never be “pastored” again. After running so long on my own, I realized that I needed to be under a pastor’s teaching and leadership once again. I found that in Pastor Kevin Pinkerton.
So I sat. I took the time to sit and be still, heal and be forgiven. Slowly God began working in my heart and I started to have forgiveness towards those I had felt had done me wrong. I started to write this blog in 2008, and there is no doubt that for the past seven years it has almost filled the hole in my heart.
Finding a place to heal and recover from failure was a miracle to me. We’re foolish to assume that miracles don’t happen anymore. I have learned that miracles come out of a gut-wrenching need and your last flashes of hope. If were not this way, we would not think of it as a miracle but as something common and not from God. All things would then just be taken for granted. Finding a place to sit and heal, finding a place to forgive and be forgiven is nothing short of a miracle and I will never take it for granted. Still it took years to forgive myself.
Walking on the water means burning doubt and the terror of roaring seas, it’s not an option you choose for fun. It’s what you pick when you have to know that Jesus is big enough, and that He can come through when it’s devastating. Believing in miracles is one of life’s hard lessons I have learned.
I choose to still believe.
It is with that aspect that I still wonder what the future holds for me. What is next for me? As I wrote a few weeks ago in my post, The Next Big Thing I am no longer looking for something “BIG” to happen for me. But I can say that I am open to whatever God would have me do. I am looking for open doors of opportunity.
Mr. Lee died a long time ago. I want to leave him buried where he is. I have no desire to bring him back. In so many ways… I am a much better person than he was all those years ago.
The next stage of my life will not completely take the old memories away, but it will continue to redefine them and I can always pray the prayer from Psalm 139:22-23,
Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Try me and know my thoughts.
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Because of recent events, I have to admit my hands have been full of rocks.
I’ve wanted to throw them at certain people for quite some time now. Every night after spending a short time scrolling down my FACEBOOK wall, I was adding names to my list of people who I felt needed a stone chucked in their direction.
I was getting rather upset. My hands were packed full of rocks and I had quite a pile of them at my feet just waiting for me to pick up. To say that I was ready to begin catapulting them across the wide spectrum of people I disagreed with would be an understatement. Many of my rocks were destined for those I have serious differences with. Particularly with those that have different beliefs than me. But some of these rocks I held were intended for some fellow believers. Specifically those fellow believer’s that are part of the ill-defined segment known vicariously as “Christian Millennials”. Many of whom choose to take an opposing side of issues that are not in line with how they were raised. Many turning their back on the very foundational principles that their parents taught them and then they spend most of their time and thoughts on bashing (throwing rocks) at this same foundation. Many taking joy when a fellow believer fails in their Spiritual walk.
Defined as those that are 24 to 36 or so, depending on who you read. They’ve been called the “Me, Me, Me Generation” by Time magazine. There is a common belief that they feel “entitled” by just about everyone. The bottom line is that these “millennials” believe they are right on just about every question of life. Even if they do not think they are right, they just know that you are wrong.
And they are leaving the church in droves.
Now it would appear that I am making too broad of a statement and painting a picture that all people in this group are the same… they are not. Many are searching for the truth and the church truly does need to find common ground with them. Also, before I come across as just throwing judgmental hand grenades at them, please read this to the end.
It is said that 70 percent of those raised in the church disengage from it in their 20s. One-third of Americans under 30 now claim “no belief in God or at least not the God they were raised to believe in.”
So there are 80 million millennialists (give or take) in the U.S.—and approximately the same number of suggestions for how to bring them back to the church. But most of the proposals I’ve read fall into two camps.
The first goes something like this: The church needs to be more hip and relevant. Drop stodgy traditions. Play louder music. Hire pastors with tattoos and fauxhawks. Few come right out and advocate for this approach, but it is clear they do not want their parents church.
Others demand a more fundamental change. They insist the church soften its positions on key doctrines and social issues. They say, our culture is secularized. Let’s get with the times in order to attract the younger generation, they say. Let’s marginalize God and/or Jesus Christ as simply our “buddy” to help us out (with a wink and a smile) when we are in trouble and that everyone can live their life as they wish regardless of eternal consequence. They believe we must abandon core beliefs and restrictive moral teachings of the traditional church. They believe the Bible is intended as a guideline, not necessarily absolute truth. They tend to question every story found in the Bible. It surly could not have happened the way the Bible said it did and if you do believe the Bible as fact, you are a racist, bigoted, hypocritical, uneducated homophobe. More importantly… you are just plain wrong.
They really believe that Christianity must “change or die.”
I have issues with both approaches.
I want a pastor that is relevent and up to date with the issues of life for all members of my church. I want him to be aware of current events but he doesn’t have to look like me. He shouldn’t have to look like them either. Chasing just the “coolness” factor at church won’t work.
I have horrible memories of a pastor lecturing me at summer camp when I was a teenager about the evils of a rock band that had not put out an album in 10 years. He came to the “service” dressed like me and tried to use language that he thought would relate to me. He had no clue and more importantly he was trying to relate and be “cool” but failed miserably.
In my experience, churches that try to be cool end up with a pathetic facsimile of what was cool about 5 years ago. No one wants to see a 60-year-old pastor acting like he is 25. It never comes off well. Does this mean that a pastor is “done” in his ministry in his 50’s or heaven forbid his 40’s? What will be “cool” when these “Christian Millennialist’s” turn 50? Will they be as relevant as they present themselves today? I think not. What will these, all-knowing (but have no real life experience) people do when the next generation comes along and has a different way doing things and have their own version of being “cool”? Will they see error in their ways? Or will it be too late to even matter?
The second tack is worse. Not only will we end up compromising core beliefs, we will shrink our churches as well. The advocates of this approach seem to have missed what happened to mainline liberal churches over the last few decades. Adopting liberal theologies and culturally acceptable beliefs has drastically reduced their attendance. When the premise of your take on Biblical accuracy of truth starts with “God couldn’t have” or “God didn’t” it is a slippery slope to complete unbelief.
In addition, I think that in solely conceptualizing God as a nice, kind, “Jesus is my best friend,” lover of kittens and puppies way that we have, we lose some of the reverence for the righteousness of a Holy God. Make no mistake, there will be eternal consequences for the way we live our lives.
While I am still coming to terms with how to exactly handle my inner feelings in dealing with them, I still believe that people like me and those of the church need to find common ground with those that carry these beliefs.
Now back to my hand full of rocks…
I had enough. I was tired of seeing these people getting away with throwing rocks at other people who I felt did not deserve the bashing they were receiving. It was now my turn. As I scrolled down my FACEBOOK feed and I was picking up more rocks and taking more names to receive them. I was going to respond to every post I disagreed with. Everyone was going to know what these people were really like. I wanted to embarrass them. I wanted retaliation. I wanted to prove them wrong.
I threw a couple of rocks at a few of them.
But as I raised my arm to sling another of my well-deserved, verbal judgemental stones… a still small voice in my heart said:
“Before you throw another one… Maybe we need to have a little conversation as a reminder?”
Arguing, I began to tell the Lord that I was justified! They were wrong and I was right and it was important that everyone know!
As I thought about justifying my argument to set people straight, I was reminded of the story of a woman caught in the very act of adultery – which in Jesus’ culture was justifiably punishable by stoning. Jesus faced this mob that was eager to stone this woman. He put a stop to it with a simple challenge: “anyone who has no sin in their life should step forward and throw the first stone”. Jesus didn’t say, “If you’ve never committed adultery, pelt her now, as hard as you can!”
Nope. It was if you’re without sin. Without any sin.
Sin is sin is sin. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.
Reminding myself of this story, I let a few stones drop from my hand.
I’ve never molested a child or shot anyone or taken something that didn’t belong to me, but guess what? I’m still a fallible human being. I’ve messed up. A lot. I am not perfect and I need grace and forgiveness.
I can’t throw that “without sin” stone. Can you?
A few more stones fell from my hand to the ground.
I pondered three Biblical truths:
- No one is without sin. (Romans 3:23)
- Treat others as you want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12)
- Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)
I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome. It’s not my job.
Regardless of my “feelings” or “thoughts”, it is not my job to stone those who I think are wrong.
Maybe this is the common ground we need to have. Instead of feeling like we need to throw stones at those we disagree with maybe we all need a reminder of our own sin. It is impossible to be self-righteous when you recognize the sin in your own life. I think we will struggle to judge others when the grace that covers our sin is front and center on your mind.
I dropped the remaining stones to the ground.
I am going back inside my glass house now. First to wash my hands, secondly to wash my windows because it seems I haven’t been seeing things clearly.
Again, I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome.
Throwing stones…why does it seem as if everyone is guilty of doing this? Why are we so quick to judge?
Whatever you’re thinking of throwing… just don’t.
Drop your stone.
Life is a book of pages.
We laugh. We cry. We smile. We stumble. We stand. We fail. We succeed. We win and we suffer loss.
The goal in life is to have one perfect memory that is all about those moments, big or small, that make you wish they’d last forever. Those moments you want to stop in time, when everything feels perfect, even for just a split-second.
Snapshots of the mind. Moments to treasure forever.
It is easy to bookmark the great things that happen in our life. We do not struggle to remember the events in our life that are good. We can remember almost every single detail of good life events. Great memories of graduations, engagements, weddings and almost every detail of our child’s life from birth to this very moment. These are easy to bookmark and if we are lucky enough, we are able to put a few of these pages together to create a nice “chapter” in our book of life memories.
The sad part is that we all have bookmarked pages of life of things we do not want to remember.
Life is full of these bookmarked moments.
Life is complicated. It starts before we’re ready, it continues while we’re still trying to figure out the point of it. And it ends before we’ve worked out just what to do.
I’ve learned that in an instant life can change.
Just like that.
No rewind button.
No pause or stop button.
Suddenly we are scrambling to “bookmark” memories as fast as we can in our minds.
Sadly, I have had to this a few times in my life.
At 9 years old, I had to scramble to bookmark memories of a 14-year-old brother that was taken from our family in a car-train accident. I can remember almost every minute of that fateful day he was taken from us. But I think that over time when we block out the pain of loss, it causes us to lose some of the precious memories. These “bookmarks” have faded with time and now at 54, I struggle to remember him.
I lost my grandfather in 1986. I have great bookmarked memories of him. He was a great influence on me and there isn’t a day I don’t wish I could talk to him one more time. The funny thing is that I have some bookmarked memories of him that I choose not to open in my book of life memories. I systematically only open the pages that make him larger than life. I only open the pages that fit the image I have of him in my mind. Those pages of him acting poorly or negatively, although bookmarked, will remained closed and locked. Never to be opened again in the confines of my mind. I guess we all do that on some level. When someone dies, we freely open the “good” pages and quietly put those bookmarks that would taint the memory of a loved one under lock and key.
Many of the bookmarks in my life were influenced by Bryan Blakely, my childhood best friend. The first pillar in my life. The days of my early childhood were influenced by his presence in my life. Not much happened in my life from the age of 5 to 16 that Bryan and I did not experience together. Somewhere along the age of 16, we started to drift into different directions. Over the next 30 years whenever our paths crossed, we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets in Oak Harbor, Ohio. He died in June of 2009.
My best friend from my high school years took his own life.
Now that is a bookmark that I would rather not have to open. I was devastated. I was confused. I was filled with questions. I was overwhelmed with regret. I was angry. I was ashamed. I was frustrated. I was hurt. I was all of these things and more.
I will forever be grateful for spending 40 years of my life with the pleasure of knowing Steve Schueren. Steve was my closest high school friend. I looked up to Steve and I will always hold him in high regard as a man of God. All the bookmarked memories I have shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered. All of us who knew Steve know that he will live forever in our hearts.
About the age of 16, I was introduced to a man who would become so influential throughout my teen and adult years. He grew to be not only be my friend but he was no less a father figure in my life. Our father/son relationship lasted for years. Bob Emrich loved me as a son and he loved me unconditionally. God took him home after a battle with cancer. He wasn’t perfect but he taught me so much and I still miss him everyday. There is no doubt of his influence in my life. Forever bookmarked in my memory.
One would think after reading this, I would have this bookmarking thing down. But like most people, I move from day-to-day not really paying attention to how quickly things could change.
This past week I was reminded once again of making every effort to bookmark memories on the pages of my life. Phil Disney is someone who I traveled with when I was in college. As some of you may know, I traveled with a singing team all over the United States and the the world when I was a student at Liberty University. Phil was a member of the same team I was on. To say that Phil and I are great friends would be an overstatement. We have the common bond of similar bookmarked memories of our time in college. We are friends on Facebook and every now and then we may comment to each other on something we post. But last week, I was shocked when I heard that his wife had suddenly passed away.
There it is again… life can change in a moment.
By all accounts, Jana was a wonderful wife, mother and friend. More importantly, she was a true example of a Godly woman. I spent a few hours this past week reading all of the comments and memories of her. What a wonderful legacy she left upon her family and her friends. All of these memories are the bookmarks that each and every one that knew her will retain for the rest of their lives.
Another reminder to pay attention to all of our life moments because it all can change in an instant.
Why does it take big kicks in the behind for us to realize what’s important in life? Most of the time, I believe, it is because we get caught up in chasing things in life. Whether it be money, materials, certain experiences we think will solve our problems or even people. Sometimes we get so engaged with everything in the future or in the past and what it can bring us, that we forget about all that is right in front of our faces.
Are you paying full attention to the things you love? To each moment? What memories have you bookmarked in your memory? I implore you to start with one thing today. One thing you want to experience fully. Maybe something that will be with your wife, husband, your children or grandchildren.
Maybe you need to make yourself available to allow a loved one to make a bookmarked memory with you. Remember your children are making bookmark memories with you as well.
I realize more and more how incredibly blessed my life has been and I know a good part of that must pay tribute to the people that surround my life, past, present and future.
Lives that vary so greatly, the people I went to school with formed a good part of who I am today. The good, the bad and all of the in between!
Time goes quickly and some stay in touch more than others, but there’s a bond in growing up in the small town of Oak Harbor, Ohio or in the time spent in a small Baptist Church and Christian School that only those there can understand. I suppose it’s the pros and cons of living with a small group of people that knits our hearts together. The losses that take their toll on such a small community can seem larger than life because of the percentage they take away from the whole. They can feel like holes that are irreparable. But at the same time the wonderful memories of victories are celebrated as monumental events by one and all and are remembered fondly.
My challenge is for anyone reading this is to take the time to make memory bookmarks in the confines of the hearts and minds of your family. In turn you will be able to do the same, before it’s too late.
If something were to happen and in that instant when everything would change for my family and friends, I guess there wouldn’t be much more to say than this…