Month: October 2013

Life Lessons

“Get up!!!  We’re leaving in 30 minutes.”

“What?”

“You heard me. Hurry up!”

I was home for the summer from college. I was staying the night at my church youth leaders house.  Bob was up to something, it was 4:30 in the morning but I’d learned by then not to ask questions. I threw some clothes on and met him at the car 30 minutes later.

“Where are we going?”

“Get in.”

We drove in silence for the most part. I finally had enough gumption to ask again,  “Where are we going?”  He just sat there dI75riving… in silence… with a silly grin on his face.  I couldn’t help but laugh and say, “You’re crazy. You know that, right?” The surprise was a blast, but it was also driving me nuts. “So you’re not gonna tell me anything, are you?”

Nothing. 

Eventually,  we reached Interstate 75 and headed south… I tried to use this to pry out some details, but his lips were sealed.

I slowly drifted off to sleep and the life lesson had already begun. I just didn’t know it yet.

Bob pulled the car into a rest stop a few hours later.  “Get Up!!! Your turn to drive.” he shouted at me as he shook me out of a deep sleep.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

No response.

I moved over into the driver’s seat, “Destination?” I asked getting agitated.

With that silly grin still on his face, he pulled his hat down over his eyes and pretended to drift off to sleep without saying a word.

“Des-ti-na-tion?”, I said to him,  even more agitated.

I put the car in gear and started to drive onto the freeway waiting for him to answer. 

Finally he did…

“You don’t know where you’re going?”, he asked.

“No, I don’t!!!  Could you…?”

this wayHe interrupted me and said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, I can’t help you.”

I asked him, “What do you mean and what was this was all that about?”.

He laughed at me and said, “This is priceless! The look on your face is perfect!  Just like I planned it.”.

I’m sure I did look stupid and puzzled.

“I don’t get it.” I stammered.

“Consider it my first gift to you.”  he responded.

He turned in to me and took a more serious tone.

”David, you’re an adult now. The world’s about to change for you, and you gotta be ready.   When you’re a kid, you go wherever somebody else tells you to go. You don’t have much of a choice. But as an adult, not only do you get to choose, you have to choose.   If you don’t, life or someone else will choose for you, and you probably won’t like what they come up with. You gotta know your destination and have a plan for getting there.”

I took it all in as he continued. 

”It’s a lot like planning a trip. What’s your destination? How are you gonna get there; who’s going with you? You gotta know what it’s gonna cost and ask yourself if you’re willing to pay that price.   You won’t always be, and you’ll choose a new destination. Once you decide, you gotta get packed and ready.  Do you have everything you’ll need once you get there?  Are you equipped?  If not, what are you gonna do about it?”

We kept talking throughout the rest of the drive. He shared some times in his life when he’d planned well, and some times he didn’t.  He told me where he thought I might be headed and we talked through the questions he’d laid out for me. bob emrich1 (2)

By the time we got to Florida, I’d learned a lesson that has guided me ever since. It’s up to me. No one’s going to hand me the life I’m here to live. If I want it, I need a plan. 

Of course, I have lived a lot of life since then, I’m well aware that even when we have a plan, things don’t always work out as we’d thought. But I’m also convinced that course correction is much easier than flying aimlessly, no particular destination in mind, hoping we end up somewhere nice.

It was one of my most memorable trips I have ever taken – a great trip, just Bob and me.

Cancer took Bob from his family and me over four years ago.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him.  I still haven’t erased his phone number off my phone.  I keep it there and try to fool myself into believing that I could call him and have a conversation just like the one we had on this trip all those years ago.

life-lessonsSitting in that car trying to figure out where we were going and having him just look at me with the stupid grin on his face, just waiting for the right moment to teach me a lesson.  I’ll carry that moment with me for the rest of my life.

I find that the lessons that Bob taught back then are more and more important to me with the passing of time.

Where are you going? What’s your destination?

When and how do you plan to get there?

Who’s going with you?  What will it cost you to try?  Are you willing to pay that price?

Are you equipped for the journey ahead?  If not, what are you gonna do about it?

Life lessons.

 

More Than Just Words On A Page

The other day I was talking to a good friend of mine about blogging. He was asking if I took a special class or studied it in college. I had to be honest and tell him that my English teachers would find it ratherhands-on-keyboard hilarious if they knew I was keeping a blog and writing on a regular basis. Let’s just say I wasn’t the best student (as evidence by the frequent rate with which I destroy grammar and the English language on this blog).  Sure, I’ve dreamed of writing a book one day, but whenever my thoughts get semi-serious, I bail. A blog is so much less intimidating.

So why even keep a blog?

In 1862 a 16-year-old kid named William Ralph Featherston put pen to paper to write a love letter of sorts. I like to think that if blogs existed back then, William would have just written a post and clicked “publish.” But there were no blogs so his letter went unnoticed. William would pass away at the age of 27. Three years after William passed away, a man named Adoniram Gordon put music to William’s “Love Letter” and got it published in a hymnal the same year. You may know the love letter by it’s official title…..

My Jesus, I Love Thee

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.

I love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.

In Mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Near as I can tell, William Ralph Featherston has no idea that his love letter ever made the impact on the world that it did. Just today, more-than-just-wordsthe words of that love letter have been rocking my world as I heard the song. I’m just one of the many, many people who cherish this old hymn. I’ll never get to meet William this side of heaven. I’ll never be able to thank him (or Adoniram Gordon) for putting it together. Yet it’s words have impacted my life.

His poem is so much more than words on a page.

At the end of this road, I guess that’s the goal of this little piece of real estate on the internet too. I don’t have a platform, vision or even mission statement. I’m not looking to write books or sell advertising space. I guess I just put it to paper (or the web) like William did all those years ago.

My greatest hope is that my kids and grandchildren will forever have an archive in my own words to look back on.

Hopefully they see my heart.

Hopefully they read my thoughts.

Hopefully they’ll know that for me… what I write is more than just words on a page.

In 7th Grade, Who You Are… is What Other 7th Graders Say You Are

Face it.  We all were a long way from kindergarten.  We were slowly learning that growing up isn’t always easy. 

It was 1973 and I was twelve years old.  I was a seventh grader at Rocky Ridge Jr. High and this school year was going to be significant for me.  This school year I wanted to change.  I wanted to impress everyone.  I was no longer an elementary student.  I had arrived… I was a seventh grader… bulletproof and 10 ft tall.  Well… actually 5’1″ and 85 lbs. but still ready to take on the dangerous 33world that is known as Junior High.

I spent the entire night before trying to pick out which clothes I was going to wear on that first day of school.  Like many events in my life, I tried to imagine what it was going to be like.  I was armed with my witty comebacks and cut downs that are typical of the Junior High language.  There was going to be a “new” me and I was sure I could pull it off.   I wanted to be part of the “In Crowd”…the “Cool Kids”. All I had to do is get off to the right start and impress them.

There are a lot of things about junior high life that might seem simple to an outsider, but they’re not. Take the 15 minutes before homeroom every morning. What you do with those fifteen minutes says pretty much everything there is to say about you as a human being. 

If you were cool, you had places to go, people to see  and if you weren’t, you’d start to wonder who you’ll sit by at lunch.

Regardless of where you went to school, a junior high school cafeteria is like a microcosm of the world. The goal is to protect yourself, and safety comes in numbers. More specifically “groups”.

You would have your group of “cool kids”,  a group of “smart kids”, you have your “athletes group”, and in those days, of course, you had your “hoods” and your “nerds” groups.  Then you had a very small percentage of kids that did not fit anywhere in these groups.  That is where you would find me… ostersized by all groups… even the hoods and the nerds.  I just didn’t belong.

In our little school in Ohio, these groups were even more splintered by the fact of where you lived. I was a “town” kid and there were rules that you had to follow.  For example, there were no less than five different subgroups to each these larger groups.

Let me explain… you had:

  • Kids that lived in town. (Oak Harbor)
  • Kids that lived in Graytown.
  • Kids that lived in Rocky Ridge. (Ridge Runners)
  • Kids that lived along the Toussaint River. (Toussangers)
  • Kids that lived South of the Portage River.

Note to the reader:  It is not my intention to cause any strife among those that belong to any one of these subgroups, both past and present… but this is how I remember it. 

Kids from Graytown, generally accepted the Toussangers and the Ridge Runners, but did not get along with the in town kids. Toussangers did not get along with the Ridge Runners, but accepted the in towners. Ridge Runners did not get along with the in town kids. As for the kids from south of town and the Portage River…they were not accepted by any these groups.

Now that is how it was in the lunchroom…but make no mistake, only people from Oak Harbor can say bad things about fellow Oak Harborites.  Like your family, you can say what you will about your brother but have some one else say something and there is a price to be paid.

So, as a fact of my junior high school, who you are is defined more or less, by who you were sitting next to during lunch.

In short, my initial 15 minutes in my home room that first morning did not go well and I found myself trying to find a place to sit in the lunchroom.  After what seemed as an eternity, I saw an empty seat. It was a seat next to the same kids I hung out with from my neighborhood. I had not made the earth shattering change that I thought I would pull off.

In 7th grade, who you are… is what other 7th graders say you are.

As I reflect on my life in Junior High in 1973, I am reminded that hometowns are like fadowntownnewmily – the shortcomings, the flaws, the arguments, the disappointments are all there but it is the love and the loyalty that what make us who we are.  In this world of inconsistency and doubt, I have learned that home is what you make it.  Most small towns in the late ’60’s and early 70’s were all about the same.  They were stuck somewhere between a fast changing world outside it’s boundaries and the need to hold on to the values that made that small town special.  Sure, some towns may have been a little bigger, and some may be have been a little greener… there was only one real difference. Only one of them… was yours and Oak Harbor, Ohio was mine.

The funny thing, forty years later, I still have fond memories of a little town in Northwest Ohio but it’s hard to remember the names of kids I spent so much time trying to impress.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

1973.

A lot happened that year.

The New York Yankees were purchased by a Cleveland businessman, George Steinbrenner for 10 Million (Really!).

A president started the year with the fanfare of the inauguration only to end the year stating, “I am not a crook!” …it was the beginning of the end for his presidency.

Roe vs. Wade overturns a States right to ban abortion.

The world’s first cell phone is used for first time.

Pink Floyd’s DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, one of rock’s landmark albums is released.

The World Trade Center (Twin Towers) opens in New York City.

George Foreman defeats Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight World Boxing Championship, and the Miami Dolphins win the Super Bowl after completing the NFL’s only perfect season.

The Partridge Family introduced us to David Cassidy and Danny Bonaduce and Flip Wilson entertained America with the last of a dying breed … the variety show.

Archie Bunker introduced controversial topics and social issues each week on the show, All In the Family. These episodes usually ended up being a backhanded way of soapbox preaching of a liberal agenda. Shocking in its day, but by today’s standard it was mild.

And finally… we were shown the end of innocence on television, as the networks bombarded us with violent images of the Vietnam War as we sat at our dinner tables each night.

That my friends… was 1973.