Month: February 2014

Who Are You Meant to Be?

2014 is a weird time to be alive.

We’re more connected than ever, more aware of what others are doing with their lives than at any other point in history. The rise of social media and its integration into our daily lives make it so. There is no escape from it and there is no going back to way things used to be. There was a time when I could escape into my own little world and dream and pretend to be anyone I wanted to be.

Everywhere I turn in life I see confused people. People acting less and less like their true selves and more like other people whose lives they desperately crave. Facebook, its showcasing and highlighting of people’s lives, every minute detail, make it difficult not to compare and envy others. In truth, this is nothing new. 

In the attempt to give full disclosure, I spent the majority of my days of youth filled with visions of being Brooks Robinson, Johnny Unitas, Harold McGilton and Paul McCartney all rolled up into one person. Who are these people? Well they were people I dreamed of being at one point in my life. 

Once upon a time, I tried my best to be Brooks Robinson. Brooks Robinson was a Hall of Fame 3rd BasemanBrooks for the Baltimore Orioles. Knowscann as The Human Vacuum Cleaner, Brooks Robinson established a standard of excellence for modern-day third basemen. He played 23 seasons for the Orioles, setting Major League career records for games, putouts, assists, chances, double plays and fielding percentage. A clutch hitter, Robinson totaled 268 career home runs, at one time an American League record for third basemen. Robinson earned the league’s MVP Award in 1964 and the World Series MVP in 1970, when he hit .429 and made a collection of defensive gems.  I did not have to play very many games to realize that my dream to be the next Brooks Robinson wasn’t going to happen.

The same could be said for Johnny Unitas.  As a Sophomore in high school weighing ijohnnyun at just a Footballsmidgen  over 100 lbs, my career as a football player was short-lived. But that did not stop me from wanting to be just like him. “The Golden Arm” as he was known, amassed numerous records in his 17 years as the Quarter Back for the Baltimore Colts. Unitas’ career statistics include 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns passing. A genuine team player, Unitas was a first- or second-team All-NFL choice eight years, selected NFL Player of the Year three times, and named to 10 Pro Bowls. That definitely wasn’t going to happen in my life.

I have written the most about my dream to be just like Harold McGilton. Who was Harold?  He was a Sprint Car Racer from Fremont, Ohio. Throughout his racing career, Harold won many features and set numerous track records. He was a two-time Track Champion at Fremont Speedway. To this very day I still dream about what it would be like to be strapped into a Sprint car and driving it into a 100 MPH slide through the turns of our local dirt track. Again… this dream would not become a reality.

Seriously. I spent a good portion of my younger life searching for a role that would encompass a little bit of these people into what I would do with my life but I never found it. When you are just not talented enough it kinda hinders the possibility of it happening. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to be the next Paul McCartney, but hearing my recorded voice told me that just wasn’t in the cards either. So I did what all die-hard, race car drivin, rock star football playin third basemen wannabees do. I quit trying.

What I needed was a good dose of self-analysis. I needed to figure out why I was here and what I have to give to this world we live in.  I had to stop trying to be someone I wasn’t ever going to be.

Have you ever lived a portion of your life dreaming about being someone you could not become?  Have you dreamed about doing something that just wasn’t possible? I am sure we all have.

The question remains, how many of us have been able to do exactly what you were meant to do?  Have you honestly been able to live a portion of your life where you were able to act upon that which you are passionate about? Have you ever been able to “be” what you were meant to be?

As an example, this past Sunday morning I watched the worship team at Grace Community (Click on Link) absolutely crush the worship set. We are beyond blessed with some incredibly talented people who serve on our Worship team. Every week they usher those that visit Grace Community into a heart of worship. They do it for 3 straight services.  Each one as strong as the next.  They are living what they are made to do. You can’t miss it. It oozes out of them. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.

Here is a video from this past Christmas as the Worship Team was practicing the opening to our Christmas Services.

Thank you to our worship team for living in your sweet spot and doing what you were made for. It inspires others on so many levels. It goes beyond music and lyrics. It’s a contagious passion. You were made for it and you are living it.

As the years passed in my life, I am happy to say that for many years of my life, I was able to be Purposeand to do exactly what I felt I was meant to do in this life.  I found my path and I did exactly what God wanted me to do.

My prayer is that you find your path and be who you were meant to be. 

We all want to make the world a better place. We all want to mean something to other people. What that looks like differs for all of us, and sometimes it changes from one day, one month, and one year to the next.

But it’s up to us all individually to wake up every day and decide that those intentions are what really matter. It’s not the money, approval, acclaim, or anything else that might distract us from what we believe to be true. What matters is who God wants us to be, and what we do about it today.

Who do you want to be–and what will you do about it today?

 

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Forever… Begins One Day at a Time

No one in my life has demonstrated to me the best of what love and marriage can be more than my friends, BBarry and Denisearry and Denise Williams.  In a hundred ways, they’ve given me something to reach for. They have no idea of the impact that they have had on my life and they also have no clue that I am writing this about them. On purpose, I did not ask permission to use them as an example. So, before I go on too far… I want to apologize to them for calling them out in front of anyone who will read this.

So here is the story…

It was 1982. It was the start of another year of college and I was moving into dorm four on the campus of Liberty University. I was nervous, as always, about who my roommates were going to be.  I walked with some reluctance down the hall to my assigned room because I had a bad experience the previous year and I was hoping to get a good roommate for that upcoming school year.

I cautiously opened the door and stepped into the room.  It was dark and there was a small desk lamp on at one the desks in the room. I could see that someone was sitting there writing a letter. He didn’t immediately look up when the door swung open but he continued to write for a few seconds more before putting the pen down and introducing himself to me. I introduced myself and waited for his story to be told.

The first few days in the dorm is always a time of filtering.  What do I mean by this? I have always found it very interesting during my college experience I would often hear inflated stories of how great someone was in sports.  Not all, but I was always amazed at how many of my fellow dorm-mates claimed they were “All-State” athletes or some other champion of grandeur that was woostersupposed to impress me. I had heard it all over the years. I would assume it is tied to some people’s attempt to re-invent themselves after high school. 

So, as I stood there in my dorm room, I would always ask the two important questions. “Where are you from?” and “Did you play sports in High School?”  Yes…these were the all important questions that needed to be answered as early as possible because it would be these two answers you would have to deal with for the remainder of the year.  The previous year my room mates were from Florida and I was immediately separated from the conversation for the most part. Apparently the people from Florida never really had room for someone from Ohio. 

I asked the important questions and Barry proceeded to answer them.  To my surprise he was from Ohio… I was immediately relieved. Also he was a Cleveland sports fan and I slowly began to think that this year’s room-mate would turn out a lot better than last year.  I then pressed him about where he went to high school and if he played sports or what was his claim to fame. Barry was reluctant to say anything but I continued to press him for answers and then he finally told me he played baseball and also was a pretty good golfer and boxer.  AND…there it was… he didn’t “look” like an athlete to me but hey I was used to the stories and at least he was from Ohio. That was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted from that very first day until this very day…well at least until he reads this and changes his mind.

In time, Barry proved that his athletic talent was not a lie or an exaggeration.  He truly was a great ball player and golfer.  I never wanted to take the risk to find out if he was a great boxer.

In those first few days of getting to know each other, I found out something else about my            new-found friend.  Each and every day I would come back to my room and there Barry would be sitting at his desk wrMailboxiting a letter.  Every night when we went to eat dinner he would mail this letter. I don’t mean most days, I mean EVERY DAY this happened. After a week or so, I asked what was up with the letter writing.  I was wondering if he was writing his mommy everyday or what.  I think at first he was a little reluctant to tell me but that is when I found out about Denise.

He wrote her every day.  I could not figure out what he possibly could say to her in a letter everyday.  For the record these were not “notes”, these were two and three page letters. He was faithful and consistent.  Every day was that same process and as far as I know it continued up until the day they were married.          

Fast forward fifteen years later and I found myself in the mess of a divorce.  Barry knew what was going on with me but he did not know my reasoning.

Whether I asked for them or not, I knew I was about to get some answers, so I was honest with him.  I unloaded all of my issues and problems of my marriage on him and at the end, I asked him (trying to justify my actions), “How can you be sure you and Denise will last forever?”

Barry responded, “I can’t.  You can only be sure it’s going to last forever a day at a time.  You make it to forever bit by bit.”

Good answer, but not good enough.  “Okay, but how can you trust that who she is today is who she’ll be down the road?  How do you know she won’t destroy your heart someday…or that you won’t destroy hers?”

He answered…

“That’s the wrong question, David.  That question will keep you from ever fully trusting or committing, in or out of marriage.  You should be asking, ‘Can I trust her today?  Can she trust me today?’.  Then do what it takes to be able to answer yes.  You ask today, and again tomorrow Two gold rings - reflected candlesand the day after that… That’s how you get to forever.”

The next words out of Barry’s mouth have become a compass for me. 

They’re simple, so don’t miss the gift they carry.

He said, “David, 100% of the time that marriages get in trouble, it starts with people saying to themselves, ‘My needs aren’t being met.  She’s overlooking me.  He’s not doing enough.  I deserve better.’  Once you start looking at things in terms of what you are or aren’t getting, you’re on a dangerous road.”

“You wanna know why Denise and I have something few people have?  Here’s our secret.  Every day I wake up and I ask myself, ‘How can I serve her today?  What does she need?  What can I do to make her life better?’  Something always comes to mind, and I do it.”

But the thing is, she does the same thing.  She wakes up and asks herself, ‘How can I serve him today?  What does he need?  What can I do to make his life better?’ Something comes to mind and she does it.”

“Everyday?” I asked as the memories came flooding back of the letters written everyday to the love of his life.

“Every single day, both of us make sure our needs are being met. Neither one of us are focused on getting what we want or deserve.  There’s no need to fight for it if someone else is fighting the battle for you. And neither of us keeps a list of all the ways the other has dropped the ball.  As long as you’re focused on what you’re owed, you’re not focused enough on what you’re there to give.”

It took me a few years to get beyond the surface of his words, because I did indeed get divorced and paid the price for the actions that I did not do in my first marriage.

Today I have been happily remarried now for 15 years and Barry’s words filter through my mind often.  I have applied his logic and I wish I could say that I get this right all the time.  The truth is I still mess up and forget the important advice Barry gave me all those years ago.

I have so far to go.  But I won’t stop working on it.

My wife is worth it. We’re worth it.

Now… I know that Barry and Denise are not perfect.  I am sure that they struggle at times like all of us do, but I have no doubts that they will last forever. As they close in on 30 years of marriage, their example is something to emulate and the wisdom needs passed on to all who are married or considering marriage.

Simply put…

Married, single, among friends or with our families, what if we let each other off the hook and started fresh, this time considering each other as more important than ourselves? What if each of us woke up tomorrow asking what we could do for those we love the most?  

What if we fought to see each others’ needs met instead of our own? What would life look like if we abandoned the thought that we are owed something or deserve something better?

What if we made it our mission to make something better of the beautiful thing we have?

These are some of the questions that create our happily ever after. 

These are the questions that begin to get us to forever… one day at a time.

Excess Baggage

I have discovered in the past week that even though I have been a believer for over 40 years, I have been dealing with issues that I thought I had buried years ago.

When something from your past comes up and interjects itself in the middle of your life it can be “unsettling”.  That would be the word I would use to define what I have been through. This week has been “unsettling” for sure. I know I am not the only person that struggles with issues of their past.  I think we all struggle with our past. I think we all carry the excess baggage and burdens of our past in our life.   I think we all struggle with issues that we have had to deal with and thoughExcessBaggage1 we try our hardest to bury them they always seem to find their way back into our life.

One example for me is losing control of my temper. I grew up an angry person with a very short fuse. I never really got a handle on this and at 33, it cost me my marriage and ultimately my ministry.

However, for the past 20 years, God has allowed me to get this under control.  I really worked hard on it and really I did not struggle with it like I had in my younger days. Unfortunately, like the Apostle Paul, I have found myself over the past few days struggling with the “Old Man” I used to be. I lost my temper about a problem at work. While I didn’t do anything drastic… I did indeed compromise my testimony at work. Years of trying to show Christ in my life… blown away by my reaction to a problem.  In truth… it shocked me because I had not reacted that way in years. I don’t know where it came from other than to say it is buried deep inside me and it raised its ugly head. I am ashamed.  I have to say I didn’t sleep very well and when I did, I kept having the same dream all night long about how disappointed God was in my reaction.

Life has a way of leading us back again and again to our weakness until the pieces are picked up and the lessons are learned.

Are you in a place right now where you can relate? Have you asked God over and over again to help you from the guilt, the pain, the rejection from something from your past?

Over the years when I would talk to people who were having problems in their life, I would always holding_on_to_faithgive advice to them. I would tell these people who were struggling in this life to just hold on to God.  Just keep hanging on and trust His grace and the salvation He provided for all of us. 

I even wrote about “Holding on to Your Faith… Even When God Doesn’t Make Sense” (Click here to read). While I believe that this is still good advice I think that in many situations this advice doesn’t quite give the comfort and peace that we all need in this life sometimes.

Our struggle with “excess baggage” is rooted in our own disappointments, setbacks and heart breaks. Our deep fear, hurt, suspicions and doubts are rooted in the stories of our own past. You can’t neglect those things. That’s where you lost heart. You have to go back and invite Christ to walk with you through those times, periods and places where you lost heart, so that you might experience the restoration we’ve been talking about. In other words, what I’m suggesting is that we take Jesus up on His offer. He says that what He wants to do is heal the broken hearted. That’s all of us! We are all, in some ways, broken in our hearts and we need to experience that broken_heartrestoration so that we might hope, believe and be released from resignation, depression and cynicism that are rooted in our hearts. Those latter things are rooted in our hearts because of the stories of our lives. The offer is to invite Christ to walk with us there towards healing and restoration.

Again… life has a way of leading us back again and again until the pieces are picked up and the lessons are learned. We need to go back! We need to go into our places of disappointments, setbacks, our heart breaks, our woundedness. Why?  Because Jesus wants to take away the pain from those experiences. We can’t do this on our own. We need someone to lead us into battle and that person is Jesus Christ! Just when you think it’s hopeless God will show up and change the tide of the battle.

Whatever the burden, and we all have them, Jesus came and offered to take them…no questions asked.  It’s a real invitation that He offers to everyone.

What more could God do? What more could He offer than to take our burdens, our excess baggage and carry them for us? The only requirement?  You just have to give them to Him.