Month: May 2014

The Walk

For the past month I really have not been writing much.  I’ve been busy doing some things around the house.  Some minor repairs and getting the yard back in shape.  While I do these tasks around the house it allows me to really do sombook-the-walke thinking.  So I started focusing on and thinking about the Christian walk.  Specifically MY Christian walk. I’ve been trying to evaluate my route of recent years. Why has my odyssey gone this way or that way? Why have I struggled at different times and why have other days been easy and inspired? It’s clear that my walk with God has not been a progressively growing and problem free life.  I don’t think anyone has that kind of walk with God.

Let me see if I can describe the Christian walk from my own experiences.  For me, as I walk with God, it seems that my walk looks more like a long walk through the desert with an occasional stop at an oasis for refreshment and rest. 

An oasis is a strange place.  In the middle of miles of sand, suddenly and for no reason, water, trees and life appear. It’s at this oasis of life where a weary traveler can get spiritual rest, get spiritual water and gain new strength.

It is my experience that my walk with God can best be described this way…

There are many dry days as I continue to walk with God. 

All the way in my journey, I know God is with me and caring for me, but days of oasisjoy, inspiration and great victory are rare.  Then, suddenly and for no reason, I come to a spiritual oasis.  It’s wonderful!  Refreshment, rest, water and revival of spirit.   If I can, I linger at the oasis for a while…it’s such a great place, but as my life moves on, I know that at some point I must continue my odyssey and so I head back into the desert to my walk with God.

The oasis is great.  It’s needed.  I would get discouraged and might give up if it weren’t for the occasional oasis, but life with God has to be a life of dependence.   It must be a life in which I look to God and trust Him. I won’t find that relationship at the oasis. I have to go out into the desert to discover that kind of relationship with Him.

It’s the dry days when I learn to trust God the most. It’s the days in the desert when I look to him to help me and give me what I need for that day. It’s the dry days in the desert when I grow in my faith the most!

Some pray for an eternal oasis. They never want to leave the cool springs, the wonderful shade, the fig trees, and the comfort of the oasis.  Many find this oasis at their church.  Never wanting to venture too far from safe confines of their Sunday morning worship service.  While I too find comfort in my time at church, I have found that only lasts so long.  True ministry and true value of your walk with Christ in found in your journey in the real world.  In your community, at the gym, at the store as you shop or at your place of work.  In those dry places of your daily life you find true growth and a deeper understanding of your relationship and walk with God.  It is there where ministry and your Christian walk is most important.  Not just on Sunday morning because if you only focus on the oasis of the church for your spiritual growth you will never learn to depend on God. 

So, off to the desert we are led.  Led by God to meet with Him there.  Dry days when we will find our richest walk with God.

As I’ve tried desert_walkto think through my own walk with God I think this describes my odyssey so far. It’s not glorious. It’s not always full of great testimonies to share. It’s often dry and difficult, but it’s my time in the desert where I find an intimacy with God I can never find at the oasis.

To me…this is what I would call the normal Christian life.  At least it is the Christian life I have experienced for the past twenty years or so.  I think it’s the real life of every Christian. Many linger long at the oasis not wanting to leave the comfort there, but some find a hunger for God more powerful than the comfort of the oasis and so they head off into the desert. It’s there we find an intimacy and relationship with God that will never be found at the oasis. It’s this strange contrast between oasis and desert that describe the walk of the Christian.

It is not glorious and it certainly is not easy.  

There are days when the best we can say is, with God’s help, we got through that day.

In the end, between rests at the spiritual oasis and walking with God through the desert we grow in faith.  It is in this journey that I come so accustomed to that I see my walk will never be one that spends much time in the oasis.  Most of my journey has been and will continue to be one that sojourns the desert learning to depend upon God, seeking to grow in His grace and try to be used of Him as He would see fit.

Lace up your shoes believer’s… today looks dry with no oasis in site.  It’s going to be a good day.

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Especially When It’s Over

For some reason I have had some strange dreams the last few nights.  I have been dreaming about watching my boy’s play sports back in the day.  Now why that is so strange is that it has been 8 or 10 years since my boy’s played sports. I have no idea why but I just had one dream right after another.

These dreams seemed so real… it was if I was right back to where I was all those years ago when I watched so many games and baseballcheered them on.  I always loved to watch them play.  Countless hours traveling to games and practices flood my memory.  During the winter months, being a gym rat made up most of my time in the early 2000’s.  In the summer, staying late hours at Roger Young Park watching baseball games took up much of my time.  I remember so vividly having to run between innings to see them play because their games would be going on at the same time. They were crazy times.

When you are in the middle of the journey of your children’s athletic careers…it seems like it will never end.  I have to admit that there was more than one time I would tell myself that I couldn’t wait until it was over.  But to be honest…  I miss those days.  If I had the chance to go back, I would tell myself to savour the time… it goes by so fast and then suddenly it is over.

Makes me remember a quote I read somewhere.

“We are here to be there for our kid’s when they score the game winning goal…and especially when they don’t.  We are to be there for them during the long seasons… and especially that day when it’s over.”

The quote always stuck with me.  I remember thinking “get ready for that day when it’s over” and wondering how I would handle it… “that day” came and went and apparently all these years later I still haven’t forgot to be there for my kids.

Back to my dreams I had the last few nights … 

In one of my dreams, both of my boys were asked to play in a basketball tournament with some of the other kids from the area.  I was asked to coach. It was a good team and collection of players.  In my dream, we only had one Natepractice so we were learning on the fly in the first game of the tournament. As expected, the results were a little rough the first half of the game.  Mostly because of my lack of expertise in coaching and the players were trying to figure one another out and run a brand new offensive set. By the second half of the game we had figured most of it out and were making a furious comeback.

In my dream, the final minute of the game was in full motion. We were playing with so much intensity that we came back and we’re only down by two points with 15 seconds to play.  The other team had the ball when suddenly my son, Nathan stole the ball and passed it to my other son, Adam and he was driving to the basket.  Just as the clock ran down to 11 seconds of time left, Adam took the shot. The ball was in the air and I heard the whistle.  As the ball rotated in slow motion it bounced off the rim.  I saw that Adam was fouled with our team down by two.  He was in the act of shooting so he would step to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game.

Both of my boy’s have always been a pretty good free throw shooters.  If there’s one thing they would tell you I’ve always told them since the day they picked up a basketball, it is this…”you gotta make your free throws”. 

Back to the game and my dream…

 With 10 seconds left in the game, Adam calmly Basketball Hoop 2stepped to the line and drained the first one.  Our team is now down by one point with one more free throw to go.  For reasons I’m still not sure of, maybe insanity, HIS coach…me, called a timeout.  Every one of the other players said “what are you doing? You’re going make him nervous!”.  I was “icing” my own son.

Sure enough, after the time out, Adam stepped to the line, shot the ball and it bounced out.

The other team rebounded it and we fouled them right away. With six seconds left in the game we headed down the court, only down by one.  They made their first free throw (we’re down 2 now) and missed the second.  Nathan jumped and grabbed the rebound and… get this.. was FOULED by the other team!!!  Back we go to the other end with mere seconds left on the clock and the opportunity to tie the game for overtime.

First shot…swish.  Even though I had one time out remaining, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.  Nathan’s second shot rimmed out.  The other team gets the rebound, the horn sounds, the game is over and my team is crushed.

After shaking hands, I can see that my boy’s are not taking the loss well.  They both blame themselves and say that it’s all their fault.  After the team huddle, the quote that I read years ago came thundering back to my mind. We took a walk and I put my arm around my boys. I reminded them that our team missed about 15 free throws (literally) during that game.  Their free throws just happened to come at the end of the game. I reminded them that this was a tournament and there would be more chances, Adam & Natemore free throws and more opportunities to win the game. My heart was breaking for them… it was then that I woke up from my dream.

In the first few seconds of waking up I wished so much that it was real.  I wished the there would be more games and more free throws to be made in their life. The reality is that it was over and it has been over for many years.

Over the many years that I was involved with my kids athletic career, I can honestly say that Pam and I have been there for our kids.  I know of parents who never came to any of their children’s games and I know of parents who took it way too seriously.  They would embarrass their children and embarrass themselves by the way they acted on the sidelines.

I think that the dreams I had this week were just  reminders that I will never stop being a parent to my kids.  I will be there for them in life until the day I die.  I may not always agree with the choices they make but I will always be there for them.

To be clear, I am proud of all four of my children.  All of them have given me great memories that I will always cherish.  Since my dream was about sports… I will also say that they all have given me great memories of their athletic careers.  I don’t know if they read this blog, but if they ever do… I’m so proud of them.  One for giving me great memories.  Two for playing with such passion and heart.  Three for caring about playing and not just about winning the game.  As adults, the character and the core of who they are far outweighs anything that they could ever accomplish on an athletic field.

So as you raise your child and as they get involved in sports always remember…  “We are here to be there for our kid’s when they score the game winning goal…and especially when they don’t.  We are to be there for them during the long seasons… and especially that day when it’s over.”

 

Strong in the Broken Places

She loved you before she even knew you.

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

Happy Mother'sShe’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.

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 we do our 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 shielded 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 the 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 Mother’s Day!!!