Month: July 2014

Live What You Believe

The month of July seemed to just fly by.  My wife and I have been so busy this summer that I am afraid we are going to be knee deep in snow before we know it.  I really have not had time to write like I used to julybut I guess that is alright because we have accomplished so much this summer.  My wife and I have purged the house of  “stuff” we have accumulated over the years.  We had an epic garage sale that was one for the history books.  We had a tremendous turnout to the sale and it was a great success.

Somewhere along the line I had another birthday come and go.  I am at the point in my life that I really don’t pay any attention to the birthdays as they come and go.  About the only thing I look forward to is some of the “Happy Birthday” notes sent to me from friends and family.  One of those wishes came from a friend from my college years that I had lost contact with over the years and I was surprised to hear from him. 

He asked if I had any wisdom to impart that I’ve gained in my many years.

My first response and thought was nope.

I pondered what I could possibly share. What wisdom have I gained? What words can I share that I haven’t already shared?

I’ve got nothing.

I’ve spent weeks since my birthday, going round and round about what I could write that would express the wisdom I have gained in my 50 plus years. What I have learned in these years that I can pass on to my grandchildren and anyone else that might read this?

Then today it hit me….while I was thinking back to a friend that had a birthday close to mine.  Sadly he is no longer here.  We lost him all too soon.  I thought back to the words I spoke at his funeral.

A simple sentence that I still believe sums it all up…

You can say what you think but you’ll live what you believe.

LiveBelieveThat’s it. It’s funny that I share that in a blog post. I’ve said multiple times that it is really easy to sit behind the keyboard and act like you’ve got the world on a string. For over 5 years I have posted thoughts and hopefully, shared the struggles too.  Social media has exploded over the years.  Now more than ever before I believe that statement has to be our filter. It’s easy to only post the great moments, the times when everything is going great.  But it is hard to write and share when things are going horribly wrong.  Hopefully you’ve seen my not so great moments through the words I write.  Hopefully, everyone will see my intent is to live what I believe and that the words I wrote were not just words on a page.

Either way, I hope that whenever my number is called and the Lord calls me home, those that knew me personally or from afar will all be able to say the same thing.  I hope they will say that I said what I thought and it matched the way that I lived and what I believed.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just speak highly of my wife, I honestly treasure and honor her above all others.

I hope you’ll see that I wasn’t bragging on my kids and my grandchildren, I made it my goal to treasure each moment and never leave a doubt in their mind as to how I felt about them.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t throw around the word “friend” like it’s something you accept on a social media site. I believed that relationships are important and that people – no matter who they are – matter.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just talk about faith to be high and mighty. I live a life filled with questions, doubts, struggles, fears and wrestled through the journey to be not high and mighty, but second and humble.

So that’s the best I’ve got.

The calendar turned on me and I am another year older.

It’s another chance to say what I think and most importantly….

Live what I believe.

Footsteps of Grace

I remember when I learned my first real lesson about grace.  I guess I should say that it was the first time I really understood the concept of grace.

I heard my mom’s footsteps outside of my bedroom door.  I knew it was time to pay the piper.  I took something that wasn’t mine.

I had been holed up in my bedroom for hours because I knew that I had to face my mom and give account for my actions.  She was going to kill me (or so I thought).

graceQuivering lower bottom lip.  Embarrassment on my face.  Tears forming in my eight year old eyes.  I opened my bedroom door.

It was judgment time….

While my human nature was screaming “I DIDN’T DO IT”, there was a still small voice.  It softly whispered “you know you are guilty… accept the penalty. ”

My mom motioned me to come and sit on her lap. She then wrapped her arms around me and simply, softly whispered that she knew what I did.  She explained that she knows what she is saying when she asks me to not do certain things.  She told me of the punishment I deserved.   She then told me that she loved me.  She told me that it was okay and that I had to make things right with the person that I wronged.

She wasn’t going to kill me.

A lesson taught and a lesson learned.

Grace.

Suddenly I was back in bed, my heart and spirit were still intact. 

Even now, some 45 years later,  there aren’t many days that go by that I don’t remember that event in my life.  It has convinced me that a parent’s love is a lot like that of God.

How many times have I done what I knew I should not have done?  How many times has it gone as predicted? How often have I experienced God’s grace in those circumstances? God has every reason to hold my every foolish decision and move over me. My list of wrongs is much longer than the list of things I get right. 

Every day I experience and appreciate  grace beyond my understanding.

Grace.

There’s only grace
There’s only love
There’s only mercy
And believe me,
it’s enough…

-Matthew West

I Am Cleveland (Thoughts on Lebron)

It’s been over 48 hours now.   You and the rest of the world now know that Lebron is coming home.

I wanted to write about this yesterday but this is my first opportunity to get enough time to gather my thoughts together and put it all into words.

Before I really get into it, I need to unpack my mind of a few things.  Hopefully you’ll stick around for the whole post. Especially if you’re not from Cleveland or Ohio.  Even if you swore you’d never forgive what Lebron did or if you, like me, could care less about NBA basketball.

I need to make sure everyone knows… I AM CLEVELAND.  However, IACI was not born in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was born in Sandusky, Ohio.  That is about 60 miles from Cleveland.  Lebron James was born in Akron, Ohio which is about 40 miles from Cleveland.  Lebron says he is coming home and if “home” is 40 miles away from Cleveland then I will take liberty and say I am from Cleveland as well.  I mean what does 20 miles make when it comes to being home?  That being said, I have no ties to Cleveland other than the fact that it is “in Ohio”.  

My first loves of sports teams did not start in Cleveland, they were found in Baltimore.  Where Johnny Unitas threw the football and the Orioles were playing in the World Series. I did what kids have done since the beginning of time… I just followed where the championships were won and became a bandwagon fan.  Not because of the love of the team but because at the time that was all you could watch on TV.

Then as the championships faded away and those Baltimore teams fell into mediocrity, I became less and less interested in following them.  I could not identify with them. Then just like the first time you realize the existence of girls, my twelve-year-old mind and heart started searching  for something real, something I could love forever, something I could identify with.

I found it… or rather it found me in the city of Cleveland.

I don’t need to go through the list of heartache the City of Cleveland has endured cleveland-city-1when it comes to sports. The list is long and heartbreaking. I can tell you where I was when a majority of them happened. The City itself has had it’s share of tough times. It has rebounded and fallen again. It seems like just when the sun starts to shine on Cleveland, something happens and the clouds arrive again. I think that is why the people who love Cleveland live and die (more die than live) with their beloved sports teams. It’s their escape.  No matter how bad a team is, each season begins with it a hope that this is the year.  That “just once before I die” finally comes true.

It’s well documented but Lebron was one of our own.  He knew our long history of failure.  In a way that was both unhealthy and unfair, we thought he was going to be the guy.  He was just out of high school and we thought the storybook ending of one of our own delivering the thing that has eluded the city for so long was perfect.  I have always maintained that I wasn’t mad about his “decision” to leave. I was mad about HOW he went about it.  The “Decision” that took place four years ago wasn’t supposed to happen.

For the past four years I have always felt that Lebron was never comfortable in the role of villain.  He never wore that well.   He regretted the decision but it was something he had to do. Don’t we all chase something at some point in our lives? Sometimes it turns up as expected, but often it does not.  I always believed that Lebron would someday return, I just didn’t think it would happen now.

As the days passed the tension in Cleveland began to build.  I believed that if he chose Miami or anywhere else this time, it would crush Cleveland once again and I braced myself for that to happen.  This was not the 2010 decision.  He remained quiet.   Social media, national media and fan hysteria began to build like a title wave.   For days, twitter was a constant refresh and sports talk radio was filled with talk of Lebron.  Where was he?  What was he doing?   Who wewtam1100re the sources?   How would we know?   Web sites crashed.   Planes were tracked.  It was all a bit too crazy.

Then on Friday, I was driving back from Elyria with Cleveland Radio blaring in the background.  I also had my phone on just in case some news broke.  In a “where were you” moment, a “breaking news” alert came across the radio and my phone rang.   I listened as my brother-in-law (a devout Piston fan) yelled into the phone, “Your boy is coming home.”  Even he admitted that it was good for the people of Cleveland.

One after another after another, tweets linking Lebron’s essay on SI.com.  Apparently, Lebron wrote a letter explaining his decision and it was used as a press release.  The local radio hosts were going insane. It was a moment I will never forget.

And then they read the letter…..  (Click here to read)

I was smiling ear to ear as they began to read Lebron’s words.  Chills covered my arms and legs, as the radio host james16closed out the final words of his letter, he couldn’t finish.  He was choked to tears.  He paused, gathered himself and finished it out.  I understood everything he was feeling because I was misty eyed too.

Lebron was coming home.

But the emotion I was feeling wasn’t about Lebron… this wasn’t about basketball and it certainly wasn’t about sports.  This was about a love for a city.  This was about the city of Cleveland and it’s people.

I said this before and I say it again….with every fiber of my being, this is not about the Cleveland Cavaliers.  For me it’s not.  I am not even a fan of the NBA.  Oh sure… I sort of paid attention when Daugherty, Nance, Price, Hot Rod and Harper played for the Cavs many years ago.  But I am not even sure I will watch much more NBA now that Lebron is coming home than I did this past year… which was almost none.

I’m sure there are people who celebrated yesterday just because they believe this man will bring home a title.   For me, the last thing I thought about yesterday was titles and wins.  I thought about a City I call “home.” I thought about the financial implications.  I thought about the closed bars, restaurants and businesses that sit around the arena.  In true Cleveland fashion, they have fought and tried to come up with ways to give some kind of life to these establishments.  It’s been a struggle but they never quit.

With those three simple words, “I’m coming home”…  life and hope were delivered to a city I love.

People will come to downtown.  Life will be breathed into a city that desperately needs it.  People began to gather downtown as soon as the announcement went live yesterday.  The Cavs sold out their season ticket packages in record fashion.  Those are dollars that will be invested into the City.  They will arrive early and stay late.  They’ll support local businesses before, during and after the games.  Hopefully, they will continue to see a winning product on the court for years to come.

I can’t speak for all of us that are fans of Cleveland, but I think I can.  They, like me, love the City of Cleveland.sports They’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly and I’m not just referring to their sports teams. They want to see their city alive like we’ve seen it before. They want Cleveland to be something other than a punchline or report of some bad press. They know the beauty that lies on the shores of Lake Erie. We’ve heard all about the “mistake” by the lake but we know the “potential” of what Cleveland can be.

I don’t know who’ll read this. I don’t know what city you’re from.  Maybe it’s a city that has always been on top.  It’s easy to cheer for a winner… it’s tough to taste heartbreak and loss.  Maybe you rolled your eyes at the endless string of Lebron posts on social media sites yesterday.  Maybe you’ve never understood “Cleveland Fans” or their reactions to the misery. 

If you feel the need to hold up your hand and show how many championships your team may have won and/or you feel the need to always make Cleveland the butt of a joke then you just don’t get it and I feel sorry for you.  Because you will never understand nor appreciate what it is to be a Cleveland fan.

For one day, for a few crazy hours, Cleveland fans lost their mind.  Emotions ran wild and this time it was mostly positive.  Frustrations were released.  Like I said, many probably are dreaming of championships and now place a huge weight back on the very broad shoulders of Lebron James.   Fair or unfair, that challenge is going to be his responsibility to make it happen.

Today… I celebrate for the City of Cleveland.  I am glad that Lebron is coming home.

After all… I am Cleveland.

The Broken Parts of Us

One night last week I was using super glue to fix and re-attach the handle to an antique porcelain tea-pot.  As hard as I tried, I cophoto-1uld not press the parts together hard enough to make the cracked lines disappear from the handle.  It frustrated me because this was such a nice collectors piece and I was disappointed in the results of my work.  I knew that it was broken and that I would never be able to get the true value of the piece because it was flawed but I wanted it to look better than it ended up looking. The handle was re-attached with all the skill and effort I could muster but it was forever flawed and it never would be as perfect as it once was.  It will forever carry the scars of the broken handle until one day when it will be thrown away and discarded with the trash.  I guess that should be expected because the once perfect little tea-pot had been damaged and whenever something is damaged it never really is “as good as new”.  Yes, it was functional and could be used again but it never again would be defined as in “mint condition”.

I placed the tea-pot on a shelf to dry for the night and I never gave it another thought.

The next morning, I was driving to the BMV to renew my license and I had the radio on.  Some preacher was talking but I was not listening to it at all.  The radio was just blaring but it was just background noise as I was thinking about what I had to accomplish for the day.    As this man finished his message, he closed in prayer… and while I was not really paying attention something made me clear my thoughts and I focused on the words of his closing prayer.  I heard him say these fateful words…

Lord, don’t allow me to hide the broken parts of me that I need to see.

Uh oh… I just got spiritually slapped up along the side of the head. 

What did he just say? What in the world does, Lord, don’t allow me to hide the broken parts of me that I need to see” mean anyway?  Flashes of my broken parts suddenly flood my thoughts.  Many of my broken parts are still lying right where I left them years ago… never fixed or cleaned up.  Just lying there, dormant in the recesses of my memory.  Some of my broken parts have been safely locked up in the corners of my mind.  Protected… safe and secure from further damage.  Some of the memories of my broken parts are like a puzzle… missing pieces that create empty spaces where something once belonged. 

Yes, many of my broken parts have been glued back together.  Some of these broken pieces you hardly see the crack but like the tea-pot, the scars of the damage will forever be there.

Broken parts of me that I have been hiding for years.

At least that is what I thought.

Then I realized that besides God there is one person in my life that knows all of my broken parts.  I mean ALL of my broken parts.

Yikes. 

I’m pretty sure my wife shouldn’t have to deal with the broken parts alone.super glue  She’s amazing, but that just isn’t fair. There’s a lot of weight there for her to carry.  She deserves better than that.  Plus she cannot carry enough super glue to fix me.

Not good.  Not good at all.

I don’t know what the standard for amount-of-people-that- should-know-your-broken-parts is, but I am guessing that one isn’t anywhere close.  There should be a community of people, brothers, friends around me that know those broken parts and are okay with them. People that know those ugly things and love me anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I know folks that love me….they just don’t know the broken parts.

It’s not how we were meant or designed to live.  I know that God knows and He doesn’t want us to bury those broken parts in our hearts.  He wants to fix them.  Like the tea-pot He wants us to be functional again.

God knows our sadness and the brokenness we try to hide from Him.

I have spent the greater part of the week since these events thinking about what lesson can I take from these illustrations and I have come to this conclusion.  I think we all try to put out the “best” of what we are for others to see.  We try to convince people that all is ok with us and the truth is they have no idea of the burden and weight of the world we carry on our shoulders due to those things we hide.  We try to hide that part of us we consider broken.  Like a discarded toy in the bottom of the toy box, we think we have buried it but the truth is all of that “broken stuff” that we carry in our heart and in our mind keeps us from being who we are meant to be.

So how do we fix these broken parts of us?  As I thought about it this week I just wish that God would talk to me directly and say, ” David… these things need addressed and you have to do quit hiding these things I want to fix” .

Honestly? I never understood what people meant when they said “I heard God’s voice.”  Because I never have.

I guess I always imagined that it would be a booming, loud shout from the heavens above sort of thing. Or maybe a smooth, soft and gentle whisper, like an easy listening radio DJ.  Or I’d be walking down the street and a bush would blow up in flames and out would pop Jesus!

I don’t know, really.  I am not sure what I would ever imagine God talking to me would be like. But a definite, audible voice, right? Yes. I assumed I would hear a voice.  And well, sorry, but no. Can’t say that ever happened. 

But make no mistake God was talking to me all this time.  I believe He was talking to me through the people He put in my life.  I believe that over the years God has sent people in my life to help me fix the broken parts of who I am.  My wife is a prime example of someone who has come into my life that has healed many of my broken parts. The problem is that there is more of me that needs fixed.  As I look back of the road of this life, there have been other people who were sent to lo7 daysok for me. They were there for the broken parts. I just never shared them. They did their part, I didn’t do mine.

I have always been waiting for the right moment, the right time, the right day to deal with the things I need to fix in my life.  That “someday” isn’t coming.  Life has taught me this lesson well. ‘Someday’ is never coming. If I want to be happy and healthy – if I want to love the work I do – if I want great relationships with my family, my community, myself and God, I can’t wait for some magical event to make it so.  It’s not gonna happen. The life I want doesn’t happen by accident.  I need to allow God to work in my heart and expose those parts of me that need fixed.

So today as I sit here at my desk, I look at that broken handle on the tea-pot and suddenly my heart is over-whelmed with the these words…

IN THE BROKEN PARTS, I AM THERE.

I do not recall thinking that up on my own.  I do not recall ever writing those words.  But what I do know is the all-knowing and incredibly moving emotion that is washing over me.

Maybe God does talk to me. Maybe not in a booming way.  Maybe with no harps.  He is not popping out of burning bushes, or soothing me with his easy listening voice.

But He is here.

He talks to me through broken handles. He speaks to me through random radio programs.  He talks to me by the people He puts in my life.  He is everywhere and anywhere, and He is most present in those places I expected He had abandoned.  Hiding in my wounds, resting in my broken parts, fully and beautifully alive.

He is there for you as well.  Placing people in our life and speaking to us through the most random things.  He is waiting for us to respond.  He is waiting for us to allow Him to deal with those things we try to hide even from ourselves.

Today is the day… open up and allow Him to make into all we can be for Him.

Because make no mistake… IN ALL OF OUR BROKEN PARTS, HE IS THERE.