Month: October 2015

Leaving The Porch Light On

One week ago, I had the honor of speaking at my daughter’s wedding ceremony.  Not many get that opportunity to speak and share from their heart at such a special occasion. 

It was just about a year ago, I received a call from Cassidy and she told me he popped the question and she said yes.  I already knew that this was going to happen because the young man who was asking for her hand in marriage, had already talked to me and asked permission.

None-the-less, it was a shock to my system that it really was going to happen.  I wrote about it here: Then They Do (click on this link).

So flash forward 11 months and I finally give some advice to them about their new life together. A number of people have asked me if I could share what I said, so I am posting my speech in its entirety. It’s not word-for-word but it is close… here goes:

Good afternoon everyone. I’d like to welcome the friends and relatives of both families who are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Cassidy and Andre.

Thank you for taking time from your busy lives to join us on this afternoon.

Some of you have traveled quite a distance to be here. And we are thankful for that.

We hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the evening and we hope you will remember this day as fondly as we will.

Wedding1I feel so proud today to be standing here given the opportunity to take part in this special day.

I am also extremely grateful for the chance to speak to you today.

That being said, there will be three ways I will remember this speech… the one I practiced, the one I am about to give and the one I wish I would have given.

Hopefully… You will hear the one that is closest to the one I wish I would have given. But I make no promises.

I’ve learned that life is circular, it’s full of beginnings and endings, there are times of extreme joy that can be followed by hard and difficult times.

New chapters of life begin while others will come to a close. I believe that life is meant to be lived looking forward. It is to be enjoyed. As James 4:14 says, Life is just a vapor… it appears for a short time and then vanishes away.

Life moves fast and before you know it your child is standing in front of their friends and family committing their life in marriage to another person.

As parents, on many levels our job is done. While we will never stop being a parent, a new chapter is starting for us.

One season is unfolding into another and we will close the chapter of raising our children. The responsibility of raising them has been lifted.

All you can do as a parent is thank God for the opportunity and hope that some of the wisdom of our life experience was passed down.

Just like many othPam and Davider parents, we spent the vast majority of our lives raising our children to become productive adults and become good people.

The journey of being a parent is not for the faint of heart.

There are twists and turns, surprises and disappointments. There are moments of extreme pride and moments of regret.

It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

As a parent you sojourn through the good times and the hard times because that is your job. It is what you do.

You do all you can to protect them, you provide for them and try to take care of their every need. In most examples, there is not a need in your child’s life they have not been given.

Then in many situations … somewhere around the age of 16 they look at you and tell you they can’t wait to move out of your home. They inform you that they “WILL NEVER raise their children the way you did.

It leaves many parents wondering what they did wrong.

But let me make something perfectly clear today. That is not the story of Cassidy.

As a child, Cassidy was strong-willed but loving.  This strong-willed aspect is something she and I had the opportunity to discuss many times in her younger years.

CassidyThis loving, strong-willed little girl brought those traits into her adult life. In times when she could have made other decisions, she kept her “will” strong in serving the Lord when it would have been easy to go the other direction.

Along the way Cassidy has picked up many skills, some from her life experience and some as gifts from God.

Cassidy has always worked hard at becoming a better person. Always strived to become better at what she does, and becoming the caring person that she is today. She has made me unbelievably proud. I am thankful that I have been able to be part of her life.

If I am honest today, I cannot deny that I feel a loss. After all, for the first time in many years, when I go home tonight, I will turn the light out on the porch knowing that she will not be coming home.

Our little house is the one home on our street where the porch light burns. porch Light

As it burned for her sister before she got married, a light has always been left on until Cassidy came home at night. 

When I turn that light out tonight, I will cry. But they won’t all be tears of sadness.

Rob and Leslie, Pam and I, have raised her to get to this point in time. We all spent time preparing her for this day and this new adventure.

For the past twenty-two years, this house where the porch light burns has been her home.

You know… we could have moved from that old house on Stilwell Ave. We even made plans to do so. We could have moved from the house where we raised four children with only one bathroom.

But there are reasons we didn’t.

One reason is because of a door jamb in our kitchen.

A door jamb where pencil marks measure the growth of a family. Each mark a memory and each  mark with a date written beside it to note the growth.

This door jamb tells the story of children growing up and becoming adults.

Each dated mark one step closer to this very day.

These marks will remain on that door jamb until one day the new owners of our home decide to paint over them and make marks of their own.

Another reason why we have not moved is something that I want to share specifically with the two of you.

You know that I have profound hearing loss. As I grow older my hearing will get worse. 

I hope not… but there may be a day when I lose the ability to hear all together.

But for now, I hear things that most people don’t.

You see… this little home where the porch light burns, speaks to me.

In the quiet, I can hear the echo’s of our children laughing. I hear the chatter of you having your friends over for movie nights. I hear the sounds of the TV marathons you had, watching the complete series of Friends, The Gilmore Girls, Supernatural, Full House, Boy Meets World just to mention a few.

To be honest… I sometimes wish I could un-hear the sounds of how many times you watched the Disney High School Musicals.

The walls of our home reverberate with the sounds of Birthday parties, of long talks at the dinner table, and the precious sounds of Christmas celebrations.

If I really concentrate, I can hear the click of the door closing behind you when you were out at night. That wonderful sound that you were home, safe and secure.Cassidy Singing

One of my favorite sounds that still ring through the walls of our home is listening to you sing as you got ready for school or work. Cassidy, you will always be my favorite singer.

The walls of our home emit sounds of a family that was trying to find their way in this life.

It surely wasn’t perfect but the wonderful sounds that come from the walls of our home, far out-weigh any noise of discord that there may have been.

In time… these wonderful sounds will fade… many are already being replaced by the laughter and the banter of our grandsons playing in the living room. 

When it is time, you guys can help in filling our home with the sounds of future grandchildren that will be absorbed into the walls of our home.

My challenge to you and Andre is to fill your home with sounds of love, sounds of joy and sounds of happiness. If the walls of your home would speak, may they share sounds of forgiveness and acceptance. More importantly, may the walls speak of a young couple that loved the Lord and made Christ the center of their home.

Too many homes today are filled with discord… filled with hateful words and fighting. My prayer is that the walls of your home will never be saturated with these kind of sounds.

In closing, every parent wishes that one day their child will find the rwedding2ight person for them to spend the rest of their life with. The fear of any parent is their child making the wrong decision about that.

When I first met Andre, I learned quickly that he was a good man, and would not be the type to hurt Cassidy. Once I got to know Andre, I couldn’t have chosen anyone more suitable. He let her be herself and did not try to change her to make him happy. He’s very considerate and thoughtful. I appreciate the way he treats and makes Cassidy feel about herself, I cannot thank him enough. We are confident that he will take good care of her.

Traditionally, at this point, I guess I should offer some advice… so here goes.

Andre… Always leave the porch light on for your wife.

Cassidy… Anything Andre says in anger 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all negative comments made by Andre become null and void after 7 days.

Andre… Cassidy is not a morning person. Stay clear… enough said?

Cassidy… Andre is not a mind reader and he never will be. His lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how much or how little he loves you.

Andre… Whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, Take pleasure in knowing that you are and then keep it to yourself.  Just keep it to yourself!!!

Cassidy… leave the porch light on for your husband.

I cannot encourage the two of you more than to have your home filled with sounds of happiness, forgiveness and love.

May you continue to serve the Lord with your life and in your marriage.Speech

You both have been raised in love. You have been raised by parents that love you more than life itself.

We are filled with joy that you are getting married today. It’s a new journey and a new beginning for you and for us. May your love always be an example to all of us that are here to witness your vows to each other.

One last thing… in the future… remember to leave the porch light on…  so that your children can always find their way home.

So that’s it… we are one week in to being “empty nesters”. 

We could not be happier for Cassidy and Andre!!! 

We are excited to see what the future holds for them and for us. It will be new adventures for all of us!!!

And while our children are now all on their own, all becoming productive adults and good people. 

I’ll still leave the porch light on… just in case they ever want to find their way home.

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The Seeds Planted When AM Radio Was King

I am a child of the sixties and seventies.

A time when AM radio was king. 

No offense to anyone reading this… but if you never listened to AM radio on a transistor radio you probably will not understand the significance of this post.  It’s not your fault, you just don’t know that you CKLWwere cheated out of a great time period in history.

I have clear memories of long summer nights spent listening to CKLW out of Detroit on my transistor radio. I carry that Motown sound in my musical tastes even to this day.

All I have to do is put some music from that era and close my eyes and suddenly I am drawn back to another place and another time.

The strong aroma of chlorine from Teagarten’s pool in Oak Harbor, Ohio can suddenly fill my senses.  I still remember all those hot summer days spent at that pool.  In my mind, the pool was huge but I know that time has dulled my memory of how small it really was.  Still… that pool shaped many of my memories of the summers of the late sixties and the early seventies.

Growing up in the confines of the little town NW Ohio was something special. We all got to ohexperience the Friday night lights of the football game.  Because you could get in the game for free at halftime, I remember many times watching the first half of the game from the top of the train tracks that passed a few yards from the fence at the West endzone.  We would then spend our money we begged from our parents to go to the game on candy at the concession stand. 

At school, if you had older siblings, your reputations begins wherever theirs left off. Here’s how it worked: on the first day of class, the teacher will do roll call and they get to your last name and pause. They look up and say, “Any relation to (older sibling’s name)?,” you say yes, and then the teacher will either inform you that your sibling is a perfect human specimen you can never live up to, or sigh dramatically and mutter, “Oh great, another one.” 

Do you remember any of these?

  • You used to drag “beer can ally” and if you swore, your parents knew about it within an hour.
  • It was cool to date somebody from the neighboring town.
  • The whole school went to the same party after graduation.
  • You had no choice but to date your friends’ ex’s. 
  • Everyone considered a nearby town to be “trashy” or “snooty,” but it was actually exactly like your town.
  • You could charge anything at any local store or write a check without any ID.
  • The closest mall was a long drive.
  • You thought nothing of seeing an old man riding through town on a riding lawn mower.
  • Most people went by a nickname.
  • We didn’t know it then but the luxuries of walking “uptown” to Van Atta’s restaurant and buying a cheeseburger would be a memory that we would long for… for the rest of our adult lives.

My family never owned a color TV so black and white TV was the entertainment not only for us but for many in my hometown. The cost of purchasing a color television was out of reach for many families. Back then we only had 3 channels ABC, CBS, and NBC.  Our TV recetvption came either through a pair of rabbit ears antenna located on top of the TV or an antenna attached to the house.  We had no idea what cable TV was or what it’s impact would be on our children.

A typical Friday night was watching my favorite shows like the Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch on the floor just in front of the TV because we did not have a remote and that way you could switch channels fast. Sitting there with a large bowl of popcorn with PEPSI being drank from bottle are some of my favorite memories.

Saturday mornings were spent watching cartoons and the afternoon watching American Bandstand so you could see the latest dance moves and the possibilty of seeing your favorite singer or band. 

I remember  when I couldn’t wait to watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and Disney on Sunday night with episodes of “Swamp Fox,” “Zorro” or even watch repeats of “Davy Crockett”. Each week at the beginning of Disney they played the song “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

It’s easy to find people who will sneeringly complain about how trapped they felt there as teenager. I was no different from most kids growing up there… we all began making plans of escape early on but we still got to experience the life of living in a small town when AM radio was king.

Oak Harbor held on to those days longer than most and that makes me smile even after all these years.  But once the seeds of change are planted it is hard to ever go back to way it used to be.

It’s been thirty years since I called Oak Harbor home.  I drive through the town every now and again and as the years pass, I no longer feel part of what it once was.  But I still cannot deny that there are some roots of Oak Harbor still in me. I am sure very few people remember me from that small town in Ohio anymore. I am just a face on a picture in an old yearbook that no one looks at anymore.  I am just someone they used to know.

It was a time, place and memory that my children and grandchildren will never experience.  That makes me sad. They have been cheated.

astroI’ve wondered what it must look like to the younger generations who didn’t actually live through it. Are they awe-struck by the moon landing? Is teetering on the verge of nuclear war just the start of a good sci fi movie? Do the hippies seem quaint? Are the assassinations just more names and dates to memorize for a history exam?

Are the hippies, Vietnam, women’s lib, civil rights, space race, Cold War, British Invasion, Disco, pocket calculators, TANG, PONG, Sony Walkman’s, Microwave ovens, VCR’s, The Godfather, Leisure Suits, Charles Chips, Pet Rocks, Clackers, Green Stamps, Evel Knievel and who could forget Farrah Fawcett? — just evidence of random decades. I think not.

It’s inevitable that all of us would see that period through our own personal lense.  The 60′ and 70’s were like the an epic blockbuster. Music, clothes, politics, social unrest, social change. There really hasn’t been anything like it since. So many historic events happened in that period.  

But that doesn’t mean that I want to go back. 

History has a knack of showing the flaws of the generation that planted the seeds to produce it.

That’s what all historians do: they look back and see things that were planted and the results of which may not be seen for years. While I love to look back and remember, it’s important that we don’t forget that many of the seeds that were planted all those years ago are 6449the reasons we now see major political, social, and cultural changes in our society.  We wonder how this generation of young people can be the way they are and the truth be told it is because of the seeds that were planted in the 60’s and 70’s.

We have made the mistake of ignoring the seeds that we planted.  In many ways we don’t like the results and we are the one to blame.  Our children pay the price of not having the freedom we had to play outside and have the run of the town.  We now dare not let our young children out of our sight for fear that they may one day have their picture on a milk carton.  We thought we had it under control, yet we act as if the change itself remains unexpected, invisible, even unimaginable to most people.  We should never forget how surprisingly fast these changes can happen.

Nevertheless, looking back at the seeds planted when AM radio was king is a very important. Because it can help us pay more attention to seeds that are growing underground right now. Of course we can’t predict which seeds will connect up with which other ones to create significant change, and certainly not when or how it will happen. But history can teach us to watch more closely and optimistically for signs of change that might be coming surprisingly soon.

The seeds of change. I can fully appreciate how malleable history is and how its perspective logo-seeds-of-changechanges with time. I imagine 40 years of perspective on any decade we’ve lived through would be interesting.  Forty years from now, I’m confident that the Obama years will also look much different through the lens of history. I really regret that I won’t be reading it.

I enjoyed U.S. History more than most, but in the years that have passed, I’ve forgotten more names and dates than I remember. Our history is complicated and imperfect. There are facets I don’t fully understand. 

But I do understand the heart of the man who wanted more for his children than he had for himself.

I sense his desperation. I feel his determination.

I respect his resolve.

If I’m quiet and still, I can imagine what it might have been like for the early settlers to carve a road where there was nothing – exploring completely uncharted territories, in search of a new and better life, a place to belong.

And setting their sights, slowly and painfully, they began to build. A barn. A cabin. A church with a steeple. A community of workers. A little town. A government. A country.

A Home.

Hard as I try, I can’t imagine what it must have cost. But having paid that unimaginable price, I can understand why they’d risk their lives again to protect what they’d built.

What they built for me was wrapped up in what we had when AM radio was king.  It’s gone now and we will never get it back. We have future generations that will never fully understand what it was like back in those days.

Again that makes me incredibly sad.

I long for the days when AM radio was king.

 

The Climb

Climbing a mountain was never on my bucket list.

It wasn’t even on my radar.

“It will be fun!!! Come on!!! Get out of bed!!!” they said.

The-Climb-Short-FilmWhy I agreed to get up early to climb I have no idea.  I slept in the car all the way until we got to the parking lot.

“Look you can see other hikers on the trail.” they told me.  That did not encourage me. It took me a few minutes, but I  gathered up my courage and started up the trail.  It was then I looked up and I could see what looked to be ants moving on the mountain. That’s when doubt and I hit head on and suddenly we were in agreement, “NO WAY is that going to be me?!?! I’ll never be where they are!”  I was too proud to tell the guys that I did not think I could make it up that side of the mountain.  I decided to smile and nod. I shot a fake smile and squeaked through my clinched teeth, “Wow. That seems so far away. How exciting!”

Before I knew it, I was officially walking up the side of the mountain.

That’s how it’s done, people.

On the mountain you have a lot of time to think—and talk to yourself.

On this particular trek there were many rocks. Sometimes the entire path was a bunch of rocks, so many that you couldn’t discern the path.
mountain-trail

It was in the pauses that I realized the mini steps I’d been making for over an hour had accumulated beneath me and I was actually going somewhere.

I was higher.

I was farther.

I realized I was doing what I had set out to do and it felt good! Of course, it would feel better if I was done. Because it was already harder than I thought it might be, but taking a moment to look back at where I’d come from was just what I needed to turn around again and get back to it.

We were climbing a mountain that was linked with other mountains, and after nearly two hours we came upon this particular spot on our journey.  It was the most incredible, beautiful spot we’d encountered up to that point. As we walked up to ridge, it was as if the horizon appeared out of nowhere. The wind was strong, but the clouds seemed reachable. I remember at the beginning seeing “ants” up here! NOW I was an ant to someone else!

My legs were a bit weary and my mind said, “Isn’t this view good enough? You could be satisfied with this height, couldn’t you?!?!” I knew I must keep going. And not just for his sake, but the higher I went, the more I wanted to continue. The beauty of God’s creation was before me and I couldn’t unsee this—and I didn’t want to. There was pain in this journey, but the beauty of the journey was becoming a prize worth knowing personally.

We moved onward and upward and there were more rocks. The incline at times left me baby-stepping my way up blue-ridge1the mountain. The guys that I was with kept on encouraging me, “Keep moving… keep going… you can do it!”

Slowly and surely I put one step in front of the other.

And that’s when I stepped foot on the summit. The sky opened up to a 360 degree view. My eyes could not even take it all in. It was too beautiful for words—too glorious to capture in a sentence. It’s like trying to describe the hands of your newborn—and you realize the only thing that comes out is “Wow, look… You have to see his hands!” You can’t describe the beauty; all you can do is invite others into the splendor you are part of.

That’s when you know you are witnessing the fingerprints of God. His marvels cannot be explained with mere language, or captured in a song, or displayed through even the most beautiful of art.

We try, and it’s okay to try, but we’ll always fall short. God’s glory leaves one speechless.

I guess that’s how I feel about my journey with the Lord.

It feels like climbing a mountain some days. It feels like the journey is unreasonably long and too steep. There’s too many rocks and the obstacles in my way leave me wondering, “Why does it have to be this hard?”

Internally I wrestle with the risks, the suffering I’m enduring, the uncomfortability of the climb—and ahiking-feet-hollywood-journalt times, I almost talk myself into retreating and quitting all together. But it’s in those moments that the Lord calls me to rest and reflect. He gives me a moment to catch my breath and turn around and see the progress I had made.

There are times in my life that I’ve looked back and been disappointed, feeling like I should be further along by now! And other times I’m surprised that I’ve even made it this far—recognizing the grace and sovereign hand of God that has brought me to this point.

There are moments when you think, “This is good enough. I could be satisfied enough with this view and head back.” But then you hear the encouragers, your spiritual cheerleaders, say, “But there’s more. You’ve come this far! Let’s keep going.” And so you keep moving on. You press onward and upward, wondering why you can’t be the one satisfied with the couch, but the truth is, you’re not. You’re not made for ease or settling.

So you put one foot in front of the other.

You persevere.

You obey His voice.

You trust Him.

You place your hope in His promises.

You ask Him for the strength.

And then you continue to put one foot in front of the other.

And then something beautiful happens—you reach the mountain’s peak. And that’s when you see the journey was not in vain. You see the beauty is that much more spectacular than you dared to dream. You realize there was purpose and beauty even in the pain. You know you can’t unsee this and you would never want to. Being in relationship with the God of the universe changes you. So much so, you want to tell others, but sometimes the only thing that comes out is, “I wish I could describe how much He loves you, but I just can’t. I wish I could put into words how great the climb really is, but my words aren’t enough. But… you are invited… invited to know for yourself—to see Him for yourself. Climb the mountain—He’ll never leave your side and you won’t be disappointed.”

Sometimes we nClimbeed to have a new perspective. High on that mountain I was reminded again how small I really am. 

But it isn’t reaching the summit that makes your experience great…

It’s the climb.

God has a mountain for you to climb.  It’s there just in front of you. All you need to do is put one foot in front of the other and He will lead to where He wants you go.  You’ll see things you never thought you would and you’ll find satisfaction you never thought was possible.

Climb your mountain.  He’s waiting there just for you.