Category: Uncategorized

God Doesn’t Pick Sides… We Do

I was a Christian school principal in a former life.  I protect the memories of that time very carefully.  Some aspects of that period of time I hold near and dear to my https://i0.wp.com/images.classmates.com/yearbooks/9/b/9/f/9b9fd00c8bdbd4fa345ee4d5226cbf0b/155/0001.jpgheart. However, most of it I choose to not remember and I do my best to forget and block out that period of time in my life.  Not because I hated the experience but rather I learned quickly to let things stay in the past.

Things just did not turn out as I planned. I was planning on the rest of my life being involved in education and being an avenue in helping young people get a Christian education and be prepared for whatever they faced in their future. I didn’t get fired or forced out, it simply did not end the way I wanted it to. 

That does not mean I am bitter.  I’m not.  The bitterness faded away years ago.

Every once in a while, one of those distant, hidden memories come creeping up and sometimes appear in my dreams.

One of those memories I wish I would never remember is one that I experienced at a basketball game in the late 80’s.  It actually had nothing to do with the game itself.  I was coaching the game and the game was playing itself out in the normal fashion. No real drama or problems.  Just friendly competition on the court. 

Those of you that are familiar with the competition that takes place between two Christian schools, things can quickly take a turn for the worst that can be found in high school athletics.  However, this time it wasn’t happening on the court.  It was happening on the sidelines. 

Just before the start of the fourth quarter of play, the cheerleaders from the opposing team started a cheer.  Their fans were all standing and really showing their “Spirit” in support of their team and that cheer.

It is then I hear the cheer.  The cheerleaders were chanting out the words of their Image result for Temple christian CHEERLEADERS ON THE SIDELINE in basketballcheer to their fans and players that “God was on their side!!!”  Yes… they were cheering and proclaiming that God was in fact only on “their side” implying that He wasn’t on our side.  It was loud and it was obnoxious. It is was among the worst things that could be seen in a Christian school.  I had heard that some schools did this but I thought it was just a joke.

It wasn’t a joke and it was pointed at our school. 

There are mostly two kinds of people in this world: the kind that thinks God is always for them and the kind that think God is always against them.

These also are the same people who think that God cares about the touchdown their team just scored or the game-winning basket made in the final seconds.

Personally… I don’t think God much cares about what team is playing on the court or on the field. I am sure He is not in any way concerned about how many pointsteamwins your team scored and even less concerned about how many points you may have personally scored.

I know, I don’t like it any more than you do. 

I’d like to think that God would be behind and “help” all my teams I cheer for.

But that simply is not the truth.  God doesn’t care if my team wins.

I could go on.  In fact, most of the Old Testament attests to the fact that God doesn’t unequivocally endorse anyone, not even those who are supposedly especially tight with Him.

God doesn’t jump on our “team” or any another team.

Why not? Especially this side of the cross, shouldn’t He always be in our corner if we are Christians?

That is logically impossible, just think of how many times you and another believer are on different sides of an issue – how could God be “for” both of you at the same time?  God knows how fickle people are, even believers. He knows how we can worship Him with all our hearts one minute and be nose-deep in sin the next.

Is it any wonder He won’t support us or anyone else unequivocally?

The reality is God doesn’t pick sides.

We do. 

 
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The Veil of Forgiveness

Normally, I remember people when I have spoken with them— especially when I have seen their name in print. I’ve had a pretty good track record of at least recognizing that I have met someone before, even if I don’t exactly recall the setting.

This week, however, I experienced something new to me.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about forgiveness.  I shared how forgiveness is a process for us.  God forgives differently than we do.  He forgives us fully and completely, https://i2.wp.com/fpchackensack.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Forgiveness.jpgbut man does not. The human aspect of forgiveness is a process that we must work on each day of our life.

I wrote that article based upon my perspective of forgiving someone who has offended me. However, I was exposed to an aspect of forgiveness that, for some reason, I never really had to deal with before.

This week I had someone call me and ask for my forgiveness. 

His first words were, “I am calling to ask you to please forgive me.”

Now, that isn’t the aspect that surprised me.  What surprised me is that this person was carrying a burden that I had no idea that he was carrying. I had no recollection of what he was referencing to and as a matter of fact I totally forgot ever meeting him.

On the phone call, he said to me, “David, you remember me, right?”

I didn’t remember him, so I asked him where we met.

He was a sales representative from a company that I had done business with through my work. For several years, I worked as the purchasing manager and we had met a time or two during that time.

When he told me, I was totally astonished. I had totally forgot about him and the event.

First of all, I was surprised that I didn’t recognize him, although it had only been a few years since our meeting. Secondly, I was even more shocked that I didn’t remember him because our earlier meeting was not a good one.

His company had failed to provide the product we had purchased through him.  It caused us to shut down our line and it cost us money.  He was defiant and blamed everyone else. He took no responsibility for the failure. As a matter of fact, he tried to turn it around and blamed me for the failure.  I remember now that he was rude and hateful and as soon as we got our line back up and running, I resourced the part to another company.

Shortly after the event, I moved on.  For me, it was business and not personal. I forgot about it. I never gave him a second thought.

For him, he made it personal.  He was young and brash and inexperienced. The way he handled the situation cost him a huge account for his company.  What I didn’t know was that it also cost him his job as well.

I had no idea that apparently, he has been carrying bitterness towards me since that time.

On his call, he told me that he was a very different person back then, he had changed and that he had been trying to figure out how he could get a hold of me and clear his conscience.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one he was contacting.  He stated that he was asking for my forgiveness.

I wanted to tell him that there wasn’t anything to ask for forgiveness for.  But I remembered what I wrote, and I let him talk.  This wasn’t about me.  It was about a man who had come to the point in his life that he needed to unload some guilt and regret from his youth.

https://i2.wp.com/truthliesdecision.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/forgiveness-2000x1677_c.jpegFor years, he had been picking up the hate and burden every morning for someone he didn’t really know.

I instantly felt nothing but complete forgiveness. I could tell he wasn’t sure I meant it, but I genuinely did forgive him. I hope his burden is lighter today than what he has experienced. 

Two lessons come to mind.

First, how easy it is to forgive someone when one gets to see the other in a fully positive light.

Second, how important it is to not allow the past to be a filter for the present. 

I am so grateful that I was not biased by my previous encounters, and able to completely embrace this new setting without preconceived thoughts. It is so easy to put labels on others.

There is a veil to this thing called forgiveness.  It covers everyone differently. We all need to deal with the aspect of forgiveness.  Forgiving those that offended us and asking for forgiveness to those we hurt and offended.  It also opens the door to offer forgiveness to those that carry burdens and hurts we knew nothing about.

Thankfully, for whatever reason, I am happy for him because things will turn out in a much better way. 

Forgiveness is so much easier without the hurt attached.

My prayer is that the veil of forgiveness forever rules in my mind and in my heart.

How about you?

Some Thoughts On Las Vegas

My words will never adequately express the horror of the shootings in Las Vegas.

https://salemnet.vo.llnwd.net/media/cms/RT/43629-las-vegas-shooting-getty-3-facebook.800w.tn.jpgNews stories report body count and hospitalizations in an attempt to convey the incomprehensible magnitude of the violence.

The number of the dead and wounded could describe a pitched battle in Afghanistan or, long ago, as I remember as a child the reports from Vietnam.

Nearly sixty dead. Over five hundred in need of medical treatment.

But of course, this wasn’t a battle fought on foreign soil.

This was a country music concert.

On American soil.

And the attacker was an unremarkable American citizen who possessed a personal arsenal of automatic weapons. As he so dreadfully demonstrated, weapons designed to kill human beings in large numbers very efficiently.

We don’https://i2.wp.com/www.billboard.com/files/styles/480x270/public/media/las-vegas-shooting-mandalay-bay-hotel-oct-2-2017-ap-billboard-1548.jpgt yet know why the killer opened fire from his 32nd floor hotel room. But we are reeling from the savagery of his actions and the random senselessness of the deaths. He indiscriminately maimed and murdered scores of complete strangers who were out on the town for nothing more than a good time.

While we cannot today find a final answer to the great puzzle of our national addiction to violence, perhaps we can nonetheless finally admit the addiction.

As frightful as the Las Vegas killings are, they join a long list of mass shootings.

Such violence is all too frequent.

The murders last Sunday stand out only because of the numbers.

And because it was captured on video.

However, these same numbers some times take place in Chicago on any given weekend and no one even bats an eye.  It is not noticed because it usually is a one-on-one event. One person killed events in an abhorrent number of weekend murders… in a “gun-free zone.” 

Let’s be honest. Gun Free Zones don’t work.

But we have to do something.

As a nation we have been at war since 2001. Since I was born, the years of national conflict nearly outnumber the years of peace. And I’m not including the Cold War, covert actions, and episodic military interventions. So many young adults do not remember or  have experienced an America at peace.

There is no question that the type and number of weapons hoarded by the Las Vegas shooter made him exponentially more lethal. We can and should arrive at reasonable political measures that address an individual’s capacity to wreak such unspeakable havoc.

I not talking about taking guns away from anyone. I want a society that is able to have the freedom to have a gun to protect themselves or to use for appropriate hunting.  I do not believe we need to pry the guns from the hands of Americans.

However, what I am saying is that we can do something moving forward.  We need to keep these type of guns off and out of the free-market.  We can stop people from buying a gun that can shoot 70 – 90 rounds in 10 seconds.  Is there http://www.trbimg.com/img-575ef1a2/turbine/la-1465840206-snap-photoreally a purpose for a gun like this? I think not.

In truth, we will never be able to clear our society of these type weapons already purchased.  They are embedded and unfortunately will be a part of a society that will need to deal with the outcomes of such weaponry. 

I am not naive, I know that someone will continue to make these type of weapons, no matter if we ban them from being sold. If a person wants to have a gun to use for evil, no matter what type of weapon they want… it will be available somewhere. Regardless what we do politically.

But we have to  do something.  We need to limit their numbers of availability. Doing nothing just deepens our accountability for these type of events from occurring.

And yet, even if and when we achieve a political solution, our spiritual challenge remains.

As a believer, I can no longer turn my eyes away from these type of events and simply say I will pray for the victims.  While it is a good place to start there is more that we can do. To be followers of Jesus, requires reflection, repentance, and transformation.

As long as violence in any form is our only customary means for maintaining our security, our status, and our stuff, we will ALL remain… mortally wounded spiritually.

Finding Forgiveness

“I need to forgive.” 

This simple sentence haunted me for years.

I was reminded of this last night as I attended a Casting Chttps://fscog.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/finding-forgiveness.jpg?w=281&h=211rowns concert.  I love their music.  It just cuts right to my heart.  Over the years, it has had a profound affect on me.  Their music has encouraged and challenged me to deal with things I was ignoring in my life.

I struggled with forgiveness for many years.

In my mind, I knew that I needed to but I just could bring myself to forgive those that I felt betrayed me… my heart needed more time to respond.  I learned the hard way that the heart takes more time to heal.

You may not be able to relate exactly to my story, but chances are by the time you’re reading this article, you know what it feels like to be lied to, betrayed, forgotten, rejected or in some other way wounded by someone you loved and trusted.

I have yet to meet a person who has made it through this life without facing one or more of these wounds. And because we understand what it feels like to be injured in this way, we also know how truly challenging it can be to offer forgiveness.

For years I thought I understood what it meant to forgive.

https://marriagemissions.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/Time-to-Forgive-AdobeStock_59582002-copy.jpgThen just about the time I thought I had a grasp on the whole process of understanding forgiveness, something would come straight out of nowhere and remind me that I had a long way to go.

The hurt and resentment we sought to leave behind would resurface from time to time. Maybe it was triggered by someone’s offhand remark or by an old song from back in the day.

That is how it would happen to me.  I would be driving back home from work, listening to songs as they randomly came up.

Then that song comes on… the one that took me back to another place and time.

Suddenly I am filled with all the anger, hurt, frustration and resentment that I feel towards people who betrayed or hurt me over the years of my life. 

It would be clearly evident that I still struggled with forgiveness.

On the outside, I would hide it, twist it and lie about it if I needed to, but I wasn’t going to forgive. On the inside I didn’t want anything to do with forgiveness.

I thought I would grow into it over time, I assumed, this burden and I would grow strong enough to carry it. 

As the years went by, I tried to forget. It worked, for the most part. When you carry a grudge long enough, it didn’t feel like a grudge anymore. It just felt like life. https://i.pinimg.com/736x/16/da/d6/16dad6f443ecaae385abba9b17912111--let-god-let-it-go.jpg

Like putting on clothes each morning, I would just get up every morning and strap on my bag full of anger, hurt, shame, bitterness, frustration and the lack of any desire to forgive those that you had an issue with.

As matter of fact, I thought about it rarely. When I did think about it, I prayed it would evaporate into thin air, and that maybe I would evaporate with it.

In some ways, it did evaporate. In many ways I did forget.

After all these years, I still have a lot to learn about the process of forgiving someone.

But I have learned this…

We forgive in response to wounds and betrayals. A part of ourselves is broken. A relationship has crumbled. The potential life we imagined for ourselves lies in ruins. I am learning that I am still broken.

Forgiveness is that healing that mends the broken part of us.

Mending takes time.

Forgiveness cannot take place without honesty, boundaries, space, distance and time.

Forgiveness is a process. I am learning that we forgive one day at a time.

It rarely comes as a single, discrete decision. We talk about forgiveness like it’s a single, one-time event, and in my experience, it’s just not.

Forgiveness isn’t an event any more than brushing your teeth is an event.  It is something you must do over and over and over again.

I am not sure it gets easier with time.

In fact, one of the few things that has helped me heal from my past is to stop saying, “I forgive you” and start saying, “I’m forgiving you.”

Jesus talked at length about forgiveness. Once, Peter asked him, “So, look, how often do I have to forgive? Seven times? Will that about cut it?” Imagine the look on Peter’s face when Jesus said, “Make that seventy-times seven.”

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/files/2015/06/blame-e1433261975140.jpgStrictly speaking, Jesus wasn’t just telling Peter how many times he had to forgive a repeat offender. He was also telling him—telling us—how forgiveness works.

I need to get up each morning and instead of strapping on that backpack of hurt, I need to wake up with the intent of forgiving.

Many days it’s the same person I forgave yesterday.

What would happen if, just for today, you thought about the person who has hurt you most and said to yourself:

“I am forgiving you. By that I mean, I’m not going to blame you or hold you responsible for my life or my future any longer. The power to shape what is coming is mine now. I take it back for myself. I reclaim my power. And that grudge I’ve been carrying, well, it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting you, so for that reason, I’m going to set it down, move on and forgive you.”

Those of us that struggle with forgiveness, we don’t have to make any promises about the future. Except that if we have to, we may need to forgive again tomorrow.

Ultimately… it is how we find the way to forgive.

Sometimes the heart needs more time to accept what the mind already knows.

Step Outside of the Boat

I’ve been thinking a lot about when Peter, James, John, and the rest of the Twelve disciples accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, they committed and dedicated themselves to patterning their lives on His. 

Me? I get out of bed and I meander to church for the 11:30 service on a Sunday morning and I somehow I want to get credit for my effort.   Getting to service a somehow I have caught myself wanting to get a medal for my “commitment” and “dedication”.

Is this what it really means to follow Christ?

As I write this, I am ashImage result for Boat floating in the wateramed of ever wanting “credit” for in my walk with Christ.

I have always been amazed that these men gave up everything in this life to follow Him.  I cannot imagine that type of commitment to follow Christ.

In particular, I been drawn to the story of Peter walking on the water. Or more specifically his failure to walk on water.

Each disciple would struggle to follow Christ.

But struggling to follow Jesus’ example doesn’t make them failures. On the contrary, their mistakes and missteps show us an important dimension of what it means to follow Jesus.

And I think that may be why Matthew tells the story of Peter’s attempt to walk on water.

Like Mark, Matthew shares the story of Jesus walking on water. In both Gospels, the disciples have gone ahead of Jesus in a boat. The weather gets rough. In the predawn hours the disciples spot Jesus strolling across the lakImage result for Jesus Walking on Watere.

If we stick with Mark and stop with that, the passage tells us only that Jesus is divine. That’s an important message, and Matthew conveys it as well. But then Matthew adds the bit about Peter getting out of the boat. And it’s important to ask why he included it.

Scholars have concluded that he had a source that Mark lacked. But that still doesn’t explain why Matthew decided to include the episode in the larger story he was telling. My guess is that he wanted to show us what discipleship meant in light of what we had just learned about Jesus’ identity.

Following an incarnate God means that we would be set an impossible example to most ordinary people.  Jesus is urging us to walk on water. And He knows what that will mean for us. Let’s look more closely at the passage.

Peter says to Jesus, “If that’s you, tell me to come out there with you.” Peter climbs Image result for Peter sinkingover the side of the boat, takes a few steps, and then he sinks. Jesus grabs him up and hauls him into the boat. He says, “Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?”

We have all heard lots of sermons about Peter’s faith deficit. We’ve been told that if he had only had enough faith, he would never have sunk. Frequently we’re harangued about our own puny faith and told to buck up.

Well, I don’t buy that.

For starters, remember that Peter was a disciple. He took the risk of imitating Jesus doing something impossible. It’s what he had signed up for. Besides, Peter had already come to expect Jesus to do and say unthinkable things, for example…

Turn the other cheek. Don’t imagine that violence will solve anything.

Forgive the unrepentant. Repeatedly. How you feel about it isn’t the point.

Love your enemy. Even the dangerous one who hates your guts.

Give your stuff away because someone else needs it. Don’t even ask about who deserves it.

See everybody—simply everybody—as infinitely valuable in themselves. Nobody is here to serve your agenda, gratify your desires, or live up to your expectations.

Eat with sinners. Befriend outcasts. Get over yourself.https://i2.wp.com/www.catholicsistas.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/get-over-yourself-300x138.jpg

For Jesus, this is what it means to live. This is eternal life. This is love that resembles God.

And, yes, at first it will be like walking on water. Impossible! You will sink. And that is where the growth begins. Once you’ve been brought back to the safety of the boat, will you step back out on the waves again?

When Jesus welcomed Peter out on the waves, He probably knew that Peter would sink. Who wouldn’t!

Jesus wasn’t setting a test for Peter, waiting to see if his faith measured up. At Peter’s own request, Jesus encouraged his insanely risky behavior.

When Jesus talks about Peter’s little faith, he’s not sayingImage result for step outside the boat “deficient faith.” Sure, Peter’s faith isn’t where it will eventually be. But neither is he utterly faithless. His faith has room to grow. Just like ours.

Faith does not grow by spiritual strain. It grows when we stretch ourselves to attempt to step out of the boat and attempt walk on water again and again.

To do those things that Jesus teaches us to do when everybody around tells us we’re naive or just plain crazy.

As it turns out, learning how to live comes down to learning how to love.

In truth, we grow in faith, when we get over ourselves and love our neighbor as if our own life depended on it.

So, step outside the boat… sure you’re going to get wet, but it is in that commitment, dedication and desire to become like Christ that makes all the difference in the world.

I believe our life depends on it. 

When You’re Fifteen, It’s a Long Way to Cleveland

Everyone needs a place to go to be a kid.  For my buddies and me, that place was ten minutes from home if you walked it.  It was a world all its own. All the kids from that sleepy little Ohio town would gather there. It is where we grew up.  

Together.

That summer, the place to be was Teagarden’s Pool in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

So many things happened there… so many memories.

But of course, none of it was permanent.  Unless you count the flashes of images and thoughts of a time not cluttered with the responsibilities of adulthood.

Each day was filled with the shrieks of laughter and catcalls, as me and all my friends would swim on endless summer days.

Sure, they called it Teagarden’s Pool, but we knew better.   That pool… belonged to us.

On one beautiful day in June, I was at the pool to take a Junior Lifesaving course.   I had known how to swim since I was five.   I had worked my way through the Tadpole, Guppy, Dolphin and Shark divisions.   Now I was on my way to becoming a “lifeguard”.  

Looking back on it now, I probably took all of those classes because of the fact that they were taught by girls, not just any girls… but older girls… girls in bikinis.

And on this particular day, this pretty girl was there to take the class.    Now I knew all the girls in my age group from our little town of Oak Harbor, Ohio.   But this girl wasn’t a girl that I knew… she was “new”.    A rare find in our little town.

I tried not to look like I was staring.  I quickly looked away if I saw the slightest twitch that she may look in my direction.   I sat there trying to look like I was paying attention to our “instructor-in-the-bikini”, but I couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful stranger that was dropped from heaven.   Who was this new girl?   Where was she from?   Where was she living and more importantly was she staying?

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who eyes were fixated on the new visitor.   I looked around the class and every hometown girl who was taking the class was staring as well.  The evaluation was in full motion.   As my eyes and all of the others boys were looking in approval, the other girls there were judgmental and critical of new-found competition.

As fate would have it, when it was time to break up into groups for our first activity of the class, I was placed in the same group with her.   I couldn’t believe it, what luck!

She was walking my way and my mind was racing a million miles per hour.    I was going to be the first to talk to her.   I was desperately trying to think of something witty to say, something profound. Something to break the ice… something to let her see I was a “cool” guy.

I was sure I did not want to say something like…”Hi, my name is David.   What’s yours?  Where are you from?   How old are you?   Why are you here?   Did you move here?   Why are you taking this class? “

No… I did not want to say these things… but I did.

As a matter of fact, I said it without taking a breath and yes, I said this whole statement in less than 1.2 seconds.  

A world record I’m sure.

She was just staring at me.   The look on her face was evident that she thought she just  met Oak Harbor’s village idiot.

Her jaw dropped and I could see that she was trying not to laugh at the jumbled mess that just came out of my mouth.   She was trying to respond, but could not for fear that she would make fun of the village idiot.   So she spoke in precise, deliberate and painfully slow words.   She spoke loud.   You know, like when you talk to someone who is deaf or from a foreign country.    Like somehow if she talked louder, I would be able to understand what she was saying.   “MY NAME IS KAREN!!” she slowly exclaimed.

It was evident that I lost any chance of convincing her that I was a normal “cool” guy.   So I relaxed.   I interrupted her and told her that I wasn’t deaf and I was at least smart enough to follow what she was saying.   I tried to be coy and told her I might not understand everything she said but I would at least try.   She told me she was 15 and was from Cleveland.   She was camping at a local campground for few weeks with her grandparents.    She was bored at the campground so they let her take this class.

I was so glad that she didn’t catch me staring at her.  I mean, I already made an absolute fool out of myself; I did not want her to think I was a pervert as well.

Maybe she was just a kind-hearted soul that took pity on village idiots or she indeed liked being with me, because for the next two weeks we were inseparable.    I would wake each morning and hurry down to the pool at 8:00 AM and sure enough there she would be waiting there for me.  

After class we would stay at the pool until it closed that night.    We would swim and talk for hours.    We never left the pool.   Karen told me about everything in her life.    She told me about her school, her friends and her family.   She never had or wanted a boyfriend.    She told me how her father died when she was two and her mom had recently remarried a man she did not like.   He made her feel uncomfortable.   Always making comments and touching her in ways that made her feel uneasy.   That was really why she was in Oak Harbor in the first place. She was trying to get away from some things she did not want to deal with.

We talked and talked. I didn’t mind.   She told me things that she said she never told anyone else.   I guess in some way, I made her feel comfortable. Maybe she knew that she could say exactly what was on her mind and not feel judged because of it.  She was sharing her memories, feelings and her dreams as she spoke them to me.

At times, she would just stop talking and get real quiet. She wanted me to just to talk to her about my life.   We would talk about my brother’s death and life in a small town.   We talked about religion and what we believed.   We shared our love for music and what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives.    It was special because we could talk, knowing that we could say anything and we would not be judged like we would have been had we been talking to our friends that we grew up with.  

And we both knew… it wouldn’t last forever.

Soon that inevitable time came upon us and neither one of us wanted to admit was taking place.   She had two more days before she was going to go back home.   It was Friday and she would have to leave Sunday morning.   As the pool closed that warm summer Friday night, Image result for girl looking at the sunsetwe stayed a little longer talking at the gate before her grandparents picked her up.   She looked nervous and I asked her what was wrong.   She just looked at me and stared.    With the sun setting in the distance and the color of her blue eyes reflecting off the last remaining rays of light, she looked up and kissed me.

No… it wasn’t my first kiss.  Maybe it was her first kiss, I don’t know.    But I do know that this was different.   This was not about a boy and a girl.    For in fact, in the two weeks we spent together we had not as much as held hands.   This was about friendship and the special time we spent together.

Karen placed a letter in my hand and asked me to promise not to open it until I got home that night. We had one more day together and we made plans to meet the next day at the pool, like always.

And in an instant she was gone.

I took my time walking home that summer night. I wanted to remember and etch it in my memory.

I read her letter.  She wrote of our first meeting at the pool.   She told me that she thought it was cute how I kept staring at her that first day and how I tried to look away when she looked over at me.   She had caught me staring!!  I thought I had hidden it.   She talked about the pool and all of our talks we had.   She told me she would miss me.  She told me goodbye.   Her grandparents were leaving early on Saturday morning, not Sunday. She wouldn’t be coming back to the pool.

I knew at that moment, that life was not fair.   In the haste of the last night together, I never got her address.   It was hopeless. When you’re fifteen, Cleveland is so far away. 

It might as well have been on the other side of the world.

I’d never felt like that before in my entire life.   The next day I ran down to the pool in the fleeting hope that she would be there.   Maybe there was a chance she would stop by before she left for home.   She wouldn’t come to the pool that day.  

Our time together that summer was over.

That was 40 years ago.   Even today, I think about a friendship that lasted for two weeks that I have carried with me for all these years.    I wonder what ever happened to her.  I wonder what would she be doing now and if some of her dreams came true.  I wonder if she still thinks about a skinny kid from Oak Harbor, Ohio.

I like to think so.

I kept that letter she wrote me in an old shoe box.   Over the years, I took it out every now and then, unfolded the tattered, yellowed pages and I was immediately taken back to another place and time.   Suddenly for a few moments, I was fifteen again and life wasn’t filled with the responsibilities I have today.

I have no idea where that letter is today.  It was probably thrown out with the trash when I wasn’t paying attention to what was in that old shoe box.

But I still have the memory.

Memory has a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are and the things you never want to lose.

Cause when you’re fifteen, it’s a long way to Cleveland.

Words Matter

Words matter.

Words have power.

Words have consequences.

They can help.

They can heal.

They can guide.

Or

They can hurt.

They can wound.

They can deceive.

Words promote life or death.

Your words matter.

They can spread joy.

They can spread happiness.

They can spread love.

Or

 They can spread disappointment.

They can spread sadness.

They can spread hate.

Words promote life or death.

My words matter.

They can be sweet.

They can be encouraging.

They can be kind.

They can be refreshing.

Our words matter.

Choose them wisely.

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Thoughts at 3:00 AM

3:00 AM… I woke up suddenly in a rush. 

No… I wasn’t having a panic attack but rather I was finally aware of what has been bothering me for the past few weeks.  I did not wake in fear but in clarity.

Let me first state that I do not have permission to write this, nor have I talked to her about this before I post it.  In truth, I am afraid to ask permission.  This perspective is mine and not hers.

Image may contain: one or more people and closeupIn addition, for the record, I do not speak for her.  I have not earned that right.  It’s her arena, it’s her court and she has the ball.

I am not even on the bench coaching like I have done so many time for her in the past.  She doesn’t need me to coach her.  She won’t hear me say things to her about taking the last shot or not passing the ball. I surely will not be blaming her for anything.

Again, these are my words, my perspective and I own it.

Here is my issue…

As many of you know, my sister-in-law has cancer.

The language used to talk about cancer patients often focuses on battle words – those who are cured “won” or “survived,” while those who die from cancer “lost” their “fight or battle.”

But is cancer really something to be won or lost?

Cancer didn’t ask Lynn if she wanted to have a little competition.  Lynn didn’t ask to have this.

I know people mean well. I have been guilty of this as well.  I know people don’t do it intentionally.  I know they want to encourage Lynn, but lately, I get angry when I think (intentional or not) that someone could be  symbolically blaming Lynn when she is having a rough time after chemo, or that her numbers aren’t good.  It’s as if when we use terms for her to “keep fighting and battling cancer”  Lynn must have given up and not have fought hard enough against it. 

Trust me…   she knows how to “battle” and she knows how to “fight”.

Lynn is an athlete. One of the best I ever witnessed. She understands competition.  She understands what it is like to be in the middle of a challenge, when the game is on the line. Those are the times in her life she chose to get into those competitions and games. She was an active participant by her own choice.  She chose that competition and she knew that there would be a winner and a loser.

I now refuse to use the word “battling” or “fighting” in reference to cancer. 

Image result for Define yourselfNow I know she is not dealing with this by choice but I know she will “fight” and I know she will “battle.” She has proven that she is a warrior. But, for me, those words and terms can only be used by Lynn and her journey with cancer.  She owns them. Only she can define who she is during this journey.  I get frustrated when people so quickly throw those words out about something they know nothing about.  That includes me.  I have no right to use words like “fight” or “battle” when it comes to her experience.

In addition, friends, family, loved ones and those without cancer often consider cancer patients “heroic soldiers,” but I am sure that Lynn doesn’t feel very heroic when she’s going through chemo. I am sure just wants to take her medication and do what she’s told to do.  I can only assume that after a day on a chemotherapy drip,  that Lynn feels the battle is being done against her and doesn’t have the ability to “fight” it.

In my opinion, the use of the word ‘battle’ places the responsibility of getting better upon the patient. This opens up the possibility that it is the ‘strong’ or ‘deserving’ patients who survive having cancer, and that those who die from it are somehow lacking in moral fibre or will.  This is dangerous and makeImage may contain: 2 people, people smiling, stripes and outdoors me angry.

The idea of cancer as a “battle” unnecessarily romanticizes cancer as a disease when there is nothing romantic about it.  Even though the battle has been lost we persist in reassuring ourselves that the deceased has ‘given it everything’. Like so much that is said about cancer by people who have not had it, it is uttered more to reassure the speaker than those having treatment for the disease.

The truth that cancer happens to the best among us as readily as to ordinary mortals. Cancer happens.  Food still needs to be bought and prepared and eaten. Bills need to be paid.  Mom’s need to be moms. Activities go on and life has to be lived.

Life waits for no one.

Unfortunately this is the side of cancer still very much missing from everyday portrayals of the disease. People prefer stories about the outward signifiers of cancer, for example stories about being ‘brave’ for being seen for the first time without any hair.  I’m sure that Lynn did not feel “brave” at that first look when her hair was gone. Image may contain: 1 person

I did not see a heroic soldier.  I did not see brave.  

I see Lynn.  I see my sister-in-law.  I see the girl who I sat with many times just talking about “stuff.”  I see the athlete that loves competition.  I see the “lay-up” for her 1,000th point in high school.  I see one of Ohio State’s biggest fans. 

I see a mom that loves her kids more than life itself.

I see a person who always put others in front of herself.

Image may contain: 1 person, weddingI see a mom at her daughter’s wedding… dancing. 

Lynn gets battered with a load of drugs. People want to use the words “brave” “battle” and ”fight”, but it’s not a great three-part TV drama on Lifetime, full of heroic and brave moments.  It’s a long grind, a slow car crash that will last for months or longer.

Lynn didn’t choose to be affected by cancer and because she has cancer, doesn’t mean she cannot make mistakes or be selfish, but it almost becomes an expectation of Lynn that because she is a cancer patient that she somehow must become “strong”, “brave” and “heroic’ and “courageous” with this curse of cancer.

Here is the truth, some days cancer has the upper hand, other days Lynn does.  She lives with it and she lets its physical and emotional effects wash over her. But she doesn’t fight it.

Next time you are tempted to use the word “battle” or “fight” Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, indoorplease pause to question the use of cancer as a battle, with its inevitable logic of valor, winners and losers.  It may be difficult to change such a deeply rooted practice.  I am sure that words like “fight” and “battle” make the top-ten list of words commonly associated with cancer. Unfortunate words like “die” and “suffer” comprise the remainder of the list.  I believe a word like “journey” might be a better replacement for “battle” and “fight.”

I choose to encourage Lynn to keep on pedaling, to keep on her journey and let her alone choose the “fights” and “battles” in her life.  Again, in my opinion, those “words” are for no one to determine or to use except for her and her alone.

She is committed to be in it, to win it.  I can only encourage her, tell her that I love her and I am praying for her.

I am sure some people will read this and may get upset with me.  That is not my intention. I honestly am not judging anyone. This is just something that has been on my heart and mind and I was getting so frustrated with some of the things I was reading on her FACEBOOK page.  I reserve the option to acknowledge that I may be over-reacting to well-meaning people’s words of encouragement. 

Either way, God’s got this. 

Those with the need to continue to use those terms as a war metaphor as a “battle” against cancer, I do not have to ask myself what side I am on and I am sure neither does Lynn.

#ALLIN4LYNN

Realizing Someone Heard You

I remember those feelings.

What if no one reads my blog? What if someone leaves me a really mean comment? What if I’m criticized? What if my ideas are only interesting to me? What if this blog is a mistake?

Image result for BloggingThose were just a few of the questions that shook every bone in my body as I sat in my office with the lights off, in the wee hours of the morning, and started this blog.

I think back to that moment quite a bit.

At no point in my life did the thought of starting a blog ever cross my mind, until a few days before I actually did. As weird as it sounds, it felt like something I had to do.

And I’ll be honest, most of my life has been like that – where all of a sudden I feel compelled to do something I’ve never even thought about before.

Early on in this blog’s life, I was always so worried about every sentence, and every word, and every comma, and every semi-colon, and every little detail. It ate away at me as I put words on the screen. I would write three sentences and delete two and a half of them.

I felt like it had to be perfect, or someone would criticize me.

I tried to convince myself to just ignore this huge weight inside of me, but I couldn’t do it. So I talked myself into writing about real things that happened to me. I had to share from my heart and from my perspective.

Image result for writing from the heartAnd that’s when I stopped caring about every single word, sentence, comma, semi-colon, and detail. That’s when I learned how to write from my heart.

If you want the secret, here it is.

I thought about everything that was holding me back from being completely honest in my writing, was all stuck in my shoulders. So I shook my arms until I could feel the words exit through my fingertips.

That sounds extra cheesy and really lame, but it’s what I did. And if I’m honest, I still do it whenever I feel like I’m over-thinking the words I’m writing.

I figuratively strip myself of everything that is preventing me from saying exactly what I feel. Because once those restraints are gone, all that remains is my heart.

I was fully expecting 80% of the comments to tell me to “Get over it” and “Stop whining about the past.”

I didn’t get that.

It’s weird. I went from being afraid that no one would read my blog, to being afraid that I reached over 1000 views in a day. I was overwhelmed. This is not an exaggeration, trust me.

From that point on, I felt free. I felt like I could take my inner voice and put it directly on a computer screen without thinking twice.

I knew that if my intentions were good, then it wouldn’t matter what anyone thought about what I wrote.

I often say that blogging is like talking to yourself, and then realizing someone heard you.

There are so many rules about how to blog, and what to write about, and how to present your thoughts. I try not to follow any of them – it’s just not me.

I never know what I’m going to say when I sit down and write a blog post. I also don’t know when the words are going to come out. I just sit down with a topic and maybe one line that I wrote down on my phone, and go from there.

I can’t schedule a post three days in advance. I can’t plan ahead.

I write until I’m satisfied.

https://i1.wp.com/data.whicdn.com/images/228367993/large.jpgI’m not here just to write random words. Everything has to mean something.

I’m not aiming for apathy on your end, or mine. If you’re going to read my blog, I’m going to try to make sure you walk away with something from it.

This blog has given me so much and has taught me even more. It’s made me realize how powerful our words really are. We have the ability to say anything we want, all we have to do is put words in the right order.

When you do that, beautiful things happen.

And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Divine Interruptions?

My life is always filled with distractions.

So much so, that I find it difficult to figure out exactly what I shoulImage result for distractionsd be paying attention to.

I have the attention span of a flea, so anything can distract me!

I think most people can relate because it seems like our entire society has a type of A.D.D.

In our technology-driven world, there are endless options of what can pull our focus from what is in front of us.

This can be very concerning.  Especially since every day on my way to work I have people pass me with their head buried into their phone, texting or looking at FACEBOOK. 

In this life of distractions, I am convinced that we are in risk of missing out on the greatest events in our life. How do we re-gain the focus on what is important?  

Focus is important as we pursue our lives.  It is too easy to become distracted by chasing the big-picture stuff and miss the smaller, more significant issues that are probably more important. One distraction leads to another, which leads to another, and before we know it, we’re off course and we wonder how we’ll ever really experience the life we were intended to live.

I’ve discovered some of the distractions that I have experienced might possibly be God interruptions.https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Q296TbSrmT4/maxresdefault.jpg

Say what? Yes… some distractions, I believe come from God.

Divine Interruptions?

Yes, a “Divine Interruption” if you will.

The are intended to get our attention. They might be God’s way of leading us into an important new piece of the puzzle in His ultimate plan for our life. What feels like an interruption in one moment can be the key to unlock another direction God wants us to go.

It’s knowing when God is nudging you or whispering in your ear.  I believe God uses these nudges to move us, to help us gain perspective and re-focus on things that are important.

Unfortunately for me… sometimes God tried nudging until He had to slap me alone the side of the head.

There have been many times I couldn’t take the hint that God was leading me to.

I have never handled interruptions very well.  I am too busy making my own plans.

I can’t help but marvel at how Jesus handled interruptions.

A few weeks ago I wrote about John The Baptist, a story told in Matthew 14, when Jesus finds out about John the Baptist’s beheading. Jesus is saddened by the news. He wants to be alone. So what does He do? He gets in the boat and staImage result for distractionsrts on a journey to get some solace and relief.

But Jesus’ solace is soon interrupted. A large crowd gets word of His plan, and the people make it to the other side in order to wait for Him.

Imagine Jesus as He nears the shore and catches a glimpse of thousands of people waiting to meet Him. 

Most of us would be frustrated at the sight. We’d probably decide it best to send away the crowds. Or maybe we’d stay in the boat and go somewhere else.

But that’s not Jesus’ response. He’s not frustrated.

Matthew says he felt compassion for the people.

Compassion?

Yep. While I’m busy figuring out a way to do my own thing, Jesus would be thinking of how He could show compassion. He doesn’t throw a pity party for Himself. Instead, He puts others first. What would stir up frustration in us stirs up compassion in Him!

Jesus was always available for interruptions.

It always seems to me that whenever Jesus was interrupted a miracle followed.

He seemed to keep Himself open so He could turn what looked like a distraction into the gateway to a miracle.

Have you ever heard about the day Jesus was teaching and some parents took their children to Him so He would pray over them and bless them? The disciples scolded the parents for bothering Jesus; they saw the children as a disruption.

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

He recognized the opportunity to teach His followers about the kind of faith they needed. He knew difference between distraction and divine interruption because He stayed close to the Father, listening for and following God’s plan.

Divine Interruptions are not obstacles to our plan; they are opportunities for us to embrace God’s plan.

God never promised that this life was easy.  If we focus only on the mess of this life, we may just very well miss the miracle God has for us.

I’ve missed too many miracles. I’ve missed too many blessings. I’ve missed many aspects of the life that God wanted for me because I was to focused on “me” and myFalling into place desires.

I believe we need to allow ourselves to be open to Divine Interruptions. God is constantly crossing our path, canceling our plans and sending interruptions in our life to create the change that God wants for us.

When we experience these events… these Divine Interruptions, we think that our life is in total disarray and totally falling apart.

Truth is… if we allow God to do His work… it might finally be falling into place.