You Have No Idea

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I love sharing stories.  I have never been able to write stories of someone else so I usually write about myself. That isn’t as self-serving as that may come across. It is just that I share my thoughts and things that I know about.  I know about failure and I know about success. I have experienced both on extreme levels. So, this week is no different, I want to share another small piece of my own story.

As I write this, today is my anniversary. Exactly 9 years ago today, I sat down to my https://thelegacybuilder.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/1c09e-post2bwriting.jpg?w=1108computer to write my very first blog post.

Now, I realize I didn’t just say I performed my first brain surgery, or I decided to run for President. But for me, it was a pivotal day – one that I think will shape the rest of my life.

While I have always loved to write, I never let anyone know that aspect about me. But blogging? That was something different.  This was where people would be able to see what you wrote. I’d never blogged before. I really did not know what a “blog” really was. I had no following to speak of. I had no way to know if people would find this website, or if they’d even read it. I even wondered if I’d run out of things to say.

What I did know is that there was a stirring inside of me, something telling me that tomorrow wasn’t supposed to look like yesterday. I’d ignored it for years, pushing it aside to keep the pain and darkness that had overcome my life for the previous 15 years or so.

Something told me if I didn’t move right then, another wasted day would become another wasted month – and another wasted year of my life.

Facing that empty screen, I have to admit, I was scared. I was doubtful.

But I wrote anyway. 

And I wrote again the next day.

And the next. And the next.

Over the course of this blog’s life, there haven’t been many days where I did not write something.  Some of those stories and posts have made their way onto this blog site. However, many articles and stories will forever remain drafts, never to be published. Not because they are not good stories, but rather because I am not at peace about revealing them for people to read. I am sure that on some levels, they contain my “best” writing.  I have yet to fully understand why I choose to post some of the articles and some will be deleted when they close down this website after a long period of no activity or I pass away.

So I published and posted articles and stories, while I always say that, “I love to write, but I am not a writer.” I never say I am a good writer.  Some of my posts are not bad and a few of them I would have to admit are pretty good. Many of them are just “ok” and a portion of them are horrible.  I am always amazed that 9 years later, my articles have been read over 525,000 thousand times.

Blogging is not for the faint of heart.  Writing one is hard. Most blogs fail after just a few posts because it does take an emotional toll on your heart.  You pour yourself into it and sometimes people are not so kind while they stomp on your heart or your perspective.

I have had some great supporters of my writings and I have had some detractors. I https://i1.wp.com/omofastaction.africancampaigns.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ink-stains.pnghave been called names and I have had my writings called, “A stain on the white shirt of society.”  I have come so close to quitting a number of times over the years but I still cannot walk away from it.

I’ve met some amazing people I’d never have had reason or opportunity to know otherwise. Many of them have grown to be genuine friends – some of them an ocean away. Some readers even credit my posts with giving them the nudge they needed to launch out into their own deeper waters, which is the highest compliment to me.

But most of all – best of all – writing this blog had allowed me to feel more like “me” than I had in years.

I was going through a really dark period of my spiritual life when I started this blog. I was truly far, far away from God compared to where I had been most of my life.  I was trying to find my way back and I just could not find a way to do that. I am sure that many of you know what I mean. You’ve felt it too. There’s a deep longing in each of us to discover our elusive “purpose” and to sit in the center of our life knowing that you are  at peace in your relationship with the Lord. Little else feels as good as when you’re actually doing what you know you should be doing.

Writing has allowed me to find my way “home” spiritually.  I made a choice that day when I started writing and filling that blank screen.  I chose faith over fear. I chose action over apathy. I chose to fill the page, to write the first story. And you know what? Each time I write, I gain a little more peace than the day before.

Yes, I know, there are countless blogs growing faster and are much better than mine. I encounter better and more successful “real” writers on a daily basis. And when I compare myself to my colleagues and friends, I’m keenly aware that there’s a lot of road up ahead of me.

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0254/9599/t/2/assets/logo.png?11343127326311193056But today, when I compare myself to that guy facing that empty computer screen 9 years ago, it’s worth pausing and reflecting on how far he’s come. It’s something to celebrate. I wish I could reach back in time and whisper in his ear, “Go ahead. Do it boldly! You have no idea what a difference this will make in your life!!”.

Do you feel a stirring inside you – to become more, or simply different than you are? Have you ever thought about writing?

If you’ve tried to bury the feeling, but it only grows stronger. If you’re afraid of failing. If you think the sacrifice would be too great.  If it seems unattainable, unreachable, ‘ungettable’…at least for you.  If you wonder if it’s all just wishful thinking, like overgrown hope. And if it would be smarter to settle for what you already have.

Ask yourself this simple question. What if you’re wrong about writing your story?

Go ahead. Do it boldly.

My writings will never be read by millions.  I will probably never publish a book.

But I’ve still got a story to tell.

I’ll write mine… you write yours, because you have no idea what a difference it will make in your life.

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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.

Daydream Believer

The music of The Monkees has been my friend for over fifty years.

As a six-year-old kid infatuated with these fun-loving characters on my TV screen; I know how much The Monkees have always meant to me. Whatever man I am, whatever person I try to be, watching The Monkees, and listening tImage result for The MOnkeeso The Monkees, was an essential part of growing up.

In fact, unashamedly I admit, while it would be cooler to say it was The Beatles or some other classic act, The Monkees were the first “album” I ever bought. 

I’m a believer.

Doesn’t it feel good to say that?

Doesn’t it feel good to acknowledge that giddy feeling of joy that wells up within you when you hear a terrific, transcendent pop song on the radio?

How many times did I sing along with, “Daydream Believer”?

I couldn’t even begin to guess. 

Isn’t it great to let the music fill you with that grand, unspoken sensation of freedom, to turn the volume up as loud as you can, and just sing along, even if you don’t really know all the words?

Your troubles don’t vanish; your cares won’t slip away; woImage result for The MOnkeesrk still has to be done, your heart still requires mending, and your body and soul still shudder from the unnamed ache that never quite surrenders its grip. But for approximately two minutes and fifty-nine seconds, you are able to disappear from what’s wrong in the world.

What a gift that Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith were to my childhood.

Vivid memories as a child still remain. I was five years old when The Monkees debuted on the charts and TV screens in 1966, with a # 1 hit single called “Last Train To Clarksville” and a vibrant weekly show.

I didn’t know they weren’t cool. Because, obviously, they were cool: they were like a magic, irresistible combination of Batman and The Beatles—and really, in the ’60s, what could be cooler than that?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wasn’t created to validate the tastes of clueless five-year-old kids from Oak Harbor, Ohio.

That’s fair.

The Hall of Fame is a celebration of rock ‘n’ roll music, an embrace of its history and the people who made it happen. It’s a tribute to the power of that music, to rock’s ability to express and embody rebellion, to break down barriers, to inspire, https://i1.wp.com/andrew-wittman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Daydream-believer.jpgto transcend, to elevate, to unite. It’s about more than catchy pop songs, more than a manufactured image, more than photogenic faces on the cover of a teen magazine. It means something. It matters.

But you wanna know something? It turns out The Monkees somehow did all of that. The Monkees rebelled. The Monkees broke down barriers. The Monkees inspired, transcended, elevated, united. The Monkees meant something. The Monkees mattered.

The Monkees were also influential. More than any other act—even more than The Beatles—The Monkees brought the burgeoning ’60s counter-culture into everyday American living rooms, via their weekly TV showcase. They had long hair. They brandished peace symbols.

The Monkees’ popularity is indisputable fact: # 1 singles, # 1 albums, the best-selling musical act of 1967, believe it or not, outselling The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. Don’t believe?  Look it up.

I’m a believer.

This shouldn’t be true—this was supposed to be soundtrack music for a TV sitcom, for God’s sake—but the evidence is there, and it’s been there from the start.

The evidence will make a believer out of you, too.

The Monkees’ recordings have remained radio staples for five decades and show no sign of ever fading away. Reruns of the TV series have continually renewed the group’s fan base, as new generations of fans have discovered the enduring appeal of four guys walking down the street, getting the funniest looks from everyone they meet.

But popularity alone does not make an act worthy of induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; there are dozens and dozens of mega-selling pop entities that will never be considered Hall of Fame material, and rightly so.

But I’m a believer.

Belief sustains us, even when everyone says we’re wrong. Music comforts us, when much of life may seems uncertain and perilous. Love, hope, and friendship encourage us, when our senses and surroundings insist there’s little of substance left to grasp and hold fast. We are encouraged by our friends, our hope, our love, our music; we are encouraged by our belief.

Micky. Davy. Peter. Michael.

Weren’t they good?  They made me happy.

I’m a believer, even if it is in Daydreams.

 

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.

One Life: A Life Worth Living

Fifty-six years ago John Lewis used a whites-only restroom in Jackson, Mississippi. Police arrested him and authorities sent him to Parchman Prison. Parchman is the state’s only maximum security prison for men.

Lewis entered that restroom to protest racism in America. He knew that arrest andImage result for wrongfully in prison imprisonment would follow. In the segregated South, during that time in history, black men and even children had been lynched for less.

For the sake of fighting racial injustice, Lewis willingly endured suffering.  Now I can’t say Congressman Lewis and I agree on a lot of things politically but I will say I respect him for standing up against racial injustice and for the fact that he believed in something to the point he was willing to suffer for it.

I am convinced that life’s meaning emerges most clearly when we know what we are willing to suffer for.

I recognize that, for my atheist and agnostic friends, suffering provides the strongest available argument against belief in God. Well, maybe the second strongest argument after Christian hypocrisy, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Let me be clear. Jesus never tries to square all the suffering in the world with a loving God. 

Jesus never says we will not suffer or endure hardship.

Instead, Jesus clearly faces the truth that everybody suffers.

As Jesus puts it, God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

Your faith does not give you a get-out-of-misery-free card.

Image result for we all sufferJesus does not teach us how to avoid suffering. He teaches us how suffering is involved in making life meaningful. His teaching is summarized in two brief sayings that initially seem difficult to reconcile:

My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24b)

In other words, while we will find comfort and peace in the teachings of Jesus. At the same time, following Jesus involves taking harrowing risks and making significant sacrifices.

The story of John the Baptist illustrates how these teachings complement each other.

After Jesus’ ministry has gotten serious traction, John the Baptist finds himself languishing in prison. It’s bad to be stuck in Herod’s moldy, rat-infested basement. 

I am sure that John soon realized that he wouldn’t leave the palace grounds with his head attached.

John’s blunt criticisms of the establishment and his fierce confrontations with the rich and powerful had landed him in a cell. He had called Israel to a better way. A way that he believed right down to his sandals was God’s way.

After all, he had gotten it from Scripture.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Care for the widow and the orphan.

Do not enrich yourself at the expense of others.

For his efforts he was rotting in jail and facing a grisly execution.

Staring at the walls and fighting back images of the chopping block he soon would face, John started wondering, “Was it worth it?”

Image result for Are  you the OneAnd so, he points and sends his followers to Jesus. He wants to know, “Jesus, are you the one?”

Is God really going to make justice happen? Or am I suffering for nothing? (Matthew 11:3)

Jesus answers by pointing to his works. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:5)

I take his meaning to be something like this: Would your life be worth living if you didn’t do whatever it takes to pursue the dream of God’s justice for all?

Sure, you could play it safe.

You might save your life by keeping your mouth shut and by going along to get along.

But in a more significant sense, you would lose your life. You would become a hollow soul. Filled with regret and fear and shame.

Why? Because you would know in your heart that you did not stand up for what you believe.  You did not truly find and fulfill your purpose as a believer.

I am convinced that knowing the life for which you will suffer—for which you will make sacrifices—gives your life clarity and purpose.

You then can live comfortably in your own skin.Image result for a life worth living

Jesus isn’t about playing it safe.

You only have one life.

He urges us to follow Him on the way of the cross. 

There will be some suffering along the way.

It is the only way for you and I to live a life worth living.

 

Getting Back to the Basics

I’m reading a lot lately about why today’s church is struggling.  Struggling to meet the needs of their members and ultimately struggling to keep their doors open.

There is an ongoing silent migration away from the church of an estimated 3,500 individuals each and every day.

A recent study indicated that over 1.2 million people will leave the church in the next year.

Several factors are contributing to this trend, but the majority of individuals who are leaving the church report that they no longer feel connected.  The movement away from the church has been ongoing for several decades. The number of churches that are closing their doors every year is leading to an overall decline in church attendance.

It is estimated that over 10,000 churches will close their doors in 2017.

This has led to a growing host of Christians who no longer have a place to connect with other believers.  One article declares ‘we are not meeting the needs of the Millennials’ and another proclaims our irrelevance to the culture around us.

When asked about the importance of church in their lives, 80% of 14-33 year olds reported that church was ‘not important’ to them. They have very different preferences of what church should look like compared to their parents.

It seems there are more reasons for this problem than we could fix.

If we tried to do them all we would become even more irrelevant that we are proclaimed to be already.

So, what do we do?  

Image result for back to the basicsFor me it always goes back to the basics, the fundamentals.  What were we commanded to do?  That’s where we must begin.  

If we focus our attention on this generational change we will lose our way and get lost in pleasing a culture that is more fickle than any that has ever been in the history of man. 

The basics.  

What are they and what does that mean to my life IF I claim I’m a follower of Christ?  

That ‘if’ is crucial.  

IF I claim I’m a Christian, a Christ follower, then I have instructions from Christ himself that frame who I am and how I live.  

They are not suggestive, they are mandatory.  

If I simply declare them irrelevant to our time and culture, I’m declaring Christ irrelevant and his instructions as optional.  If we do that then let’s find another religion.

This one is done. 

So, as simply as I can, let’s cover the basics as Jesus gave them.

Mark 12:28-31 

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”Image result for LOve God, Love People

Love God, love people. 

It comes back to the very essence of what God has made us to be and do.

We were made for love, to give it and receive it.

When I sense I’m loved I draw in closer to the person who loves me. 

We all long for love, real love that loves us even when the person really knows us, knows what we are like and loves us anyway.

God loved us first and invites us into this lifestyle of being loved, loving him and others in response.

It’s the essence of what Christianity is all about. 

If I know God loves me I’m drawn to Him, changed by Him and become like Him in how I respond to others. I, too, begin to love. 

When we get that right a world hungry for real love will be drawn to us, not the church first, but to the real Christ followers. 

When they know they are loved then we can begin to talk about the real lover of our souls, God himself.

The gathering of a bunch of Christ followers loving well is called a church. 

The reason we are losing our impact in our culture is we have lost our instruction manual.

I have to admit that I am ashamed of one aspect of being a believer in my younger years.  I was critical of those who struggled in their walk with Christ.

I was too quick to judge and not to love.

I am still working on that to this very day.  Sometimes that “old man” that I was raises his head every now and then. 

I have learned that when this happens I have to go back to the basics and start over. 

Here’s the instruction manual.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Let’s get back to the basics.