Tag: Bryan Blakely

Not Fooling Anyone (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

A few weeks ago, a co-worker popped his head in my office. He said “So, are you ready for next Wednesday?

I sat there going through my mental calendar and couldn’t come up with what the significance Wednesday had. I finally had to ask “What’s Wednesday?”

He then reminded me that Wednesday was the day on the calendar that I age one more year. He asked if I had any words to impart to impart the wisdom I’ve gained in my many years.

Nope.

To be honest, I was just happy that he reminded me what Wednesday was because I needed to renew my license tags.  That summed up the depth of the wisdom that was flowing through my brain. I mumbled that I would write a post about “all the wisdom I’ve gained over all my years”.  He laughed and said sarcastically that he “couldn’t wait” to read it and something about that it should be a short read.

That Saturday, as I sat at the DMV, I was reminded of this conversation I had the previous day. I thought about what wisdom or perspective I could have actually shared.  What gold nuggets of wisdom have I gained? What words can I put in a post?

I had nothing.

But I valiantly tried to post something. I spent the next few days writing a post that I published a week or so ago. I called it “Thinking Back, Looking Forward”  Click here to read

I’ve spent the days since that posting going round and round about this subject.  While I liked the article I posted, something just told me that I needed to share something more. 

What could I write that would show what I truly have learned over the years? What I have learned in these years on this big rock that I can pass on to my kids and grandkids, not to mention, anyone else that might read this? 

Then it hit me… while staring at a picture that sits on my desk.  I had actually wrote about him in my post that is linked above.  My closest childhood friend, Bryan Blakley died the day after my birthday in 2009.  I have written about him a number of times and I have always felt a part of me is missing since his passing.  We lost him all too soon. I could never deny the influence that Bryan had in my life.  I can’t say that all of the “influence” was good either.  I got in trouble with Bryan on many occasions and there are secrets of things that we did that I will take to my grave. 

But the one thing that I could always say about Bryan is that he was true to himself.  He lived what he believed.  Even if he was wrong.  He never tried to hide who he really was.  I always tried to hide and fool people into thinking I was some kind of innocent kid. 

I wasn’t innocent.

Bryan was a person that really did not care what people thought of him.  He was who he was 24 hours a day. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I always looked up to that because he was true to his convictions and to what he believed.  He never tried to fool anyone.  I thought back to the words I spoke at his funeral. A simple sentence that I still believe summed up Bryan’s life and in it a truth that sticks with me to this very day…

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

That’s it. 

That basically is the foundation of all wisdom.  In other words,  to quote Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true”.  Under all that we think, lives a life that really shows what we truly believe.

I’ve said multiple times that it is really easy to sit behind the keyboard and act like you’ve got the world on a string. For 9 years, I have posted personal thoughts and hopefully, https://itsyet2bt0ld.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/img_3064.pngshared the struggles too. Life has knocked me down a few times. Those events have shown me things about myself I never wanted to see.  I believe that in those events, I caught the glimpse of who I truly was. 

It’s like really seeing yourself in a mirror.  What if we honestly just saw our character instead of our image in a mirror? In reality, that is how God sees us all the time.  Because He sees through the fake image we try to show the world. What God sees in those moments is the character that sums up who we are.  It scares me to consider what God thinks when He sees and hears the lies we tell Him and others.

I have often thought about what a book about my life would look like.  How would it read? How would it be perceived?  I have even gone as far as coming up with the title.

 “Not Fooling Anybody (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

What I have learned about life is that I haven’t really fooled anybody.  More importantly, I know I haven’t fooled God.  I don’t think many people understand that.  I think there are many people who think they are fooling others, they in turn fool themselves into thhttps://i1.wp.com/notfoolinganybody.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo.pnginking that they have fooled God.  It is not possible to fool God.  I have learned the hard way this great truth.

Sometimes, late at night, when I am trying to go to sleep. I am reminded of the conversations that I had with people over the years.  Those conversations when I tried to defend my sin. Those conversations when I tried to fool people that I had my act together and I was living the kind of life that God would be proud of.  Those conversations when I tried to fool myself that I was something that I knew in my heart I wasn’t. I have memory of more of these conversations than I care to remember.

My life has always been either honored or betrayed by the “storefronts” that I have built over the years.  The people who have known me over the years can stroll down the main street of my life and see the evidence of my life that is seen in the storefront windows that line the street.  Like in times of old, before the malls, when people would shop local and go window shopping.  The product that each store sold was placed in that window for all to see.  I have many “storefronts.” Most of them are good.  However, there are a few that I wish I could make go away.  Now before you think I dwell on these “bad storefronts,” I don’t.  I know that God has dealt with me about the content of those storefronts and He has forgiven me and has allowed me to live a great life. But I would be lying if I said that in the quiet times that I am alone, that these storefronts don’t flash in front of my eyes and I am reminded of them. They do.  Some bring me happiness and others embarrassment. 

Such is life.

At the end of the day, I hope that whenever my number is called, those that knew me personally or from afar will all be able to say the same thing. I hope they will say that I said what I thought and it matched the way that I lived and what I believed.  I know that this was not true in my younger years.  I have had to be shaped, molded, poked and prodded by God to fix many areas of my life. 

Even at 55, I am a work in progress. 

We all are.

I hope, before I die,  I can point others to Jesus Christ and the salvation that is found in Him.

I hope that I can encourage others to create a life that feels good on the inside and not just one that looks good on the outside.

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

I hope you’ll see that I love my kids. Even if I disagree with some of the choices they have made. I made it my goal to treasure each moment and never leave a doubt in their mind as to how I felt about them.

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

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

I hope that you see that I didn’t intend fool anybody.  I was what I claimed to be… a sinner, saved by grace.

That sums up the wisdom in this small brain of mine. 

Maybe this was too long to convey a simple point of wisdom but that’s the best I’ve got.

The calendar turned on another year older.

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

Live what I believe.

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Thinking Back, Looking Forward

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 55th birthday. “Celebrated” is an interesting use of the English language. Because, in truth, I more “endured” my 55th birthday than any thing else.

Have you ever thoughthttps://i1.wp.com/www.meducom.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Thinking-back-looking-forward.jpg about why we even bother to celebrate birthdays? When you think about it, they’re really just another opportunity for your family to congratulate you for surviving another year.

I get it… it is scientifically proven that those that have more birthdays live longer.  Right?

So it was my birthday. I don’t have to be happy about it. Who needs to be, annually, reminded that you are one year older and closer to ‘…knock, knock knocking on Heaven’s door.’

I personally believe that after 50, all birthdays should be ignored and that dreadful question of ‘is this the big one?’ posed by well-meaning friends be confined to the scrap heap.

At 55… I hit the “BIG ONE” five years ago.

Hello, people, after 50 they are all big ones!

Like many my age, I’m thinking back and looking forward.

Life has happened so quickly, passed by so rapidly, that I suddenly look around and exclaim, “hey, wait a minute, that ride went way too fast!!”

Life is short.

I heard that said when I was young, but never believed it.

In the early years of life we think time crawls, but as we age it moves more quickly and soon it’s hard to keep up.

It seems only a few days ago that Bryan Blakely and I were riding bikes and exploring the world in our small town of Oak Harbor, Ohio.  We chased dogs, built forts, pretended https://img0.etsystatic.com/031/0/6533227/il_fullxfull.642836572_ohia.jpgto be soldiers on secret missions. The imagination is such a wonderful gift to young boys. The only requirement had been that we were home by the time the street lights came on. After that, we were confined to our block.  It was a time of great memories.

Our mother’s had no idea where we were, but it was rural Northwest Ohio, and it was the days when life was much safer.  Those days when you did not have to worry about your picture ending up on a milk carton.

School days, summer loves, college, travel, marriage, kids, diapers, a new job here, a move there… time kept passing and before I realized what was happening the kids were grown and I am left wondering where did the time go.

All that to say, at this moment in time, the most important thing I ever did in my entire life was trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and surrender my life to Him.

All the rest, both the good and the bad, have a completely different color and a different taste because of that one decision in 1970.

Again… life is short.

Enjoy every moment, but know this – trusting Christ and surrendering your life to him is the most important thing you will ever do.

There is nothing more important than that. 

How wonderful to look back and know that God has worked in my life and to look ahead and see Him at the finish line.

To be honest…  I am in no hurry to get to heaven and on to eternity. 

I’m still good.  I have a lot to live for and to look forward to.

My expiration date hasn’t come up just yet.    

 

Bookmarks In The Pages of Life

Life is a book of pages. 

We laugh. We cry. We smile. We stumble. We stand. We fail. We succeed. We win and we suffer loss.

Every page defines who we really are. On some level we all “bookmark” the events in life so that we can bribookmarkng them up in our memory to be relived as we move on in life.

The goal in life is to have one perfect memory that is all about those moments, big or small, that make you wish they’d last forever. Those moments you want to stop in time, when everything feels perfect, even for just a split-second.

Snapshots of the mind. Moments to treasure forever.

It is easy to bookmark the great things that happen in our life.  We do not struggle to remember the events in our life that are good.  We can remember almost every single detail of  good life events.  Great memories of graduations, engagements, weddings and almost every detail of our child’s life from birth to this very moment.  These are easy to bookmark and if we are lucky enough, we are able to put a few of these pages together to create a nice “chapter” in our book of life memories. 

The sad part is that we all have bookmarked pages of life of things we do not want to remember.

Life is full of these bookmarked moments.

Life is complicated. It starts before we’re ready, it continues while we’re still trying to figure out the point of it. And it ends before we’ve worked out just what to do.

I’ve learned that in an instant life can change.
Just like that.
No warning.
No rewind button.
No pause or stop button.

Suddenly we are scrambling to “bookmark” memories as fast as we can in our minds.

Sadly, I have had to this a few times in my life.  

My brother Bobby and my grandfather in 1970. Just a few months before Bobby died.

At 9 years old, I had to scramble to bookmark memories of a 14-year-old brother that was taken from our family in a car-train accident.  I can remember almost every minute of that fateful day he was taken from us. But I think that over time when we block out the pain of loss, it causes us to lose some of the precious memories.  These “bookmarks” have faded with time and now at 54, I struggle to remember him.  

I lost my grandfather in 1986. I have great bookmarked memories of him.  He was a great influence on me and there isn’t a day I don’t wish I could talk to him one more time.  The funny thing is that I have some bookmarked memories of him that I choose not to open in my book of life memories.  I systematically only open the pages that make him larger than life.  I only open the pages that fit the image I have of him in my mind.  Those pages of him acting poorly or negatively, although bookmarked, will remained closed and locked. Never to be opened again in the confines of my mind. I guess we all do that on some level. When someone dies, we freely open the “good” pages and quietly put those bookmarks that would taint the memory of a loved one under lock and key. 

Me and Bryan Blakely in our our “Leisure Suits” getting ready to pick up our dates for the 1975 Homecoming Dance.

Many of the bookmarks in my life were influenced by Bryan Blakely, my childhood best friend.  The first pillar in my life.  The days of my early childhood were influenced by his presence in my life.  Not much happened in my life from the age of 5 to 16 that Bryan and I did not experience together.  Somewhere along the age of 16, we started to drift into different directions. Over the next 30 years whenever our paths crossed, we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets in Oak Harbor, Ohio.   He died in June of 2009. 

My best friend from my high school years took his own life.

Steve and I during our senior year in 1979.

Now that is a bookmark that I would rather not have to open. I was devastated.  I was confused.  I was filled with questions. I was overwhelmed with regret.  I was angry.  I was ashamed.  I was frustrated.  I was hurt.  I was all of these things and more.  

I will forever be grateful for spending 40 years of my life with the pleasure of knowing Steve Schueren.  Steve was my closest high school friend.  I looked up to Steve and I will always hold him in high regard as a man of God. All the bookmarked memories I have shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered.  All of us who knew Steve know that he will live forever in our hearts.

Bob Emrich

About the age of 16, I was introduced to a man who would become so influential throughout my teen and adult years.    He grew to be not only be my friend but he was no less a father figure in my life.  Our father/son relationship lasted for years.  Bob Emrich loved me as a son and he loved me unconditionally.  God took him home after a battle with cancer.  He wasn’t perfect but he taught me so much and I still miss him everyday.   There is no doubt of his influence in my life. Forever bookmarked in my memory.

One would think after reading this, I would have this bookmarking thing down.  But like most people, I move from day-to-day not really paying attention to how quickly things could change.

Why does it take big kicks in the behind for us to realize what’s important in life? 

Most of the time, I believe, it is because we get caught up in chasing things in life. Whether it be money, materials, certain experiences we think will solve our problems or even people. Sometimes we get so engaged with everything in the future or in the past and what it can bring us, that we forget about all that is right in front of our faces.

Are you paying full attention to the things you love? To each moment? What memories have you bookmarked in your memory? I implore you to start with one thing today. One thing you want to experience fully.  Maybe something that will be with your wife, husband, your children or grandchildren. 

Maybe you need to make yourself available to allow a loved one to make a bookmarked memory with you.  Remember your children are making bookmark memories of their own with you as well.

I realize more and more how incredibly blessed my life has been and I know a good part of that must pay tribute to the people that surround my life, past, present and future.  

Lives that vary so greatly, the people I went to school with formed a good part of who I am today. The good, the bad and all of the in between!  

Time goes quickly and some stay in touch more than others, but there’s a bond in growing up in the small town of Oak Harbor, Ohio or in the time spent in a small Baptist Church and Christian School that only those there can understand.  I suppose it’s the pros and cons of living with a small group of people that knits our hearts together.  The losses that take their toll on such a small community can seem larger than life because of the percentage they take away from the whole. They can feel like holes that are irreparable.   But at the same time the wonderful memories of victories are celebrated as monumental events by one and all and are remembered fondly.

My challenge is for anyone reading this is to take the time to make memory bookmarks in the confines of the hearts and minds of your family.  In turn you will be able to do the same, before it’s too late.

Under the Influence

It’s been a year.

One year since I received the call that shook me to the core. 

My best friend from my high school years took his own life. 

I was devastated.  I was confused.  I was filled with questions. I was overwhelmed with regret.  I was angry.  I was ashamed.  I was frustrated.  I was hurt.  I was all of these things and more. 

I had already been reeling from the loss of two of my best friends that had passed away in the previous two years.  I was now facing a third pillar of my life being taken from me.  

Bob Emrich, Brian Blakely and now Steve Schueren.

I will forever be grateful for spending 40 years of my life with the pleasure of knowing Steve Schueren.  My third pillar in my life.  Steve was my closest high school friend.  I looked up to Steve and I will always hold him in high regard as a man of God. 

It has been a year… and I so wish I could hear him once again debate the political issues that we face today.  He would have had a field day and he was never at a loss for words when it came to politics or his faith.

All the memories I have shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered.  All of us who knew Steve know that he will live forever in our hearts.

<To Read More About Steve Click Here>

Bryan Blakely was my childhood best friend.  The first pillar in my life.  The days of my early childhood were influenced by his presence in my life.  Not much happened in my life from the age of 5 to 16 that Bryan and I did not experience together.  Somewhere along the age of 16, we started to drift into different directions. Over the next 30 years whenever our paths crossed, we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets in Oak Harbor, Ohio.   He died in June of 2009. 

  <To Read More About Brian Click Here>

About the age of 16, I was introduced to a man who would become so influential throughout my teen years.  My second pillar.  He grew to be not only be my friend but he was no less a father figure in my life.  Our father/son relationship lasted for years.  Bob Emrich loved me as a son and he loved me unconditionally.  God took him home after a battle with cancer.  He wasn’t perfect but he taught me so much and I still miss him everyday.   There is no doubt of his influence in my life.

<To Read More About Bob Click Here>

The pain and loss that is associated with the loss of these men is huge.  A mother shouldn’t have to bury a son, a wife should not have to lose her husband and children should not have bury their father before their time.  All three of these men were gone too soon from this life.  They are missed by many and I have to admit that over the course of the past year, I have felt sorry for myself.  I just could not understand why God chose to take those in my life.  I looked forward to growing old and having those pillars in my life for a long time.

For whatever reason, God sometimes allows people to be taken very quickly from us.  Many times, so fast that we never get the chance to say the things we needed to say.   I am still shocked and in some ways I am still not over their loss.

But this is one truth that I have come to appreciate.   I still find myself under their influence.  I can still hear the laughter and the voice of Bryan as I think of the memories of my childhood.  His humor and his perspective on not taking life too seriously will always be imbedded in my memory.

I find myself listening to music and hearing Bob’s voice encouraging me to be better man.  I can see him giving me the cheat signs that we had made up in order to win at our epic Rook battles or laughing so hard at times we couldn’t speak at the crazy stuff we did.  His influence on me as teenager trying to find his way in life has transcended into an influence that still makes want to be a better man.  He is still here with me… the signs are all around me.

It is no different with Steve.  His influence is still evident in my life.  I became a better student of God’s Word because of Steve.   I still do things that I learned from him from way back in my high school years.  Most importantly, he is part of my “Great Cloud of Witnesses” that is mentioned in Hebrews 12:1.

I am still under their influence.

This has caused me to think about what it means to influence others.

I looked up the word “influence” and the definition says:

“to affect or alter by indirect or intangible means; to have an effect on the condition or development of.”

To have an effect on the condition or development of.  That’s huge!!!  All three of these men had a profound effect my development.

I feel a bigger responsibility today as a result of my relationship with them.  As if I need to re-think decisions that I am making or things that I do as possibly having an effect on others, whether positive or negative.   I need to ask myself what kind of influence am I having on others.  What kind of influence do I have on my wife?  How am I influencing my children? my friends? my co-workers? Will they feel my influence after I am gone from this life?  It’s a little overwhelming to contemplate that I could have the same effect on someone’s condition or development, just like the influence of these men had in my life.  

I hope the Lord continues to teach me how to be a man of influence.  To be someone who is to be remembered.  My hope is to be that better man… that better friend to someone.  To be a voice of influence. To be a shoulder for someone to lean on. To be the one who encourages… to be one that spurs others on to greatness.

Until that happens…I am thankful to always be under the influence of Steve  Schueren… Bryan Blakely and Bob Emrich.

I thank them for the time that they shared with me of their life  and I am forever grateful for the legacy that they passed on into my life. 

For now… I am still here.  I look forward to re-uniting with all of them one day. I cannot help but smile when I think of it.   Steve will offer me the seat next to him… Bryan will be telling stories and Bob will be playing music and sitting at the table with a deck of Rook cards in his hand with a big smile on his face.

I look forward to that day…

Save Me A Seat – My Tribute to Steve Schueren

I sat in the back of the bus.

I sat with the other bewildered children listening to some strange lady trying to get us to sing songs that we had never heard before.  She seemed way too happy for that time of the morning. 

The church bus picked us up early on that Sunday morning in Oak Harbor and I was on my way to Fremont Baptist Temple in Fremont, Ohio.  It is hard to believe that my parents allowed me to ride this rickety old bus some 25 miles to Fremont to attend Sunday school.  But it was  1971 and things were different back then. 

It seemed as if that strange lady in the front of the bus knew a never-ending list of songs.  She sang those songs  one right after the other and I found myself taking a liking to those catchy songs.  Before I knew it we arrived at the church. 

As they herded all of us up and tried to get us in line and in the right Sunday school room, I was still uneasy and not really comfortable with all of these strangers.  I did not know anyone.

I was led into the fourth grade room and was introduced to my teacher.  Mr. (Gene) Trusty was my teacher that day.  He shook my hand as I walked in the room and remembered that he about broke my little 10-year-old hand that morning.

I sat at the end of the first row of chairs I could find.  It did not take long to discover that I was looked on a little differently.  I sat there quietly not wanting to draw attention myself and not really wanting to talk to anyone.  I mean I was a bus kid and no one pays attention to a bus kid.  That is just the way it was.

Then just before the class started this skinny little boy with blond hair came right up to me and asked me if I wanted to sit with him.  He asked me my name.  I told him that my name was David and he introduced himself as Steve. 

Thus began the unlikely friendship that lasted from that Spring day in 1971 right up to Monday, October 10th, 2011. 

Steve Schueren and I have known each other for over 40 years. 

In those early years, we quickly became fast friends and though I lived in Oak Harbor and he lived over 30 miles away in Old Fort, Ohio I would spend time at his house as often as I could.  We had the same love for sports and there was just something that just drew us together as friends.  

Every Sunday I would rush off that broken down church bus and find my way to our Sunday school class and there would be Steve waiting there…saving me a seat.  A seat for a bus kid.  

This continued for the next few years, until one Sunday they told us that the church was no longer going to be sending a bus to Oak Harbor.  I lost contact with my Old Fort friend.  Three years passed.

In 1976, my sister started to drive and we talked our mom into allowing us to drive to the church in Fremont.  As we parked our car and made our way into the church, I wondered if Steve was still at the church.  Sure enough, there he was.  He welcomed me and invited me to sit with him.  It was as if nothing had ever changed and we just picked up our friendship where it had been left three years earlier.

For the next 10 years we did just about everything together.  We were active in the church youth group, went to summer Bible camps.  Hung out with each other and attended the same Christian School, played varsity soccer and basketball together.  Listened to the same kind of music and sang in the same group.  We worked at HJ Heinz together and both decided to go in the ministry and attend Liberty University together.  

From that spring day way back in 1971 I have always looked up to Steve.   That is not to say that we always got along.  Like all friends we had our differences.  We had our times where we needed space from each other.  We both were very competitive and like any other friendship we had our share of arguments and disagreements.

Sometimes when you have a friendship that is similar to the one that Steve and I had, it would seem as if we had a lot of things in common.  In reality we were quite different.  I was an Ohio State fan… he was a Michigan fan.  I was barely aware of who the President was… he could talk politics before it was popular to do so.  I scraped by academically just so I could remain eligible to play sports… he was an excellent student.  I was a stutterer and could not speak in front of people without embarrassing myself… he could hold the attention of a large crowd and could clearly explain difficult concepts long before he finished his education.   I struggled with my walk with Christ, it was a daily battle… he had his act together spiritually and was an example on how a young man should live his life.   He was one of the most focused and intelligent people I have ever known.  

We were together for a lot of our life events.  I remember the night Steve told me he was confident that he was dating the girl who would steal his heart.  Being his longtime friend I must admit I was rather shocked and I had to admit I had never witnessed him so taken by a girl.  I am referring to Rhonda, who would soon become his wife.   Both he and Rhonda would be in my wedding and we would all share in celebrating the births of our first-born children.

He would graduate college and seminary and go directly into the ministry.  He served in a church in Virginia for a few years and then he took the opportunity to teach at Temple Christian Academy in Fremont, Ohio where we both graduated.  I had the privilege to work with him during his time at Temple.  He was a gifted teacher and could inspire those who sat under his teaching to grasp the deeper things of God.  He had a unique ability to challenge those that he taught to think and defend what you believed.  He would teach you that if you believed something you needed to believe it because you researched it yourself and that you did not just believe because he or any other preacher said it was so.  He was such a student of God’s Word.  His students loved him and looked up to him. 

It was during this time I noticed something different in Steve.  He struggled with a burden that I did not see coming.   Like Paul in the New Testament, who carried a burden for years that God never took away, Steve would carry this burden for years to come. This burden would start affecting his teaching.  I am sad to say that I did not appreciate the years we worked together at Temple.  I wish I could go back and change the way things happened and certainly how it all ended.  I deeply regret it to this day.  I was in a very difficult position where I had to tell Steve that the school was going to head in a different direction.  We parted ways and from that point my friendship with Steve and his family would be strained at best.  He would move on and become a wonderful pastor to those that he ministered to in churches in Indiana and Southern Ohio for the next 20 years or so.

I am sad to say that for this portion of our adult years “life” got in our way.   He was busy in the ministry, raising children and moving forward with life.  As I struggled in my walk with Christ, I found myself falling farther away from what was left of our friendship.  When I went through a divorce in 1995, I had lost all contact with Steve.  I alienated myself from almost everyone from my past and Steve was no exception.  (I have documented my journey away from the Lord a number of times on this blog)  Steve and Rhonda had remained friends with my ex-wife and I think that Steve and I went close to 13 years with no contact with each other.  What ever was left of my friendship with Steve and his family was over when my divorce was finalized.  I was a failure as a believer, a husband, a father and as a friend.

Steve battled his burden and I battled mine.  His struggles were different from mine and while mine were for the most part self-inflicted, his were not.   I deserved what I received from my choices and my self-inflicted struggles.  Steve did not deserve what he was dealing with.

In 2009, Steve accepted the call to be the pastor of Bigelow Church in Portsmouth, Ohio.  He was excited about the opportunities that this ministry had to offer.  About that same time he came home to visit and one Sunday morning Steve and I talked for the first time in years.  We talked for about an hour after church and we were re-united again.  However, it was evident that time and space had changed us.  We were not the people we were in high school or college for that matter.  We would not ever again be the “Steve and David” combo we once were all those years ago.

The bottom line was that we re-established contact with each other and we exchanged phone numbers and email addresses.   I am thankful that we talked that day in the church because although it would never be the same we did indeed write notes back and forth over the course of the past few years.  He would comment on my blog posts and I would comment on his.  He had started a blog called, “A Clay Jar Speaks”.  It was insightful and perfectly reflected his commitment to the truth of God’s Word.  He linked my blog to his and I have had a number of people visit this site through the link on Steve’s blog.  Over the next few months, we shared some letters and I had the opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated his friendship and thank him for everything he had done for me all those years ago.  I apologized to Steve and told him how sorry I was that I had failed in our friendship.  I was hopeful that we could move forward and put behind us some of the things that had come between us.

But it soon was evident that Steve had begun to battle his burden again.  Our communication slowed down and this past April he stopped responding to my notes and letters.  I had known that Steve had battled depression since his time at Temple Christian.  Over the years, there would be periods when he would struggle and I know he fought the battle courageously during these times and he would always come out on the other side.  I had no doubt that this time would be no different.

When the phone rang on Monday, October 10th … I knew.  The news on the line was devastating.

Steve’s death was sudden.   When I heard the news I simply could not believe it.  I had lost another pillar of my childhood.  In 2009, I lost both Bob Emrich and Bryan Blakely, two of my closest friends. Both of them taken too young and too quickly.  These losses were devastating to me.  Now a few years later I lose Steve.  We may not have been as close as we once were but make no mistake that he is and will always be a major influence in my life.  Another pillar in my life… gone. 

I cannot say I understand Steve’s death.  I cannot process it.  I don’t understand the decisions he made that day, but I accept them.  I believe that he was courageously fighting his burden and it was a battle that he could no longer see the end of.  It is with that aspect I am most saddened.  It would be unreasonable for me to assume anything else other than the fact that he was a weary soldier and was ready to go home.

Steve was well-loved and he had done so many things on earth that had a direct impact on eternity. I will forever be grateful to have known him.   I will forever be grateful that Steve was there at the right place and at the right time all those years ago in that Sunday school room when he asked a skinny, snotty nosed bus kid to sit next to him.  I wonder where my life would have taken me had that not happened. 

What is it that I will remember when I think of Steve?  I have a long list of precious memories.  Besides his commitment and love for the Word of God, I think everyone who knew him very well would agree with me on this.   It was his sense of humor.   He had a wonderful sense of sarcasm and humor.  That is what I will truly miss about Steve.  He could make me laugh and not many people could do that. 

I will remember him when I hear a Ronnie Milsap or Tim Sheppard song.   I will remember him when I watch the Ohio StateMichigan game.  I will remember him every time I turn on the NCAA March Madness during basketball season.  I will remember him each and every time I watch a political debate on TV.  He would just love to comment on the perspectives of each candidate. 

All of these things and more will trigger memories of him.

I will forever be grateful for spending 40 years of my life with the pleasure of knowing him.  All the memories I have shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered.   Steve will forever live in my heart.  Steve is in heaven now.  This is not the time for me to grieve his death; I choose to celebrate his life.   I choose to think back and remember how Steve touched my life.   How he made me laugh and how good Steve was as a person.  I am thankful that I was given the chance to have known a man named Steve Schueren… he made me a better person.

(Updated on January 11, 2012)

I mentioned in the last few paragraphs that I would always remember Steve when I hear a Tim Sheppard song.   Since Steve’s death this song has taken a very special place in my heart and it will always be the song that will bring back cherished memories of the man of God that I knew in Steve.   This song brings me great comfort and as Tim sings please take a moment to reflect and remember  Steve as I do…

 

Steve will forever be missed but I know in the right time, I will meet Steve again.   He will be waiting there in heaven and maybe he’ll be saving me a seat and invite this “bus kid” to sit next to him…just like he did all those years ago.  

I look forward to taking him up on that invitation.

The Song Remembers When

For those of you that know me, you know that I love music.  All kinds of music.  I have well over 10,000 songs on my IPOD alone.   I literally could turn my IPOD on and push play and it would run 75 consecutive days without repeating a song.

Over kill…I know.

The truth is…most of the significant events in my life have been marked by music. There are  so many songs that remind me of  people, places and special times in my life. For whatever reason, I have always associated different times in my life with the music I listened to.   For example,  my “first” favorite song that I really remember as a child was the 1967 release called, “The Rain,  the Park & Other Things” by the Cowsils.   Being  only 6 or 7 at the time, I only knew it as the “Flower Girl” song.  To this very day, when I hear this song I am transported back to another place and another time.  I can smell the dinner that my mom is fixing in the kitchen and I clearly remember sitting on my bed with my transistor radio in my hand desperately trying find a station that would play my song.  For those of you that do not remember the song…please watch this video:

Cheesy…I know.

Most people may remember this song when it appeared in the movie “Dumb and Dumber” during Loyd’s dream about Mary.  At the time of that release, I had not heard the song for many years and while the rest of the room was laughing at the antics of Jim Carrey…tears were welling up in my eyes as I was reminded of a time in my life when I was protected by the innocence and security of the love of my mother.  Special times.

In the early 90’s,  Trisha Yearwood released a song called “The Song Remembers When”.  It tells a tale of the memories flooding back of a love that was lost by hearing an old familiar song.  This has always been the case for me.  I hear certain songs and I remember past girlfriends and past relationships.  I won’t bore you with those details but I must say that every now then I am reminded and smile about a time when you thought you were in love.  It was young and innocent.

…the song remembers when.

There are specific songs that remind me of family members.  When I hear “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson Five  (Michael Jackson) my mind floods of memories of my brother Bobby.  He was killed on November 5, 1970 and although that was 40 years ago, I am right there with him when ever I hear it.  The song “Lola” by the Kinks reminds of my cousin Larry, who was killed in the same car-train accident that took my brother.  I used to ride with Larry all the time when he would drive around town.  Larry loved music and liked it really loud.  I remember this song playing on his radio and the both of us singing it as loud as we could just a few months before he was killed.  A memory forever etched in my mind…precious thoughts of lives taken too soon from this life.

…the song remembers when.

I have mentioned in this blog before that in 2009, two of my closest friends died.  Bryan Blakley was my closest childhood friend.  He was always way ahead of the curve.  I remember that in early 1973, long before they became the rock icons they are today,  Bryan came to school sporting a tee- shirt with the name “Aerosmith” blazing  across the front.  Today, all I have to hear is a song by them and in my mind, Bryan and I are hanging out in his basement.  Just like the basement from “That 70’s Show”. I won’t tell you what character best represents me and NO!! it isn’t Donna or Jackie.  Let’s just say that I can relate with the whole show and the dynamics of friendship and having a community basement to hang out in.

The other friend that I lost that year was Bob Emrich.  Bob was a tremendous influence on me and every time I hear the song “Rose Colored Glasses” by John Conlee, I smile because it reminds me of the times we had together.  Great friends, both Bryan and Bob.  I miss them terribly and cannot wait until the day we can hang out together again.  Maybe just like in the basement at Bryan’s house in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

…the song remembers when.

One song , in particular, is the most memorable song of my life.  When I was fifteen, I was minding my own business the day I met her.   They say that there is no such thing as “love at first sight”.  Now I don’t know anything about that, other than the fact that from that first time I laid eyes on her I was smitten.  Since that time, it has always been about her in one way or another.  Through the joy of “young love”  and dating all through high school, to the heartache of breaking up and spending years apart, these songs over the years have reminded me of each of those events of our relationship.  Living our lives without each other…and eventually to the special day when we were married almost twenty years after we broke up.  This song has always been about her.   All I have to do is hear the first few notes and I am immediately over taken by the thoughts and memories of  “my girl”… my wife Pamela.

…the song remembers when.

There have also been songs that remind me of not so happy memories.  As a matter of fact, even though I love all kinds of music there are a few songs that I have to honestly say I hate.   For me, one of the songs I hate is “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin.   I still have to turn to another station whenever I hear it played.

I have enough regrets and “I wish I could do it over” events in my life already.   Seriously, do I really need more?  The truth is that I do wish I could go back and do things differently.  I think, like most people, I had a lot of my priorities messed up, or as a friend of mine says, “I was really jacked up.”   I don’t know exactly what that means, but I assume it’s the same idea.   As a young man, I threw myself into the work.   Countless hours, trying to do a good job as a principal and trying to be a good man.  In that endeavor, somewhere along the line, I got off track.   I still remember, with a pain in my heart as I tell you, when I told my boy’s that their mother and I were getting a divorce.

The reason I hate this song,  is that I am ashamed at the fact that my actions have affected my son’s lives.  What could I have done differently to ensure that they would not be scarred by the choices I made in my life?  Could I have focused more on them when they were growing up?  Will they blame me for some of the choices they made in their life?  Did they grow up to “be just like me”?   I wish I could have a do over, a Mulligan as we call it in golf, but life isn’t that way.   Now when I think about my kids, grown adults now, I wish I could go back 20 years and change my priorities.   But I know that will not happen.  The hope for me is that for today, I will get another opportunity to get it right.  Another opportunity to make good, happier and better memories with them.

Memories, both good and bad, fill our minds and at times they seem to take over our life.  We could dwell on the past and the memories of a life once lived, but life isn’t designed to be lived that way.  We need to press forward and challenge ourselves to make new memories.  Memories that will be marked by a new song.

That in itself is why I love music…because just about the time I think I have forgotten…

…the song remembers when.

There are a Few Things I am Thankful for But Make 2009 Go Away

Maybe it’s just me,  but 2009 was a difficult year.  I am not sad to see it go away and be logged into the history books.   As I have reviewed this past year, I have noticed that so many of my posts have been directly related to the things that I was experiencing or thinking about at the time.  I have never written a post to get or gain attention.  I write to clear my head and it relaxes me. With that in mind, I have attached links to previous posts to the various experiences I have encountered this past year.  Please feel free to click on them and re-read some of my favorite posts of 2009.

It has been a year where I have had to deal with some serious health issues.   A few surgeries later, I am in still in recovery mode, trying to deal with the results of the operations.  Sometimes the cure is worse than the problem.  More importantly, this year was a time when I had to endure the loss of the two of the closest friends I have ever had on this earth.

Within a short span of three months, I lost Bob Emrich and Bryan Blakely.   Bryan was my closest childhood friend growing up in Oak Harbor, Ohio.  There wasn’t much that happened to either of  us from the time we were 6 to 18 that we were not involved in together.  As life happens to all of us, after high school we went our separate ways.  We always stayed in touch but we both lived in different parts of the country and we were on different paths.  However, Bryan was part of a foundation in my life and when we were able to get together over the years, it was just like old times.  Thirty years may have passed but it would only be a few moments and we were just like we were when we were 18.  Good times.  He was taken way too soon.

Bob was my mentor and he was the one person that could always point me in the right direction.  He was an example to me of what it means to live a life that would bring honor to his family and to his God.  He showed me how to truly live as Christian in this world.  He taught me more about God’s grace than any preacher that I have ever heard.  No, he was not perfect but he was a perfect example of what God can do in a person’s life if they allow Him to work in their life.  Bob wasn’t a preacher but a truck driver.  I cannot tell you how many times I would call him and he would be winding his way through the mountains of Tennessee or making his way through the corn fields of Iowa.  He always made time for me and always had a good word to say.  I still cannot bring myself to delete his phone number off my phone.

Performing the eulogy at their funerals was the most difficult thing that I have ever done.   I cannot express to you how much I miss them.

This year was also a time where I had to deal with some major health issues.  Without boring you with the details, I had to have two operations.  The second surgery was much more serious than I  was really prepared for and I am still dealing with the results of the operation.  Those results have hindered my ability to write and to do many of the things I did and enjoyed so easily in 2008.

For example, I have completely lost hearing in my left ear and have a 60% loss in my right.   I am on the fast track in becoming deaf.   Anyone who knows me, knows that I love music.  It is something that I have enjoyed my whole life and it is slowly being taken from me.  I have also lost most of my ability to taste food.  Most of my tongue is numb and I have limited ability to even taste what I am eating or drinking.   Finally, my right hand is still asleep.  This hinders my ability to write and typing is much harder than ever before.  The doctor says that while there is no chance that my hearing will come back, I may experience some improvement with some of the other issues.  So, while I am waiting to recover from this surgery,  I am trying to do what my friend Bob would have done.  He would  have called me to talk about the things we were thankful for in spite of the circumstances that we are in.

In honoring his life, I am trying to put into practice what he would have done.  In that process, I realize that I am extremely thankful for many things in my life, in spite of the difficulty of this past year.    One thing in particular that I am thankful for in 2009 is this blog.  Over the year, I have had over 150,000 visitors.  Now I know not all of them read my blog and some visit my blog just to read what new ridiculous and stupid thing  comes out of my mouth and spills out onto these pages.  Like I always say,  I love to write…I never said I write well.

One post that went viral this year was a post about things I am thankful for  called  “A Few of My Favorite Things… .  This post has by far has been my most popular post with over 20,000 hits and still growing.   I wrote that after my first surgery and just posted a few of my favorite things and things I was I was thankful for.   I would like to update it and add to those things and really be thankful for what God has allowed for me to be a part of in 2009.

So here are a few of my favorite things to be thankful for 2009…

And finally, in no particular order, here are a few of the maybe or maybe not so important things  to be thankful for…

So there you have it… a list of a few of my favorite things I am thankful for in my life.  No, the list is not complete and I am sure that there are more things I am thankful for if I would sit and think for a few minutes.    However,  that is for another time.

In closing, I will not be sad to see 2009 go away.  I am looking forward to what God has in store for me in 2010.   The slate is clean and anything is possible.

I will not be surprised by anything that may happen…but then again, maybe it’s just me.

Stupid, Ridiculous and Glorious

Maybe it’s just me… but I love a blank sheet of paper.

There are not many things I love more than having a free evening, a cup of coffee in hand and a blank sheet of paper in front of me.  I love it even more when I fill that sheet up with words.

What is exciting to me is that I never know where it is going to take me.  It is always an adventure as to where I will end up.  Each and every time I plan on writing about something specific I never do.  I am never able to plan it out like that.  I just let the story or subject just flow out of my memory.   I like the thrill of looking at a picture or listening to some music that bring back some memories and I just love to let it flow from there and see where it takes me.  It is probably why my writings are so disjointed sometimes.  Like I have always said… I love to write, I never said I was good.

They say that hindsight is 20-20, and I guess it’s true.  When I look back into my past I see the paths that I have walked…some well worn paths and others where I only see my lone footprints.  Each path has a memory, some good and some not so good.  Regardless, they are paths that I have chosen to walk and the end result of  my wanderings have given me a valuable cache of  lessons learned.

This evening  was no different from any other night.  I sat down with a wonderful cup of coffee and I started staring at the blank page in front of me.   I was wondering where it will take me tonight.  Just then a picture that is in a small frame sitting on my office desk caught my attention.   In that frame is a small faded picture of me and Bryan Blakley.  That picture was taken  just before we picked up our dates for the Homecoming Dance in 1976.  We were desperately trying to look cool in our leisure suits and long hair.  We failed.

For some reason I started to think about Bryan.  I had known him for over 40 years.  I do not really remember a time when he wasn’t part of my life.  From about the age of 6 to 17, I cannot think of one thing that I was a part of that he wasn’t involved in some way.  He and I played together and fought together.  We did just about everything together…whether that was skipping school…going on a double date or just hanging out.

One of my favorite remembrances of him was a time that we walked home from the fair about the time we were 16.  We had just spent the last night of the fair walking around checking out the girls and just having a good time.  Nothing of real significance happened that evening at the fair.  As a matter of fact, I don’t really remember anything specific even happening.  Just the two of us acting stupid, (and again) trying to be cool.  We failed again.

The fair had closed for the night about 11:30 and Bryan and I decided to walk home that night.  The Ottawa County Fairgrounds is located about six miles outside of Oak Harbor, Ohio.  At 16, the premise of walking six miles to home on a hot summer night seemed to be perfectly logical.  I remember that it was pitch black that night.  It seemed you couldn’t see past your next step.  We took our time.  There was no need to hurry.  Didn’t seem like there was that much to go back to.

Maybe it was just the mood we were in or maybe it was because it was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  I remember it like yesterday.   What I remember is that Bryan and I talked about everything on that long walk home.    We talked about our childhood, our families.  We talked about music,  what we liked and disliked.  We talked about girls.  We talked about our future.   He told me what his plans were for his life. Bryan wanted to leave the tiny confines of Oak Harbor, Ohio.  He wanted to see the world and the sooner the better.  For me,  I wasn’t exactly panicked about my plans.  I don’t think up to that point in my life I had ever given a second thought about what I was going to do with my life.  Hey – I was sixteen years old.  To me, the future was for someone else to worry about.

Then the subject matter changed.  We started to talk about what we believed in.   Bryan was asking all kind of questions.   That was really odd for Bryan, because there were topics he just would not discuss.  But not this night…we talked about everything.    Bryan knew me as well as anyone can know another person at 16.  We were as close as brothers.  He knew I went to church but I never once considered sharing my faith and what I really believed in to anyone before, especially him.  I mean. he knew my weaknesses and he knew my failures as well as anyone could.

But on this night, this dark ridiculous night, I shared my faith and told him what I believed.  Maybe my boldness came from the fact that it was pitch black and I could not see his reaction to my words, or maybe Bryan couldn’t see my hands shaking in fear, but for whatever reason I said it out loud.  Bryan never said a word in argument.  He just kept asking questions and I tried to answer them as best I could.  Soon our conversation drifted to another subject and nothing more was discussed about our faith and what we believed in.

We had walked almost all the way to town when suddenly Bryan and I stopped talking.  It seemed as if there was nothing left to say. I suddenly had the over whelming feeling that somehow that night I walked out of my childhood and into the next phase of my life. I wanted to stay there, in that night… more than anything I wanted before.   But I knew I couldn’t.   I was sixteen.   I slept under a roof my father owned, in a bed my father bought.    Nothing was mine, except my fears.   And my growing knowledge that not every road was going to lead home anymore. Things were about to change.  Walking through that neighborhood I grew up in, I realized that there was a time I knew every family on the block.  Their kids, names of their dogs, but most of those families were gone now.  Scattered.  The ones who stayed were not the same.  The world was moving on.  My world… their world.  And only the lights remained the same.

We didn’t really accomplish anything that night.  At least that is what I thought at the time.  Our remaining high school years that lay ahead would find us moving in different directions.  There would be other nights where we would hang out and try to be cool.  We always failed.  But the sad truth is there wasn’t ever another night just like that one.   That night and the long walk home will always be set apart in my memory and in my heart.

Over the next 30 years when our paths crossed and we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets.

Last year, Bryan’s mom passed away.   I had the extreme privilege to express my love and thankfulness for a woman who I could call Mom as easily as my own mother.  I knew Bryan had taken her death very hard.  I wanted to talk to Bryan that day, but I could see he was, as all of us were, extremely saddened by her death.  A few days later, I received an email from him.  And if you would allow me, I would like to share a portion from his letter…

Dave,

It made my day seeing you as always and I cannot express how much I appreciate your speaking at Mom’s funeral.  I do not even know how to say it, but let’s say that losing my Mom has been really hard on me.  But I know that she is in a better place and her suffering is gone.  I know I will see her again.

As you may or may not know this has been a heck of a year. 2 years in fact.  The worst time in my life physically.

I really don’t like email that much.  It seems so impersonal, especially when talking with you.  Business is different these days…I still prefer face to face or at least on the phone.

It was really great seeing you, and I wanted to let you know, even though I don’t talk about it, I wanted you to know that I am a Born Again Christian. We talked about that a long time ago when we walked home from the fair. Remember?   It has taken me a long time to come to this decision, but I have accepted Him, into my life.

I struggle with sharing it with anyone because of some of the things I have done.  I wanted you to know and I would love to speak with you about that.

Tell your Mom and Dad I said Hello…

Anyway, I am getting long winded here.

Warm Regards,  Bryan

I called Bryan a few times over the past year.  Not as many as I now wish I would have.  We talked, and talked.  About everything.  Telling stories and having a time of laughter and glorious memories.   We talked about his decision to follow Christ and how he wished he had lived his life differently.  I just reminded him that God’s grace is sufficient to cover even his worst sin.  He was forgiven and accepted…regardless what he did in his life.

Then few months ago, I received a phone call.  I just couldn’t believe the news on the other end.  Bryan had passed away.  I was already reeling from the loss of my closest friend (Bob Emrich) in May and now my childhood friend was gone as well.   I was shocked and in some ways I am still not over the loss of my two closest friends.  For whatever reason, God sometimes allows people to be taken very quickly from us.  Many times, so fast that we never get the chance to say the things we needed to say.

I will cherish that time.  The last conversation with him was no different from the conversation I would have had with him over 30 years ago when we walked home from the fairgrounds.

Our lives indeed took different paths but we will always share the common bond we found in what we call family.

Simply put, Bryan was a very good man…that loved his wife, his daughter, his step-children, his mother and father, his brothers, his relatives and his friends.  I loved him as a brother.

In closing, the lyrics to one of my favorite songs goes like this…

In Christ, there are no goodbyes
In Christ, there is no end
So I’ll hold onto Jesus with all that I have
So I can see you again.

Bryan…I miss you my friend and brother… I cannot wait until I get to see you again.

Our reunion will be…stupid, ridiculous and glorious.