Tag: Christianity

How John Lennon Saved Christmas for Me

OK… alright… I know Christmas is over. It was almost three weeks ago.

I have taken a break from writing during the holidays. I have been trying to finish my second book and have it published in the spring of 2019, but I have run into a bad case of writer’s block. I am struggling with motivation. That isn’t uncommon, I experienced it last year.

So why am I still writing about Christmas?

While I struggle to finish my book, I just have not been able to shake the thoughts and feelings that have overtaken me. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am not a huge fan of Christmas.

Well… let me clarify.

I love Christmas. I love the reason we celebrate it. I loathe the decorations and I am (much to my wife’s and sister-in-law’s disdain) not a fan of Christmas music or movies.  The music is too much and too overwhelming. At least for me.

Just about the time my Scrooge started kicking in and my to-list was growing, I desperately tried to hide my scrooge face from my wife. (which I am never successful at doing). Trees, wreaths, lights, decorations, stockings, holly, cookies, gifts. I needed to get into the spirit.

Then I turned on the radio and this happened… christmas

“And so, this is Christmas…”

John Lennon’s unmistakable voice came on. I listened, feeling the annual stirring. It occurred to me I’ve heard “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” every December since I was 11.

It took me back to the Christmas, my family celebrated in our Walnut Street home in Oak Harbor, Ohio. We had a tiny decorated tree with strings of lights and tinsel.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Years later, I heard that song played the night John Lennon was assassinated. I was out of high school and was lost in a world that had moved on without me. I was working at HJ Heinz and all of my friends had left for college. I had no plan, no dream, no clue where I was headed, and I definitely had no idea where I would end up. I sat in the dark in my room and listened to this song, among others that John Lennon had made and cried until I had no more tears.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Then a few years after that I would listen to this song as I drove back from Michigan, with my son peacefully sleeping in his car seat. I was driving home to my grandfather’s funeral. He died on Christmas Eve and I wasn’t there. That was over 30 years ago… and I am still bitter about it.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Memories of two little boys dancing around, waiting for Santa. They woke me at 5:45 a.m., breathless with excitement, jumping on my bed.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Years later… opening presents with our blended family of my two boys and the two girls that are as much a part of me as my son’s. My wife made sure Christmas was extra special for our family.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

More years pass and now it is just my wife and me on Christmas morning. Instead of waking at 5:45 a.m., we sleep in. Those little boys are now men. The girls are now married and are making Christmas memories with their husband’s. Two grandsons’ now wake their parents with dreams of presents dancing in their heads.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

2018… Christmas is still Christmas, but I have a son that hasn’t talked to his father in almost three years. I reach out to silence.  

 “And what have you done…”

This is the second lyric to the song… Lennon seems to be asking what we did with these 365 days. Did we try to help? Did we do our best? Did we learn? Did we grow? I hope I encouraged and loved and was there. I hoped I gave a smile and kind words when needed. I hope I was a good husband, a good grandfather, a good son, a good brother, and friend. More importantly, was I a good servant to my savior Jesus Christ?

Still, so many do much more. I see nurses and teachers who dedicate their lives to others. I have family and friends who spend their time helping the needy, children, and those who are sick. They inspire me to do better.

 “Another year over…”

I am not who I was a few years ago. I have changed. Regret is hard.

And yet good things happened. My sister-in-law beat Ovarian Cancer. She remains cancer free. The year started in doubt about that and we are grateful that she has been given a gift from God. My son found the woman he will marry in 2019. My wife still takes good care of me. She took a chance on re-inventing herself at her job and she has excelled. She still teaches (34 years now) and I love her more than life itself. My grandsons bring me more joy than I could ever imagine. I published my first book… and I reluctantly will now say I am a writer.  The sun still shines. And I still love my morning cup of coffee. Life goes on.

“A new one just begun…”

I pray we turn a corner, although it’s hard to be hopeful. The country is divided. Another mass killing takes place and my stomach drops. My generation didn’t grow up like this nor did my parents’. My heart goes out to young people who must navigate this world.

And yet, judging by my children and their friends I know they’ll be okay. This group is brave, strong, and resilient. They’ll not only make it through but will someday make a difference.

2019 will bring change to me. Uncertain things at my place of employment and new opportunities. Maybe the path to reconciliation with my son will become clearer… whatever the year brings… I am grateful, and I am ready for what God has in store for me and my wife.

“And so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…”

Politicians / People work to anger us, focusing on differences, giving reasons to hate and fear each other. Regardless of your position… everyone is guilty.

 “Let’s hope it’s a good one… without any fear”

John Lennon died 38 years ago. I wondered how would the globe spin without him? Who would lead the cause for peace and non-violence? It seemed impossible he was gone. Yet the years sped by and here we are.

I still miss him.

I did not agree with everything that John Lennon did or say, but I can’t help wondering… what would Lennon say about the world today?

“War is over. If you want it…”

The song ends. And I feel right again.

Whatever petty Yuletide problems I have… don’t matter.

Now I know… John Lennon didn’t save Christmas for me.

Jesus Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas.  However, this song by John Lennon has grounded me. It reminds me this holiday is more than tinsel and evergreens. Christmas is about time passing. It’s about life and love and family. Christmas is about finding joy where you can. Christmas is about hope.

Thank you, John Lennon.  

You did it.

You saved Christmas (wink) for me once again.

 

Focus On What Matters

This past week I was at Tim Horton’s.

Sitting across from me was a man that I did not know.Related image

The reason he and I were sitting at the same table is such a coincidence if you believe in such a thing.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

I was soon to find out that the reason for me meeting this man at a random table at Tim Horton’s would change my perspective on some of the things I considered important.

Jack would tell me about his situation.

He would tell me of the diagnosis. How they found cancer. He would give me Image result for cleveland clinic cancer centerdetails of his surgeries and of the treatments. The doctors removed one of the largest tumors recorded at the Cleveland Clinic from his colon. He would tell me he has been dealing with this for almost 5 years now. He has been told by the doctors that there was nothing more they could do. He has been told on at least 2 times that he only had a few months to live.

He recently had more tests run and again, the prognosis is not good. They will do another round of chemo and they will attack it as best as they can.

He has survived. He has overcome. He has lived.

But that isn’t Jack’s story, at least not all of it.

Jack’s story begins with a desire to write a book about his situation.

He has wanted to write a book called “Blessed With Cancer”. 

It is as important as life to him.

Sure, he wants to write this book for his wife and for his children to read in the future, but more importantly, he wants it for those that are walking the same path in life.

He wants to share his story of how he has survived. How he has overcome and more importantly how he has lived to those that are battling cancer.

He has tried to get his book published. Some publishers would tell him that the costs of putting this into a book form would be thousands of dollars. Others would tell him that it will be over a year away for it to be published in book form.

Jack doesn’t know if he has a year to give.

This is where I come into Jack’s story.

I am not sharing this to get any credit, to be recognized or to be seen in a better light.

I just know what Jack feels like when it comes to wanting to write a book and the process it takes to get it into book form. It’s brutal.

I have developed a publishing process to where I can get Jack’s book into book form at almost no cost to Jack or his family.

I can help him achieve his desire while he can enjoy the fulfillment of reaching a lifelong dream.

This is what I am going to do for Jack.

As Jack and I finished up our discussion and details that need to be completed to publish his book, I see that this book is something that he is living for. The compassion to tell his story and a desire to leave something that gives evidence that he was here.  A way to thank his doctors… his friends and most of all his TEST DPI FINALfamily.

Here is the front cover of the book I am publishing for him. I just submitted the book and it will be on Amazon in the next week or so. I am proud to have been part of his dream to publish a book.

The lessons to be learned in his story are evident long before a book gets published.

For me, I realize that in light of his story, many of the things I consider important… simply are not. Whether or not the Browns win another game or the Indians win a World Series is not important. It simply doesn’t matter.

I am reminded of a movie I watched many years ago.  It wasn’t a great movie by any standard, most of the movie I forgot about soon after it was over. However, there is one scene that I have never forgotten. In that movie, called “Meatballs”, Bill Murray is Image result for what matterscoaching a summer camp softball team. Just prior to the final game between his team of nerds and the super-jocks, Bill gives his team a pep talk, reminding them that whether they win or lose, it just doesn’t matter.

Most of the things we face in life really do not matter.  Not in the big picture of life. Our perspective will change when we face our mortality. When we face an uncertain future.

I am aware that we all have to face these things in life.

We have to play the cards we are dealt.

We need to focus on what matters.

What matters is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

What matters is showing up and doing the best you can.

What matters is your family.

What matters is stepping up to the plate and taking your best shot.

What matters is not letting your fear or your cancer define you.

What matters is living life until God calls you home.

It’s trying to squeeze out every last drop of life knowing that it is so precious.

So… when I see a man who has endured the last five years dealing with cancer and then he writes a book called “Blessed With Cancer”…  the game that the Browns won last week… just doesn’t matter.

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://i0.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.

The Evidence

There is nothing like ripe, fresh fruit.

To be able to pick a piece of fruit from the tree and eat it is one of the great experiences of life.  

I remember, years ago, when I lived in Oak Harbor, Ohio and experiencing the thrill of picking cherries from our trees in our back yard.  I still remember climbing those trees and sitting high up on one of the branches and picking and eating fresh cherries by the hand full.  I still reflect in amazement that was part of my childhood.  I surely did not appreciate the experience at the time.

I am not sure that I can ever remember eating cherries in my adult life that were as fresh and sweet as those I picked back in those days.

Fresh fruit is the ultimate sign of life from a fruit tree. It tells you, without any doubt, this tree is alive!  And because of that life we enjoy the fruit.

There is one more thing I think about when my thoughts wander to this topic of fruit-  fresh fruit has a sweetness to it.  It’s as if one of the great evidences of fresh fruit is a sweet subtle taste that makes you want more.

So what is the evidence of life for the Christian?

What tells the world, as they walk by, that you are alive in Christ?

It’s the fruit!

Here’s how Paul describes the fruit that comes from us when we are alive in Christ,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The thing about this kind of fruit is that others should be drawn to it, there’s a https://syntheticgospel.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/good-tree.jpgsweetness about our lives that should make them want to be around us.  The fruit of the Spirit coming out of our lives should draw others to us and ultimately to Christ.

It’s the same thing that happened when Jesus was here… people loved being with Him.

The fruit of his life was sweet and refreshing.

So this is what I am pondering today. In clear self-evaluation, I am wondering if the fruit that I produce is pointing others to see Christ in me?  I want to be recognized by the fruit of the Spirit.  However, I am reminded of the times that no one could see Christ in me because I was too full of myself. 

There was no room for fruit to grow.

Too often, I was caught up in the throes of the dogma of religion and not in living in the freedom that being alive in Christ brings. 

As I reflect, my challenge to you, is for you to evaluate what is the evidence of the life of Christ in you?

Does the fruit of your life have the sweet taste of God’s presence or the bitter taste of self and religion?

Is there evidence that you are alive in Christ?  How does it taste to those around you?

Winning the Argument But Losing the War

People fascinate me.

Stories fascinate me.

Listening to people tell me their story fascinates me.

I am intrigued by what makes each one of us different.

I wonder what shaped you? Who shaped you? What drove you to be who you are today?

Unfortunately, oncsomeone_is_wrong_on_the_internet1e you start to get a feel for who this person is you also get to hear some things from this person that you really don’t like, or is different from you. It really gets interesting when you find out that this person believes differently than you. This often leads to some heated conversation.

Why? Why are there tensions created when you meet someone who believes something different from your beliefs? Why do people feel like they have to argue about every single aspect of Christianity?

I’m “friends” on Facebook with a lot of people who believe differently than I do. A few are merely acquaintances. A few I know well. Two of those friends recently caused quite an argument on Facebook. The details are not really important (here at least), what happened in the aftermath is.

As it always seems to happen… people get 10 ft. tall and bulletproof when they are in the comfort and security of their home and armed with a keyboard.

They raised their verbal (written) fists.

Both threw punches.

And the watching Facebook world… watched… and judged.

It was like waWHy I am Righttching the freshman preacher boys in the dorm back in the day when I was a student at Liberty University. Every Fall you would hear a new batch of them arguing about things that have no eternal significance, but were trying their best to prove to everyone who would listen that they were right.  They would say that they were not arguing but they were just explaining why they were right.

It usually took these preacher boys about a year or so of studying Theology for them to realize that they really didn’t have a clue and there were many more acceptable answers to the same questions they were so desperately trying to prove as Freshman. 

My two friends were having a “discussion” on Facebook and everything would have been fine if it stayed in the “discussion mode”.  But like many “discussions” it didn’t.  At first, they slightly disagreed. But within 15 minutes, one of my friends was declaring the other a heretic. Now… it should be noted that both of these friends declare themselves as believers… Christians.  They were arguing about issues that actually had nothing to do with leading people to Christ. 

As their discussion crossed the 60-minute mark, and their Facebook feeds fully flushed with arguments and disagreements, I realized that they were no longer simply stating opinion. They were positioning themselves to win the argument, dismissing any counter points no matter whether they agreed or not. They were in this fight to be crowned the person most in the right. And it didn’t feel good.

This silly argument left me thinking: What is it about human beings that leaves us needing to be right, needing to get the last word in no matter what? Regardless of the cost. Regardless of the people who were reading their hateful, hurtful banter.

Sure enough… some people would message me over the course of my two friends argument and comment about how these two well-meaning people had done more to harm to the cause of Christ then they would ever know.  One would walk away the “winner”… winning the argument but losing the war.

I can’t say that I have always been innocent of getting involved in “discussions” that turn into man_yelling_at_computerarguments.  But as I have grown older, I am not the guy to argue theology anymore.  For those of you that do not know, I am educated and trained in Bible theology… and I can argue with the best of them. But I also know that I don’t have all the answers and I don’t wear my education on my sleeve. I don’t have to prove to anyone what I believe. Over time I have realized that more damage has been done arguing over things that mean nothing to the cause of Christ. I know what I believe and I am not swayed by anyone wanting to argue the tenets of Calvinism or the pros and cons of the KJV or just about any aspect of Christianity. I’ve learned the hard way to stay as far away from the arguing as I can.  I have seen too much damage done in the process of being “right” and I have never witnessed anyone say, “Wow… that argument completely changed my fundamental belief system!” or like Phillip Yancey stated:

“No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.”

No one “wins” in these debates and arguments. People get hurt. Words cut like the knife from both sides. No one drops their sword and advances the Kingdom. I might go so far as to say we retreat the Kingdom. We need to be able to explore the tension and not do so with our verbal fists raised. We need to ask the questions, receive the answers all the while drinking a large mug of grace.

Because the watching world… watches… and judges.

fool

Too Much “Stuff”

I’ve been thinking about the clutter of my life…the things that are around me that I bought or gathered to make life easier. It seems to have actually made my life harder!

 too_much_stuffHow is it possible that things accumulated over time can actually make life harder?  It’s the clutter of things that most of us try to maintain, that most of us really enjoy, and yet I’m realizing that my “stuff” has become my burden as well…all the stuff I have gathered now has taken over certain areas of my life. 

This week, a few of us at work talked about the desire to “have things”.  Not just about the desire to have things but to have that which we never use.  There are so many things that I wanted and thought I needed only to realize that I have rarely used that item I coveted.   With the accumulation of all those things we find life harder, more difficult.  I thought about it this morning and realized I have boxes in my garage that haven’t been opened since I moved into our house 14 years ago!  Why do I keep this stuff?  What’s in those boxes?  What stuff is hiding there for me to discover anew?

All this to think about the challenge of our discussion…the challenge to “deaccumulate” our lives.  I wonder how much of the stuff of my life I could actually do without? I wonder how many things I really “need”?

I thought about the fact that you can tell what’s important to a person by what they do when they know they are going to die.  As we close in on Easter and spend a few days reflecting on what Jesus did,  I wondered, what is it that Jesus did before he entered Jerusalem during His last week?  He knew that He was going to die and one key story that is told in the Gospels, right before Jesus declares to the disciples that He is heading to Jerusalem, is the story of the Rich Young Ruler.

Luke 18:18 The rich ruler asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds by telling him he must keep the commandments. The rich ruler tells Jesus he has kept them all. Then Jesus says, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Then the rich ruler became sad because he was so rich and did not want to let go of his material possessions.

Jesus was making His preparations to give up everything for you and I on the cross.  Jesus also wants us to give Him everything.  He wants us to give Him total control of our life.   If He asks you, are you willing to give up all that you have for Jesus?  

Jesus typically pushes us out of our comfort zone.

For most us, our comfort is found in how much money we have.   If it’s not money then it is related to money, like possessions or other things money can buy.   Are you willing to give God your possessions?   What about your title at work?   What about your dream to be a famous musicispiritual-spring-cleaningan, sports star, investor, writer, etc.?   Are you willing to give God a percentage of your money?   Are you willing to give up your success?   Are you willing to give God your retirement funds? 

Jesus invited 12 men to leave everything and follow Him.  That same call is given to each of us today. 

What “should” we let go of today?  What “can” we let go of?  What “can” we live without?

I can’t answer for you… but I know my life (both physically and spiritually) needs a thorough Spring Cleaning.  I need to get rid of the “stuff” that keeps me from being what God wants me to be. 

“And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”     Luke 9:23-24

Sweet Words of Healing

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

This week I had the honor and privilege to attend the funeral of Nancy Schueren.

Nancy SchurerenI was saddened by the loss of someone who for the greater part of my elementary years and a good portion of my adult years treated me like a son.  Her son Steve and I had bonded as friends in early 1971 and she immediately took me in and thus started her influence on my life that has lasted over 40 years.

I could no more deny the influence of the Schueren family in my life than I could deny the influence of my own family.  I have written about my friendship with Steve in my post called,  “Save Me a Seat – A Tribute to Steve Schueren” (Click to Read)   This was my tribute to honor Steve and his life.  I wrote it because I had been carrying a lot of guilt and shame because I had let him down in our friendship.  I wrote it because I could not bring myself to go to Steve’s funeral, but I had to in some way give honor to him.  I just could not go and face the Schueren family with my guilt, shame and embarrassment of my failure in my Spiritual walk, not to mention my failure to be the friend that I should have been to Steve and to his family.

I did not write it to get a response from anyone.  It was a just an attempt to clear a burden and weight on my soul.  To my surprise, my tribute to Steve has been read over 7,000 times since I posted it.  I am thankful for that because hopefully people will see what a good man he truly was.

Now to the rest of the story…

For most of the last eighteen years I have spent a lot of time and effort avoiding situations where I would feel uncomfortable and most assuredly I would avoid those situations where  I would make people feel uncomfortable with my presence.  Mostly it was spent in avoiding those who knew me from my former life.  When someone in the ministry fails in their walk with Christ there is a very high price that is paid.  Forgiveness is not something that is offered from other believers easily.  I would avoid as much as I could so as to not cause offense.  When I would be in situations where I would be around someone from my past I would try my best to avoid any direct interaction and most assuredly I would avoid eye contact at all cost.

One Sunday morning, just after Steve passed away I was walking to my car after the morning church service.  I was doing my usual head down and walk in a straight line out to my car.  No eye contact.  No conversation with anyone.  That is when she stopped me.  One of those 7,000 views of my post was read by Nancy Schueren. There was no avoiding the contact.  There was no avoiding the conversation.  I had no idea what to say and I surely had no idea of what she was going to say to me.

Nancy had indeed rforgiveness-2009ead my post about Steve and she grabbed my hand and pulled me in close and looked me in the eye and her first words were, “Thank you for your kind words about Steve and know that I have forgiven you.”    I cannot tell you the  weight that was lifted from my heart.  I have to be honest with you… this was the first time a fellow believer had ever looked me in the eye and told me they have forgiven me since my divorce which at that time was 16 years earlier. 

Those words spoken by a woman broken by the loss of her son were sweet words of healing to my soul.

It was the beginning of the healing of some of the wounds to my heart and while I still struggle with the lack of forgiveness and acceptance from other believers I will always savor the reconciliation and forgiveness from a woman I have looked up to for all of my life.

This week, as I dealt with her death, I remembered  as I listened to her son John and her grandson Jared speak at her funeral, although wounded and hurting from their loss, they were using words of love, healing, and encouragement as they honored a mother and grandmother that was now in arms of Jesus Christ.  These spoken words were sweet, healing, like a warm blanket to the hearer.  I longed to hear more.  I was amazed as I listened.

Our words make a difference.  They can  heal and comfort or hurt and cut to the heart.  We are most Sweet Wordscreative AND most destructive when we speak.  We choose which we will do…build up, encourage, love and comfort or hurt, destroy, and wound.  Our words are powerful!!! Our words are a reflection of our heart.

The Schueren family,  hurting from the loss of their mother and grandmother, was encouraging and comforting others!  Sweet and healing only begin to describe what the kindness of the lips can do in the lives of others.  We all need to know we are loved, to know it from those we care about and when the words of another are encouraging, healing, and loving it changes everything.  It changes us.

I’ve been thinking about these things since I left the funeral.  I am embarrassed at the thought of what may be said about me when the time of my passing is announced.  The footprints of the legacy I left behind will speak for itself.  I cannot change the legacy that I have left behind nor can anyone else that reads this post.  The only option is to live today with the hope that people will find the last years of our life will be found to have been lived in faithfulness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that we spoke words of forgiveness and love for our family and to those who we met along the way.

What I saw in the Schueren family this week were sweet words, kind words, encouraging words.  I wonder how we could change this world if we decided to only speak those types of words.  I long for the day in heaven when those are the only words we will use.

I know that the last 15 months since Steve died were so hard on Nancy and she paid a price with her physical body as she dealt with the loss of a son.  A parent is not supposed to out live their child.  It is one of the hardest experiences we face here on earth.  I am comforted only by knowing that she and Steve are re-united in heaven.  

Thank you Nancy for your influence and for your forgiveness… maybe you will be there when Steve saves me a seat next to him on my first day in heaven. 

 

Know Your Enemy

We are in a war, but it’s not the war we are trying to fight.  In most cases, we really do not know who our real enemy is.

It’s not a battle between Republicans and Democrats.

It’s not a battle between conservatives and liberals.

It’s not a battle between Christians and Muslims.

It’s not a battle between gay and straight.

It’s not a battle between “us” and “them”.

These are the battles we are fighting in the Christian world we live in, but they are the wrong wars, the wrong battlefields, attacks against the wrong enemies. 

This week we fought a battle that many made into a war.  I believe that it was the wrong war to fight but none-the-less,  Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A,  had stated his opposition of gay marriage.  This started a battle among those that agreed and those that opposed.  The outcry from those that disagreed, took the stand that as a CEO of a major company such as Chick-fil-A, he had no right to express his feeling nor was he allowed to spend his money to support groups and organizations that were against gay marriage. It became more about his beliefs as opposed to what the battle was really about.  It was, in my opinion, a battle about “free-speech” not gay marriage.

What followed was a call to support Chick-fil-A by standing up for your beliefs by purchasing a chicken sandwich.   Most critics said that we as Christians and as a church failed to show love to those we disagree with. While I agree we missed an opportunity to show love… wasn’t this really about free speech? The freedom to believe in what one wants to believe?  It just so happens that this event was based upon a comment about a belief about gay marriage. It could have been about anything but it became all about gay marriage and our chance to “show love”. I am not sure if it was a “failure” of the church as some stated.  I would say it was a missed opportunity to do something more than reduce the chicken population. There is a distinct difference between “failure” and a “missed opportunity”.

The Christian world I live in has chosen to fight the wrong war, focus on what is not the enemy,  oppose what isn’t the real problem at all.  All the while the real enemy prospers and smiles at our foolishness.  He has masterfully misdirected our attention at the wrong things. We are indeed in a war…I pray we realize who the real enemy is and focus our attacks in the right way, with the right weapons at the real enemy.

Our battle and our war is not against the gay community.  Jesus showed love to sinners and was “despised and rejected” by most. We could have done nothing except try to show love to the gay community and do you think that would have made it a victory for the church if that message would have been rejected by almost all of them? God’s dealings with the gay community over history has not been one that I would say is filled with tolerance but that is another discussion.

Maybe we should have a had a day of volunteer community service to show our support for free speech… because that is what this was really about. How long of a line of volunteers do you think that might have been? A lot shorter I presume…because people wouldn’t have got a chicken sandwich at the other end of the line.

God hasn’t changed his views.  He still says marriage is between a man and a woman only.  He still says that sex outside of marriage is wrong.  He still says that homosexuality is sin just as lying and stealing are sins.  Even as I type this I know I will be the subject of our inverted morality and be called a bigot, someone opposed to “marriage equality”, but I’m not.  I view the world right side up and refuse to agree with those that try to turn the world upside down around me.  

There is still evil and good,  dark and light, bitter and sweet and these things  do not change simply because the culture doesn’t like the way God describes right and wrong.  Yes, I realize I live in a culture and world inverted by sin, but I still have to declare to the world around me that all of this is upside down.  This is not the way God wants us to live.  Nor is it the war that God wants us to fight.  Even if the upside world around me doesn’t like to hear it said it’s still upside down and inverted from the way God designed it.

We are taking swings at the symptoms and not at the real enemies.  We find ourselves boxing shadows and completely missing the real enemies among us.  It is a war of the worlds, but not the one we fight now.  Here’s the real battlefield, here’s the real enemy.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”           -Ephesians 6

I’m sure our real enemies are thrilled with the shadow boxing we are doing….swinging at what is not the real enemy at all…and all the while our unseen enemy continues the fight.  

Our battle in never with people, let me repeat that….our battle is never with people…it’s always spiritual and with an enemy unseen.   If that enemy can get us to focus our attention on the wrong battle, the wrong enemy, the wrong battlefield all the better for him.

In this world of misplaced wars, I pray we see what the real war is about, who the real enemy really is and how we are to respond.  The real war is for the souls of men, the real enemy is the devil, and the proper response for us is love and prayer.  Those are the “weapons” that will change the culture around us and deal a death-blow to the enemy’s plans.

The real battlefield is spiritual.   The real war is spiritual.

And the real war is fought in prayer and with love for others, regardless of their sin.

Choose A New Direction

Even after more than three years of writing this blog, I am still amazed at the direction it has taken me.  Over the course of the last two weeks, I have been shocked at the total number of people who have visited my blog site.  I have already exceeded my record of monthly total visitors and have set new daily records five out of the last seven days.  In the past six months, I have had more visitors than the previous two years combined.  It has been fun to watch.

I do not want to come across sounding brash or over-confident about this.  Truth be told, I am extremely humbled by it.  I am aware that my writing skills are not up to par to ever be truly considered a writer and most times the thoughts in my head come across somewhat different when they get translated by my hands on the keyboard.   

I look back at the time when I started to write.  I  intended to make my writings private and only for my children to read.  I called it “Letters to my Children”.  I started to write and share some stories about my life.  My children do not remember the time in my life when I was in the ministry and they are filled with memories of a man who was in a free-fall in his life.  Their memories tainted by images of a man who lost his ministry, his marriage and a man who was consumed by bitterness and unforgiveness.    Their thoughts poisoned by gossip and accusations from people who are Christians and once called their father a friend.  Now that my children are now on the path of adulthood, they have shared some of the things that they were told.  I am sure they have only shared a small portion of what they truly endured in order to not have to relive the memories or to not stir up the past. 

I know that one day I will stand before God, He will address my sin and my responsibility in how I dealt with my children.  However, there will be others that will have to give account for their actions that affected my children.  I have had a number of these people come to me over the past few years and ask for my forgiveness.  Honestly, I had forgiven them years ago in my heart, but the damage has been done.  The rumors and accusations simply were not true.  But that does not change the fact that my actions and theirs impacted my children more than I want to admit.

Father’s Day is still one of the most difficult days for me to endure.  Over the past few years it has been better.  I think that my children have seen the change in me and that I am no longer wandering  in the backside of the desert like Moses.  That still doesn’t mean everything is ok.  My children have emotional and spiritual scars and as a father I am responsible for many of them.  

Now back to my blog site…  I shared that I have written a private blog for my children.  It was during that process that God started to melt my heart.  It was during those early days of writing that God held me in His grasp and helped me to ask for forgiveness and to forgive those that hurt me.  He softened my heart and took away my bitterness.  I struggled for a few years with forgiving myself but eventually, that too was taken away. 

Make no mistake… sin has its consequences.  On this earth, I will pay for many of these sins for the rest of my life.  In eternity, I know that God has forgiven me and I will be judged by the One who is allowed to judge. 

As a divorced man, I was no longer qualified to be a pastor.  This was made very clear to me over the years.  I believe that a man is “called” to be a pastor and I never believed or felt that I was “called’ into the ministry to be a pastor.  However, I still longed to be involved in a ministry.   I was not the man that I once was.  I was more than I had been and I still had something to give.

God’s Love will break you.

On a whim, I started another blog called “Maybe It’s Just Me”  It was blog to where I could share my perspective on my journey to find forgiveness and how I dealt with the spiritual scars that I had earned in that process.  Soon I changed the name to “It’s Just Me” to better reflect that this was who I was and not just my perspective.  Just as I have grown and journeyed  down a path filled with stepping-stones and stumbling blocks, I wanted to show that I had changed and God was working in me to soften my heart.  It was great to just put my beliefs and what God was doing in my life in words.

I’ve learned that God’s direction isn’t a path clearly marked out for years to come, but instead its guidance for the moment.  God’s direction for life are much like a GPS… “In 1/4 mile turn left…”

The directions of the GPS are as you need them.

Walking with God is much like that.  It’s not a course revealed for the next 40 years, but a walk of steps and turns and moments.  Each day is a new day.  Finding God’s direction for you in the moments, in the encounters of your life.   As it clearly has done for me, the direction, as it looks to you, might go around in circles for a bit, but God has a plan and it’s only revealed as we come to each turn in our journey.

That leads me to announce the  latest change in my blog.  I have made a change that will probably be the last one as it concerns my writingI have changed the name to, “Footprints of a Legacy Left Behind”  I chose the name as a reminder to me that I leave a legacy wherever I go.  I leave a “footprint” and  an influence on those I come in contact with.    My prayer is that for the rest of my life that I will leave a legacy of faithfulness and love for Christ in the footprints I leave behind.

For so many years, I had been caught up in waiting for God to open doors for me to be able to teach from God’s Word again, that I made myself walk that desert longer than I needed to.  Somewhere near the absolute end of my journey is where I began to find myself.  I realized its okay to start over. 

The same is true for you as well. 

For now… this is my ministry.  I embrace it and am thankful for it.  Now I know that I am not doing anything epic or maybe not anything significant that changes lives, except for mine.  But it is what God has provided for me where I am allowed to express my love for Him.  I have a ways to go in growing in Jesus Christ but I honestly want to live for Him with the same compassion that He had when He died for me. 

Maybe it’s not to late for my children to see that.  Hopefully there will be clear footprints of a legacy that I show for the rest of my life.

You don’t need to know the route, you simply need to obey God’s direction for today and forget about tomorrow.  You may not know all the turns and twists in your route, but you simply need to trust the guidance you receive as you walk with God through the moments of life.  

Walking with God is a fascinating adventure.  You never know who you will meet, where it will take you.

Want a new direction in your life?

It’s up to you.

 

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
Prov. 3:5-6
                                                                                               

Let Me See This World Thru Your Eyes

We all wear masks.  

Masks that hide who we really are.

Masks to keep people from ever really seeing the real you.  Masks that tell others we are “ok” when we really aren’t.  Masks that allow us to be accepted by those that we want acceptance from.  Masks that we wear so often that we even convince ourselves that that is who we really are.  We do this so often that many times we do it without any thought. It is just the natural progression of our typical day.

It starts early in life.

Every morning when we wake up and put on our first mask of the day.  We have many of them.  We have a mask for our children and family to see, a mask for our spouse to see and another mask for work.  We put on a new mask for when you are out with friends and another mask for those we hardly know.  We have a mask that we wear to church and we wear a mask to do our grocery shopping.  A mask for all the different situations of our life.  Some of these masks are better than others.

Why do we wear masks?

We wear them to hide our insecurities.  To cover what we are afraid of.   To hide the fact they we are unhappy about where we are in life.   We wear masks to cover our failures in life, we wear them to hide the “real” person we are.  In public, we all want to show that we have it together and that all is well,but in most situations that is the farthest thing from the truth.

We hide behind these masks and we actually think we keep it from everyone what and who we really are.  But just like our sin that we think we keep private… it is no secret.  God knows.

He has identified the true person we really are and what we really have done in our lives.  He sees us.  A mask doesn’t keep Him from knowing what we have done and He sees every aspect of us.   

I often wonder what the world would look like if I could see this world thru His eyes?  Would I love those I come in contact with if I could see what God sees?    If I could see what others struggle with it would it change how I interact with them? If I could see that a friend is insecure how would I treat them and comfort them?  If I could see that a neighbor is afraid what would I do?  If I could see that a co-worker is depressed what would I say?   If we could see what’s really going on with each other it would change everything.  

What’s fascinating to me is that God does see.   He hears the unspoken words, he knows the unheard thoughts, he knows us. And because He knows,  He deals with people in a merciful and gracious way.   He sees us as we really are and yet He still loves us.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”       John 3:16

I shudder to the depths of my soul to know He sees me as I really am.   I know this, that in spite of what He sees, He loves me.  He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die on a cross specifically for me.  He did the same for you.

My prayer is that I can catch a glimpse of what God sees when He looks at me.  If I could see this world the way He sees it, I just know I would serve Him more faithfully.

Let me see this world, dear Lord,
As though I were looking through Your eyes.
A world of men who don’t want You Lord,
But a world for which You died.

Let me kneel with You in the garden,
Blur my eyes with tears of agony;
For if once I could see this world the way You see,
I just know I’d serve You more faithfully.

Let me see this world, dear Lord,
Through Your eyes when men mock Your Holy Name.
When they beat You and spat upon You, Lord,
Let me love them as You loved them just the same.

Let me stand high above my petty problems,
And grieve for men, hell bound eternally;
For if once I could see this world the way You see,
I just know I’d serve You more faithfully.

May this be my prayer for the rest of my life.