Tag: David M. Lee

Some Calls Change Your Life Forever

They say grief comes in waves.

That’s a lie.

What I have experienced since that cold brisk November day in 1970 are not waves of grief. 

To be honest, instead of feeling waves of grief that come every now and then, I personally have felt grief every single day. No waves, just one consistent shade of grey that washes over me.

It is something that is part of me.

It isn’t something that I chose to have in my life and I work hard at hiding it, but it is always there.  It is as close to me as breathing.  It has been my life-lImage result for griefong companion and it is as normal in my life as putting my clothes on in the morning.  To be honest, I don’t even think about it that much anymore.  In order to go about my day, I have to put clothes on. I can never consider another option without striking fear and disgust from those who would see me naked and exposed.  That is what grief is like to me.  Like the clothes I have to wear, it is something that I put on every day.  I don’t have a choice.  I wish I could but I can’t wash it off in the shower.  I push it down as far as I can, but it’s always lurking and hiding somewhere just under the surface.  It is a grey filter that clouds my world and I have carried this dark passenger with me since I was nine.

What blindsides me is not grief.

It’s guilt.

I have never shared this with anyone. It is something that I have struggled with since that horrible day. Guilt comes to me in these huge sucker-punch hits that I never see coming. They hit me so hard that it rams into my very soul. It feels as if someone has hit you so hard in the stomach that it sucks out everything you have – your heart, your Image result for guiltoxygen, your whole being. It hits me out of nowhere.  I cannot predict when or where it will show up.  I cannot control it.  The pangs of guilt hit me when I am doing some of the most mundane, common things in life.  Like when they hit when I am driving in my car to work, or when I am listening to music or when I am working in my garage. They hit me when I walk into a room and see the pictures of my wife, my children and grandchildren hanging on the wall.

There have been times when they have hit me when I shop at the grocery store.  Of course, no one else knows it.  I remain still and stoic.  I smile at the person I pass on the same aisle and I continue to fill my cart with milk and bread.  But it’s there, spasms of guilt, flooding my heart and soul. A sucker-punch of the worst kind. No one is the wiser and I carry on with life.  Never knowing when I will run into it next.

I sort of live in fear of that.

If you considered my world in 1970, you would have found that other than the 6:30 news bringing the horrors of the Vietnam War, the Manson Murders, the Kent State shootings and the occasional blurb about the civil unrest on the college campuses across America into our living room every night, I had always been protected from the outside world. The bad news that was projected on our black and white television was often tempered by shows like Gilligan’s Island, Mayberry RFD and the Beverly Hillbillies.  This was long before reality TV.  Almost all the programs on our television at the time were based upon some type of non-reality life. The premise of a hillbilly living in Hollywood with a cement pond, or the plausible reality of a group of people, on a three-hour tour, to be forever stranded on a deserted island was all the reality we needed.

In early October 1970, I had some medical issues that required surgery.  I was being admitted into Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton, Ohio.  I was going to have surgery and I would be absent for two-weeks from Mrs. Gulau’s classroom at R.C. Water’s Elementary School.

Mrs. Gulau was my 4th grade teacher.  While there is no doubt that she was a wonderful Image result for R.C. Waters Elementary Schoolteacher, she seemed ancient to me. She seemed out of touch even by Oak Harbor standards. Mrs. Gulau was old school before old school was a thing.  She was a strict teacher. She allowed no excuses for missing homework assignments and ran her classroom like a well-oiled machine.  No deviation from the schedule was permitted.  I struggled with her being my teacher and I will admit it wasn’t her fault. 

It was mine.       

At the young age of nine, I had figured out that the best way to get through school was to not make waves.  At all costs, I would try to not to get noticed and for the love of all things pure and holy, I never raised my hand to answer a question.  I was always smarter than I ever let on, but I wasn’t willing to try to talk in front of people for fear of my stuttering and making myself look foolish in front of people. I was content to fade into the background. I was easy to not remember. I am sure if you asked a few of my classmates from that school year, they would struggle to ever remember me.

Just someone they used to know.

After a few days in the hospital, I was discharged.  I was home bound for a week before I was permitted to go back to school.  After I started going back to class, Mrs. Gulau had made arraignments with my mother to have me stay after school for a few weeks to catch up on my studies.  I would stay until 3:45 PM, about an hour after school let out for the rest of the students.

Then November 5th 1970 happened.

It was a cool day, about 45 degrees and a little windy as I remember it.  I had a pretty good day at school and I was finally feeling like I was getting back into the routine of Mrs. Gulau’s classroom.  The school day ended and I completed my hour of tutoring with my teacher.  I was now waiting by the west side door, that the teachers used. Normally, I always came in and left through the front door of the school.  I always rode the bus that would take me and the kids from my neighborhood to the High School on Church Street.  From there, we would meander the two blocks or so to get home in time to watch Gilligan’s Island that came on at 4:00 PM every day after school.  

But the last few days were different. There wasn’t a late bus to take me home and I was too young to walk all that way back home before it got dark at 5:30 PM. So I stood there in silence as Mrs. Gulau looked impatiently out the door to see if my ride was there yet.  My cousin, Larry was picking me up and he obviously was running a little late. 

https://i0.wp.com/barnfinds.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/081716-Barn-Finds-1962-Chevrolet-Corvair-1.jpgI always heard Larry’s car before I could ever see it.  Not because his car ran bad or had a loud exhaust system, but rather Larry always played his music loud. I mean really loud. As predicted, Larry’s music was blaring from his car as he pulled up to the side door to pick me up. 

Larry turned down the music and the passenger side door flew open as he stopped the car.  I mumbled, “Goodbye,” to Mrs. Gulau and I saw the look on her face as she pushed the school door open as I started out to get into the car.  I wasn’t sure if it was because of the loud music or because he was late to pick me up. Either way, it was clearly a look of displeasure that she was giving. 

Larry said, “What’s her problem?” as I slid into the front passenger seat of his Chevy Corvair. I responded, “I have no idea.” and then I hear my brother Bobby and his best friend, Buster laughing from the back seat.  They were always laughing when they were together. I never really knew what they laughed about all the time but here they were laughing about something and they were the only ones that knew why.  

I slam the car door closed and Larry cranks the music even louder than before just to see if he can get another reaction from the teacher.  She disappears into the darkened hallway, shaking her head with displeasure, and we pull out onto Ottawa Street to head back to our home on Walnut Street.

I settle into my seat and I notice that my brother had his dog with him. 

“What are you guys doing?” I ask.

“Wouldn’t you like to know!!” my brother said in sarcasm, as only brothers can.  It was as if he knew I was going to ask that question.  Buster and Bobby mumble something to each other and they burst out laughing again.

Larry, seeing that my feelings were going to get hurt by the banter that happens organically between brothers, put his cigarette down and said, “I‘m dropping them off so they can check their traps on Mylander’s farm.”

“Can I go with you?” I asked inquisitively. 

“Dude, your mom told me to bring you straight home. You’re going to have to ask her.  But you’re going to have to ask fast because I have to get to work soon.” Larry explained.

I nodded in silence and I distinctly remember the song, Lola by the Kinks was blaring on the radio and as my brother and Buster were laughing and playing with the dog in the backseat.  I was right where I loved to be.  I always rode around town with Larry whenever I could. I loved it because Larry would play the music really loud and he would tell me stuff about why this song was great and why he felt that song wasn’t good. I always felt accepted and thought he enjoyed having me around.

Besides the occasional outburst of laughter that came from my brother and Buster from the back seat, we road back to our house in silence.  Only the sounds of the Kink’s reverberating throughout the car.

We pull into the driveway and I see my mom waiting by the kitchen screen door.  She obviously was wondering where we were because we were getting back a little later than normal.  Larry turned down the radio and as the car comes to a stop.  I push the car door open and step up on the seat of the car and pull myself up to look over the roof.

“Hey Ma, can I ride with Larry to drop Bobby off?” I asked.   

“No, Larry is running late and dinner will be ready soon” she responded.

“Come on Ma! Larry said he would drop me back off” I yelled.

“I said NO!!” she pushed back. “Come in the house so Larry can get to work.”

I started to respond but the back rest of the car seat flew forward and my brother started to climb out from the back seat.  As he pushes me away from the car he says, “Come on Larry, let’s go before it gets too dark”.

I am so angry that my mom would not let me go. I had been working so hard after school to get caught up on my schoolwork, that I could not believe that she wouldn’t let me do this one thing. I mean, I hadn’t been able to ride around with Larry for a long time and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to me. I trudged over to the front door and my mom opened the door a little wider to let me in.  I stormed past her, bumping her with my shoulder.  I hit her hard enough that I was certain that she was going to grab my arm and make me settle down, but she didn’t.

I stormed through the kitchen and down the hallway to the living room.  All the while, mumbling under my breath about how unfair it was and how angry I was at my mom for not letting me go with them.

My sister, Linda was already in the living room watching TV and anImage result for Gilligan's Island episode of Gilligan’s Island had already started.  I hear the radio from Larry’s car as he pulled out of the driveway and headed down to Benton Street.  I sat myself down angrily on the couch and pulled the curtain back and watched that black Corvair disappear on its way down the street. I turned around and started to watch the TV.

 It seemed like only a few seconds before I started to hear the shrill whine of the sirens. We lived a few blocks from the main siren in town and for some reason it seemed unusually loud and never-ending.

My mom walks in to the living room and doesn’t say a word, but just the look on her face tells me that something is wrong. No words are spoken and she makes her way down the hall and back into the kitchen.  It is then the kitchen door busts open and I hear unfamiliar voices coming from the kitchen and in an instant, there is confusion in our house.  I hear a voice above the noise, “There has been an accident and they think it’s the Lee boys!!”

I hear my mom talking but I can’t make out what she is saying and my sister and I are left alone in the living room just staring at each other trying to process the chaos that has just forced its way into our lives.

Next thing I know, Linda and I are shuttled upstairs into my parents’ bedroom and we were told that our mom was going to check on my brother.  Nothing else was said to us and the door was closed to separate us from the rest of the house. We sat for hours, in silence, on the edge of my parent’s bed, knowing that something bad happened but we did not know what it was. We never considered that death was a possibility. Our family had only dealt with the death of a great-grandmother and none of us had ever considered that it would ever touch our family.

With my sister and I quietly sequestered upstairs in my parent’s bedroom. There wasn’t much need to check in on us. We could hear the commotion downstairs.  The loudness, the overlapping voices, the sudden periods of extreme quietness. The constant opening and closing of our back door. 

My brother, Bobby and my grandfather.

Finally, I had enough and I snuck out of my parent’s bedroom. I made my way quietly down the wooden steps of our home.  The landing of the stairwell opened up into our living room and it was filled with people.  People that I am sure were familiar to me but as I recollect they all seemed faceless, except for their eyes.  It seemed to me that people looked through me as if I did not exist.   People who did not know what to say or simply ignored the traumatized nine-year-old that was walking in their midst. I made my way down the dark hallway towards our kitchen.

As I got to the doorway that opens up into our kitchen, I heard my mom talking on the phone.

It was at that moment that I would learn the truth. “I need to get a message to Robert Lee” my mom pleaded.  “I need him to call home as soon as possible because his son was killed today in a car accident.”  

Some calls change your life forever.

Waves of grief? No.

Guilt. Absolutely.

As an adult, I get the reasons why things happened the way they did that day.  No one did anything intentional.  Everyone was in shock. No one ever spoke to me about it. In fairness, I never spoke a word about it either. No one sat down with me and helped me come to terms that it was just an accident. No one ever saw the guilt that was heaped onto my shoulders. No one saw that there was a nine-year-old boy who to this very day carries the weight for what happened.

Why did I have surgery that October?  Why couldn’t it have waited until Christmas break?  Why did I have to stay after school?  Why did I ask to go with them? Why did I ask my mom in the first place?  Surely my delay caused this to happen.  Why didn’t I protest more about not being able to go with Larry?  Maybe I should have taken more time and delayed them.  The train would have passed before they got to the railroad crossing. Thirty seconds either way and the results would have been so different.

Somewhere deep inside of me is that young boy and he will never come to terms with the results of that day.  The same could be said for my mom, my brother and sister too.  I am sure that they have their own grief and have to deal with the guilt that comes from these kinds of tragedies.

We have never discussed this as a family.

Life has to be lived and you have to move forward.

However, it doesn’t lessen the pain of guilt that I experience.  I feel guilt because I have been able to live a long life.  I have been able to experience the wonderful things that this life has to offer.  My brother and my cousin Larry never got to experience the joy of bringing a child into this world.  They didn’t get to travel around the world or shake the hands of two US Presidents, like I did. They will never hear the joyous sound of a grandchild yelling, “Grandpa!!!” in excitement when you walk into a room and they see you.

Close to 50 years later, the pangs of guilt don’t come as often, but they still lurk in the dark places and appear at the most unexpected times.  

I have been blessed by a mother who chose not to let me go on that fateful day. 

I will continue to live life as best I can.

It is what Bobby and Larry would have wanted me to do.

Because some calls change your life forever.

 

 

 

 

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A Colorado Sunrise Reflection

Early that morning, just before the first rays of sun light broke over the horizon, I woke up, got dressed and took off to see what I had hoped to be the most beautiful sunrise I had ever witnessed.  I did not tell anyone where I was going or even the fact that I was leaving at all that cold crisp Colorado morning.   It was still pretty dark out but I had enough light to see where the trail began and if I just stayed on the trail it would take me to the fire lookout tower we had visited yesterday. 

For the previous two years, I had been traveling  around the country with a singing group that promoted Missions and Liberty University.  On this day we were in Colorado.  I loved my time traveling with this group.  Coming from a small town in Northwest Ohio, I was lucky enough to be able to travel and see things that I may never had the chance if I stayed in safe confines of Oak Harbor,  Ohio.    Not only had I the opportunity to see things all over the United States but also places around the world.  I had been to Brazil and traveled through out Central America and before my time would end I would be going to Africa.  These places I went to were just dreams that I had a few short years ago but now they were becoming reality.  

On this particular morning was to be no different, I was going to take every opportunity to see something I may never have the chance to see again.  Catching a chance to see the sunrise come up over a Colorado morning was one I was not going to miss.

This adventure actually started out the previous day.  Having the day off and taking the opportunity to get some much-needed “rest”, the group and I decided to go on a hike in the Pike National Forest in Douglas County, Colorado.   This is located between Denver and Colorado Springs.  We hiked and just had a wonderful time of friendship and sharing the beautiful sights and sounds of Devil’s Head Lookout.  Devil’s Head Lookout is a U.S. Forest Service fire lookout tower.  The view from the tower extends at least 100 miles in every direction on clear days.  To see the view, I would have to hike a two-mile trail with a 950-foot elevation gain. At the end of the hike, I would then climb 143 stairs to the top of the lookout tower.  The views were spectacular and breathtaking.  It was then I decided to myself that I would hike up here in the morning and see a once in a lifetime sunrise.

I would like to have had some pictures of this beautiful day but this was long before the day of the digital camera and my Instamatic Kodak Camera was not functioning right  so the images of this wonderful day are burned in my memory with only one exceptional, blurry picture of the group at the Devil’s Head Lookout.

That's me in Upper Left Hand Corner

  The next morning was cold and the trail was rough, rocky, uneven, but the quiet and the view was worth the effort.  I  estimated about 40 minutes of hiking to get to the tower.   I had hoped to see an elk, a deer or maybe a bear, but I saw none.  The morning was great.   Crisp, cool, actually a little cold, but wonderful.   I had to watch my steps, there were rocks everywhere.  The path was not smooth.   I had to be real careful not to turn an ankle.   In fact, the climb was steeper than I had remembered from yesterday.   My pauses to catch my breath, to rest my legs grew more and more frequent.   Air at 10,000 feet is thinner than what I’m used to.   It made the trek seem even more daunting.   Around each corner of the trail another stretch of path upward…another challenge, but I couldn’t stop.   I had to get back to my destination.
Then I arrived.

A beautiful sunrise in the middle of Colorado.   It was amazing.   It was quiet.   I don’t think many people in this world saw a sunrise like I witnessed that morning.  The sun rose majestically and for the moment, I paused to enjoy the scene, the cool air, the sounds of birds and the breeze in the trees.   All around were mountains, but here in this spot, in this moment there was a calm, a peace that I can’t explain.   It was a confirmation of all that is good in this world and it was presented just for me that morning by God.  It was worth the walk.

But then…as I began my walk back I realized that I had lost track of time.  I was exhausted from my morning climb and now I was going to be missing from the group.   Our group was going to be leaving soon and I was not at the cabin and nobody knew I was gone.  I started walking downhill on  the trail to get back to the group.   The entire trip back was DOWNHILL!   Now that sounds easy, but this  is Colorado.  Everything is steep.  That includes going downhill.   Stopping here, on the path, only part way back was not an option.   So, onward I walked, more frequent stops, longer stops, more air needed.  

It is then I see a path that veers off the main trail.  Now there are signs everywhere encouraging hikers to stay on the trail but a kid from a small Northwest Ohio town knows better right?   I took the path and hoped it would be a short cut to the cabin.

I hurried along this path, trying to make up time so that I could get back and not get into trouble.  The path was clear and it was  heading in the right direction and as I came around a turn in the path, I could see our cabin in the distance.  Seeing this I stepped up my pace.  I was breaking into a run when the trail suddenly wasn’t as clear as it had been before and now it was hard to see where the path was headed.  I had to stop and I had to put my hands on my knees to catch my breath.  Looking down and gasping for breath,  I realize that I am mere foot or so from a cliff that dropped off the side of that path.  I was inches from dropping over 100 ft to a sure death.  Now besides gasping to catch my breath, I was shaking in fear of how close I had come to falling off that cliff.

Realizing what a terrible mistake it was to leave the main trail, I  started heading back to where I left it.  Each step back the growing anxiety started to build in my heart.  I knew that I had come real close to falling off that cliff and I knew that it was the Lord that kept me from falling as well.  This had been one example of a few experiences in my life where I was spared for reasons I did not know.

I made my way back to main trail and I stayed on it until I got back to the cabin.  As I walked up to the group that was now loading the bus, no one said a word.  No one asked where I was and I did not tell them.  I thought I was going to be in trouble and no one was even asking me anything.  So I did not tell anyone about this incident.  As a matter of fact, I haven’t told anyone this story until now, almost 30 years later.

As these years have passed, I have often thought about that fateful morning.  I have thought that my Christian walk has been just like that morning.   In the midst of a beautiful sunrise there can be moments that stir your soul for all the good that there is in it.  You believe that you are safely in the arms of God and then a mere few moments later you can be on the edge and totally on the brink of disaster.  It is only then that you realize that it is at that point when you are inches from falling off the cliff that you find out that it is then you are truly and safely in the arms of God.  My walk with God has been just like that walk in the mountains. 

I read about this same theme all through David’s words in book of Psalms, this idea of a journey, a walk through difficult places.   Always, as David made these treks he would pray, “Lord, help me through this part of my journey.  There’s no one to help but you.”

For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God in the light of the living.   Psa 56:13

In the midst of the upward climb of the Christian life there are rocks to avoid, there is the need for a time of rest, there’s the ongoing need to keep going…..because you have to get home, you can’t stop.   Around every turn the trail seems to climb even more, the rocks are still in the way and you have to watch for them.  Cliffs are mere inches from your path that could spell disaster.   But, just as I finished my walk that fateful morning, there is a day when we will each finish the course laid out for us, we will each finish the race God has us on.   It’s a walk with a wonderful home ahead, but it’s not always easy.

That’s the nature of the Christian life, isn’t it?   The one great thing about this walk is that all along the way God is with you to help you, guide you, encourage you, protect you and in the end the truth is that all trails that God places us on lead home.

Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.     Psa 143:8

This is a random You Tube video that shows the same place as referenced in this story.  Not much has changed in the 30 years since I was there.

Just Not Good Enough

It was the first day of practice – I was late.   I began to panic.  Maybe I’d come on the wrong day…maybe I’d come to the wrong place!  Every time I would open a door, there was another hallway.   I couldn’t find the coaches – I couldn’t find any of the other players. 

And that’s when it hit me,  this was Jr. High School. 

And I…was completely…and utterly…alone.

1973.   It was a crazy time. Nixon and the Watergate scandal were the headlines and people were on the move…looking for answers…breaking new ground and wanting change.

Seemed like everyone was searching for a new identity.  Me, I was breaking some ground of my own. That September I entered Rocky Ridge Junior High.   I was looking forward to new adventures.  I wanted to start my 7th grade year with a bang.  I wanted to play sports…not just any sport but the sport of football to be exact.

After running down every hall of the school, I finally found the locker room and went in.

To say that they were less than pleased to see me come into the locker room more than 10 minutes late for the first day of practice is an understatement.  For what it’s worth, it did get me noticed.  More importantly,  I gave the coaches a face of the one person they would ride and harass  for the rest of the season.

I survived that first day and at the end the week, the coaches called out my name and they threw me my new football jersey.  Christmas Green…with the number 80 blazoned in white on the front and in the back.   I was now officially a member of the 7th grade football team for the Oak Harbor Rockets.  I was so proud.

I had not even put on a pair of shoulder pads and here I was strutting around in my football jersey.  We were told to wear the jersey to first day of school and I happily complied.  I remember walking through the doors that first day of school with my bright Christmas green jersey on.  I was way too cool and I remember walking about two foot off the ground.

I had no clue of what I was going to face in the coming days.

Considering the fact in 1973, I was a smidgen over 5 foot tall and weighed all of 70 lbs. I should have been keenly aware of what I was about to face.  When I was finally fitted with my equipment, I realized that something was different.  Running around with all these pads on was much different from what I was used to when the guys and I played backyard football in Blakely’s yard.  This was going to take some time to adjust.

For the most part, I survived the first few practices by being pretty lucky and besides the prodding from the coaches I stayed out of the line of fire.  Then the fateful event happened.  We had a football drill called “hamburger”, which basically is a drill where two players lie on their back with their helmets touching.  On the coach’s whistle, both players get up and run back four yards in opposite directions, where one player takes a handoff from one coach and the other slaps the hands of a waiting coach.  At that point, they run at each other. The  player with the ball tries to run through the tackler and the tackler tries to bring the ball carrier down.  After the tackle is made, each player moves to the back of the line as all players take part in this drill.

I took my spot in line and as I got closer to my turn to participate in the drill, I looked across to the other line to see who my competition was going to be.  I really wanted to make a good impression on the coaches and I wanted to make sure I was matched up with someone my size and if luck would have it, maybe even someone smaller than me.   So I watched to see who was going to line up against me.   I saw that it was someone who was bigger than me and I started to shuffle my way a spot further back in line where I would be matched with someone my size.  I got to my preferred place in line when I heard the loudest whistle I think I have ever heard.  Then I hear my coach screaming out my name, “LEE…front and center!!!”   I had been caught cutting the line…which was a big no-no.

He grabbed me by the facemask and pulled me over to the spot where I would have to carry the ball.  He makes me lie down at the spot and I hear him talking to other players but I cannot hear what he is saying.   I hear the whistle and I jump up to take the hand off from my coach.  Everything is good up to this point and I take the hand off and I turn to run the ball through the defensive player.   Here is when things start to go south, because it is then I see him.

Earl Kashmere…that’s right and he was a monster.   Earl Kashmere was Mr. Football of the Oak Harbor Junior High.   He was no less than a foot taller than me and he was about 100 lbs. heavier as well.   Earl was just staring at me, waiting for the kill and I thought just before he hit me that I saw a glimpse of a small smile come across his face. 

I had never been hit so hard in my entire life.  My body went completely numb and I saw stars.  I remember hitting the ground and as all the air rushed from my lungs so did any current desire to play football.    

Have you ever known those moments that changed your life?    Do you remember a specific time, a special event that was life changing for you?  I think it happens to all of us, I know it happened to me on that day.  I suddenly realized that I wasn’t good enough.  I didn’t quit.  I stuck it out for the season.  I wanted to play, but I just wasn’t good enough and so I took my position on the team as a bench warmer. 

Profound moments of life are not all good moments.  This moment for me was ego destroying and my quest from that day on was to make sure I “got in the game,” whatever the game might be…even if it wasn’t football.  So my career was short-lived and I never played football again for the Rocket’s.  

That was over 35 years ago and every now and then when I see that picture of me in that Christmas Green football jersey, I smile and wonder whatever happened to Earl Kashmere.

The Undiscovered Gift

Late last week I sent a package to Ashburn, Virginia.   I sent it UPS.    It was a Christmas gift for my niece.   I haven’t heard from my sister to know that she received it yet.   Christmas is almost here and I’ve heard nothing from them.   It really isn’t a big deal…just a inexpensive, simple gift from her uncle.   The bigger issue for me is for her to know that we care for her and that we want her to know this gift awaits.

I wonder…is this how God feels about us?  He’s sent the gift, but many still have not received it yet.  It is just waiting for us to accept it.  God sent His Son to this earth, which is why we celebrate Christmas.  But the Christmas  story doesn’t end there, for the gift that was given that day in Bethlehem was not wrapped up in His birth but rather the gift was wrapped up in His death on the cross.  For it is there we see the gift of salvation and a way to seek and find forgiveness for our sins.  It was freely given and all we have to do is accept it.

The gift is there for you today…it is not too late.  It’s sitting there, waiting for its discovery.   Imagine how God must feel to hear so many say, “God doesn’t care. He doesn’t love me.”   When all along this gift of salvation awaits discovery.   All you have to do is know that it has arrived and receive it.   Christmas provided that gift.   God’s gift of His Son is that undiscovered gift.

Merry Christmas to all and I hope you find the true gift of Christmas this year.

It Happens in a Blink

Early one morning I spied my youngest son sitting on one of the dining room chairs eating breakfast, his toes easily touching the floor.   For some reason I stopped and stared.   Something about his posture and those long, lean legs … for a moment, backlit by the morning sun, my ten-year-old red-headed boy looked like a teenager.

Now, I was a little groggy, which may have added to the effect, but the thought of him that much older made my heart skip a beat.

I didn’t mention it to him at the time. I just moseyed across the room to make my way into the kitchen.

But later in the day, I told him.

“This morning when I saw you sitting at the dining room table, I thought, ‘Wow, he looks just like a teenager.’”

He laughed.

I continued, “I feel like I’m just going to *blink* and you’ll be all grown up.”  I squeezed my eyes shut and popped them open wide for dramatic effect.  He laughed.   I am sure that he thought that his  Dad just being the goof that he always is.

I blinked again and then squinted, as if evaluating him. “Let me see…hmm…no, thankfully I was mistaken. You’re not a teen.” I exhaled. “What a relief! You’re still my boy!”   He laughed some more.

I leaned in and whispered, “Stay young son…as long as you can.  Don’t rush it”

He leaned forward and admitted, “I’m not ready to grow up just yet, either.”

“So, good,”  I said to myself, “We have time.”

But as I walked away, I knew the truth.

I had already experienced it with my two oldest.   They had grown up so fast and I think the changes in their life somewhat tempered the impact on my wife and I because we were in denial and by the fact that we still had two young children at home.  The empty nest was a long time away and we fooled ourselves into thinking that we had time.

Not so long ago, even though I knew it was coming and I said that I would be ready, I wasn’t prepared for it to happen.  Make no mistake, I didn’t want it to happen…I fought it long and hard… but the fateful day came…and I blinked.

The red-headed son of mine would now be gone and there was nothing that I could do about it.   He has moved out and is going to college and living on his own.   My daughter, the oldest, would be married for four years now and I am sure grandchildren are to follow.  My oldest son, just turned 24 and is making plans for the rest of his life.

Now I find myself buying graduation invitations and senior pictures for our baby girl.  She is talking about college and having a career where she could work with animals.

What happened?  Time stood still when they were just babies…

I blinked and the days flew by so quickly…

Days where they were in warm fleecy pajamas, snuggling with blankies and loving on tattered stuffed animals.

Days filled with crayons, snack bowls, sippy cups and Chutes and Ladders.

Days where dad is the hero that can fix anything, mom is the one who takes care of and can make everything “right” in life.

Days of childhood innocence.

Christmas days that were magical and you believed that nothing would ever change.

Days of scrapes, bruises and heartaches that only mom and dad could make better.

Days of soccer, volleyball, basketball and baseball games.

Days when it’s, “dad can I borrow the car?” ,  Senior Prom and a visit from a young man where I am asked if he could “have my daughters hand in marriage”.

It happened in a blink…it happened in a flash…it happened in the time it took to look back.

I don’t want to miss even a second more of this… I will try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time.

It’s just a blink away…

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.

A Chance Meeting… Along the Way

No one seemed to notice him as he stumbled into McDonald’s.  It was evident that he wasn’t able to stay dry on this stormy day.

I immediately recognized him.  I do not know him but I had just passed him walking along the highway on my way to lunch.  As I drove by him,  he trudged through the rain, walking to his destination.  I did not give it a second thought.  Just another homeless man who I pass along the way.

He enters the restaurant and walks towards the counter.  I am sitting at my table with a newspaper spread out and just taking a few moments to catch up on the news.   I don’t know why but I look up from my newspaper and for some reason I watch him as he struggles to get a few coins from his well-worn pants and hands them over to the cashier.  I watch his feeble hands caress the cup of coffee that he just purchased.   The man looks up and his eyes catch mine.  I immediately look down at my newspaper.  I did not want him to see me staring at him.  He obviously had been homeless for quite some time.  I try to resist the urge to look up, I give in and take another look at the homeless man.  He is still looking at me.

His prominent chin rounds out while his lips seem to fold over his gums as if he were missing teeth.  The pale pink-white skin resembles rough parchment paper that had been crumpled too many times.  His eyes are worn but kind,  an indiscriminate color of blue.   He appears older than his actual age. His mouth keeps a permanent expression that is somewhere between a smile and a frown.  The harshness of a hard life lived on the streets fills in the lines on his face and his brown hair hangs like limp thread.

He appears like he wants to speak to me, but I do not know this man.  A small voice in my head says to speak to him but my instinct says stay away.  Something is wrong.  I look back down at my newspaper and force myself to not look up and resist the small voice in my head that is telling me to speak to him.  Eventually he leaves and I see him walk out into the rain.

I pretend to read the paper, I start to wonder about the life of this homeless man.   Where did life take that once innocent little boy, and what twisting, tearing winds tore him apart?  What major event changed the course of his life?  What was his home life-like, and what issues of life was he avoiding?   I wondered if anyone  had ever said, ‘I love you.’ to him?  Did his parents abandon him when he was young?  Did someone break his heart?  I dismiss these random thoughts and try to focus on the sports page and eat before my lunch gets cold.

As my lunch hour comes to a close, I rush to my car because it is still raining.   Suddenly I notice that the man had not left the parking lot.  He is crossing the parking lot heading in my direction.   I turn my head and hurriedly get into my car.  I press the lock button and hear the reassuring click of all the doors.  Next thing I know he is knocking on my window.  I feel the shot of adrenaline cross my stomach and I am on the verge of panic.  I desperately look to see if anyone was around.  No one was.

I reluctantly opened my window a crack.   “How can I help you?” I ask.  I was sure that he was going to ask me for money.  I quickly glance at my cup holder to see if I had any extra change to give him.  It was empty and as he started to speak, I thought that I was going to have to give a few dollars from my wallet.  I notice that his rough, calloused hands went into the pockets of his stained coat. Then it hit me…he was going to rob me.   He looked at me and he said, “I wanted to give you this.”   I started to feel an uneasy , sick feeling in my stomach.  My mind was racing, trying to figure out what this man had that was so important that he would continue to stand in the pouring rain in order to give it to me.   He fumbled around and then he pulled out a gospel tract called, “Where are you going?”  and slid it in the opening of the window.  Before I can respond, I look up and he is no longer at my window.  He was trudging his way across the wet parking lot in the rain and soon he was gone.

I just sit there staring at the worn and torn gospel tract in my hand.  I wanted to tell him that I was a believer.  I wanted to tell him that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.  I wanted to tell him that I believed that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven.  I believed that Jesus died for my sins and that there was nothing I could do to earn my way to heaven.   Because the debt of sin was paid by His death on the cross, I could have eternal life.  I wanted to tell the man that I had asked God to forgive me and save me from an eternity of hell.  I indeed knew where I was going after I died.

As I sat in my car, with the sound of the rain pounding on the roof of the car, I start to feel the guilt and shame that comes with realization that this man who had nothing and lost everything in his life cared more about the souls of others than I did.  In my shame, I couldn’t remember the last time I had actually witnessed to another person about the relationship I have with Jesus Christ.

There are so many avenues we can choose to take in our life.  There are wrong paths and right paths.  I have taken a journey down both of these paths.  I have learned valuable lessons on each path.  But the sad truth is that for most of my adult life I have traveled a path that could best described as a “gray path”.   This  “gray path” is best described as when a believer lives their life in such a way that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  However, they do not have a real regard in sharing their faith and being a true “witness” for Jesus Christ.  They become very comfortable just living their life, going to church on Sunday’s and for the most part doing whatever they want the remainder of the week.  This would describe me.

Sitting in my car on that raining day, holding that worn and torn tract made me realize that I have neglected my responsibility to be a witness for Jesus Christ.  I believe that God intended for that man to speak to me that day.  I see that I need to be open and not so judgmental.   Along the way of living out my life, I now wonder how many friends will I leave behind because I failed to witness to them.

The truth is that everyone is looking for God.  Many people may not want to admit that but it makes it no-less true.   I should have been the one that gave that man a gospel tract.  I should always be the kind of witness that sheds light on what it truly means to live for Christ.  We have a responsibility to those we come in contact with along the way of this life.


Hearts that never mend,
The tears that never end,
And words that go unspoken every day,
Love we should have shown,
Dreams they could have known;
If only we would have told
Them along the way.

And who are we to say we really love Him,
When all we seem to do is throw His love away?
Will we smile when we stand before Him
And laugh all the hours away,
Or cry for the friends we left behind along the way?

The race is never run,
The battle’s never won,
And time just keeps on turning, burning away.
Bless me, Lord, I pray,
Fill my cup, we say,
While a million souls are dying along the way.

And who are we to say we really love Him,
When all we seem to do is throw His love away?
Will we smile when we stand before Him
And laugh all the hours away,
Or cry for the friends we left behind along the way?

I know that I am a better person and a better witness because of that chance meeting along the way.

The question is…  who are you leaving behind along the way?



Fairy Dust and Getting My Act Together

I got hit right in the mouth.

I got hit so hard that over 24 hours later I am still reeling from the punch.

Each and every time I have ever got hit in the mouth,  it got my attention real quick.   This punch was no different from any other I have ever experienced in my life.   A short right cross to the mouth…I never saw it coming.

It got my attention.

Now before you start to think that I got punched in the mouth, I better clarify… No,  I did not physically get hit  in the mouth but the results are just about the same.

The punch was not a physical one but a spiritual one and it hit me as hard as any “truth” has ever hit me.

God has been telling me to quit “trying” to get my act together and stop waiting on Him.  He is not the delay in keeping me from starting to “really” serve Him again.

I became a believer in 1970, two days after my brother was killed in a car / train accident.  My Aunt Brenda led me to the Lord in the back of Robinson’s Funeral Home in Oak Harbor, Ohio.  My Aunt told me how Jesus Christ died for my sins.  She told me that there was nothing I could do to earn my way to heaven.  Being a good person, doing charity work or going to church was not going to get me into heaven.  I had to acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross for me.  That He paid the debt for my sin and that I had to believe in Him and ask Him into my life.  If I confessed my sins to Him, that He would forgive me of those sins and accept me into His family and prepare a place in heaven for me.  I did just that and I still believe that He has done what He has promised.  He is preparing a place in heaven for me and I believe that only through Jesus Christ can I receive salvation.

However, in the forty years since that fateful day in the back of that funeral home, I still struggle with doing everything that I believe God wanted me to do.  So many times as I look back on my life as a believer and wonder what could have been.  These days I sit and wonder what might happen in the future.

Now surely you know am I joking when I say that it’s like I still am waiting for God’s  “fairy dust”  to be sprinkled on my life and somehow I will be placed in a position to “really” serve God.  But as silly as this sounds, I don’t think I am the only one who has thought this way.   I know many people  have expressed it to me in different ways, but in the end, they are still “waiting” on God to show them which way to go.

I am finally learning that God doesn’t sprinkle “fairy dust” on us and then suddenly we know which way to go….or suddenly I will get my act together and really start serving Him.  There is no “fairy dust” and God is patiently waiting for me start serving Him with more and more of my life.

I always used these excuses that I needed to get my act together.   Only then will I be able to do something for God.  All I had was a few more issues to work out and then I will be ready to serve God.

How many times have you used these same excuses?  I know I have used them many times over the past forty years.

I have even convinced myself that I needed to “really need to work on this or that and then I could do something for Him”.

Does that sound familiar?  Have you told yourself that?

Unfortunately,  HERE IS THE TRUTH…you are NEVER going to have it all together!!!

It is about time you face it.   Striving for perfection is NOT going to work.   Without His grace, forgiveness, and mercy…we are nothing and can do nothing!  We are never going to be good enough, Holy enough, or have it all together enough to earn the right to serve Him.  It is only through His grace, His righteousness that we can accomplish what He has laid for us to do.  It’s not through our works, but His grace.  It’s not through our worthiness, but His righteousness.  It’s not on our strength, but through His!

So…quit looking for “fairy dust”…it doesn’t exist.   Accept the fact that you will NEVER get your act together enough to earn the right to serve God.

You need to stop waiting on God, because in truth, all this time…He has been waiting on You.

Cleaning Up the Mess

I just spent the night cleaning up my office.   Sounds fairly easy…but in reality it is a chore I hate to do.  Why?  I am a pack rat.  I keep everything.  If  something has the slightest sentimental value I struggle with throwing it away.

Ever tried cleaning up a room that was totally trashed? By the time the desk drawers won’t shut and the chair disguises as an unseen colony of clothes and clutter — when the last shoe has finally dropped and you’ve been surrounded by the law of gravity — it’s time to do the “big stuff” first.

The glaring things.  The obvious things.

This is the easy part of cleaning.

But I struggle with what to do after I clean the ” Big Stuff”.

Why?  Because underneath the “Big Stuff” are the  chief culprits of what makes my office messy.   It is what is not necessarily seen by the eye at first glance.   It is the thin layer of dust in the corners, on the baseboards and on the shelves.   Pockets of disarray you didn’t notice before, but now — with all the major problems taken care of — they cry out for a complete cleaning.

So with my mighty “swiffer” in hand,  I attempt to tackle those unseen and hard to reach places that need my attention.  I start with quick short swipes and then I realize that I am making a bigger mess.  The faster I go the worse I made the dust fly around the room.  I need to slow down and take a methodical approach to cleaning those layers of dust.

On and on it goes, it never seems to stop.   The more I clean…the more I find.   The light exposes another patch of dust, desperately trying to hide from my mighty “swiffer”.   At times I just want to stop, there just seems to be way too much dust to keep going.    I even try to convince myself that my allergies are reacting to the dust so that I can get out of finishing the job.

However, I press on.  Soon I see the fruits of my labor.  The hard work has paid off and I have cleaned the whole room… it is spotless.   I could wipe the corners with a white glove and not pick up any of the dust that was there just a few hours before.

As a Christian,  I am reminded that this is how it is in our Christian walk.  Many times it is easier to take care of the “Big Stuff”  (i.e. sins) that we need to take care in our lives.  However, for most of us, it is the small unseen things in our lives that keep us from doing the right thing for the cause for Christ. Bitterness, pride, regret, resentment, disappointment and anger are just a few things that are not necessarily seen by the eye but keep us from having a “right” relationship with Jesus Christ.

We need to stay constantly open to the white glove of God’s Word.  He wants us to realize that the “dust” that we hide in our lives can be more of a problem than we think.  God wants us to constantly rid…clean…lay aside the “baggage “that keeps us from serving Him.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  – Hebrews 12:1

Take time to consider about what keeps you from really doing something for God.

Then…start cleaning today.  You will soon see the fruits of your labor.

I Didn’t Fail, I Just Found Another Way To Do It Wrong

As I sat at my desk in the early morning hours, I was putting the final touches on my project.   Just a few more key strokes and I would be done.  I thought,  I have fulfilled a lifelong dream.  I had finally completed a project that I had worked on for over two years. I expected to feel elated, but instead felt numb.   Completing that project had been a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual marathon.   I felt as though every intelligent thought I’d ever had, I’d poured into that project.   I couldn’t think and I was sure that I didn’t have a single word left in my brain.

All I had to do now was to save the project and get some sleep.   I clicked on the save button and almost immediately the screen began to flicker and suddenly go blue.  The blue screen of death.    I felt the shot of adrenaline pass through my stomach and up my spine.   At first I was in denial.   I tried to convince myself that the computer just shut itself down and it would not be a major problem.  I hurriedly tried to re-boot my computer.  As I waited for the computer to come on,  all the hours of research, the countless pictures scanned and the 450 pages of  my project flashed in my mind.   My computer would not boot up.  The realization that I failed to save my project on disk sent another wave of sickening adrenaline through my system.  The sense of loss and the inability to blame anyone else weighed heavy on my heart.  I would find out later that morning that my computer had crashed and all of the information was lost and could not be recovered.

For the next three weeks, I struggled.  I have to admit, there were times I almost cried.  I tried every way I could think of to blame someone else for my situation.  But in the end,  I could not blame anyone else for my failure to back up my project.  It was my fault and I knew it.   I was now going to have to start over.  What had taken me over two years to complete, would now have to be re-written.   I did not have the desire nor the heart to start it again.  My failure had defeated me…for a while.

Failure.

Tomas Edison, after thousands of failures when he was inventing the light bulb, is quoted as to have said,

I Didn’t Fail, I Just Found Another Way To Do It Wrong

Now I am not sure that Edison’s perspective is right, but I do know that many people experienced epic failure before they were credited with success.


Failure is something we’d rather talk about after its overcome with subsequent success.  That’s unfortunate, because failure teaches us things we can’t learn any other way.   I have been told that the doorway to success is entered through the hallway of failure.    Lord knows, if that is indeed true, I should be the most successful person ever.

Are you learning from your failures?  If so…what are you learning?