Tag: Liberty University

Forever… Begins One Day at a Time

No one in my life has demonstrated to me the best of what love and marriage can be more than my friends, BBarry and Denisearry and Denise Williams.  In a hundred ways, they’ve given me something to reach for. They have no idea of the impact that they have had on my life and they also have no clue that I am writing this about them. On purpose, I did not ask permission to use them as an example. So, before I go on too far… I want to apologize to them for calling them out in front of anyone who will read this.

So here is the story…

It was 1982. It was the start of another year of college and I was moving into dorm four on the campus of Liberty University. I was nervous, as always, about who my roommates were going to be.  I walked with some reluctance down the hall to my assigned room because I had a bad experience the previous year and I was hoping to get a good roommate for that upcoming school year.

I cautiously opened the door and stepped into the room.  It was dark and there was a small desk lamp on at one the desks in the room. I could see that someone was sitting there writing a letter. He didn’t immediately look up when the door swung open but he continued to write for a few seconds more before putting the pen down and introducing himself to me. I introduced myself and waited for his story to be told.

The first few days in the dorm is always a time of filtering.  What do I mean by this? I have always found it very interesting during my college experience I would often hear inflated stories of how great someone was in sports.  Not all, but I was always amazed at how many of my fellow dorm-mates claimed they were “All-State” athletes or some other champion of grandeur that was woostersupposed to impress me. I had heard it all over the years. I would assume it is tied to some people’s attempt to re-invent themselves after high school. 

So, as I stood there in my dorm room, I would always ask the two important questions. “Where are you from?” and “Did you play sports in High School?”  Yes…these were the all important questions that needed to be answered as early as possible because it would be these two answers you would have to deal with for the remainder of the year.  The previous year my room mates were from Florida and I was immediately separated from the conversation for the most part. Apparently the people from Florida never really had room for someone from Ohio. 

I asked the important questions and Barry proceeded to answer them.  To my surprise he was from Ohio… I was immediately relieved. Also he was a Cleveland sports fan and I slowly began to think that this year’s room-mate would turn out a lot better than last year.  I then pressed him about where he went to high school and if he played sports or what was his claim to fame. Barry was reluctant to say anything but I continued to press him for answers and then he finally told me he played baseball and also was a pretty good golfer and boxer.  AND…there it was… he didn’t “look” like an athlete to me but hey I was used to the stories and at least he was from Ohio. That was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted from that very first day until this very day…well at least until he reads this and changes his mind.

In time, Barry proved that his athletic talent was not a lie or an exaggeration.  He truly was a great ball player and golfer.  I never wanted to take the risk to find out if he was a great boxer.

In those first few days of getting to know each other, I found out something else about my            new-found friend.  Each and every day I would come back to my room and there Barry would be sitting at his desk wrMailboxiting a letter.  Every night when we went to eat dinner he would mail this letter. I don’t mean most days, I mean EVERY DAY this happened. After a week or so, I asked what was up with the letter writing.  I was wondering if he was writing his mommy everyday or what.  I think at first he was a little reluctant to tell me but that is when I found out about Denise.

He wrote her every day.  I could not figure out what he possibly could say to her in a letter everyday.  For the record these were not “notes”, these were two and three page letters. He was faithful and consistent.  Every day was that same process and as far as I know it continued up until the day they were married.          

Fast forward fifteen years later and I found myself in the mess of a divorce.  Barry knew what was going on with me but he did not know my reasoning.

Whether I asked for them or not, I knew I was about to get some answers, so I was honest with him.  I unloaded all of my issues and problems of my marriage on him and at the end, I asked him (trying to justify my actions), “How can you be sure you and Denise will last forever?”

Barry responded, “I can’t.  You can only be sure it’s going to last forever a day at a time.  You make it to forever bit by bit.”

Good answer, but not good enough.  “Okay, but how can you trust that who she is today is who she’ll be down the road?  How do you know she won’t destroy your heart someday…or that you won’t destroy hers?”

He answered…

“That’s the wrong question, David.  That question will keep you from ever fully trusting or committing, in or out of marriage.  You should be asking, ‘Can I trust her today?  Can she trust me today?’.  Then do what it takes to be able to answer yes.  You ask today, and again tomorrow Two gold rings - reflected candlesand the day after that… That’s how you get to forever.”

The next words out of Barry’s mouth have become a compass for me. 

They’re simple, so don’t miss the gift they carry.

He said, “David, 100% of the time that marriages get in trouble, it starts with people saying to themselves, ‘My needs aren’t being met.  She’s overlooking me.  He’s not doing enough.  I deserve better.’  Once you start looking at things in terms of what you are or aren’t getting, you’re on a dangerous road.”

“You wanna know why Denise and I have something few people have?  Here’s our secret.  Every day I wake up and I ask myself, ‘How can I serve her today?  What does she need?  What can I do to make her life better?’  Something always comes to mind, and I do it.”

But the thing is, she does the same thing.  She wakes up and asks herself, ‘How can I serve him today?  What does he need?  What can I do to make his life better?’ Something comes to mind and she does it.”

“Everyday?” I asked as the memories came flooding back of the letters written everyday to the love of his life.

“Every single day, both of us make sure our needs are being met. Neither one of us are focused on getting what we want or deserve.  There’s no need to fight for it if someone else is fighting the battle for you. And neither of us keeps a list of all the ways the other has dropped the ball.  As long as you’re focused on what you’re owed, you’re not focused enough on what you’re there to give.”

It took me a few years to get beyond the surface of his words, because I did indeed get divorced and paid the price for the actions that I did not do in my first marriage.

Today I have been happily remarried now for 15 years and Barry’s words filter through my mind often.  I have applied his logic and I wish I could say that I get this right all the time.  The truth is I still mess up and forget the important advice Barry gave me all those years ago.

I have so far to go.  But I won’t stop working on it.

My wife is worth it. We’re worth it.

Now… I know that Barry and Denise are not perfect.  I am sure that they struggle at times like all of us do, but I have no doubts that they will last forever. As they close in on 30 years of marriage, their example is something to emulate and the wisdom needs passed on to all who are married or considering marriage.

Simply put…

Married, single, among friends or with our families, what if we let each other off the hook and started fresh, this time considering each other as more important than ourselves? What if each of us woke up tomorrow asking what we could do for those we love the most?  

What if we fought to see each others’ needs met instead of our own? What would life look like if we abandoned the thought that we are owed something or deserve something better?

What if we made it our mission to make something better of the beautiful thing we have?

These are some of the questions that create our happily ever after. 

These are the questions that begin to get us to forever… one day at a time.

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A Stain On The White Shirt of Society

A few days ago I wrote a post about my desire to not be misunderstood.  I didn’t share with you at the time but I was dealing with someone who had commented on my blog.  He told me (and I quote) that, “My writing was  a stain on the white shirt of society.  Now for the record, like most people, I am a person who likes to be liked.  BUT… if you don’t like me I am okay with that as well.  It is alright for someone to not “care” for me.  I have a list of people I am not too fond of myself.  I do not wish them any ill, I just would prefer to let them live their life and I will live mine. 

Anyway… my critic went on to inform me that what I wrote about was pointless and did no good.  I would be better off writing about baseball and try to convince a Red Sox fan to become a Yankee fan. I was fooling myself if I thought any different.  He said that no one pays attention to blogs anymore and that I should leave it to my preacher to share the gospel.  He then proceeded to tell me that he was a born-again believer and that he was believer that was “reformed in his beliefs” and that he followed the tenets of Calvinism.  He shared with me that it made no difference what I said because God already knew who was to be saved and who was not.

Now I will not use this blog as a forum to discuss the tenets of Calvinism.  For me, I have had this same discussion over 30 years ago when I was at Liberty University.  It is the same conversation and it usually ends in the same place… in an argument.   I will just say that when I was a freshman in college, I thought I “knew” every aspect of that argument.   I would study the subject more, sit under some very talented and intelligent professors, read up and listen to everything I could get my hands on over the course of those four years of my Bible training.  The end result was that as I learned more about the Greek language and gained more insight, I came to the conclusion that I “know” very little about the subject.  Thirty years later and I still have not “learned” more than what I had during my education.

While I will not shy away from I believe, I will just say that I believe that the whole discussion has no purpose.  We are called to be witnesses.  We are called and expected to share our faith to those that we come in contact with.  We are to be seed planters.  God harvests the field.  End of story.

That being said… I did want to point out that while my critic may be right about my writings, he  missed the whole point of my blog.   I am not trying to be a writer.  As I have pointed out before… I love to write, I never said I was a good writer.  I am not trying to reach the masses.  I write for me.  I write so that I have a record of my thoughts for my children and grandchildren.   If someone can gain insight and help them live for or find Christ along the way by reading what I write, then so be it.   I write so much more than I ever post to this blog.  Those thoughts and perspectives are meant for my family and while I do post some of it on Facebook for my friends and family to read, I do not advertise or join organizations that will promote my blog.  That is just not me. 

The bottom line is that for years my heart was hardened towards the things of God.  I was cold and distant from the things I truly believed.  Writing this blog keeps me accountable to my beliefs and to my faith.  It is a record and documentation of what God is doing in my life.

All through the Bible there are verses about not hardening your heart towards God.  I always believe He is talking to me.  Being aware of my own heart and relationship with God I see it more clearly in others.  There is a hardening of the heart that must happen when we choose to sin….especially if we are Christians!  The Holy Spirit will convict the Christian regarding sin and the only way we can choose the sin over obedience is to harden our hearts to God’s voice, His conviction, His wooing of us.  And so we drag around this hard, cold heart that feels nothing for God or for anyone else.  I now choose to keep my heart warm and open towards those things I once was cold and hardened to.

Writing makes my heart soft and pliable towards the things of God.  So… if I am truly the “stain on the white shirt of society” than so be it.  That is…just me.

Save Me A Seat – My Tribute to Steve Schueren

I sat in the back of the bus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Updated on January 11, 2012)

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

 

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

I look forward to taking him up on that invitation.

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.

The Sounds of Silence

It’s such a noisy world right now.   All around, all the time there is noise.   The noise of politics, of countries in chaos, angry people, frustrations over gas prices, and literally a thousand other things bring noise to our lives.  The internet, Apple, Android, Skype, Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, Google, AOL, TV and Radio…it’s everywhere!   And it’s deafening.


I know a little about being deaf.  I have always had a hearing problem.  I have failed every hearing test I have ever taken.  That goes back to kindergarten and the advent of headphones and the 70’s  didn’t help my hearing loss.  The “cool quotient” in the 70’s was based upon how loud you could play your music, not necessarily how good the music was.  As a result, I grew up reading lips as a way to understand what people were saying.  

I learned to hide it pretty well.  At times I am sure that when I was too loud it was just passed off as a young man just trying to get attention.  The truth was, I had an 60% loss in my left ear and about 80% loss in my right.  I never ever really realized how loud I actually was sometimes.

Some of you may know that I traveled with a singing group that promoted Missions and Liberty University in the early 80’s.  I have always been able to sing but for almost four years I traveled all across America and over the world, not singing but running the soundboard for the group.  Actually, I operated the soundboard and had the opportunity to mix the sound for a few of the top Christian Artists during that time.  Go figure…I may have been the only deaf sound man in the United States.  I still laugh about it from time to time.

If my hearing needed any more trauma other than what had come to me naturally, in addition to the loud music I listened to in the 70’s, I did not need the ear infection that started in my left (my better) ear in October of 2008.   The result was a chronic infection that I dealt with for almost two years before I finally had to have a  radical mastoidectomy.  For me, it meant a surgical cut (incision) was made behind the ear. The mastoid bone was  exposed and opened with a surgical drill.  The infection was then removed.  The eardrum and most of the middle ear structures were completely removed.  The stapes (the “stirrup” shaped bone) was spared to help preserve some hearing.  The end result was that I lost almost all (95%) of my hearing in left ear.  That doesn’t mean there is silence because in my left ear all I hear is tinnitus, which is a constant loud ringing in my ear.  Have you ever held up a sea shell to your ear and it sounds like the oceans waves?  Well, multiply the volume of that by 1,000 times and now you know what I hear in my left ear.   In addition, I have lost a good portion of my ability to taste because most of my tongue is numb and I still have a tingling in the tips of my fingers.  All of these are side effects that could happen as a result of this surgery…seems to me that I got all of them.

In light of my deafness, you might find it interesting to know that the one thing I really want is silence.  When I am exposed to loud noises it makes me anxious and uneasy.   The dizzy effect that overcomes me when I am in a crowd or a loud restaurant has been difficult to adjust to.   It is not just about volume of the noise either.   When there is a lot of people talking at once it is so hard for me to pick up one voice because all I hear is all of them at once and it impossible for me to carry on a conversation or even concentrate.  When I am in the lobby after church and everyone is talking and having friendly conversations, all I want is to head out to the car so that I can hear the sound of silence and have some peace of mind. 

I think that’s why music is so enjoyable to me.  I put on some headphones (at the appropriate volume), put on some great music and off I drift with my brain only focusing on one thing.   Music….sweet music that allows me some isolation from the world around me.  It’s life giving for me to have a few minutes of my music.

This “noise” that surrounds us today is deafening.   I think that this is the feeling that most of us feel in times like these.  I don’t think we were designed for all this noise going on in the world.  The noise of politics, of countries in chaos, angry people, frustrations over gas prices, and literally a thousand other things bring this noise to our lives.  Again, it is not just about the volume of the noise but rather the dizzying effect of all the noises happening all at once.   I believe that we all need some quiet time.  We need some time when all the noise is somewhere else and we can listen to God speak to our heart and our mind.  With all the noise around us, I think that sometimes God has to shout to get our attention.  If we could just get away sometimes and  just find a few moments of quiet, we would hear God speak.

Even God had to tell David in Psalms, “BE STILL and know that I am God.”  Sometimes we just have to find some silence, calm our fears and listen to God.

Now, I know that this post isn’t life changing, it isn’t really that interesting.  But I know that lately it’s just a real need I have and I know others do as well. 

The Sounds of Silence.

As you can, with all this noise around you, find a place to be quiet today.  God is speaking and I know you will want to hear what it is that He is saying to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Falwell & Liberty University

 

 

Maybe it’s just me….

 

But I miss Jerry Falwell.

 

It’s been well over year since Dr. Falwell went home to be with the Lord. 

 

I’m sure he would be all over the issues that we see in the election.  He always had a twinkle in his eye as he would debate or comment on the candidates and their positions. 

 

I remember the first time I met Jerry Falwell…

 

Right after my High School graduation, I was working a full time job and did not go to college in the fall.  I had a good job at H J Heinz in Fremont, Ohio.  I really wasn’t “smart enough” nor  “good enough” to go to a private, Christian College.  But after a year and half, I decided that that was not something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  So I quit my job and planned on going to school. 

 

My family was thinking that I had lost my mind.  No one in my family went college.  Who was I to think I could go.

 

I had attended Fremont Baptist Temple, an Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church.  For those of you who do not understand what that means…I do not have time now to explain…maybe a future blog. 

 

So…back to my story…it was expected for me to go to a “Christian” college.  I had received a lot of advice from people in my church.  To attend a “secular” or public college was not even a consideration for me.  If I had stated that I wanted attend a State school, I would have been considered deep in sin and well on my way to burn in Hell.

 

I had been on the “tour” of all the Christian colleges of the day that were deemed acceptable by my church.  Liberty was way down (last) on the list of acceptable schools.  Let me see…the bottom of the list of approved schools…Hmmm…Liberty Baptist College. That was good enough for me…I enrolled at Liberty in January of 1981. 

 

I was going to be a student right smack dab in the middle of the Moral Majority era.  Now I must admit, I was not a real big fan of the Moral Majority.  In the past, I have stated in my blog, that I have been a registered Democrat since 1979.  My whole family had been democrats for as long as I remember.  My father would retire from the Teamsters and my brother was an official with the United Steel Workers Union. Needless to say, I was a little bit more “liberal” in my politics and my personal life choices.   I had perfected the art of going “undercover” and making sure my Baptist Church would not have a clue that my politics and my ways were more liberal than I wanted to admit.  

 

As I prepared to go to Liberty, I remember thinking I had to not let anyone see my disdain for the comments made about this politician or that issue by Dr. Falwell.  I prepared to try to be good and give it my best shot at the academics.  I would practice my smile and the nodding my head in fake agreement so that no one would notice me.   My fear was that I would be discovered and would be “burned at the stake” or at least “tarred and feathered”, not to mention being kicked out of school because I was not a good Christian and more importantly because I wasn’t a REPUBLICAN.

 

My family had to be thinking that I had lost my mind.

I drove on the campus of Liberty University on January 8, 1981.  My sister and my mother drove me down to Lynchburg, Virginia the home of Jerry Falwell, Liberty Baptist College and the Moral Majority.  I arrived on a Thursday afternoon with an old beat up suitcase filled with five shirts, a couple of ties, and a pair of blue and black dress slacks. I had not a clue of what the future would hold. I had enough money to get me through the semester but nothing more than a wing and a prayer as to how I was going to make it academically.

I had been out of school for a year and a half and had not picked up anything more than a Sports Illustrated to read in all that time. To say I was out of my element is an understatement. I’m not sure that I had an “element” at all. I was the first Lee to attend college from my family. My brother, Jim got married too young and my sister Linda, the most capable, never really had the opportunity to go. Now here I come, the least capable and I somehow made it through the process of being admitted into the school and even managed to get a dorm assignment.

As I watched my sister and my mother drive away from my dorm window, the reality of my situation came crashing down upon me. I kept my eye on their car for as long as I could before watching it disappear into the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Something deep inside me wanted to run outside and stop them. I wanted to scream for them to come back. I wanted to tell my mom that I was afraid of failing and that I made a mistake of thinking that I was worthy enough to actually attend college. I mean what was I thinking? I had told people that I was going to go, but I never really believed that I would actually do it.

Despite the fact that everyone, including my own pastor, told me that I would not amount to anything, I was indeed a college student. The cold hard truth is they were right…I wasn’t smart enough to make it in college. I also struggled with the fact that I wasn’t “spiritual” enough to make it at a Christian college. I did not have the pedigree to compete or succeed on this level. It wasn’t just bad enough for me to not go to college right out of high school, now I had to face the reality of going school and have to face everyone when I failed.

I sat there in my room all alone. I sat without unpacking. I sat there for hours. I sat until the darkness of evening closed around me and filled the room. I sat there scared to death that my thoughts and feelings of inadequacy might really be true. These feelings were buried deep down inside me. They were not uncommon to me, but I never showed them outwardly. I had always come across confident, maybe too confident for my own good. Now I was facing true fear of failure and I was far away from everything that had been protecting me. I never faced fear like this. This was real. I guess I always wondered deep down inside how I measured up.  Where did I fit into the plan?  What was going to happen to me?

Only time would tell…

The next day was the first day of orientation.  I had cut my hair and wore a tie and looked the part of a young Conservative Republican that I saw everywhere I went on campus.  I went to the first session of orientation and took my place where all “good Baptists”  sit…the back row.

 

I was trying to sit and not be noticed, when out of the corner of my eye was Dr. Falwell.  He was walking through the door and I was immediately taken back at how he just was walking through the crowd.  Where were the guards? Where was the entourage? He smiled as he came into the room.

 

Then he started to walk right in my direction!!!

 

“For the love of GOD!!!”, I thought.  “I am here only one day and Jerry Falwell spotted me and my “liberal” ways before I had ever had the chance to hide them!” 

 

I did not expect this.  What was I going to say?  What was he going to do? He continued his path in my direction.  My hands started to sweat, my heart pounded.  I desperately wanted to disappear, anywhere would be better than getting booted from school before it ever started.  I knew it…he could tell I wasn’t cut out for this. 

 

His eyes met mine and I saw something I had not seen on television.  His eyes were bright and comforting.  His eyes seemed familiar, like the eyes of my Grandfather.  They made me feel at ease.  He smiled and walked right up to me.

 

“What’s your name?” he asked.  I mumbled something that I hope sounded like “David Lee”.  He shook my hand and looked at me and said something about “…welcoming me and hoping I would enjoy the school year.” He asked me about my family and where I was from.  He asked about my future and what I thought God wanted to do with my life.  We spoke for a few minutes before he moved on, talking to other students as he moved up to the podium.

 

I could not believe it.  Jerry Falwell had spoken to me.  Was this the same man that I had seen on television?  He was not the pompous, radical, legalistic, narrow-minded, judgmental televangelist that I had assumed I would discover. 

 

He accepted me…      He welcomed me…     I was part of the family.

 

Over the next four years at Liberty, our paths would cross often.  Believe it or not, when I would run into Dr. Falwell he would remember my name.   I was humbled when I introduced my parents to Dr. Falwell at my graduation and have him call me by name.  That is something that many students at Liberty did not get to experience.

 

It’s been 25 years since my graduation and I never had the chance to meet with Dr. Falwell again. 

 

A part of me wants to believe that he would have remembered me.

 

I miss Dr. Falwell. 

 

I think he would be so excited about all that is going on at Thomas Road.  He would be proud of the way Jonathan has carried the message of Jesus Christ to the community of Lynchburg and through television.  He also would be thrilled at the way that Jerry Jr has carried the torch of Liberty University.  Record attendance and commitments at the church and an all-time high enrollment of students at the college are just a few examples of the success of the past year.

 

I am proud to have been a part of Liberty University.  I am thankful that they took a small town Ohio boy and gave him a chance.  I am proud of the fact that I did indeed graduate and went on to teach for 12 years.  I even had the opportunity to teach some future Liberty students.  I will be eternally grateful.

 

But then again, maybe it’s just me…

 

   

 

 

 

Is it me? or what…

If you have the least bit of interest in hearing the ramblings of a man that grew up in a Baptist church where the Fundamentalist Movement was as much a core belief as the virgin birth.  Where legalism flurished and tolerance was simply not tolerated. 

If you want to hear from a man that was educated and trained at Liberty University, where he learned and gained insight on these legalistic perspectives.  All the while still holding on to the absolute truth of the fundamentals of Scripture.

If you wish to hear more from a man that spent 12 years of his life (from 23 to 35) as a Christian High School principal and you want to hear from a man that is spending the rest of his life trying to make up for the mistakes and failures that he brought upon his life. 

If you want to hear from a man that has come to the conclusion that compassion, understanding and forgiveness are far better than the legalism he was raised with.

If the perspective from a man looking for grace and forgiveness has any interest for you.

If these are perspectives that you are looking for…then this is your source.

But then again…maybe it’s just me.