Tag: Northwest Ohio

I Never Had A Chance

When I was younger, when asked, I would answer enthusiastically and always with pride.

I would always give a clear picture of where my hometown was.  

As I got older and after I moved away, I began to notice that nearly every time I told people where I was from, I delivered the words, “Oak Harbor, Ohio” as though it were an apology for something I did wrong. 

I would wait for that familiar blank stare.  I would then say … “Oak Harbor is in Northwest,Related image Ohio… close to Cedar Point” and suddenly I would see their eyes light up with recognition. 

When you grow up in the tight confines of small town America, everything outside the boundaries of your hometown is kind of a blur. You can only imagine what everyday life is like in faraway cities.  Those places outside of the town limit signs could be just as much a figment of your imagination as anything else you’ve ever dreamed.  No matter how many pictures you’ve seen.  No matter how many times people would come back with stories of life beyond your reality, it just never really seemed to convince me. 

To me, those places were as much a fantasy and as far away as the land of Oz. 

As a child and even into your teens, you know your hometown intimately, and it knows you. It seemed that no matter where you went, you were always running into something that reminded you of how much you’ve already done there.  Every day it would wrap around you like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night until you felt you knew it as intimately as you did the layout of your own bedroom. You could walk around it with your eyes closed and never be surprised by a single thing.

When I got my driver’s license when I turned 16, it was the first time I felt like I was part of the world and not bound by the unforgiving signs of our town limits.

I felt untethered, independent and unrestricted.

It makes me grin when I think about it now, because I was still bound by the town limit signs.  I just changed my mode of transportation.  I went from a 10-speed bicycle to a Ford Pinto. Which really only meant I could drive the loop around town a little faster. 

Not much faster, mind you, but just enough to make me feel free.  I would drive my car in the same continuous, languorous, tedious, life sucking regular loop around town. 

A typical summer night would be as follows: I would pull out of my driveway on Locust Image result for gulf signStreet and drive south to the stoplight by Denny’s Gulf Station.  Make a left turn onto Water Street and drive real slow to see if any of my friends were at Van Atta’s Dairy Queen. If no one was there, I would continue down the street and turn left onto Finke Road and drive through Veteran’s Park to see if there were any softball or baseball games going on.  An extra bonus was if there were any girls playing tennis on the courts next to the road.

In today’s world, I would be handcuffed, interrogated and probably body-searched over why I was sitting in a car, at the park, watching the games from the front seat of my car.  

But not back then.  

I can’t tell you how many times I sat there parked in my car. Watching the games from the front seat, trying to look and be cool. Wanting to talk to the cute girls playing tennis or to the other girls that were just walking around the park trying to look as cool as I was trying to be.  I sat there trying to get enough nerve to start conversations with girls whose names I knew and went to school with since kindergarten. 

I could never pull the trigger. 

I would just swallow my confidence and promise myself that tomorrow night would be different.  “I will do it for sure tomorrow” I would say to myself, as the music Image result for wiotblared from FM 104.7 on my stereo.  I would sit there alone, hoping that the station would at least play, “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner or “Do You Feel Like We Do” by Peter Frampton when those girls would walk by so I could turn it up even louder and that they would “hear” that I was cool.  

Thinking about it now… it probably was just as creepy as it is today for someone to sit in the car like that I just never considered it when I was doing it.

It never dawned on me at the time, but when I would pull up in my dark blue rusted out Pinto, I was pulling next to the never-ending sea of Camaro’s or Trans Am’s that always Image result for Rusted Out Blue Pintoseemed to be owned by every “cool kid” in Oak Harbor.

Eventually, I would grow tired of just sitting there in my car with the music blaring from my radio. I would start to pull out of my parking spot to make another loop around town.

Maybe something was going on?  Maybe something changed since my last trip around town?

Heading down Main Street towards Locust Street, I’d crank the stereo system a lttle louder, knowing all the while that it cost more than the car I was driving.

I was lying to myself.  I would tell myself that tomorrow night would be different.

But deep down, I knew.

I never had a chance.

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Thinking Back, Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is short.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again… life is short.

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

There is nothing more important than that. 

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

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

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

My expiration date hasn’t come up just yet.    

 

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.