Tag: Oak Harbor

A Valentine Story

I always thought I would marry a girl from Oak Harbor.

It was something I always accepted. I never thought it would work out any other way. I never really looked elsewhere. I always assumed that I would find her, and we would marry and leave Oak Harbor for a while, but we would come back home to raise our kids. Our children would walk the same halls as we did in R.C. Waters Elementary School, they would play on the same little league teams and ultimately, they would be nurtured in the same environment as we were.

That wouldn’t happen because that plan would change on an April day in 1976. TheImage result for heart girl of my dreams would cross my path and from the moment I first laid eyes on her, I knew I had found my heart’s desire. It took me a while to convince her to have the same interest in me, but I wore her down until she went out with me. I guess I am lucky that my “persistence” didn’t get me served with a restraining order. She has been my wife for many years and I am still a very lucky man.

But it didn’t start out that way. My interest in girls started early and as the story goes, more than once, my mom had to retrieve me and my tricycle from a girl’s house a block away. I don’t remember doing this, but apparently, I would escape as often as I could.

One of the things that characterized and shaped my budding social life in the days of elementary school was the concept of “liking” a girl. It was a topic of great interest to me and it always took up more of my attention than it ever should have. Notice that I say it took up more of my time, but I do not say anything about it taking up any time for the girls I was interested in. That’s because most of the girls had no idea that I “liked’ them. Many times, I was too shy or too scared to say Image result for going steadyanything to them. It would cause my stuttering to go out of control and my words would be a jumbled mess as they spilled from my mouth. So, I just never said a word.

However, each school year would start the same way. Within the first few days of school starting, the conversations at recess or in the lunch line, revolved around “who liked who” and who was “going steady” with whom. I always found the term, “going steady” a funny expression when it came to the pursuit of a relationship between two kids. They don’t use the term “going steady” anymore. What exactly did it mean? Considering the filter of the 1960s, it meant that you “liked” someone and were “exclusive” in who you liked. There was not, in fact, anything at all proprietary in who you liked. It required no acknowledgment or even the knowledge of the person being liked, and any number of boys would like the same girl without antagonism. Most boys did like the same girl. It only became serious when you would cross the line and “go steady” for a few weeks.

While I had several “going steady” relationships throughout my elementary years, I have had two… yes, I said “two” relationships where the term “going steady” applied but I never had any direct verbal conversation between me and the other girl. Communication between the two of us took place only on handwritten notes. At no time during our torrid two-week relationship did we ever speak to each other. Maybe we would smile at each other and maybe you would get real bold a give her a head nod and have brief eye contact for a moment in time. The only physical contact between a couple was made during recess playing “tag.” You could always tell the couples by who they chased during recess. It was innocent and harmless, but back in those days it seemed important and we took it seriously.Image result for love note folded

The notes of communication passed through the hands of trustworthy friends that would not embarrass you. The note would pass through no less than two boys and three girls as it made its way to the girl I was going “steady” with. The same path of communication would be directed back to me. Handwritten notes, folded in various ways, that would make even the professional origamist (a person who performs origami) proud. The more intricate the folds of the note indicated the level of “like” someone had for you. The tell-tale indicator of problems on the horizon was paying attention to the folds of the note that was passed on to you. A simple bi-fold note was a sure sign of a “Dear John” letter. I must admit that I received more than my fair share of bi-fold notes. I would be heartbroken for a few days and then my attention would drift to someone else and I would “like” them for a while. I was always waiting for the opportunity to find out from the rumor mill at recess or the lunch line if there was any interest from the other girl to “go steady.”

Usually, there wasn’t any interest.

I had mentioned earlier that many of the boys could “like” the same girl and there was never any doubt about which girl was the central figure of my elementary years. It was “Church Street.”  Now, before I confuse you with the name Church Church Street signStreet, let me clarify that I call her that name because I have no intention of ever saying her real name so that I don’t embarrass her after all these years. It is just a term I use to reference her existence and I will never confirm that she ever lived on “Church Street.” She has lived all her adult years without the knowledge or the reality of having me “like” her, she surely doesn’t need the humiliation of me giving her name out and writing about it all these years later.

In my elementary years, the girl who drew the most attention was Church Street. It seemed obvious that she was oblivious to all the boys who liked her. However, it seemed to me that there was one boy that every now and then, would draw her attention. He was one of the few people who I must admit to having envied in my life. I always kept the secret from everyone, even friends, of the name of the one I really liked. I suppose I did that from not wanting to be a person entertaining false hopes, and the uncertainty as to what might be required of me should Church Street like me back. I don’t know what I would have done had she showed any interest in me. I don’t believe I would have been completely comfortable being around her. She was more mature and self-assured than I was at the time. I never made public my interest, I secretly joined most of the other boys in asserting the wishful title of “liking” Church Street.

The question of what “liking” a girl meant to me is not an easy one to answer now. I can’t remember ever having a strong crush on Church Street. I would experience “crushes” in my life and that isn’t what I felt towards her. I just really thought she was sharp and that she set the bar of what I “liked” in a girl. She was always nice to everyone and she always seemed so sure of herself and everyone wanted to be like her. At that time, I viewed her as the standard of what I wanted in a girlfriend. That standard would remain in place until I met Pam, who would one day become my wife. My wife would re-set the bar and she maintains that ideal to this very day. However, back then I was just trying to figure this whole boy-girl thing out. I knew boys liked girls and vice versa and that there was some silliness involved in the pairings, and that eventually one day, they would kiss and of course get married.

That was probably the depth of what I thought about “liking” a girl. I knew that my friends and I were fascinated by girls but none of us had any clue as to why. All of Image result for Stingray bike 1970this is worth more contemplation, but there was a prestige that went with being liked by the prettier, higher status girls. And at the top of that list was Church Street.

Church Street lived in a house that I would find an excuse to ride my bike by every now and then. I would peddle my bike by just to see if she was there. If she was out on her porch, I would ride by and never give any indication that I even saw her. I would never dare to stop and talk to her. I would ride the loop and head back home to excitedly tell Bryan or one of my other friends that I saw her out on her porch. Mind you, she never acknowledged me or said anything to me as I would pass by her house, but for a few years, it was something that would make a dull day exciting.

During the summer, she spent time at Teagarden’s pool and that was one of the reasons I made a point to go there every chance I could. Even if I didn’t want to swim, I would go just because there was the probability that she might be there.

I must finally admit that I also called her constantly on the phone. Note: I did not say I talked to her on the phone. I’m merely pointing out the fact that I called her.

One school year, as Valentine’s Day approached, I was already dreading the day when Valentine cards would be distributed in class. My mom had already bought the kind that were full of silly puns like: “You’re swell” or “I like Bee-ing Your Image result for old valentine card you're swellFriend” with a bee pictured on the card. All of them wishing the other person a Happy Valentine’s Day. Usually, the cards were so generic that you could give them to any boy or girl without much thought. But there was never enough of them to cover the whole class, so I would sit at the kitchen table trying to select the right card for each classmate. You put them in piles. One pile for the boys in the class, another for the girls. However, trying to pick out the card to give to the girl you secretly “liked” was like trying to figure out the equation of nuclear fusion. You wanted to find the perfect card, not too forward but something that left no doubt of your interest.

That year, I was convinced that I only had cards for the girls. I struggled to find cards to give to the boys and it was even harder to find appropriate cards for the girls. I did not want to send the wrong message to a girl. It’s my duty to say that a big part of my reluctance to giving such cards was my dread of the ridicule and teasing I might receive from having given cards to girls that might read into the note on the card. Anyway, there was that fear of ridicule which went beyond the already strong desire not to be the odd boy with a stuttering problem. I dreaded hearing that one boy, who would love to embarrass me, say to the class “Hey look! David gave a card with ‘I like you’ on it to _____!” My solution was to only give cards out to the boys. Safe, generic and no fear of ridicule cards. My mother, on the other hand, made sure that I made one out to every class member.

So, there I sat at the kitchen table, filtering each card and trying to come up with a viable solution to my fears. My mom had somehow arrived at the notion that I should give every girl in the class (not to hurt any of their feelings for having been left out, always one of her prime concerns) a Valentine card. I don’t know how my mother could have been so out of touch with the reality of elementary grade school life as to think that was something for a boy to do. The charm of the idea was so great for her that she would not yield to my objections, and I had to accept this unfortunate whim of hers.

The fateful day of our class Valentine party arrived. Full of dread, I dutifully took Image result for Home made valentine boxmy cards to school and inserted them into the slots of our homemade Valentine boxes. The absurd thing about this Valentine card episode is that, despite my struggle against having to give cards to the girls, I had begun to hope that it might turn out to be a blessing in disguise regarding Church Street. Here was the opportunity, though one I would never have chosen, to let her subtlety know my interest in her. Certainly, her card was chosen carefully. It was the one I had truly taken care of, while striving to make it special. Surely hers was the one for which the words in some sense spoke the truth. I had no doubt that the card was beautiful. How could she not be struck by that beauty?

What a thrill it would be if she looked over at me and smiled with pleasure after admiring my card! I could picture her complimenting me on it as she thanked me for having given it to her. Perhaps my card would so impress her that its message would be met with favor. Perhaps she would even start to “like” me. What a boost it would be to my status in the class when her new fondness for me became known!

I watched intently as she went through the pile of Valentine cards on her desk, casually examining each one. Anxiety, anticipation, and hope mounted in me as she came to mine—and instantly she set it aside! She discarded my card with scarcely a glance! It was hand-picked just for her and she treated it as unworthy of a second’s contemplation. It just was a trivial message from an insignificant boy.

Now to be fair… she never stopped and read one card more than the other. They were all met with the same reaction. It was just that card was mine and I had so much hope that she would acknowledge it with a smile or a head nod.

I don’t know whether she had been aware that I was watching. There was no look my way. I’m sure she never gave it a second thought or had any idea of the feeling of rejection her indifference had caused. But to me, it was a rejection, and nothing is worse for a man’s ego than being rejected by a woman, even when the “man” and “woman” in question are only eleven-years-old.

Nothing had really changed, no one was any wiser to the event, except for the split second it took to dash my unwarranted hopes. The acid of disappointment became so concentrated that it etched the memory deep in my mind. The memory of Church Street’s indifference to my carefully chosen card and its hidden message of “like” is still there, lurking in the back confines of my mind, only to return every Valentine’s Day.

As I grew older, she and I would indeed talk. I am sure she knew of my interest and “liking” her but we never brought the subject up. We would talk when we would walk home from school and sometimes on the phone. I stopped making the “no talk” phone calls and if she had any clue it was me who was making those calls, she never indicated that she knew.

Now… I would like to point out that Church Street and I did “go out” one time. My Image result for poseidon adventurefamily took her and me to the movies. “The Poseidon Adventure” was playing at the theatre in Port Clinton and I asked if she wanted to go and she did. Nothing like a disaster movie of a ship capsizing with mass casualties to set the mood for a successful romantic date.

In the coming years, Church Street and I would drift in different directions and eventually we stopped talking.  I would find “love” the moment I laid eyes on the girl who would one-day become my wife.

I have no idea where Church Street is today, but I am grateful for these memories that are strong enough to place me back in my elementary years.

But this truth remains… I will never confirm, nor deny that she was my first kiss.

A gentleman never tells.

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The Best Was Yet To Come

A friend tagged me in a post on Facebook and my face stared in disbelief as I read the comments.

“Hi everyone! It’s that time! That’s right: it’s been 40 years since we graduated from Oak Harbor high school!!!  Does anyone know if they are planning a reunion in the summer of 2019?”

First of all, that can’t possibly be correct.

Forty years? (wasn’t it just a few years ago?)

Secondly… I did not graduate from my hometown high school. Why would they ask me?

My guess is there might be some confusion.

Some confusion might be from the fact that it has indeed been 40 years… memories are the first to go.

The other is I wrote about a book about my memories of growing up in my hometown. I tell stories of being a student at Oak Harbor high school. Obviously, Image result for Oak Harbor High Schoolthis friend hasn’t read my book because I document the reasons why I did not graduate with my class.

Either way… I don’t know if they are having a reunion. I am not invited.

But this FACEBOOK post caused me to pause and to start counting on my fingers and toes as to how many years it really had been. I don’t normally keep track of such things.

Has it really been forty years since I received my diploma on that June day? Could I remember a single point of the valedictorian speech that would tell me to chase my dreams with gusto? Had it really been that long since I sat with that mortar board affixed upon my huge head and oversized nose? I weighed all of 130 lbs. at 6’2”.  45 of those pounds were attributed to my large nose.  It took another 15 years for my body to catch up to the size of my nose and now it has far exceeded the proper balance of nose size to body size ratio.

I don’t remember a single thing about my graduation ceremony. Oh… I remember the day, but I was too consumed with heartache.

What I remember about my graduation is the fact that my girlfriend broke up with me 3 days before it took place and I was devastated. It was over for my 3-year relationship with the girl of my dreams. My 17-year-old life was over, and it would never be the same.

At least that was what I thought at the time.

As I sat there trying to squeeze out any memory of that graduation ceremony, I immediately went into shock when I realized that I could no longer count the years Image result for 1979 yearbookI’d been out of school on my fingers and toes. I dug my senior yearbook out of the recesses of my attic. I dusted it off and paged through memories I’d long forgotten: Friday night games spent with my friends on the field and on the court. Long bus rides coming home from a victorious game or the sullen woes of dealing with a loss. All made right when I would spend time with my cheerleader girlfriend. Memories of walking the halls and lunchroom dramas. Tests, quizzes, and term papers. Not to mention the memory of conversations with my favorite teacher.

When I came to my senior portrait, I looked at that skinny young man with the light blue three-piece suit. I so wish he knew what I know now.

As I reminisced, I thought of all of the things I’ve learned along the way that I really wish I’d known ahead of time. Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without surviving the disco era phase but, still, there are a few things I would like to have known to make the next 40 years of my life a little easier to sojourn.

As I sat there with my graduation gown on and the graduation cap mashed upon my bulb-ish head I would like to have known these things… (in no particular order).

  1. Travel, while your standards are low. Youth hostels are a lot less glamorous at 57.
  2. Pack up your tiny, barely running PINTO and drive it until it craps out. See as much of the country you can and eat peanut butter and jelly along the way.Image result for john lennon
  3. John Lennon gets murdered, as does Marvin Gaye, so prepare yourself for that. Michael Jackson dies. And so, does Prince. And Tom Petty. So, enjoy them while you can.
  4. Your hair will turn grey, but it will stay where it is, unlike some of your friends, so enjoy it and quit worrying about it. You’re good.
  5. Speaking of hair… it will start growing in the oddest places. It will start to grow out of your ears and you need to keep that stuff under control. They will invent products that will make it easier. Hang on, help is coming.
  6. Enjoy the freedom of being lost on a country road with your best friend as you sing Tom Petty lyrics at the top of your lungs. Technology will make it nearly impossible to be as in the moment as you are right now.
  7. You will not recognize your eyebrows after you turn 40. Seriously, be prepared.
  8. The grunge phase doesn’t last long. I promise.
  9. When your favorite shows end, don’t panic. Turns out, networks “reboot” shows thirty years later and it’s like they’ve never left.
  10. You will discover in the coming years when life settles scores that you will be friends with everyone from your high school class, even the cool kids. And, 20 years later, you’ll talk with the people that ignored you and you’ll all wonder why you weren’t friends in high school.
  11. You will never get over the loss of your first love. But that heartache will lead you the one who will love you forever. As in the fact that she has been your wife now for many years. In the end, it all works out for you because twenty years after she breaks up with you before this graduation day… you will be reunited, and the rest is history.
  12. One day, you will realize you can’t remember the name of the kid who annoyed you in biology class. And you’ll text (yes… you will learn what that is and how to do it) your best friend to ask if he remembers and he’ll have forgotten, too.
  13. High school is good. College is better. Those that you thought were going to be so successful never are.
  14. Wear your faith a little closer to the top. Don’t hide your faith. Own it. Let people see that Christ lives in you. I know you hide it now… but you’ll regret that in the coming years.
  15. You’ll get a VCR but soon no one will use it anymore and this will come as a Image result for vcrshock to you. Also, don’t say “tape a show” to your kids because they will laugh at you.
  16. Cherish the friends you make in high school and do what you can to keep in touch. On the days when life is barely recognizable, they will help you find the guy who wore a light blue leisure suit to the dance. Be prepared, cause your kids they will continue to laugh much when they remind you just how hideous that suit really was.
  17. Be very grateful social media doesn’t exist. Your wild nights with friends won’t come back to haunt you at a job interview.
  18. Two words: Ear hair. Yes, I know, this is the second time I referenced this. It’s devastating. I don’t know what to say, either.
  19. High school football games don’t change. When you attend one in the coming years, you’ll swear you can hear your friends giggling next to you and if you close your eyes, you can see your home team playing on the gridiron. You will come to the realization that at the end of the day… it really didn’t matter whether you played or not. No one made it the NFL.
  20. Relax… you’ll become a teacher, soon after that, you will become a high school principal and you will be exactly what you always wanted to be.
  21. You’ll prove the naysayers wrong. Those that told you that you would not amount to anything will be wrong and you’ll achieve dreams far beyond those encouraged by this valedictorian speech.
  22. Prepare yourself. Read more about the things that excite you, question everything. Learn how to become a better speaker, writer, storyteller, son, friend, leader, boss, and father. Again, be prepared… you’ll discover that you will fail in all of these endeavors, but you can recover it by striving to become better today than yesterday.
  23. Clear communication is a key to personal and professional success. PrPublication2actice writing every day. Write about your day. The show you have seen, your feelings, fears and dreams, love and the perfect world. Make it interesting. One day, you’ll be an author.
  24. Don’t try to be important. It’s not about you. Your ego will demand attention, ignore it. Serve anyone without expecting anything in return. Amazing things will happen once you shift your mindset and start enjoying helping others. You will see how paying it forward comes back in the most beautiful and unexpected ways.
  25. Life is short. And sweet. And it really does go by too fast. As cliché as it sounds, one day, you’ll wake up and realize that 40 years have passed. And you’ll find yourself writing a list like this.

As I wrote these down, I realize that I could write a book about these lessons I wish I would have known when I was sitting on that chair on graduation day.

Truth is… some things matter. Most things don’t.

I would like to have responded “Yes” to attending my 40th high school reunion this summer, I remembered the teachers, the friends, and the memories. I smile at the antics on Fall afternoons, driving cars and chasing my girlfriend. I reminisced about dances, classes I loved and even those from hell. But there isn’t a 40th reunion in my future.

Sure… there are things I hated about it. It wasn’t perfect and there are things I know now I wish I would never have learned. Sometimes life experience sucks. Those things are appropriate for another book somewhere down the line.

Every now and then I wish I could go back… not to change a single thing but to feel the freedom of being young again and not know what I know now.

I know that my life is the sum of all my experiences. The same as it is for you.

I remember being that 17-year-old young man and wondered what would happen to him.  

Mostly, though, I remember myself wearing that light blue leisure suit and hoping that the best was yet to come….

And it was.

Image result for 40th reunion

Where There Is

I entered my first-grade class with my head held high.

After a summer that seemed to last an eternity, I could finally say I was officially out of kindergarten and moving into grade school!

Image result for first last day of first gradeI would have my very own desk to sit at this year. No more nap time, I would have real recess outside on the playground and with the big kids!

Today was the first day of the rest of my life.

My mom helped me locate my very own desk. It wasn’t that hard. I recognized my name taped to the top of it. David L.

I wondered why my name always had the letter “L” attached to it at school. I was the only David in my kindergarten class, I also was the only David in my first-grade classroom too. Image result for H

Other kids got cool letters, like the girl sitting beside me, Jackie H.

H was a great letter, it was fun to write. Always reminded me of goal posts. 

“L” was so boring, I’d had been stuck with it for 6 years in a row now.

“Bye David!” My mom said kissing me on the top of my head. I was too busy digging into my paper bag to get my pencil-case so I could put my three brand new pencils in the pencil spot on my desk. I barely looked up to say goodbye. My mom talked to the teacher at her desk for a few minutes before leaving to go home.

It was the last, first day of school that I would ever experience my mom taking me to school.

After my pencils were in place, I sat in awe, taking in the entire classroom. It was so amazing! The walls were covered in pictures and words and charts! I loved charts. I wondered what they were for. I recognized a calendar Traditional Manuscript Alphabet Line By North Star Teacher Resourcewith birthday cakes all over it in random spots. On top of the blackboard was an alphabet. I already knew that A was for apple. There was a corner filled with colorful books. I couldn’t wait to look at them. Beside the books were at least three board games I’d never played before, and one I had. I loved board games!

At the door, I spotted my friend from kindergarten, with his mom. His eyes were red and puffy. I wondered what he could possibly be crying about on the first day of first grade. His mom said something to him, then gave him a kiss goodbye. As she turned to leave, he latched onto her left leg and yelled, “mama, nooo!!!”

My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe he was doing this in front of everyone! Crying might have been okay in kindergarten, but now we were in first grade! We couldn’t be crying and causing a scene. That was unacceptable.

Now truth be told… I was on the verge of jumping up from my desk screaming and running over, crying to my mom. Fear, embarrassment and the unknown kept me Image result for Old elementary schoolroomglued to my seat. At that time in my life, I would not do a thing that would draw attention to myself. That would change as I grew older, but for now, I was trying my best to become a wallflower and not say a word to anyone. I learned real early in life that it would always be better to blend in and not make a scene.

The teacher had heard his outburst and was headed across the room right toward him! Uh oh. He was in trouble now.

But to my complete surprise, the teacher nor his mother seemed upset with him. Nobody was yelling at him to get off the floor, or to stop making a spectacle of himself. Nobody seemed mad at all. That confused me. The teacher knelt, whispered something in his ear, and suddenly he looked reassured. He stopped sobbing, stood up and nodded. She flashed him her perfect smile and took him by the hand to his seat. I figured she must be the nicest person in the whole entire world.

“Good morning boys and girls,” she finally greeted us, standing in the middle of the room.

“Good morning Mrs. Provonsha,” we chorused.

She started explaining all the wonderful things that would happen. This year, we would learn how to read! I needed to learn how to read so badly. My brother and Image result for Dick and Janesister knew how to read, and they would always tease me about it.

Dick and Jane would soon become part of my everyday life. I would learn to read about them and their dog, Spot.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize that they were the BIG things.

She then walked over to a corner of the room and picked up a bowl and held it up Image result for Look back and see the were BIg thingsfor us to see. There was a real fish in there!! A goldfish! He would be our class goldfish for the whole year! Every week, one student would have the responsibility to feed the goldfish! I couldn’t wait until it was my turn. It would be like having a pet. (I don’t remember if it lived the whole year…lol)

I decided pretty quickly that Mrs. Provonsha had the best job ever.

She got to be in charge of creating and organizing all these amazing activities and systems. She got to decide everything. She got to listen to all of our stories. She had access to all the books and games, and she could probably take them home whenever she wanted! She could do whatever she wanted.

Although I was already pretty impressed, it wasn’t until later that day that I realized she probably had unlimited access to endless amounts of school supplies; pencils, markers, crayons, maybe even pens! Upon that realization was when I started to think that I wanted to be a teacher too when I grew up.

Reminiscing now, well over 50 years ago, I would have made a scene so that my mom knew then how much she was my world. I will forever be an unapologetic momma’s boy. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to tell her that over the years. She is 87 now and I still talk about the past with her and how much she means to me.

I did not know it at the time, but this would be the last time my mom ever took me to school on the first day.

These things took place right there in my small hometown.

When people ask me where I am from… I proudly say from “there”.

I know where “there” is.

I am forever grateful for growing up “there”.

It’s important to know that “there” made up who I was, who I would become and who I am today.

Do you know where your “there” is?

 

Daydream Believer

The music of The Monkees has been my friend for over fifty years.

As a six-year-old kid infatuated with these fun-loving characters on my TV screen; I know how much The Monkees have always meant to me. Whatever man I am, whatever person I try to be, watching The Monkees, and listening tImage result for The MOnkeeso The Monkees, was an essential part of growing up.

In fact, unashamedly I admit, while it would be cooler to say it was The Beatles or some other classic act, The Monkees were the first “album” I ever bought. 

I’m a believer.

Doesn’t it feel good to say that?

Doesn’t it feel good to acknowledge that giddy feeling of joy that wells up within you when you hear a terrific, transcendent pop song on the radio?

How many times did I sing along with, “Daydream Believer”?

I couldn’t even begin to guess. 

Isn’t it great to let the music fill you with that grand, unspoken sensation of freedom, to turn the volume up as loud as you can, and just sing along, even if you don’t really know all the words?

Your troubles don’t vanish; your cares won’t slip away; woImage result for The MOnkeesrk still has to be done, your heart still requires mending, and your body and soul still shudder from the unnamed ache that never quite surrenders its grip. But for approximately two minutes and fifty-nine seconds, you are able to disappear from what’s wrong in the world.

What a gift that Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith were to my childhood.

Vivid memories as a child still remain. I was five years old when The Monkees debuted on the charts and TV screens in 1966, with a # 1 hit single called “Last Train To Clarksville” and a vibrant weekly show.

I didn’t know they weren’t cool. Because, obviously, they were cool: they were like a magic, irresistible combination of Batman and The Beatles—and really, in the ’60s, what could be cooler than that?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wasn’t created to validate the tastes of clueless five-year-old kids from Oak Harbor, Ohio.

That’s fair.

The Hall of Fame is a celebration of rock ‘n’ roll music, an embrace of its history and the people who made it happen. It’s a tribute to the power of that music, to rock’s ability to express and embody rebellion, to break down barriers, to inspire, https://i2.wp.com/andrew-wittman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Daydream-believer.jpgto transcend, to elevate, to unite. It’s about more than catchy pop songs, more than a manufactured image, more than photogenic faces on the cover of a teen magazine. It means something. It matters.

But you wanna know something? It turns out The Monkees somehow did all of that. The Monkees rebelled. The Monkees broke down barriers. The Monkees inspired, transcended, elevated, united. The Monkees meant something. The Monkees mattered.

The Monkees were also influential. More than any other act—even more than The Beatles—The Monkees brought the burgeoning ’60s counter-culture into everyday American living rooms, via their weekly TV showcase. They had long hair. They brandished peace symbols.

The Monkees’ popularity is indisputable fact: # 1 singles, # 1 albums, the best-selling musical act of 1967, believe it or not, outselling The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. Don’t believe?  Look it up.

I’m a believer.

This shouldn’t be true—this was supposed to be soundtrack music for a TV sitcom, for God’s sake—but the evidence is there, and it’s been there from the start.

The evidence will make a believer out of you, too.

The Monkees’ recordings have remained radio staples for five decades and show no sign of ever fading away. Reruns of the TV series have continually renewed the group’s fan base, as new generations of fans have discovered the enduring appeal of four guys walking down the street, getting the funniest looks from everyone they meet.

But popularity alone does not make an act worthy of induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; there are dozens and dozens of mega-selling pop entities that will never be considered Hall of Fame material, and rightly so.

But I’m a believer.

Belief sustains us, even when everyone says we’re wrong. Music comforts us, when much of life may seems uncertain and perilous. Love, hope, and friendship encourage us, when our senses and surroundings insist there’s little of substance left to grasp and hold fast. We are encouraged by our friends, our hope, our love, our music; we are encouraged by our belief.

Micky. Davy. Peter. Michael.

Weren’t they good?  They made me happy.

I’m a believer, even if it is in Daydreams.

 

I Still Have a Chance to Get It Right

I woke up this morning at 4:00 AM. 

I had a dream that was so real and it was a memory that I had buried and forgotten about.

In my dream, I am watching the events as they happen. It is like watching a movie that you know what is going to happen and you wish you could change the events that were about to take place.  I cannot change it. The reason why the story doesn’t change is because it retells an actual event that happened in December of 1971. 

Why am I waking up in a cold sweat remembering an event that took place over 45 years ago?

Here is the story…

https://i0.wp.com/asp.bcs.k12.oh.us/schools/RCWaters/rcwpic.jpgWhen I was in fifth grade there was a new boy who came into our class. He was new to our school.  He started about three weeks into the school year.

By that time in school everyone had divided themselves into their own social subgroups and friends.  Everyone already found a place to fit in. You usually hung with two or three other buddies and for the most part everyone got along. We had all grown up together and most of us had the same teachers since we were in kindergarten.

Maybe if he had his picture in our class composite he may have been remembered by more people.  He didn’t have his picture taken.  He missed picture day and I probably would have forgotten all about him had I not had a life event that involved him.

Nobody played with Darrell. He was an outcast. He was alone.

He was shunned by the whole class, and you would be shunned too if you sat with him at lunch or joined him in his solitary games at the fringe of the playground during recess.  It was bad enough to have him in the same classroom.https://i2.wp.com/www.nivstaboards.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/A-child-alone-in-a-school-003.jpg

All you needed to know about Darrell was that he was filthy. Smelled and wore the same clothes almost every day of the week.  Looked like he slept in them most of the time.  He was loud and it seemed to my 10-year-old thinking he was trying to keep people away from him.

He was ignored and over-looked. The butt of cruel jokes and commentary that were so much of the conversations of other 5th grade boys.

I had never spoken to Darrell.

His family had moved into a run-down house just a few blocks from my own and I never once saw him riding his bike or even playing outside. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t tell you if he even had a bike.

Frankly, that’s all I knew about him. And I thought that there was nothing else to know about him.

As the Christmas holiday approached, we drew names to exchange gifts. I was happy I did not get Darrell’s name, I just wasn’t sure who drew my name.

I’m sitting in my 5th grade classroom on the last day of school before Christmas break.  Mrs. Day is my teacher and I am waiting for our Christmas party to begin.

I waited anxiously and noticed that Darrell had given his tattered wrapped present to another student so I knew he did not draw my name.  I saw that he received his present from another student and I waited… but no one brought me a present.  

My name had been drawn by another student that was absent that day.  I didn’t get a gift. And everybody else noticed. The teacher said, “Oh, that’s okay. We’ll make sure you’ll get it when we get back from Christmas.”

Bullies and time had already taught me all too well that you don’t cry in public. Stuff like that wasn’t supposed to matter. I strained to make myself look unfazed, but I remember how hot my face was and that my throat was so tight that I could barely speak.

I felt like I had just gotten a big fat rejection notice.

All the other kids started playing some game. I stood off to the side trying not to vomit.

Out of the corner of my left eye I saw some movement. I turned to see Darrell holding something out to me. It was a book-shaped box containing several rolls of Lifesaver candies. A common Christmas gift in that day. The sort of thing you grab Image result for old Lifesaver Christmas giftat checkout stand when you don’t really want to think too much about the gift. That’s what someone had given him.

He put it in my hand and said, “I want you to have this.”

I just stood there. I didn’t know what to say and couldn’t have said it even if I had known. My throat was so tight I could barely breathe. Finally, I croaked, “But it’s yours.”

Darrell said, “And I’ve already gotten it. Now it’s yours. Everybody should get something at Christmas.”

I just stared at him. Not because I was at a loss for words or was afraid I would cry.

For the first time, I noticed how nice and kind Darrell was.

I tried to give it back to him. He refused and walked away and retreated to the same corner of the room where he would carry on conversations with himself and play his solitary games.

In shame that I carry to this very day, I was too afraid to say anything to anyone. I didn’t even say thank you to him. I hid the gift in my desk and tried to assimilate back into my group of friends. All the while knowing that there was a boy playing by himself in the corner that was a much better person than I was.

Now I wish I could tell you more about Darrell. I wish I could say that we had become fast friends and that maybe I had even helped all the other kids discover what a good person we had in our midst. 

But that isn’t the truth. I have not one single memory of Darrell after that. I learned that his family moved away over the Christmas break. Something I am sure was something he was used to.

In time, the house that he lived in would remain empty and eventually torn down.

I returned from that Christmas break, just as concerned to finding my own place in my little world of Oak Harbor, Ohio and to avoid being the outcast and rejected.

In my own eyes, I was not enough. Sometimes I was blinded by the effort to be accepted. Envy and intimidation blinded me at other times. There were times, I was condescending or competitive or too preoccupied with my own fears and wounds and grievances.

Blindness becomes a habit.

We learn early in life to see only certain kinds of people. The ones who we think matter.

And we learn to look past or look through other kinds of people. 

Those who we think don’t matter.

I suspect we fear the stretching and growth we would experience if we would see people as God sees them.

Darrell may have continued to be the ostracized loner, maybe he moved to Argentina, or been abducted by aliens. Maybe he is the homeless man I pass along the way.  He may even be my neighbor that I don’t know that currently lives a few doors down from me.

He may be a doctor or surgeon that has saved many lives.  He may have been a solider that selflessly fought bravely for the freedoms I enjoy.

He may have become a teacher that changed lives. He may be the guy that works at the local factory.  Maybe he is the mechanic that works on my car.

He may have become a great husband and father that raised good kids.  Kids that accept others who may be different from them.

I have no idea. I’d like to think that many of these options are a possibility.

What I do know is that a young boy that spent a few months in Oak Harbor, Ohio in the early 1970’s was a better human being than I was.  

So why the dream? 

I am coming to the conclusion that even after all these years, I still have a lot to learn about acceptance.  I have more to learn about loving people where they are in life.

I still have time to become a better person.  I still have a chance to get it right.

How about you?

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.

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

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

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

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

Nope.

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

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

I had nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

I wasn’t innocent.

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

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

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

That’s it. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such is life.

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

Even at 55, I am a work in progress. 

We all are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The calendar turned on another year older.

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

Live what I believe.

The Evidence

There is nothing like ripe, fresh fruit.

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

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

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

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

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

So what is the evidence of life for the Christian?

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

It’s the fruit!

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

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

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

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

The fruit of his life was sweet and refreshing.

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

There was no room for fruit to grow.

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

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

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

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

Through the Eyes of a Child

On a hot July night in 2012, I witnessed the passing of a torch. 

There wasn’t a ceremony and no one from the local newspaper was there to take a picture to document the event, but make no mistake, what happened that night was something magical.

As I made my way through the crowd along the dimly lit back stretch of Fremont Speedway, trying to get to Brian Smith’s pit stall.  I could not help but notice that the people who passed by the “Grace Car” that night were not aware of the magic that was taking place right in front of their eyes.  

But I did.

As the adults and race fans were getting the opportunity to see the “Grace Car” up close, Brian Smith, then a 26 year veteran sprint car racer from Fremont was kneeling down talking to a young boy.  I could see the eyes of this young boy as Brian bent down and talked to him.                                                                     

The look in this young boy ‘s eyes initially was a look of awe.  I am sure the boy was amazed that he was actually talking to a real life race car driver and I immediately noticed the look of awe begin to sparkle in the eyes of this young boy as the transformation had begun.  The torch was passed on to another generation. 

No one noticed that Brian had just performed magic. He just transformed a young child into a lifelong race fan.  He just made a young fan believe in heroes. One that is not found in the comic book store or on the movie screen. 

Through the eyes of a child was a real life hero… living right here in Fremont, Ohio.

While some drivers lined up their race cars to get them on the trailer and get out of there.  Brian was still there… no hurry… sleep could wait… there was more important business to do.

Brian isn’t the only driver doing this. There are others. 

They all realize that the most important aspect of building a fan base sometimes takes place before and after the race itself.

Heroes emerge sometimes from the most unlikely of sources.  

It is no secret that I am a racing fan.  I have a special place in my heart for sprint car racing and it was instilled in me at a young age.  

I know this to be true… because my hero found me more than 40 years earlier at the same little dirt race track in Fremont, Ohio.

His name was Harold “Mac” MHaroldMcGiltoncGilton.

For those that don’t remember him, Harold may be just another name in the record books, just another plaque on the wall.  To those of us that remember him, he’s a legend, a hometown hero, a sprint car racer and a cherished memory.

I first met Harold McGilton in the early 1970’s. I think I was about 11 or 12 years old at the time. It was a chance meeting and though it was a long time ago…I remember it like yesterday.  I watched him drive his sprint car full speed into the corners of that wonderful dirt track in Fremont, Ohio and slide through the turn and then fly down the straight-a-way passing cars  and winning races.  In my mind, Harold never lost a race… there were just times he didn’t win.  However, when  Harold would win his race.. he  just didn’t win, he beat the other drivers. 

Har carAs a young boy, when I rode my bicycle, I imagined that I was Harold making the heroic and dangerous pass on that final turn to win the race.  And when I played with my “Matchbox” cars…I had a special car that was “Harold’s” car.  It NEVER lost a race. I am sure there were times when in my mind, I was more Harold McGilton than the real deal.  I am also sure that his family had a different perspective of Harold and his life as a hero.  After all he was human… just not in my eyes.

Harold McGilton
Harold McGilton

Harold McGilton had no way of knowing that when he stopped what he was doing after a race all those years ago and took the time shake my hand  on that July evening, at the Fremont Speedway, he would have had such an influence on a young boy from Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Harold never knew my name, nor did we ever talk to each other since that first night I met him.  However, Harold “Mac Attack” McGilton had a tremendous influence on me during those early years. He just never knew it.   He was larger than life to me and I idolized him and when he passed away a few years ago, I cried.

Tonight as I sit at my desk, I imagine I hear the roar of the engines of the sprint cars as they fly around the track just a few blocks from my home.  As I imagine each lap as the cars go around, I wonder if there is another young fan in the stands watching their favorite driver take their car into a 100 MPH slide through the corners of the Fremont Speedway.  Much like I was in the early ’70’s,  I came to the track one night a young fan of the races and little did I know that I would leave a few hours later with a hero in my life that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.

Brian Smith understands this… he too has heroes. He was influenced by many drivers over the years and shows honor and respect for those he looked up to all those years ago. In addition, his grandfather and father were racers that planted a seed in him that he passes on each week to each child he talks to.

I have said this many times, in my life, I have traveled around the world. I have met a number a professional athletes, politicians and famous people over the years. I have even had the honor of meeting two U.S. Presidents and shaking their hands.  All of these people would be considered heroes for many people, but not for me.  I did not have to travel all around the world to find a hero.   He found me at a little dirt track in Fremont, Ohio.

For those of you that say that there are no real heroes in life. 

I say you just don’t know where to look.

Come out and bring your children to Fremont Speedway on a Saturday night and I know where you just might find one.

Scars Earned Along the Path of Forgiveness

I have a scar on my leg.  I earned that scar.  I was awarded the permanent reminder when I was about ten years old.  I was riding my bike with reckless abandon on the rough and rocky alleyway behind my house in Oak Harbor, Ohio.   In my mind, I was my favorite driver, Harold McGilton.   Driving a race car at Fremont Speedway and I was on the last turn, of the last lap getting ready to pass Jim Linder to win the race.  I had been there before.  I had made that pass a hundred times a day in my mind on that rocky road. Then the unthinkable happened, I lost control and suddenly I was thrown from the bike, flying through the air.  I landed on the sharp, jagged pieces of stone and rocks that paved that gravel road.

Besides a few scrapes and bruises, I had one nasty cut on my leg.  Nothing that needed anything more than some tender loving care from my mother and a good band-aid.  However,  I carry a scar on my leg to this very day.  Every so often, I look at it and it reminds me of a different time, a time of innocence and wonder.  I also look at it to remind me that this was a result of thinking I was invincible and over-confident in my abilities.  It was the start of a lesson that I have learned over the years.  I have learned that almost all the scars I carry on my body were the result of my own doing.  So when I use the term “earned”, I do not use that word as a way of indicating that I am proud of them.  I use that word, in short, to say, I am to blame for the damage done to my body.   I deserved them.

The same can be said of the scars I carry in my heart and in my spiritual life.  Those scars are mostly self-inflicted.  I “earned” them as well.   The result of losing focus and being over-confident in my own abilities.  Yes, my scars, physical or spiritual are almost all the result of my own doing.   Permanent reminders of my failures.

The physical body is very resilient.   With some tender loving care from your mother, a good dose of Neosporin and good band-aid most cuts, bruises and scrapes will disappear.  Nothing permanent except for a bad memory.  Unfortunately, in some situations, physical scars will remain.  The cut was just too deep or too wide for the tender care of your mother and the extra dose of medicine to take care of it.  Those scars will remain.   For the most part, over time, those same scars will fade and at times they are hard to see.

The spiritual body is not so resilient.  The self-inflicted scars that we incur on our spiritual body cannot be fixed by a band-aid and a heavy dose of Neosporin.   All of the bumps, scrapes, bruises, and cuts we experience in our spiritual life can indeed be fixed by the tender loving care of our God and the heavy dose of forgiveness that He provides.   When we ask God to forgive us for our sin and our transgressions, He does just that.  He forgives and He heals.  He no longer sees the scars of our spiritual life.  They are covered with forgiveness and love.

However,  the scars that God no longer sees are still in clear view for those around us on this earth.  Most times the only time I am reminded of the scars of my spiritual life is when other Christian’s point them out to me.  Which has happened more times than I care to remember.  God is faithful to always truly forgive, man is not.  It has been my experience that most Christian’s never really forgive other believers for the failures in their life.  It has been said that Christian’s are the only one to shoot and kill their own when someone fails in their spiritual walk.

This week I was reading from Matthew 18:21-35.     I  have read this passage many times over the years.  I never really ever got past the “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me? How many times shall I forgive him? Seven times? and the Lord said, “I do not say to you seven times…but seventy times seven.”

But this week was different…I continued to read and really for the first time, I saw something I have never really paid attention to.   As I continued to read the parable that Jesus told about a servant who had an extraordinary debt to pay his master.  There was no way this servant was going to be able to repay that debt.   The master was forced to consider selling the servant, his wife, his kids, and all his stuff to help pay off what debt the servant owed.

This servant was pretty much in deep trouble, and he knew it.  He broke down, pleading with his master to have mercy and to have patience with him, and the master “took pity on the servant, canceled the debt, and let him go.”

But almost immediately, that servant went out, found his own servant who owed him money, and demanded that it be repaid. That servant, too, pleaded for mercy and asked for patience, except that the servant who had been forgiven DID NOT grant him forgiveness; instead, the servant threw his servant into prison until he could pay the debt.

Word got back to the master that the servant he “forgave” did not pass on the same forgiveness that was granted, and the master wasn’t happy.   He was so angry in fact, that he took back the forgiveness that he had given to that servant… “In anger, his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” Then Jesus offers these heavy words: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

The message made me feel guilty.  That’s right…GUILTY.  That’s exactly what it should have done.

A long time ago, I was in the ministry.  I was an ordained minister, but I was not a pastor.  I believe that a man is “called” to be a pastor.  I never felt that “call” from the Lord to be a pastor.  But I was in the ministry as a Christian School Administrator and I loved the opportunity to teach from God’s Word when given the chance. I was in full-time service for over 12 years.  

I made a choice to resign from my ministry and change my path.  I simply walked away. To this day, I knew it was what I needed to do. People were not so accepting of it. Surely there had to be a scandal in there somewhere. For me, I just could not shake the feeling of failure when it came to my ministry. 

For those of you read this post that may remember that time in my life, I am sorry to disappoint you.  Regardless of what you may believe or may have heard, the stories and rumors are not true.  I admit I wasn’t perfect, but I did not leave the ministry because of affairs or inappropriate behavior, drug addiction or drinking were not my problems. God knows the truth and I will be accountable for my actions.  I guess because I did not give a speech about why I was resigning, led to the rumors. At the time, I chose not to defend myself, I became a bigger target. I regret that today.

I shut down and kept everyone and everything at a very safe distance.  There was a period of time, that besides going to work, I would not go out so that I would not (by chance) run into anyone I knew.  I simply withdrew and disappeared from the life I had known.  No one noticed.

Years passed.

They say time changes everything.   I guess in a way it does.  Slowly things got better.   I  started a new career in business management and have been working for a very successful company for over 20 years.

In 2009, two of my closest friends died and I  experienced some serious health issues.  It was time to settle some things in my head and in my heart.  I  knew I could not change the past.  I knew that there would always be permanent scars that would be a constant reminder of me resigning my ministry.  But it was time to get on with life and finally put the burden that I had been carrying for a long, long time down.   After a lot of prayers, I finally forgave myself and I have asked God to forgive me as well.  I now have comfort in knowing that He has forgiven me. But I can’t help but feel that there is something more to be said about the idea – the reality – of forgiveness.

I am learning that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily make things all better.When we are forgiven by God, it cancels our sin debt.  True.  But does it restore us to a full right relationship?   I don’t think so.   I understand that because I was a leader in the church, my failure was more profound.  My failure was public and when a leader falls there is more public scrutiny than if I had been an occasional or non-church goer.  The standard upon which you are held is higher because of the position in the church.  I get it…” to much is given, much is required”. I think that’s reflective of the way my Christian life is now: I am forgiven by God and forgiven fully.  I have that guarantee.  But I recognize that all is not well.

My life wasn’t made ‘all better’ when I  forgave myself or when I was forgiven by God.  People around me, brothers and sister’s in Christ are still dealing with me as a failed man.  Many of them to this very day have not forgiven me. I have men who are serving as pastors, deacons, and leaders in their respective churches that still will not talk to me to this very day.  I have tried to re-establish relationships with those who were my friends all those years ago and for the most part, it has been to no avail. There is tension. There is pain.  There are scars.   Forgiveness is not a band-aid you slap on an open wound.  And though forgiveness is something profound, it is not everything. Healing is a broader process in which forgiveness is a stage.

I mentioned earlier that the message from the parable made me feel guilty. Here is why.  I have to be honest and say that I struggle with my pride.  I still struggle with bitterness towards those that turned their back on me.  I want to convince myself that they are not worth it.  If they don’t offer forgiveness then maybe I should just let God deal with them when they have to face Him in eternity.  But in my heart, I know that I will not truly be free from this burden until I forgive them for the things I feel that they have done unfairly towards me.

My hope is that one day I can be restored and accepted so that I can begin to be used by God again.  If healing is the broader process in which forgiveness is a stage, then I am asking for forgiveness and giving forgiveness so that the healing may begin soon. I have something left to give. I long to teach a Sunday School class again.  But that is up to God’s timing.

Spiritual scars… I will always have them.  Some have faded with time, most still are as deep and evident as the day I earned them. But after a long journey on the path of forgiveness,  finally, I am at peace knowing that when God looks at me, He doesn’t see those scars anymore.