Tag: Ohio

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://i1.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.

 

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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://i2.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. Image result for WIOT

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 blared 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.png?w=246&h=202shared 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://i2.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.jpg?w=1108sweetness 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.

Influence

For most of us who live in Northwest Ohio, it really isn’t that big a deal.  We are used to it.  Every opportunity we have… we carefully plan our escape.  We can’t wait to get away from here because we are bored and think there is nothing to do.  So we plan expensive vacations to visit the Navy Pier and other sites of Chicago, Times Square and Ground Zero in New York City and the Disney machine and beaches of Florida.  These and many other sites of destination are all in our dreams and in our plans to escape the confines of Northwest, Ohio.   However, we fail to realize is that when we make the trek to our planned destination East, West , North or South, we are passing thousands of other people who are heading our way.  Coming to the great place of Northwest Ohio.   Like it or not, we are in a place where thousands come for vacation.   For many people,  Cedar Point, Kalahari Water Resort, Put-in-Bay and South Bass Island of Lake Erie and other attractions make this  the “Vacation Land” of  the mid-west.  Boating, fishing, good food, shows, music and thrill rides….everything you could want for distraction and entertainment.  It truly is an amazing place.  Those of us that live here forget that.

A few weeks ago my wife and I were in Sandusky, Ohio.  We were doing some shopping and we were heading to the Mall.  Now the stretch of road that we have to drive from the expressway to the Mall normally takes us about 2  1/2 minutes in the winter.  In these early days of summer and the vacation season, it took us just under 25 minutes to travel the same distance.  Traffic is horrible and if you pull off to one of the many strip malls along the way it is almost impossible to get back onto the road again.  It is a frustration but one I am willing to put up with because I know that this is good for our economy.  All the hotels are booked and these visitors are pumping dollars into Northwest Ohio.  This is a good thing.

On our journey to the Mall, we decided to stop off at Cold Stone Creamery.  It is a treat we do not normally do, but I had received a gift card and the timing was perfect.  So we pulled off the road and into the strip mall.  After we finished our ice cream, we got back into our van and pulled up to get back on the road to the Mall.   Passing by us, as we looked for an opportunity to break into the long line of traffic, are thousands of others.  Old and young from all over the country. All gathered to see this amazing place and rest or play for a few days.  We sat there for a while trying to take our chance and get moving down the road again.

As I am watching all these people pass us by, I start to wonder about them.  Where are they from? What are their lives like?

I realize that as we move through each day a bit of us is left behind in the lives of those we encounter. We can either leave a smile or a frown on the face we encounter.  We can find a new friend or someone who wishes we would just go away.  Moment by moment and day by day we leave bits of our lives in our wake as we encounter other lives.  What follows in our wake?  What memory did we leave?  How did we touch that life?  What did we leave behind?

As a man who is part of a greater kingdom I often think about these things.  I’m representing what God has done in my life  as I leave bits of my life behind each encounter with another person.  Have I drawn them closer to the kingdom of God or pushed them away?   I have heard it said that many times people don’t reject Jesus Christ.  They reject the Jesus Christ they see in you.  As I apply that to my life, I am challenged to have my walk through life be an example of what God has done in my life.  I want to leave a trail of encounters that touch other lives in a positive way.

I wonder, do you realize the impact you make in the lives of those you meet?   Do you walk as citizens of the kingdom of God in a way that draws others to Christ or pushes them away? 

This is the challenge for you and I today…

“For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you.”                                                                           John 13:15

 

Save Me A Seat – My Tribute to Steve Schueren

I sat in the back of the bus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Updated on January 11, 2012)

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

 

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

I look forward to taking him up on that invitation.

Fairy Dust and Getting My Act Together

I got hit right in the mouth.

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

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

It got my attention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does that sound familiar?  Have you told yourself that?

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

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

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

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

Every Breath is a Second Chance

Have you ever considered the possibility that with every breath you take is a second chance?  I would like to share a story of how this was made a reality in my life.  I have never talked about this before.  To be honest, I am struggling with telling this story because I do not want the “event” to overshadow the “point” I am trying to make.   But here goes…

Years ago, I was having lunch at Bob Evan’s with a few of my friends.  We were talking and laughing and just having a good time.  As we were getting ready to go, I looked up and noticed that a woman sitting at the table next to ours had a very strange look on her face.  Even the people sitting at her table did not seem to notice her appearance.  Suddenly she stood up.  No words.  No noise.  Just silence.  She then started to wave her arms to get the attention of those sitting at her table.  No one noticed.

I am not sure what it was that made me react.  I have never had formal training in performing the Heimlich maneuver,  just what I had read on a chart at work. The only thing I knew was that she was choking and no one was doing anything about it.  I got up from my table and ran over to the now frantic woman.  I spun her around and I threw my arms around her.  I squeezed.  Whatever was lodged in her throat shot out of her mouth and I heard her take a very loud gasp of fresh air.   Within seconds the color came back to her face and although shook up by the whole event, she sat down at her table.  The look of panic on her face was now replaced with a look of disbelief.  That was the same look that was on my face as I turned around to head back to my group of friends.  No words were spoken. Everyone around us was silent.  It was if we all were in denial that what had just happened was real. We all were in shock that the event took place that I just picked up my coat and bill and made my way to the cash register.

This happened so quickly that some of my friends who I had lunch with did not see it.  I do not know how long the woman had been choking but for me the whole event was a mere 15 to 20 seconds long.  It was so surreal that it was like I was just a robot and I was just doing what I had been programmed to do.  All I knew was that for some reason, I just wanted to get out of there.

As I got to the cash register,  the manger came over and  took my bill.   He wanted to get my name and I was telling him that was not necessary.  I did not want to make it into a big deal and I was just glad that she was okay.  I then felt a tap on my shoulder.  I spun around to see who it was and it was the woman who had just been choking a few minutes earlier.   Our eyes met and she was trying to come up with words to say.  As tears filled her eyes, the only words that she could mouth were, “thank you” and she started to sob.  I did not know what to do.  I looked at her and said, “It’s okay, we all need second chances”.

I don’t know why I said that.  It just came out of my mouth.  Much like the whole event.  No plan or preparation… just a reaction.  I hurriedly left the restaurant and I never gave my name nor did I know hers.

I have never talked about it with anyone.  I am no hero nor do I ever want to get recognition for the deal.  I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

Who doesn’t like second chances? We all can think of times in our lives that we would like to have a chance to start over.  Don’t you wish there was a big red “DO OVER” button that we could push whenever we messed up?  If you are like me, the button would get worn out because of the number of times it would need to get pushed to cover all of my mistakes.  But truthfully, that would be nothing but selfish. It probably would be better if I had a “Do Over” button that I could push for the people in my life.  When they messed up I could push the button and they would be granted another chance.  We all like to have our faults overlooked, we’re not so good at overlooking (or forgiving) the faults of others.  Why is it that we think everyone else should get what they really deserve, but we should be given a break?  Why is it that it’s okay for us to take a mulligan, but we get irritated with others who do?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that this random, chance meeting of two people in a Bob Evan’s restaurant in Toledo, Ohio has made me a better person. It has allowed me to consider the fact that God’s entire kingdom is built around Second Chances.  He gives us breaks, forgives our sins, moves us into a different future…and this to people who have blown it again and again.

So consider this,  for every breath you take…you get a second chance.  A chance to get it right.  Another chance to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. A chance to forgive and be forgiven.  Another chance to say “I love you” to those that need to hear you say it.  A chance to “right a wrong”.  With each breath you take, you have a chance to change your life forever.

Sometimes I wonder what that woman did with her second chance.  Did she “right some wrongs” in her life?  Did she love her husband more?  Hug her kids a little tighter?  Did she have or start a better relationship with God?  Did she tell the people in her life that she loved them more often? Did she become a better person?  I do not dwell on these questions because I will never know the answers to them.

What I now realize in my life, is that when our paths crossed on that fateful day, I was a bitter person. I blamed everyone else for the problems in my life.  I was a hateful, angry person that took out his frustrations on people who did not deserve my wrath.  I had carried this angry, bitter, unforgiving attitude for years.  That day was the beginning of change in my life.

I am not sure if that woman made any life changing decisions as a result of this experience.  Maybe for her it is just a story to tell her children.  For me, I cannot help but think that maybe the second chance that was given by God that day wasn’t intended for her at all.

It was for me.