Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Letter to My Dad (Father's Day 2017)


I’ve always thought of myself as a good writer.  A good story teller.  Someone who isn’t afraid to share his feelings and who can usually find plenty of descriptive words to say exactly how he feels.  I’ve also known for a very long time that I choose to say in a thousand words what a few words could easily convey.  But despite all of that, I find myself struggling with what I want to say to you today.  The truth is that I’ve never really been able to tell you how much you mean to me.

And so it is today that I find myself overwhelmed with emotion.  You see, Father’s Day is just a few days away and the reality is that you have dementia that is day by excruciating day pulling you farther and farther away.  And I’m just not sure how many more moments I have to say all the things that I’ve spent a lifetime not saying to you.

There are so many moments - so many memories - that I wish we could talk about.  I wish we could talk again as old friends do about memories shared both good and bad.  I wish we could talk a little more of the experiences of life that we encountered together that seemed so simple at the time but looking back are incredibly profound and deep.

If I had another moment, if I could do it again I would tell you that you were this little boy’s hero.  I still have the tiny red t-shirt that I wore as an 8-year-old boy who beamed with pride because, “My daddy is a paratrooper!”  In my mind’s eye I can still see you standing tall and proud, smiling, in the uniform you wore serving our country.  One of my fondest memories as a teenager was watching you drill and prepare to become a Jumpmaster in the 82nd Airborne.  In those moments on the cusp of becoming a man I was still a little boy proud of his paratrooper daddy.

If I had another moment, if I could do it again I would tell you that so many of the things that I love I learned to love because you first loved them.  I stand in awe of the beauty of the mountains because I saw my daddy experience that awe too.  I am captivated by the power of a thunderstorm because my daddy was mesmerized by them too.  I get lost staring into the night sky at stars that seem so close yet so far away because I first saw them standing as a little boy next to his star-gazing daddy.  I learned to love the art of making others laugh because I laughed so hard when my daddy made people laugh too.  I learned to love God because I first saw my daddy love him too.

If I had another moment, if I could do it again I would tell you that I will never forget the time when mom had finally had enough with Donald and I not cleaning our room.  I was barely ten when you decided to teach us how to keep our room “Army clean.”  You showed us how our beds should be made neatly and snug enough for a quarter to bounce because that’s how you did it with your men.  But you learned almost immediately that that’s not how it’s done with little boys.  That quarter never did bounce.  The trashcan was never empty.  And our laundry never made it all the way to the hamper.  But that was okay.  I think we all learned that little boys don’t make great soldiers but they sure make great sons.

If I had another moment, if I could do it again I would tell you that I will never forget the time when you and I were driving alone in the car singing.  It’s always been the family joke that you can’t carry a tune in a bucket even with a lid on it.  That day we were both singing off key and this little 11-year-old boy grew sad because he couldn’t sing like momma could.  You told me it was okay and that we could just be an off-key singing duo.  In the years to come when I first learned that I really could sing I hid that first moment in my heart and have always been just a little sad that I broke up our duo.  As I grew older and would sit at the piano and sing you would always tell me that I should stop singing all those love songs to all those girls because I could sing so much better when I was singing about God.  Daddy, I wish so much that I could sit and sing again with the man who listened that closely back then.

If I had another moment, if I could do it again I would tell you that I miss playing games with you.  I learned to play video games playing with you on the Atari as a little boy.  I learned to throw a football, to shoot a basketball, to swing a bat and catch a ball because I did those things with you.  When I was young there were times that you’d let me win because you didn’t want me to lose heart; when we grew older there were times that I’d let you win because I didn’t want you to lose heart either. 

If I had another moment, if I could do it again I would tell you that I’ll never forget the moment as a teenager that a girl broke my heart.  You weren’t ever really a ‘touchy-feely’ kind of guy – in fact I was a young man before I ever remember you crying in front of me.  And that’s okay.  But I’ll never forget that day, that moment.  You sat down beside me, put your arm around me, and pulled me close and just held me.  You let me cry a little while and then you began to pray for your not-so-little-anymore boy.  You told me it was going to hurt a while; you were right.  You told me it would get better; you were right.  You told me there would be other loves and other tears; you were right.  But you told me that I could always count on the fact that mom and dad love me and that God loves me too.  Daddy, you were right about that as well.

If I had another moment, if I could do it again I would tell you that I’ll never forget the moments when I thought I almost lost you.  I was just a little boy when you choked on something.  You clutched your throat in panic.  My heart stopped.  Mom screamed.  And someone nearby jumped into action and grabbed you and squeezed the food out of you and the breath back into you.  I followed you around for days terrified that I would lose you.  Years later as a teenager I begged God to give you my heart while your heart was being cut in surgery because I was terrified that I would lose you.  Daddy, is it okay that even though I’m 45, I’m still a little boy terrified that I’m losing you?

I long for more time.  I hope for more moments of clarity.  I pray for chances to reminisce.  But even if I never get another moment to do it again, even if there’s never another chance to say all the things that I didn’t say; I’ll carry these memories and a thousand more with me all the days of my life.  The silly ones and the scary.  The monumental ones as well as the mundane.  Every moment and every memory.  When you can’t remember anymore I’ll memorialize them for the both of us.

If I had I had another moment, if I could do it again I would say thank you for being this little boy’s daddy.  I love you dad.

Forever your fan and always your son,


Saturday, May 13, 2017

I'm Still Here

I’m still here.  That seems to be the defining mantra of my life.  I’m still here.  I didn’t think I would make it through the night; but I’m still here.  Through surgeries and through heartbreaks.  Through tears.  Through frustration.  Through gain and through loss.  Through metaphorical nights that lasted for days.  Through the nightmares of endless nights that were all too real and all too long.  The dawn is breaking and I’m still here.

There was a time when I wished that there was something more poetically victorious for me to say.  I wished there could be more shouting and more singing and more dancing and more rejoicing.  I’ve longed for those times but for now I’m just content with picking myself up off the ground and saying with a battered resilience, “I’m still here.”

We’ve seen it told in the stories we love to hear.  In movies and books.  In fairy tales and legends.  The underdog is beaten down and left lying defeated on the ground.  The victor turns his back on the vanquished and arrogantly walks away.  All is lost and the story is almost over.  But then over the shoulder of the bully, we see that the bruised body of the beaten has slowly risen up.  And then we know the battle isn’t over.  We realize that there’s more to the story.  The phoenix has risen.  And if we could lean in we just might hear him whisper, “I’m still here.”

I’ve taken my share of beatings.  I’ve endured my fair share of disappointments.  I’ve watched more than one bully walk away while the bleeding heap of my hopes and dreams lay broken on the ground.  I’ve cried for mercy.  I’ve wept and grieved the loss of so much in my life.  I’ve been left scarred physically and emotionally.  But the bully underestimated me then and he has underestimated me now.  The phoenix is rising.  I’m shaking but I’m standing.  I’m still here.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

I Think I'll Believe

Faith is a difficult thing for me. Faith in the unseen in the face of the unknown comes very slowly for me. I get frustrated when what I've prayed and hoped for hesitates in coming. I want to give up. I want to throw in the towel. I want to but I can't give up just yet. 

As I write these words today I realize that I so understand Peter's rhetorical question to Jesus when he said (in John 6:68), "Where else can we go?"  When others ran away and the situation seemed confusing as Jesus spoke of things they couldn't yet grasp, Peter realized that staying was easier than going and that believing was easier than doubting. 

There are days, there are moments when I really want to give up but what else is there for me to do?  Do I give up on the possible in the face of what I believe to be the improbable?  Do I turn the energy and effort I draw on to walk in faith into energy that cultivates negativity and doubt? Do I work to feed belief or do I work to nurture unbelief?

Oh yeah, you may not realize it but it takes work to be skeptical. It's exhausting to always see things as hopeless and to live defeated and dejected.  It saps away energy that could be used for more positive ventures to let our minds walk in the dark back alleys of fear and worry.  It's without a doubt overwhelming to see only roadblocks, to dream only nightmares, and to live our lives under the misconception that life isn't really even worth living. 

Yep, it's hard work being hopeful but it's even harder being miserable - I know because I've tried!  Faith requires work but so does doubt and worry.  And it's in the middle of the dynamic tension caused when belief collides with unbelief that I've found myself asking God a question. "What else is there for me to do?"

I think I'll just believe. 

P.S. It occurs to me that a thirsty man doesn't care to argue whether the glass is half empty or half full. He's just happy to have a drink. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I Still Have Something to Say

"It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me."  Daniel 4:2

I still have something to say.  Or at least that's what my faith propels me to proclaim.  That's my declaration of hope when it seems that everything points to the contrary.  I simply must believe that I have more to say.

Even when it seems that the heavens are brass to my prayers – I still have something to say.

Even when there’s not a pulpit or microphone or even a congregation to hear it – I still have something to say.

Even when sickness and disease sap life, energy, strength, and ability from my body – I still have something to say.

Even when relationally there’s no one who wants to listen – I still have something to say.

I still have something to give.  My life experience hasn’t been for nothing.  My ministry experience hasn’t been a waste.  My triumphs and failures, my joy and my heartache, my ups and my downs have produced a gift yet shared with a voice still to be heard.

I still have something to give.  To the kingdom of God and the body of Christ.  To my family both near and far.  To my friends.  To those I’ve met and to those with names yet to be learned.  I still have something to give.

I simply have to believe it.  It’s all that I hold on to at times.  It’s the hope that keeps me going.  I cling to the promise that’s found in the Bible in I Peter 1:6-7, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

I still have something to say.  My failures have given me a perspective that only I can share.  My wounds have produced insight that I’m uniquely qualified to give.  My journey has instilled an overcomer’s song that only I can sing.  My story isn’t over – there’s still so much to be written and so much left to tell.

I still have something to say.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Life with Diabetic Neuropathy

I’m 43 years old and I have diabetic neuropathy. 

I’m 43 years old and I walk with a cane. The diabetic neuropathy has robbed me of the sensation in my lower legs below my knees, my feet, and my toes. It dramatically alters my sense of balance. I can barely walk more than a very short distance without resting and I certainly will never run again. Falling is a regular occurrence. Stairs are a nightmare; I’ve managed to fall up AND down them many times. Gone are the days of church softball leagues and touch football games on Saturday afternoons. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy.

I’m 43 years old and I can barely dress myself. My wife and daughters tie and untie my shoes and button and unbutton my shirts for me. The diabetic neuropathy has robbed me of the sensation in both of my hands so it’s incredibly difficult and painful to do even the most mundane of tasks with my hands and fingers. My strength is limited. I can’t open a jar of pickles – one of my favorite late night snacks. I can’t clip my own toenails. I can’t write or type for more than just a few moments at a time. I’ve played the piano much of my life and now I rarely am able to play as it’s just too painful and nearly impossible to play with precision. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy.

I’m 43 years old and I can’t work anymore. I’ve been very active and have worked hard to care for myself and my family all of my life. But now my entire day is filled with incredible pain. I stumble instead of walking. I fall instead of standing. I drop what I should be holding. Burning. Stinging. Aching. Stabbing. Exhausting. Overwhelming. It’s hard to work when these are the descriptive words I use now throughout my day. I’m completely dependent on the support of others. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy. 

I’m 43 years old and my life is filled with doctors’ visits. There are trips to the family doctor. The endocrinologist. The neurologist. The podiatrist. The ophthalmologist. There’s now an ear, nose, and throat specialist because the neuropathy has now progressed far enough and is severe enough that it is affecting my hearing. I’m also about to add a new doctor to the list: A urologist as it seems the neuropathy is beginning to affect my bladder. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy. 

I’m 43 years old and I’m a walking pharmacy. It seems every other moment throughout the day I’m pricking my finger to check my blood sugar, stabbing my side with one of the six doses of insulin I require, or taking one of the dozen different daily pills I take to control my diabetes and to limit (often unsuccessfully) the pain and discomfort from my nerve pain. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy. 

I’m 43 years old and my life is filled with an endless list of “I’ll Never's”. I’ll never run with my daughters through a field while flying a kite. I’ll never play tag with them or chase our puppy with them. I’ll never hear them giggle as I lift them up over my shoulders as far as I can reach. I’ll never play softball or golf again. I’ll never enjoy a walk without the fear of falling. I’ll never run. I’ll never climb. I’ll never throw and I’ll never catch. And it’s all because of diabetic neuropathy.

I'm 43 years old and I smile through the misery because that's what people need from me. I laugh for others when my body is screaming in pain. I do my best to pretend everything is going to be okay when the reality is I know it won't be. The only certainty is that it will get worse. Only my family knows the depth of my suffering. And I'm not sure that even they can know what it’s like to be me. And it's all because of diabetic neuropathy.

I’m 43 years old and can’t imagine living another 43 years like this. Dear God, please don’t let me live that long. I’m 43 years old and I have diabetic neuropathy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How Can You Move Mountains When You're Tripping Over Pebbles?

"Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23 (NIV).

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? I’ve heard all of my life that if I’d only believe, my faith could move mountains. But how do you move mountains when you’re tripping over pebbles? The truth of the situation is, at least for me in my experience, that sometimes the big faith comes easily while the little things cause such faithless uncertainty. 

Let me explain. You see it's never really been the demons that frightened me. It's not been death and disease that have staggered me. I've never had trouble getting out of the boat and walking on water. But sometimes it seems like I sure can't get out of my own head. I’m learning that the bold proclamations of faith can sometimes come too easily. Unfortunately, it's the honest confessions of confusion and struggle that we don't often share that come with such difficulty. What do I mean?

We proclaim, “I am more than a conqueror through Christ,” when we really want to say, “It seems like this struggle will never end.” We lift our chin and stick out our chest and say with confidence that, “No weapon fashioned against us shall prosper!” when the truth is we want to weep and say, “I don't think I can take even one more blow.” We sing “Love Lifted Me” while we are really drowning. We rejoice and know that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God,” all the while struggling because life is kicking us in the teeth right now. 

I’m learning something about the duality of our condition as believers. We are flesh and spirit. That’s not a bad thing. It’s the way we were created by a tender and loving God who is also just a bit wiser than any of us are in this life. We are flesh and we are spirit – together at the same time. And out of that duality often flows two realities. 

He's my healer - I know that to be true. But I'm also diabetic - I know that to be just as true. He rescued me but I sure am lost right now. Yes, I'm a citizen of heaven but I'm also living in a hell on earth - I'm meant for the palace but right now I'm stuck in the reality of the pig-pen-like pit. All too often we are stuck functioning in only one reality and the ignored truth of the other reality becomes a pebble that we keep tripping over. 

The sad thing is that the duality of our reality often makes us wear a mask. We are “Composed Christian” on the outside and “Broken Believer” on the inside. The Christian community around us, our friends and our family, often make us feel as if we must be Super Christian at all times and so we hide the truth of the other reality that we all carry with us at all times. We rarely are faster than a speeding bullet. Hardly ever are we more powerful than a locomotive. And I don’t know that we will ever leap tall buildings in a single bound. 

So, what’s the answer? How do we move mountains and pebbles at the same time? First, we have to take the masks off. That’s the single most frightening part to many of us. If we take off our masks people might actually see who we really are and they might judge us, ridicule us, or reject us. It’s overwhelmingly intimidating but we cannot truly walk in faith in both spirit AND flesh until we drop our guard, bring down the walls, and take off our masks.

The next step is simple. We embrace the duality of our reality. Please understand that this isn’t about the unstable double-minded ways of the man in the book of James (we’re not talking about temptation and sinful things). It’s about accepting the fact that God chose to allow us to live this way. We aren’t the first faith-filled people to have to face the duality of our reality. Take a look at the book of Psalms. Look past the poetry and the melody. Did you know that only about 30 percent of the Psalms are songs and writings about praise, worship, and thanksgiving? What about the other 70 percent? Those are what we call songs of lament. They are words written by hearts who were worshipping through their wounds; words written by hearts lost in the wilderness of life. They embraced the duality of their reality. If you don’t believe me take the time to read Psalms 22.

The last thing that I think we need to do is choose which reality will be the one that defines us. I’m convinced that we must remove our masks and live somewhat honestly and transparently (even if it’s only with those closest to us). I’m equally certain that we must embrace the duality of our reality – that we are both spirit and flesh – and find balance and beauty in that duality. But I’m also confident that we must decide which truth will be the truth that is our testimony. Will you worship in your wounded wilderness or will your wounded wilderness rob you of your worship? 

Lest you think my premise is silly and lacking in Biblical foundation, let me share with you the words of the Apostle Paul, a man who continually wrestled with the duality of his reality, in II Corinthians 12. “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So how do you move mountains when you are tripping over pebbles? Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you can’t. That’s one reality. But the other reality is pretty sweet; you know Someone who can. And so let yourself off the hook. Cut yourself some slack. Embrace the duality of your reality and move on.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Believe in Magic

I have a confession to make.  I believe in magic.  There.  I've said it.  I believe in magic.  No, I’m not talking about witchcraft, spells, and potions; nor the conjuring incantations and hexes that fill our hearts and minds with fear.  But, yes, I do believe in magic.

I believe in the magic of a pregnant possibility; you might call that hope.  I believe in the magic of a dream dreamt just before dawn – you might call that a fairy tale.  I believe in the magic of a playful tickle and the magic of a tender touch.  I believe in the magic of a sensuous kiss and the magic of a meaningful glance.  I believe in the magic that lives in the comforting relationships of our lives and explodes in the whimsy of our hearts and minds. 
  • I believe in the magic of friendship even when I can’t find it.
  • I believe in the magic of love even when it hurts unimaginably.
  • I believe in the magic of laughter even when I am crying.
  • I believe in the magic of sunshine even when I’m standing in the rain.
  • I believe in the magic of spring even while I’m gripped by the icy chill of winter.
  • I believe in the magic of morning even when it seems the darkness of night will never fade.
There was a time that I would simply tell you that I’m just a kid at heart.  And there was a time that the simplicity of that statement was true.  But it’s not anymore.  I’m all grown up – inside and out.  Life will do that to you, you know?  Heartache has a way of changing us.  Loss has a way of maturing us.  Sadness has a way of hardening us.  Failure has a way of jading us. 

The miles pass.  The moments tick by.  The experiences become less whimsical and all the more devastating.  And for a moment - just for a moment - life pushes you to the edge of despair.  And in that moment you have a decision to make.  Do you give up or do you believe?  And in the face of the gut-wrenching reality before you the only real thing to believe in is… You guessed it.  Magic.

Hope.  Dreams.  Faith.  Fairy tales.  Whether it’s a wish list written with child-like longing to Santa or prayers whispered in child-like faith to God.  I choose to believe.

Yes, I do believe that I believe in magic.  Do you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He's God - Even When I Don't Believe

The writer of Hebrews inspires us with the simplicity of faith with the words, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  We read on and learn that it is by faith that we are able to see that God created the heavens and the earth.  We learn that by faith our spiritual forefathers learned of God and that by faith they lived in a relationship with God.  

We learn that their faith sustained them.  We read of miracles.  We read of victories won and giants slain.  But we also come to know of the heartache and loss of the believers who hoped against hope for something better.  And we learn that “all of these were commended for their faith, yet none of these received what had been promised.”  We learn that faith can bring about mountaintop experiences and that faith can also leave us with the haunting shadows that come with passing through the valleys of our life.

It’s hard to stand on shifting sand,
It’s hard to shine in the shadows of the night.
You can’t be free if you don’t reach for help,
And you can’t love if you don’t love yourself.
But there is hope when my faith runs out,
‘Cause I’m in better hands now.

But what happens when faith runs out?  What happens when there is a cataclysmic collision where hope meets hopelessness and fear meets faith?  What happens when anticipation and expectation turn into heartache and despair?  I know that this all sounds a bit depressing and down but I implore you to stay with me just a bit longer.  I promise I’m headed somewhere positive. 

I’ve spent the past few years trying to figure out what happened to God when I needed Him most.  I’ve looked for lightning bolts.  I’ve hoped for help and holy thunder.  I’ve cried out for intervention and I’ve longed for rescue.  I hoped and I believed but nothing happened.  And now my faith has long been exhausted.  It feels as though my faith has been depleted and dried up like an ancient river that long ago ceased to exist.  

And so where does that leave God?  Is He a fairy like Tinker Bell that only exists because little children believe?  Is He like the Greek gods of legend that are only empowered by the prayers and petitions of the penitent?  Does He only live in great examples that are evidence of His power, majesty, and might?  I used to think so; but I’m learning more and more that the greatest demonstration of His existence is when it looks like He is doing nothing. 

I am strong all because of You,
I stand in awe of every mountain that You move.
For I am changed - yesterday is gone,
I am safe from this moment on.
There’s no fear when the night comes round,
I’m in better hands now.

I’m learning that God is God whether I believe it or not.  I’m learning that when I stop looking for lightning and when I stop listening for thunder that it is then, and only then, that I can best hear His voice.  Many years ago I shared during a sermon that, more times than not, God chooses to take us through something rather than around it.  My insides flip over and do jumping-jacks as I type those words today because I’m learning that His power is best demonstrated by letting me experience Him through my situation.  His power and His deliverance would impress me.  And certainly His touch would make all of this easier.  But truthfully, it would not change me.  And that’s what I need most.  I want to be rescued but what I need more is to be transformed.  It’s true that I don’t want to suffer but it’s also true that I don’t want to live another moment of this life without letting Him be what He already is; He is, in spite of me, still God.

It’s like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down,
It’s like my soul is flying though my feet are on the ground;
So take this heart of mine, there’s no doubt,
I’m in better hands now.

I don’t understand things any better today than I did yesterday.  My scars are still fresh.  My heart still hurts.  My failure still stings and my dreams still haunt me.  But with or without my faith, He is still God.  And as I let that simple truth take root in my spirit, I feel something so very small and tiny.  It’s about the size of a mustard seed.  And if that teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy, ever-so-fragile amount of faith can move mountains, then I think I’ll be okay.


The song lyrics sprinkled in my ramblings today are from the song, “In Better Hands” by Natalie Grant.  Those words as well as the words below from CS Lewis’s “The Boy and His Horse” have truly impacted me in incredible ways.   I hope they encourage you to know today that even when your faith runs out, He is still there.


Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. "There," it said, "that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows."

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, however so long it was since he had had anything to eat.

"I do not call you unfortunate," said the Large Voice.

"Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?" said Shasta.

"There was only one lion," said the Voice.

"What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and--"

"There was only one: but he was swift of foot."

"How do you know?"

"I was the lion." And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."

"Who are you?" asked Shasta.

"Myself," said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again "Myself", loud and clear and gay: and then the third time "Myself", whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round you as if the leaves rustled with it.

Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It Ain't Easy Being Me

I am quite certain that this may come as a complete surprise to many of you.  You probably don’t know it but I’m something of a quirky guy. I know, I know; you thought of me as calm, cool, and collected.  I’m sorry to turn the world upside down with this revelation, but:  I am not normal.  But I’m learning to be okay with that.

The truth is I have spent my life knowing that I’m a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.  I’ve always felt like I was an odd-ball or an outsider of sorts because I was different than everyone around me.  I’ve wanted so badly to fit in.  I’ve wanted so badly to be like everyone else.  I’ve wanted so badly to be the David that everyone says they needed.  I’ve wanted so badly to be loved for who I am.  And to some degree I was able to do a little of that for a little while; but I can’t keep it up anymore.

You see, my brain doesn’t work like everyone else.  I view things differently.  I experience things differently.  I value things differently.  I love deeper.  I soar higher.  I fall harder.  I hurt longer.  I laugh louder.  I cry more.  I think too much.  I rush in when I should hesitate and I hesitate when I should rush in.  I get it wrong more times than I get it right and I’ve lost more than I ever gained.  And, as you are learning right now, I am entirely too transparent at times.  But that’s who I am; shouldn’t that be okay?  Before you answer, let me give you a few examples of the chaos that is “Dave.”  

First of all, color matters.  No, I’m not talking about race and ethnicity.  I’m talking about M&M’s.  I spend the entire year avoiding M&M’s.  I just don’t care for them – except for during the Easter season.  I know you’re going to think I’m seriously off my rocker, but my brain is convinced that the pastel version of the sweet treat is so much better than the traditional colors.  I think they are milder tasting and are much more pleasing to my discerning palate.  Every year my wife and daughters buy me bags of pastel colored Easter M&M’s to enjoy because color really matters.

To understand me a bit better, you also need to know it’s all about pie.  No, I’m not talking about coconut cream, apple, or lemon meringue.  And I’m certainly not talking about the numerical value that makes mathematics tick.  I’m talking about pizza.  It simply drives me batty when pizza is cut like a square.  It seriously does.  I am quite certain that the manna from heaven was shaped like a slice of pie.  And what you may not know is that some ancient translations of the Bible tell us that when Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana, He also turned the square pizza slices into triangles.  Everyone should take this one thing away from this blog today:  Pizza tastes better when it is cut like a pie.

There’s another quirk that’s best summed up with these three words:  Lost in translation.  Yes I know that was the title of a hit movie in recent years.  But I’m not talking about movies.  I’m talking about the goofiness of my brain.  They say that when you turn a shark over on his back he goes into something of a coma.  I have that same response to anyone with an accent.  You are probably thinking I am making something simple significant to entertain you today.  That’s not true.  If you want to see me become catatonic, try to get me to order in an ethnic restaurant.  It won’t happen.  And it goes even further.  I want to travel to see ancient places around the world before I die.  I just have one caveat.  The native tongues of the places I visit have to be English.  It’s miraculous that I can even live today in the south as there are few accents harder to understand than hillbilly slang.  I truly am lost in translation.  

The story is told of an old west legend by the name of Wild Bill Hickok.  He was famous for a lot of things.  He lived hard and died even harder.  It was said that he would never sit with his back to the room or a door.  He had to sit where he could see everything.  He only made an exception once in his life.  And that was when the bullet entered the back of his head.  He didn’t make that mistake, or any other for that matter, again.  It’s one of my oddest quirks.  I’ve been laughed at and questioned more about this personality trait than any other.  I cannot sit with my back to people or my back to a door.  If you don’t believe me, invite me out to lunch and see.

I’ve tried to be lighthearted as I’ve shared today something that is so life altering to me.  Truthfully, it’s been an exhausting experience living my life knowing that people don’t value my quirks.  It’s heartbreaking to learn, time after time, that people don’t want to be in my life, or can’t love me because of the beautiful madness that makes me, “me.” 

I cannot begin to number for you today the passionate and tear-filled prayers I’ve prayed in my lifetime as I have cried out to God to change me and make me like everyone else.  I’ve begged God to make me normal so people would like me, and maybe even love me.  I spent much of my life hoping to finally fit into that square hole.  But God has chosen to ignore my pleas.  I’m still quirky.  I’m still odd.  I’m still on the outside looking in.

Do you want to know something?  There are many times I want to give up.  There are days when I would give anything to trade different for normal.  And there are even days that I wouldn’t change a thing.  Sometimes it seems hopeless.  Sometimes it seems exciting.  Some days I’m liked and maybe even loved.  There have been days when I was celebrated and there certainly were days that I was criticized.  

As I launch into the uncharted waters of my future, I want to make a choice to live every day with the reminder of these famous words:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. 

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. 

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. 

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sometimes You're The Windshield, Sometimes You're The Bug

I’ve been thinking a lot about life and what it all means.  I remember hearing someone explaining once that when Jesus said we would have abundant life, He was really saying we’d have abundant ups and abundant downs.  Life really is a roller coaster.  The highs are great and the lows are powerful.  It all comes down to this in life; sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.

I’m realizing the truth of another quirky saying; the only thing constant is change.  While life is full of ups and downs it’s also all about change and how we roll with it.  We become emotional wrecks (or at least I do) when life throws us a curve ball.  We become indignant and can’t believe it’s happening to us.  But it’s not just us.  It’s happening to everyone.  Why?  Because life happens.  Life happens big (abundantly).  Life changes.  Life changes big.

I’ve also learned through personal experience that normal is relative.  If everyone is broken, then broken is the norm.  If every home is dysfunctional, then dysfunction is the norm.  We compare ourselves and our situations to standards that really aren’t very standard.  If we would take a minute and really look around us, we’d learn quickly that our lives are more normal than we think.

Frank Peretti once wrote that life is all about where you are standing and how good the view is from there.  I’m seeing the significance and truth of that statement more and more with each passing day.  It’s so easy to say, “If it was me, I would do it like this…”  We’ve become a society that sees more value in Monday morning quarterbacking than truly walking a mile in the shoes of our fellowman.  But you can’t say exactly what you would do when you are watching from the safety of the sidelines.  It really is all about where you are standing and how good the view is from there.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that life is best experienced from the first person point of view.  You can’t live it for me and I can’t live it for you.  Life is full of ups and downs.  It’s full of change.  It’s silly and scary and even a little crazy.  Some days you win and some days you lose.  And there are even some days you do a little of both.  Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What If...

I've been hearing bits and pieces of this song a lot lately on the radio and haven't been able to fully digest the message; until today.  I think this is the soundtrack of my life right now.  

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights 
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

I'm sure I'll comment more in the coming days about what this means to me, but for now I just thought I would post a Youtube clip of Laura Story singing the song live during a radio broadcast.  You can also scroll down and see a brief clip of her explaining the story behind the song.

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's Friday But Sunday Isn't Coming...

It’s something of a rough day for me today.  Believe it or not, there are actually brief moments here and there that I forget who I used to be.  There are small reprieves from the memories of the failures and follies of my past.  Unfortunately, today that’s not the case.  Why?  Because Easter is just a few days away.  Why? It’s Friday and Sunday isn’t coming.

As a Pastor, I really loved Easter.  I loved the beauty and simplicity of the gospel.  I loved the expectation and hope that an empty tomb instilled.  I loved the moment when at the close of the service I could say, “For God so loved YOU…”  I absolutely loved telling people that even though it seemed like Friday, the truth was that Sunday was coming.

But all of that has changed.  It’s changed forever.  It’s never going back.  There won’t be anything encouraging or special about this Sunday.  There’s no more expectation and hope.  I won’t see my family.  I won’t be in church.  I won’t be singing or sharing.  And I certainly won’t be hearing the words, “For God so loved…”  It’s my new normal.  It just doesn’t feel very normal to me.

Today I was looking through some of my Easter sermons from over the years.  I found that on Easter I often referred to one of my most favorite Psalms - Psalms 40.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.  He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.  And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.”

I read the words and tears fill my eyes.  I read the words and I remember what it was like to hope.  I read the words and I want to sing a new song again.  But that was the old normal.