Where’d That Come From?

I don’t know how many times I’ve been driving in my truck, listening to some music and drifting off in thought when I arrived at my destination only to realize it wasn’t the place I was aiming for. I remember when my bride was pregnant with our third child Noah, she was plagued with kidney stones and we went to St. John’s hospital so many times my vehicle knew the way almost as if it were on autopilot. I had to physically restrain myself from taking the exit off the highway for years afterwards.

The thing is, in my life, I almost feel as if I’m on autopilot a lot of times when I arrive at something I wasn’t intending to find. I think God uses these times to reveal things to us perhaps we weren’t able to see, or perhaps have blocked from our lives. I know for me, grief is this way. It just kind of sneaks up on you from out of nowhere. And if you’re not familiar with grief, then it can be quite a shocker.

In the past ten years I’ve lost three people who were important to me; my youngest son Noah, my best friend Terry Scott and a mentor, Craig McConnell. I’ve grieved for each of them, but sometimes I don’t think we’ve fully reached the closure we need in order to continue on in life for years and years. The only thing I know about grief is it’s a real pain in the butt. I mean it may help us in the long run, but I’m all about getting things done, so I want my grief to fit into this mold; three weeks and we can move on. But unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case.

I was having dinner with my bride and friend Linda a few weeks ago when this topic came up and I made a statement about losing these three people and how I’ve not completely recovered from it. It just popped out of my mouth in the course of conversation, and truly wasn’t something I have given much thought too. But as I thought about the comment, some things began to fall into place. Not bad things mind you, but situations and the way I’ve been handling things for the past several years.

When something happens in our lives, we either enter into it or we pull back and wall it off. A lot of these things we wall off because of the pain or discomfort they cause us. And who wants to be put into a place of discomfort? So we wall off that area which brings with it things we may not want to directly deal with, sometimes it’s even an unconscious decision our soul makes which we aren’t truly aware of. I think this is why it takes grief so long to get out of our system.

When my youngest son committed suicide in 2010, to say I was shocked is an understatement. But I leaned into the presence of God and stood strong for my family, after all, someone had to. I’m not saying my family wasn’t strong, they were and thankfully we were all there for one another. I remember the first night lying in bed when the tears overtook my ability to hold them back. My bride’s hand on my shoulder and her softly praying for me helped so much. And for the next few weeks I was able to step back and see from the outside in, I thank God for that ability.

As write this, I do so in the room where my youngest son took his life. I transformed this place into a place where I could write words of healing and freedom to help others. This is my call, my passion and everything to me. And to do so in this room helps me to reconcile the loss of Noah, even though there’s hardly a day which goes by I don’t think about him and the man he would have been. I’m not sure it’s actually grief still, but his presence is there with me every day.

One of my mentors in becoming a more true and authentic man of God was Craig McConnell of Ransomed Heart Ministries. Even though I had only interacted with him once at a men’s weekend in Colorado, the words he shared through his blogs were like food to a starving man for me. Whenever he spoke through a podcast or video or his all too few blogs it was as if he “got” me. I understood where he was coming from and it appeared he knew me as well.

When Noah died, I reached out to the Ransomed Heart community of men I knew for prayer, and it was Craig who actually found the phone number for my business and left a voice message for me. To this day, it brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. When Craig contracted cancer it was a shock but I knew God and believed he was going to kick it. After many years of fighting it, he seemed to be on the mend, when things took a turn for the worse and the cancer aggressively took him out in a few weeks. I remember watching the memorial service online and mourning the loss of this man who had helped so many.

Within a few months of Craig’s death, my best friend Terry died unexpectedly while on a mission trip overseas. I think of him often, because you see Terry and I had this love of pop culture which we shared with each other; almost daily. We were especially fond of living out what we called “Seinfeld Moments”; these are little things we would experience which had been the subject of a Seinfeld television episode, and would text each other immediately when they happened. One of my favorites was the time we were in Hong Kong on a trip and saw an actual Kenny Roger’s Roasters restaurant. We stood in front of that sign hollering, “Kenny!” as loud as we could while people looked on. I’ve always laughed at that moment.

Grief for Terry reared it’s ugly head a few months ago, when my phone crapped out and I lost a voice mail Terry had left me on a day I was having a really difficult time. I had gotten in a habit of going back to that voice mail message when things were difficult in my life and losing it was just like losing him all over again. It was a kick to the gut, and this time I felt even more alone. Grief for the loss of my best friend is still pretty fresh and every time I see a show he would have enjoyed it makes me realize how alone I am.

Maybe you have faced grief in your time on this planet, and perhaps you’ve had better luck with it than I have, but if not, understand this one thing, when something causes it to show up, don’t add bricks to the wall, ask God what He’s wanting to do with it and move through it. As a motivational poster I saw stated, don’t run from the storm, your victory is on the other side of it. Grief is a difficult landscape to navigate to be sure, but if we will allow the Holy Spirit to work through those difficult times, we will still miss those we’ve lost, but we will end up better people able to help others who are on the same journey we’ve taken.

For the Kingdom and the King, shalom!

I Was Bullied For Liking Star Wars

 
I was on a mission trip in the Philippines for the past 2 weeks and while there we traveled to the island of Marinduque. As I sat on the beach I scanned the horizon and saw this building. 

I immediately thought it looked like the little droid BB8 from the new Star Wars movies and quickly snapped a picture anxious to share it on a Star Wars fan site on Facebook that I follow. 


I pointed it out to my wife and friend Linda and explained what I saw. I was met with the typical response I usually get from my wife and friends; disinterest. Not because they are mean, it’s just they aren’t Star Wars fans like me. So their reaction to what I had found wasn’t surprising or upsetting to me, I’m actually used to this from people who just casually watch these movies.


When we got back to the hotel and WiFi, I eagerly posted my picture with the caption “Only Star Wars Fans Will See It” and waited for my fellow fans to enjoy what I was sharing. I checked my post a little while later and found that most of the people who had posted didn’t see what I saw. I thought that was odd, but kept going back to see what others were saying about my picture.


I was shocked to say the least, when I saw mean things being posted about me in the comments section. Several people were downright ugly about it, calling my fandom into question. I’ve been a fan since 1977 and a big one at that. To be told I shouldn’t share anything, and maybe rethink being a fan because obviously I wasn’t, was very hurtful.

I haven’t been the victim of bullying since I was in Junior High, (I’m 55 now) but it hurt, and quite a bit. Now as I said, I’ve grown accustom to my wife and friends shrugging their shoulders when I talk about Star Wars, but this was a fan site with tens of thousands of fans of the franchise. To say I was not expecting to be vilified was an understatement. It actually felt like I’d taken a punch to the gut.


As I sat there stunned into silence, I didn’t know exactly what to do. I mean these were supposed to be people like me; fans of the most awesome sci-fi story ever told. And yet, I felt as if I were an outcast, a nobody, someone who just didn’t belong. I posted about how I felt, and that it was uncalled for to treat a fellow fan this way, saying goodbye and unfollowing that account. It was better for me if I just didn’t see what anyone else said; good or bad at this point, because my feelings were hurt.

Later, as I was waiting to speak to a group of students, I was telling my wife and Linda about how I had gotten an idea of what I was going to talk about because of the way I was treated about the picture, they laughed. I had to explain, with tears in my eyes about how much it had hurt me to have been bullied like that. I told them, I was used to people who didn’t like the franchise as much as me acting as if it didn’t matter, but to have been so excited to share my love of Star Wars with other Star Wars fans and then be shot down like that was devastating.

I’m sure this is nothing to other people, but to me it was a difficult day to say the least. I know bullying happens every day, I’m sure at some point in my life I’ve even probably been seen as the bully. All I know is it was hurtful and there was no reason for people to say the things they had said. Like my mother always taught me, “If you can’t say something good, then don’t say anything at all.” This hasn’t hurt my love of Star Wars, there is nothing that will ever change that, it has been too important to me for too long, but I will always remember the day I was ridiculed by other fans and bullied and will do my best to never be like that to anyone, because it doesn’t feel good.

If you have been the victim of bullying and don’t know who to talk to, click this link https://www.cybersmile.org/advice-help/category/who-to-call there is someone there who will help you out. And if you love something, don’t let anyone ever tell you how you are supposed to feel about that, if you love it, then love it with all your heart.

For the Kingdom, and the King!


“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” ~ Tolkien

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ John 10:10

If I was to to tell you I had a life verse, this would be it. For as long as I can remember any time I saw the numbers 10:10 on a digital clock, ClockI would say this passage out loud. And it was these very words of Jesus which held despair and darkness at bay on the worst day of my life. I call this passage a defining Scripture; one which helps you know what is going on in your life at any given moment. It’s pretty simple too; if you have been stolen from, there is death or destruction in your life, then it is from the thief, aka the devil. If your life is rich and full, then it comes from Jesus. John 10:10 shows you who is behind every situation you face in life.

On April 6, 2010 my youngest son Noah in a moment of weakness took his own life. There were no warning signs, he made a decision (albeit a dumb one) and ended his life. In the hours following Noah’s death, I was faced with a choice; to turn from God or towards Him. It was during this time, standing by the trampoline my kids had spent countless hours on, I began to question God. As my questioning turned quickly into anger, I began a downward spiral into an abyss of darkness I had never before experienced. Doubt, confusion and anger began to fill my mind. It was just then as my thoughts were becoming darker, that a sliver of light broke through and I snapped out of it.

Recognizing the voice of God in my spirit, He brought John 10:10 back to my mind. As I stood there in my pain pondering it, the realization came to me about who was actually to blame for my son’s death; it was the devil and not God. As the light of this knowledge flooded my mind pushing back the dark thoughts of the enemy I stood up straighter and thanked God for saving me in that instant. From that moment on I was able to move forward and lead my family down the path towards recovery in the way He wanted. It’s taken years for my family to move from tragedy to healing but we would never had made it this far without God’s Word guiding us.

I’m nothing special, God doesn’t like me better than you, He wants to use Scripture the same way in your life, but you have to want it. You can do it, all you have to do is start reading the Bible, putting His Word into your heart. Had I not quoted John 10:10 to myself for so many years, I would never have been able to hear God speak it to me so clearly when it really mattered. You can do it, don’t wait, get into the Bible today and see how far God takes you!

Living in a story much larger than my own…won’t you join me? You Can Do It!

 

The Uncharted Waters Of My Wife’s Soul Terrifies Me

It was our monthly John Wayne movie night, and as I sat watching “The Cowboys” with some of the guys from my church, my phone rang.  Answering it, I heard my wife sobbing as she asked me to hurry home because our little dog Midge had been carried away by an owl.

Being the man in charge, I asked one of my friends to finish the evening for me and to lock the church when the movie ended.  My kids were babysitting the kids of some of the men watching the movie, and I went to tell them what had happened before leaving to go be with their mom.

This night came a few months after the death of our youngest son, and the loss of Midge was more than my bride could bear at the moment.  As I entered the living room, Cheryl was in tears, and quite beside herself.  I did my best to console her, not really knowing what to do, I hugged her, telling her it would be alright, but my words felt hollow and ineffective.  I felt I should’ve done more, but didn’t have a clue what it should’ve been.

Truthfully, I’ve felt this way on more than one occasion.  For all the years we’ve been married, I still don’t know how to respond to my wife when she is upset.  My initial inkling is to get in there, identify the problem and fix it.  But when I do this, it usually makes matters worse.

There is a term in sailing called “uncharted waters”; which just means an area which has not been recorded, or located on a map, or plan.  There is an area in women’s souls which this perfectly describes.  It’s this need for you to hear what she says, listening to her heart and supporting her without trying to fix anything.  And navigating these waters can be treacherous and scary, regardless of how many times we enter them.

I’ve had this discussion while leading small groups over the years, and all of the ladies I’ve talked to have told me the same thing; we don’t want our husbands to fix our problems, we just want them to be present and to listen.  Jason Headley made a great video which illustrates what I’m saying, check it out:

It’s Not About The Nail

Believe me; this one thing about women baffles me.  I mean I really have no clue about understanding this process they go through, nor why it means so much for me to just listen.  For me, I want to isolate the problem, and then fix it.  I am learning however, regardless of how I think the situation should be resolved, now I try to just keep my mouth shut and let Cheryl talk, really listening to what she is saying.

The bottom line here is if something is important to her, then it should be important to me.  Even if I don’t understand why it’s important, it’s her heart I’m trying to care for, and if this means listening to her talk about the nail and not trying to figure out how to fix it, then so be it.

Really guys, if we are going to love our brides the way they need us to, we have to go into these uncharted waters from time to time, even if it terrifies us.

Living an honest and transparent life…

 

 

 

 

 

It Takes Ordinary Men To Make Heroes

“When you talk about combat leadership under fire on the beach at Normandy, I don’t see how the credit can go to anyone other than the company-grade officers and senior NCOs who led the way.  It is good to be reminded that there are such men, that there always have been, and always will be.  We sometimes forget, I think, that you can manufacture weapons, and you can purchase ammunition, but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line.”

Sgt. John Ellery, 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 1st Division

Valor.  Heroes.  Men.  Three words which described perfectly those who took the battle directly to Adolf Hitler and his troops on June 6, 1944.  These men from my grandfather’s generation are some of my greatest heroes; because when they were called upon, they laid everything aside to defend our nation and its allies from the tyranny and oppression which was trying to take over the world.

Most of these men however did not consider themselves heroes but just ordinary men doing what men do; protecting their loved ones at whatever the cost.  Many gave their lives in order to win this war and we are forever in their debt because of the sacrifices they made.

It has been seventy some years since the end of World War II and a lot of these men have now gone on to their graves.  We are three generations away from this conflict which involved the entire world and look at the men of today.  Now I know a lot of younger men may call me an old coot (I am 52 now) but what passes for men these days doesn’t even compare to men of my grandfather’s generation.

And before you vilify me or say I’m out of touch; I was considered a rebel at one time with my long hair, thoughts and ideas.  My grandfather and I butted heads on more than one occasion about my ideas and hairstyle.  But I’m not really talking about those things even though I think skinny jeans and man buns are ridiculous.  What concerns me the most is what men used to be has slowly drifted away to be replaced with selfishness and men more concerned with getting their own needs satisfied.

I read somewhere that during World War II, many of the soldiers facing death were barely  old enough to buy beer. Yet they joined the military because it was the right thing to do.  Today’s males of the same age cry to social media when their feelings get hurt, and run looking for a safe place to hide.  What has happened to men today?

Okay I realize I just made a general statement about the men of today, I do know some young men who are what men should be.  Yet, if you were to take a casual glance at what passes for men these days, you would agree there are many more guys concerned with their social status, looks and getting what they want out of life than there are men willing to lay down their lives for their families and society at large.

My definition of a real man is one who is willing to lay down his life and who will put other’s needs before his own. It’s not glamorous and most of the time you won’t be in the spotlight but it’s what we as men were created to do. If we will rise to the occasion and put other’s needs before our own, we can make the world a better place, just like the men who fought in WWII did. We still need ordinary men taking their place and making a difference in lives, these are the guys who are the real heroes.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Give Them Power Over You

My junior year of high school was spent avoiding one of my fellow classmates. And when I say avoid, I mean literally staying away from him. If I saw him walking down the hallway towards me, I moved to the other side and if at all possible by a teacher until he was far enough away for me to get to my next class. I was a nervous wreck and it was an awful experience; one I hope to never repeat, and something I think no one should ever have to experience.

The funny thing about that year, was had I just faced him instead of running away every time I saw him, my life would have been so much better. It seemed all he wanted to do was put the fear of God in me for something I’d done the year before and then it would have been over. He just wanted to scare me, nothing more, which happened as I stopped by a friend’s house one day after school.

His truck rolled up in front of my car and since my transmission had an issue (I couldn’t put my car into reverse) I had no choice but to face him. After he yelled and cussed and waved his hands around a lot, we ended up playing pool together at my friend’s house and our senior year we became friends and did a lot of activities together. He and two of my buddies even took our dates to prom together.

What I learned from this was a couple of things; one, the longer you run from someone, the worse your life gets and two, facing up to a bully does something to you on the inside; it makes you feel better about yourself. In standing up, you may take a punch to the face, but bruises will disappear, the fear which drives you to run will not leave unless you turn and face the person fear is using to keep you down.

And here is the bottom line about bullies; they are instruments used by fear to keep us in place and stop us from reaching our potential. In the first Captain America movie, Steve Rogers fights a guy much bigger than himself in an alley. He is getting the crap beat out of him, but he continues to stand up and take it saying, “I can do this all day.” When asked later by Doctor Erskine why he wants to fight the Nazis, Steve replies, “I don’t like bullies.” I think this is one of the reason I resonate with the heroes more than the villains in the stories I love, I don’t like bullies either.

We don’t have to deal with bullies just while we’re in school either. They are everywhere and if we let them they will do their best to break us; keeping us from reaching our fullest potential as adults too. Remember, the only power a bully can truly have over you is if you believe what he says. Once you begin to believe what the bully says about you, it’s game over.

Step one in defeating the bullies in your life, don’t listen to what they say. Oh I know you’ll hear the words, but hearing them and believing them are two totally separate things. Know who you are and when their words fly at you, let them bounce off of you like ping pong balls on a concrete floor. It’s always a power thing with bullies, they want you to cower in fear when they are around and if you don’t know who you are, their words can be devastating.

Step two; stand up to them. Like I said earlier, you may take a punch or two, but bruises will heal, a broken spirit takes much more time and effort to be fixed. When you stand up to a bully you will realize something deep on the inside of you which will make you feel triumphant. Usually bullies lose interest in people who stand up to them and will look for another victim. Take a stand and watch them tuck tail and run.

The thing to know about bullies is they are small minded individuals who don’t like their place or station in life. In order to feel better about themselves they have this need to make others feel bad. When you can see bullies for what they are; scared little children on the inside, you will actually feel pity for them. This is the main reason they lash out; to keep people from finding out the truth about them.

If you’re dealing with a bully in your life right now, I sympathize. But at some point or other you have to deal with them, or you will spend your life living in the shadows instead of shining out in the world like the star you are. You can do this, I believe in you!

Wandering Alone

The ground is moist and has started seeping into my boots as I make my way through the dense under brush looking for some semblance of a path.  I’m hot and sweating profusely as I duck under another low hanging oak tree branch which has probably been here since long before my great-grandfather was born.

There is an eerie stillness in the air, and my thoughts turn to a favorite book of mine, “The Hobbit”, specifically the part where Bilbo Baggins and thirteen dwarves are trapped in Mirkwood Forest.  “I hope I don’t run into any giant spiders,” I think to myself, pushing aside yet another branch hindering my progress.

I’m not sure what possessed me to go into the woods around my home and take this day hike, but now I’m beginning to regret my decision.  The hours pass by and I become painfully aware of my lack of provisions.  A penknife, small bottle of water in my back pocket and a cell phone getting no signal is all I carry with me.  I realize if I don’t find my way soon, I’ll end up like the guys on those survivor television shows, the only difference being they’re equipped with the skills needed to survive in the wild, and I’m not.

Since I was in my teens, I’ve often wondered if I have what it takes to be a “real” man.  I’m fifty-two now and the crazy thing is this thought still hounds me like a jackal chasing its prey.  Put me in a social setting where I’m expected to have conversations with other men, and I feel as lost as I do now in these woods.

Why do I have this feeling of inadequacy in the presence of other men?  Why is it I feel I don’t have what it takes to be a real man?  Where does this come from?  The answer is simple enough; I was never invited or initiated into manhood as a boy.

I read an interesting article a few years ago about a tribe in Africa.  At around the age of twelve, the men of the village come to the boy’s home and in an elaborate ceremony, literally pul him from the arms of his mother; taking him out into the wild.  There they instruct the boy about what it means to be a man and leave him to prove himself.  The boy must build a house, plant a garden and become a productive member of the tribe before he can ever return home to visit his mother.

This was not my experience.  I was pretty much left to myself to figure out what it meant to be a man.  And since most of my instruction came from the world of movies and television, the knowledge I gained is, shall we say in short supply.  It wasn’t until I realized I was going to have to teach my own boys what it meant to be men and show my daughter how her future husband should act that I really began to search for answers.

I found them in another one of my favorite books, “Wild at Heart” written by John Eldredge.  In it I found the knowledge I needed and like a compass it put me on the correct heading, bringing me to a point in my life where I could actually believe I do have what it takes to be a real and authentic man.

As dusk gathered around me, I pushed aside the last limb and stepped out of the woods.  There in the distance I could see my truck.  Relieved, I promised myself I would never again wander in the woods without a little more preparation.  Yet in my heart something stirred; it was faint, almost non-existent, but I knew it for what it was, the knowledge I do have what it takes and I am a man after all.

Now you know what I think, what do you think?