“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!

 

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

Courage In The Face Of Fear

Today is my friend Dewayne’s birthday, so I decided to share this blog about his journey today. Happy birthday Dewayne.

It was a weekend in February 2011 when I along with fifteen other men spent three days together for a men’s weekend in the country.  This had been a long time dream of mine, and may have been one of the best times I’ve ever spent with a group of men, but I think the greatest thing about this weekend was the transformation I saw in my friend Dewayne Fain.

img_8385The camp where we were staying had a ropes course, and Dewayne found himself there looking at a rock climbing wall and wanting to give it a try.  He put on his safety harness, hooked up and grabbing the first handhold pulled himself up.  At about fifteen feet he began to panic saying he couldn’t do it, and climbed back down.

Disappointed in himself, Dewayne left the ropes course feeling pretty bad about not getting to the top, but told us the next day he was going to tackle the zip line.  The zip line platform is situated about forty-five feet in the air suspended on three giant telephone poles.

At breakfast the next morning Dewayne told me about a dream he had while sleeping, and wasn’t sure what it meant.  Encouraging him, I said it was God telling him to do the zip line today.

Right after lunch, he headed straight for the ropes course, like a man possessed.  Puttingimg_8386 on the rigging, he stepped into the line to wait his turn.  Since it was a two man zip line, one of the men who had come with us named Terry told Dewayne he would accompany him down the zip line.  When it was time, Dewayne grabbed the handholds and began his ascent towards the top.

Making it a little higher than the day before, he began shaking and said, “Guys I just can’t do it, I’m coming back down.”  Even though a lot of us were shouting encouragement to him, he climbed down.  It was a devastating blow to his ego, and I knew if he didn’t conquer this, there would be powerful ramifications in his life later because of it.

Terry spoke to the young man running the course and asked if he could talk to Dewayne before unhooking him from the safety rope.  Talking loud enough for Dewayne to hear, but not those of us nearby, Terry spoke to him for a few minutes.

I’m not sure what Terry said, but after he was finished, Dewayne mounted the pole and like a monkey scampered up to the very top in record time, men shouting encouraging words the whole time.  It really was a sight to see.

Zipping down with Terry at his side Dewayne hooped and hollered the entire way thanking Jesus.  It was awesome to see too, afterwards he was high-fiving everyone he saw, telling them what he’d done, even men he didn’t know.  

He faced down his fear and found out there was courage inside of him he didn’t even realize was there on this day.   He came to realize on this trip he did have what it takes.

 

 

 

 

 

DDD – What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Well here we are again; another idiot with a gun and an agenda once more has attacked, killed and injured innocent people just living their lives.  And I’m sure the political pundits are eating this up and loving every minute of it; more fodder for the news shows to hash and rehash, and politicos everywhere are working hard to spin this to their advantage.

You may call me cynical, but I find it odd how so many people come together after there is a tragedy, but not really before.  People start showing their solidarity after the fact, but very little if nothing happens prior to the incident.  I guess they are too busy with their own lives to care much.

It’s kind of like fair weather fans of sports teams I guess.  You know; the people who start wearing the jerseys and hats of the team after they win the big game.  But later on in the next season when the team is playing poorly, these guys will bad mouth them and take all of their stuff to Goodwill.

Don’t get me wrong, I am saddened by the loss of life in Orlando, I just find it extremely odd how people could care less about their fellow man a week ago and now they’re all up in arms, asking what can be done to prevent this from ever happening again and talking about gun control once more.

There’s a great subject for us to talk about; gun control.  Some people say, “Let’s get rid of all the guns and poof, there’ll be no more violence.”  Yeah, right, if it wasn’t guns killing people it would be something else.  The problem isn’t guns, the problem is people.

I had a conversation with a naïve young lady once about guns.  She said the reason bad people use guns is because they are so readily available.  If there were no guns, bad people would have no reason to do the things they do.  Life would just be so peaceful. Nothing could be further from the truth.  As long as there are people who don’t care about their fellow man, there will be violence problems; with or without guns.

The message Jesus taught was love, heck even the Beatles told us all we need is love. This is what the world needs; love.  If you love your fellow man, then you don’t want to take from him or harm him.  But how do we achieve this? By setting aside our own desires temporarily to help others achieve theirs.

This world is an awesome place full of amazing people; way more good ones than bad. What we need to do is stop focusing on the negative, trying fix things in a knee jerk fashion and work on the real issues at hand; loving people. Of course, loving people doesn’t sell news stories now does it?