1977: The Year My Life Was Changed

In May of 1977, I had been a teenager for all of five months. I’d like to say I was one of the coolest kids out there, but I was, just as any other thirteen year old boy a complete and total dweeb. I wasn’t sure if girls or toys were the most important thing. Staying in my room, or going outside to ride my bike were my most difficult choices. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great childhood; I lived in an up and coming new neighborhood with kids all around me, who were there to play and help me get into mischief.

One day, my mom took me to the theater to see a new movie which had just come out; Star Wars. Up until this time, Star Trek reruns, 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Planet of the Apes movies had been the sum total of my science fiction experience and honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect with this new movie. She dropped me off at the movie theater on a Saturday afternoon to meet friends, telling me she’d be back later to pick us up.

With snacks in hand, I went in and found my seat. Things were simpler back then, the chairs were cooshie, but they did not lean back, well they kind of rocked a little, maybe a couple inches; just enough for the kid who couldn’t sit still to be able to work off his or her sugar rush from the Juju Beans and soda. As the lights went dark, I don’t remember if there were any movie trailers or it went straight into the movie, but I do remember the John Williams opening fanfare and thinking, “Hey, this is different!”

As the music played, the opening crawl came across the screen, and as I read it I remember thinking this could be cool. I’d never seen a movie start like this and the words simultaneously had me on the edge of my seat with anticipation and got me excited to see what this world of Star Wars had to offer.

What happened next totally blew me away. The Tantive IV, Princess Leia’s ship came into view from the top of the screen. I remember thinking, “Man, that’s huge!” But following right after was the Imperial Star Destroyer, and it seemed to take a full minute of screen time for this behemoth to pass into view. I can honestly say it was at this point, less than five minutes into the film, George Lucas had me completely and totally hooked.

It is a moment in my life I will never forget. If you were a fan of the television series That 70’s Show, watching Eric Forman see Star Wars for the first time is exactly what it was like for me. (Click picture to see clip)

My memories of the original three movies all come from my teenage years; age 13, Star Wars, age 16, The Empire Strikes Back and age 18, The Return of the Jedi. Many years later after my children were born, it brought me much joy when I was able to introduce them to this series when George Lucas re-released the original films with added footage on the big screen before making the prequel episodes, and yes I do like the character Jar Jar Binks!

Here I am forty-two years later, and my love for this franchise has only deepened and become more expensive. My office is what most would call a shrine to the god of Star Wars, but I call it surrounding myself with things which bring about some of the best memories I have. And as a writer surrounding myself with creative things helps me to create. (At this point my wife will say I’m justifying my purchases).

The past forty plus years have seen a lot of changes in Star Wars, and I love them all, and yes, even the Star Wars Holiday Special. With the new Disney+ television show The Mandalorian being the first of many Star Wars television shows to be made, not to mention all of the animated series and new movies on the horizon, you could say I will be enjoying Star Wars even with my grandchildren; the first of whom is scheduled to arrive next April.

But if you happen to be looking for me on December 18th and 19th, leave a message on my phone, because you’ll find me sitting in an AMC movie theater experiencing all nine movies in a row. Twenty-four hours of Star Wars bliss for me, and very little sleep. Star Wars Marathon here I come!

For the Kingdom and the King, May the force be with you!

Are You Aware?

Today my bride and I made a trip to Sam’s Club. Getting into the parking lot was an experience as we had to wait for cars to move before we could even turn off the street into the parking lot. Once we parked and got inside, my wife said she wanted to look at some fuzzy house slippers to help keep her tootsies warm. Well we tried looking at them, but another lady was standing right in front of the display, and even though we were talking to each other about the house shoes, she was totally oblivious to our presence. We chose to leave and come back later, since it was obviously more important for her to make her choice than let us do likewise.

And this kind of thing happens all the time. I know it’s happened to you before, you walk into your favorite store to pick up a few items, and as you enter the doorway, the person right in front of you stops to look around and decide where they should go first. After almost running smack into them, I always think, “Are you kidding me? I mean come on, you can’t take five more steps and get out of the way of whoever might be behind you?” The trouble is, most of the time these people don’t realize there is anyone behind them, because they are not aware of their surroundings.

Now before you think this is just an old man’s rant about how people disappoint him in every day life, let me say I understand a lot of times why people do things like this, and I’m always gracious to them (at least out loud, inside my mind may be a different story). We live in a society where it’s all about “me” and what “I need”. It’s been going on a long time, ever since Burger King started telling us we could have it “our way”. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of those around us.

I’m not talking about letting people walk all over you, but being aware of the bigger picture. Sometimes this involves me letting someone into traffic instead of forcing them to wait. I mean if I let someone in front of me, does it really take that much time off of my busy schedule? No. So I arrive at my destination thirty seconds later, it will be alright. None of us are truly in that big of a hurry.

I leave at 5:30 AM for work every day. Maybe a minute or two faster or slower, but always around the same time. For a week, there was a pickup who was also leaving at the same time. This particular truck always drove five to ten miles an hour under the posted speed limit; usually because of paying more attention to a cell phone than the signs. I found myself getting aggravated every time I would see the pickup, but then I decided what did it really matter? I mean it caused me to get to work two minutes later than I was accustomed too, but I was still on time, it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

If it really bothered me that bad, I could have left five minutes earlier. But allowing this person to get me aggravated, only hurt me, I’m pretty sure they never even knew and it didn’t bother them at all. There was a choice for me to make every morning; get aggravated and say things I probably shouldn’t, get all worked up and make my blood pressure rise, with no resolution anyway, or I could just let it go and stay calm and collected. Well I opted to stay calm and truthfully, didn’t see the truck any more after about a week.

There is an old saying which goes, you can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair. What this means is there are some things which are out of your control, and there is nothing you can do about them, but the things which you can control, these you need to. I couldn’t keep the truck from leaving at the same time as me, but I could control how I would react to it. This is what it really means to be self aware.

Next time you feel the need to get aggravated or upset at something going on in your life, ask yourself, is this a bird flying over my head, or one trying to build a nest. Then fix the situation accordingly. You got this!

For the Kingdom and the King, shalom!

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!

Who Really Deceived Eve?

I’ve heard it taught for most of my Christian life that Eve was lied to, or deceived by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, thus plunging us into the chaos that has been the human experience ever since. But is this really true? Was it satan deceiving her, or perhaps actually her husband Adam?

Looking into the account of God giving Adam the instructions for how to live in the Garden found in Genesis 2:15-17, it says, “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the Garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

At this point in the creation story, Adam is alone. In verse 18 God makes the statement that it is not good for the man to be alone. Eve isn’t even in the picture at this point, so the only person to know about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is Adam. Then in verses 21-25 we see how God hand fashioned and designs the woman taking her from Adam’s side. If you do a casually reading of chapters 2 going into 3, it would almost seem that immediately after she was created, the serpent shows up to tempt her.

So many times as I read the Bible, going from one chapter to the next in the blink of an eye, I assume the stories do as well. But this is not always the case. I’m sure there had to have been some time transpire from the creation of Eve to the temptation. I imagine since the Bible refers to the serpent as the most subtle, crafty, shrewd and clever of all the animals, he didn’t just barge in with a frontal attack on God’s children.

The devil has been around for a while and he knows exactly how God works. Remember how he tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness; he waited forty days and then spoke to him using God’s Word incorrectly. I imagine he sat back and watched Adam and Eve for a while, waiting and looking for an opportunity to get back at God. And it probably came one day while Adam and his new bride were walking around the Garden and he was showing her everything God had given them.

They arrive at the center of the Garden where the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was, and Adam says, “Listen honey, this tree, we don’t eat its fruit, actually, we aren’t even supposed to touch it.” Eve not knowing any better says, “Okay.” and off they go back to enjoying the Garden. But you see, the devil knew what God had said to Adam, and I’m sure this is when he saw the opportunity he’d been waiting on. I think it wasn’t the serpent who deceived Eve, but Adam, by not trusting her with the ability to follow God’s instructions for herself.

While I agree Eve was deceived, it was only because she had faulty information. We saw what God told Adam, but what Eve said to the serpent was different. She said, “Look, this tree in the middle of the Garden (isn’t it interesting how Eve doesn’t refer to it as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil like God did when he instructed Adam), we’re not supposed to eat its fruit, and hey! we’re not even supposed to touch it, because we will die.

When we base our relationship with God on what a man says, and not on what the actual Word of God says, we will all be deceived. Adam for whatever reason did not trust Eve with the truth, otherwise he would have told her what God had told him, right? Ultimately we have to put the reason humanity is in the boat its in, squarely on Adam’s shoulders and not Eve’s. Yes Eve was deceived, but because of the information Adam had given her. And taking this into consideration, Genesis 3:6 plainly states Adam was right there with Eve while the whole conversation with the serpent was taking place.

Adam should have used his God given authority over the serpent at this point to protect his bride, stating, “No, that’s not right, we can touch the tree we are just not supposed to eat its fruit.” But instead, probably because he didn’t want to look stupid (and what man does) he remained quiet and passive, allowing his wife to have a conversation with a snake and joined in with her making the wrong decision, thus giving away everything they had to the devil.

Eve definitely had a part to play in this story, but I think you can see now how it really wasn’t her fault that we live in a messed up world. The devil lied to her, yes, but her husband stood by and allowed him to do it. He went passive and quiet instead of aggressively taking matters into his own hands and setting things right. If anyone is to blame, it is Adam pure and simple, the buck stopped with him.

Which makes me wonder men, are we being passive and allowing the devil to speak into our bride’s lives? Are we standing idly by and allowing him to get a foothold into our marriages? What we need to do is watch for the attack of the enemy, preparing to face him down with the full authority of Heaven backing us up. Praying for our brides and lifting them up, instead of blaming them for the state our lives are in. Remember, she follows your lead, are you leading?

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!


Prayer Works!

One of the basic tenets of every faith in the world is prayer. Regardless of what you believe, praying is at the center of every religion. For me, I make no bones about being a Christian. I have been and always will be a believer in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, and while I never have proclaimed to be the best follower of Jesus, I do my best each and every day.

Prayer for me has been somewhat of an enigma over the years. I know what the Bible teaches about prayer, but for whatever reason I have always felt I was lacking just a bit in this area. Ask my children about the nights I decided we were going to pray as a family, only to end up with yelling and crying as the result.

Regardless of this, I have spent thirty some odd years praying to God, in the Name of Jesus mostly if I am honest in my attempt to get something from God instead of using it as a time to spend time with Him. It’s the truth, I won’t lie about it. Despite this however, God has always been a great Father to me and takes what He can get, still choosing to love me any way.

Which brings me to the point of my blog today. A little over a month ago, I was doing my Bible reading and was encouraged by a passage of Scripture I read in Mark 11:24, which states, “Whatsoever things you desire when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

This got me to thinking, what things have I been desiring? At the time I was frustrated because the computer I have been using to do my writing was an older Mac and had updated the latest operating system, but in doing so, it caused the machine to quit working. I had been in a bit of a drought with my writing because of it. I had even broken out a little computer I have, which is almost impossible for me to use because of the size of it. My big old meat paws cause me to type things I don’t want.

It hit me, I need a new computer. I decided to put God’s Word to the test, and I asked Him for a new Apple laptop on May 14, 2019. Believing that I would receive it because He had promised me in His Word if I would but only believe, I would receive.

Jump ahead a little over a month to Father’s Day 2019, and while at my son’s house for dinner the night before I saw he was busy at work on a laptop. Thinking he was working on some multimedia project for work, I asked him if I could use his computer later to take care of some business I had which couldn’t be accomplished on my phone. He said, “No, but you can use your own computer to do it.”  I said, “Son I can’t, my computer isn’t working, this is why I need to use yours.” He grinned and said, “No dad, you can use yours, this laptop I’m setting up with your stuff, it’s yours, Holly and I are giving it to you for Father’s Day.”

I stood there stunned to say the least. God had answered my prayer, and I might add in just a little over a month. Once again He has proven how much He loves me, even when I’m pretty sure what He gets in return from me is nothing compared to what He’s given. He is just so awesome like that!

My blog today is two-fold; one to thank my Heavenly Father for answering my prayers, even though I’m sure I haven’t done anything to deserve it. My praise is totally and completely for Him. But secondly, I want to thank my son Micah and daughter in law Holly for the gift of this laptop. It’s awesome, and I love it so much! I know I will be using it for years to come, and every time I boot it up I’ll think of how God answered my prayer using my kids. I’m a blessed man for sure!

For the Kingdom and the King!

Authenticity

I noticed on the news this morning Hillary Clinton was in a small town diner handing food and drinks to the patrons there. She of course was dressed to the nines and really looked out of place in what she was doing.

The funny thing to me is how people in power doing these types of things must think it makes them look like they’re down to earth people and authentic. But when I see it all I do is roll my eyes and think, “Oh look, another photo op for the powerful.”

In this day and age in which we live, I think one of the biggest things missing is true and honest authenticity. And it’s permeated every area of our lives too. At work the boss tells you how much you’re appreciated when there is a group of people and then doesn’t have the time to even say hello as he passes you in a hallway. At home with your family, you do just enough to get by so you can feel good about yourself as you spend more time on yourself.

And don’t forget your friends, when you focus on what they can do for you instead of how you can help them succeed in life.

I’m reminded of the movie Remember the Titans where Coach Boone has been telling Coach Yoast that he may be a mean sucker, but he’s a mean sucker to every player on the team, not just some of them. He was authentic and real with every player, not just the ones he thought could handle it or were more important to him.

This is what we need in today’s society, men and women who are not afraid to tell it like it is, do whatever it takes to get the job done without caring how it affects them. And this is the bottom line I think, lack of authenticity is at its core selfishness and an unwillingness to be true for fear it will cause you to look weak. And if I’m not mistaken, it was Jesus who said, “Whenever I’m weak then He is strong.” He perfects us through weakness and being real, honest and authentic.

Let’s get out there and be real today!