Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It is a Christmas tradition for many to send out the year in review Christmas letter to friends and family. This year I wrote one to the mother of my best friend.

Dear Ruth,

I am not sure what to say except, thank you. Thank you for taking me in when I was lost and wandering the neighborhood back so many years ago. I don’t remember exactly how I came to be there or how I became friends with your youngest, Danny, but at the time you gave me a place to stay, sleep, shower, eat. I believe now, that day, the Holy Spirit began to work on me.

It was not too many years before I remember walking down an interstate highway in the middle of Alabama. It was the middle of the night. I was in my mid-teens. It was cold; I was hungry, alone, tired, and it began to rain. I remember looking across a wide open pasture at an old farmhouse; the light on the porch was the only thing you could see for miles. I remember wishing from deep in my soul that I could go to that house and be part of the family that lived there. I longed for the warmth inside and dreamed they would care for me. Your home became that safe haven to me for an important season of my life.

At the time you probably could not have picked a worse influence on your youngest son. When my parents split and my father slipped into the darkness of his alcoholism the lack of a mentor caused an open wound that oozed pain and poor decisions. I walked out of the house and began the life of a teenage vagabond. The questions of what do I do, how do I do it, who am I were the questions for which I lacked answers; the things I did to try and answer them were way off. I was not a bad kid inside; a lack of guidance for so many years had me looking to fill the emptiness I felt in my heart with things that would never last -- things that hurt others and put myself and those I influenced in peril.

But God uses everything to His good. You and Mr. D. were different, and I was moved by how your family operated. You talked about things like politics and God, right, wrong and Scripture. When I went to church with you, I met folks who seemed to truly care for each other and shared a God, His Son and the Holy Spirit -- something completely foreign to me. In that small church I committed to Christ and was baptized. I had a mentor give me a Bible -- the one I use to this day.

I can’t say that at that moment everything changed for me. I eventually drifted off and spent more time wandering about. Life happened, and I had some more learning to do. We saw each other over the years,, and you were always loving, polite and sincere. We had wonderful conversations about life and politics.

But it was that year, 1984, when you opened your home to a scruffy and precarious boy that I was introduced to the loving Christ I know today as my Lord and Savior. It was one of the most important seasons of my life. That time at your home, the unconditional love I found there, taught me that the things I was trying to use to fill my heart would never be enough. I was never the same after that.

Today, I live in that old farmhouse, not literally, but the home where God, family and ministry are the priority. On any given day our home is filled with boys and girls who don’t always have the support they need to figure out who they are and how to make decisions. Some come from broken homes, some abused, some just lost for no real reason I can see except the evil one wants to add to his dominion. But they are just like every kid that comes into this world. They need a guide, or guides, to show them the way, to love on them, to care about them. If they can be introduced as I was to a loving and caring Father, there is hope. They will never be able to deny that He is real and they are never truly alone.

There are people in each of our lives who form the character, the essence, the foundation of who we are. It can be a parent, a coach, a pastor or a passing friend. They can come and go at any time carving out the design of our life. In His perfect timing and His flawless ways God introduced me to Ruth. I met a loving and caring woman who cherished her family, family traditions and her Godly Father. You probably don’t have any idea how profoundly you affected my life. You showed me it is important to think and that doing something, being somebody, is significant. I acquired the desire to read at your home. Your influence expanded my ability to dream and conquer the fears I found so often in the dark and lonely places I wandered. You gave me the deep desire to love God, love my family and love others.

The Ruth in the Bible is a woman of extraordinary faith, love and commitment. She honors Naomi, her mother in-law, without question, and she trusts her heavenly Father with everything. God must have loved her dearly. Her legacy became eternal as the grandmother of David. My Ruth is so much like her namesake. She has inspired untold numbers to Christ and to stand firm and hold on to their commitments and beliefs.

In my life, Mrs. D., know I am forever grateful. I want you to know that those things I saw back then move me to inspire, care for, show the love of Christ to boys who are where I was. I have been blessed to lead many to the Lord, which is, in many ways, the heritage of you caring for me. Eternal and forever they will be in heaven and their families changed for generations we will never know.

I am honored to have been one of your many students. As Christmas comes and I reflect on the loving kindness I have been shown, know that I love you and think about you often.

I hope you are proud of me today.

God bless you and keep you, Tom Greaney

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lies and the Filthy Dull Sword

The captain yelled, “All hands on deck” as the enemy came close to ram the merchant ship. Everyone knew the battle was about to begin and that some would be wounded or die the slow death from a filthy dull sword of cold and rusty steel thrust through their gut. It was brutal, and there was no way you could allow fear in.

The movie “Saving Private Ryan” was horribly graphic in showing what our soldiers endured as they landed on Omaha beach on June 6, 1944. It was World War II, and there were no guided missiles launched from miles away to clear the bunkers ahead of them. The men who assaulted the beach claimed “fear be damned.” Their friends and fellow Americans fell at their sides as they pushed on.

So often we find things in our lives that seem impossible to overcome or too scary to even attempt. Many times there are people in our lives who have told us that we could never achieve that goal or that it really isn’t for us. Fear comes and we allow it to speak into our lives. “You can’t run very far, so forget the idea of that for exercise.” “You never made it out of high school; writing a book is stupid.” Fear breaks our heart’s desires, and we fall victim to just living today as best we can and wait for the night.

But it is those moments, when the evil one speaks and crushes our spirit that we must stand and fight. There are times I just don’t allow myself to “go there” and push ahead. Almost every time I run I have that battle. For many of us it is the still quiet moments when we are alone and vulnerable that the attacks come.

Texas musician and songwriter Pat Green has a powerful song, “In the Middle of the Night,” that so clearly describes how we must be prepared for those lies. How they come to us when we are weakest.

When there's no one around
And the silence in your soul is the only sound
In the darkness that surrounds you
Are you hiding from the light
When you finally hit rock bottom
Will you do what's wrong or right
You're gonna find out what you're made of...
In the middle of the night

I realized that the moments when we are faced with decision are not hardest when with our friends, therapist or family. It is those times in the middle of the night, when we are out alone driving or on a trip. Those are the times the evil one comes, the pirates storm the boat, that is our beachfront in Normandy.

For me, today, having Christ and a heart for the Lord has made me a far better warrior in those moments. I have tools like the Bible and the hunger for His love, to please Him, that drives me to not click on that link, not buy that whatever, not stretch the truth, not allow fear to enter, to say no.

This Thanksgiving you may be blessed to spend time with your family. I say blessed because I have lost some close to me, and as I get older the things that matter most are changing. You may be confronted face-to-face with a battle that in the past has made you weary. There may be anger toward a brother, sister, mom or dad. Maybe the old house brings back feelings you don’t like. A spirit of antagonism or frustration may be something you recognize as you cross the threshold. How long have we lived in an “it is what it is” situation? How long have we just accepted the lie that that it will never change, that they are never going to say they’re sorry, that I didn’t do anything, there is nothing wrong with it, that we can do it every once in a while, that everyone else lives this way, too? That, my friend, is where your battle begins.

I have so many things in my life that I want to do. So many amends and so many opportunities to care for others and improve how I love on those who are closest to me. Dropping out of school 40 years ago does not define me. Having had a drug problem and all the terrible things with which I lived and did all those years does not define me. Those things in your life do not have to define you. Do we have to just put our heads down and push forward some days to run those last two laps or even just get out of bed? Yes. Do we have to call on God to help us forgive those who have wounded us so deeply? For me, yes.

I have never been faced with an angry pirate wielding a rusty sword or had to charge the front lines. But the battles I do fight, the ones that are my Normandy, are real and hard and the wounds can be deep. The blessing for me today is I am equipped with tools and a Supreme Commander who knows me, my gifts and failings. He is always there even if I don’t see Him. His heart is something I can feel; it is real. And those times, in the middle of the night when I am alone, He is there reminding me I am good and smart and loved. He never lets me down. Victory.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Handshake and the Deal

When I first got married I ran a construction company. I actually met my wife working on one of the properties she managed. Once we were married, she began to see the behind-the-scene workings of the business and how I interacted with the men who worked for me.

One of the young men who had worked for us for quite some time was a handsome young buck with a great smile and knew how to interact with the clients. He was always a favored worker because he was so good with customers and usually got his work completed on time. My wife thought he was fantastic.

But as with any person or employee there are almost always things that come up, problems or personal habits that can be hard on a business operator. My star buck started to get to work late, over and over; not a lot, 10 or 15 minutes, but it was every day. For the most part he would get us all laughing or create a diversion and lighten the moods of everyone; everyone but me.

I talked to him for weeks trying to explain how important it was to be there earlier than his crew. It was important for him to be the example and if he was always late then they would think it was OK for them to be late, as well. There are a lot of reasons why I had to tell him he only had one more chance and that day he seemed to take it seriously. The next day I took his keys and fired him when he came in late.

A lot of folks thought I had made a big mistake. Customers were asking for him and a few of the guys on his team left soon after.

I, however, was not moved by their pleas and angry comments. I have a rule I live by – if a man (or woman) shakes my hand and agrees to do something then I expect them to do their part, no excuses. If I have agreed to pay a certain amount for certain hours to do certain things, then I will do it and I have never missed a payroll.

I know a lot of guys, men, who still show up late to things because they struggle getting out of bed or they call in sick because they don’t feel like doing something. There are guys who cancel because they get a better offer and abandon obligations they have made previously. I don’t profess perfection in any area but I do, however, want my kids to grow up and respect the obligations they make to others. I will be the example; they will have to choose if they follow it.

There were plenty of times I underbid a job or just plain goofed up and to finish the job it was going to cost us. We completed the job as agreed. It hurt and some folks may have walked on their commitments; we never did.

Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” When MJ had a practice, he arrived early and stayed a few minutes later than everyone else. When he was young he shot the ball over and over. He didn’t do the least and expect the most. He didn’t blow off his team mates to do a Pepsi commercial or hang with Tiger Woods. He was committed and showed up.

Jesus tells the story of the wealthy man giving three servants gold coins to keep while he was away. Two invested them and one buried his. Now, we won’t go through the whole verse but to the ones who took their coins and invested them, who took their obligation seriously he replied: Luke 19:17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ the master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, you will take charge of much.’”

Trust, success, obligation and a man’s word all matter. A handshake, a nod, the words “I will,” “I agree” and “Yes” matter. In a world that, for many, consists of many gray areas, in-betweens, maybes and modest amounts of true commitment, we can be fooled into thinking that it is that way for everyone and, thus, acceptable. It is not.

Today we live in a world that needs strong commitment. A person who has a reputation of doing what they say and saying what they mean stands out. They lead and set the bar for those who choose to follow.

I don’t expect a man to do something that would hurt his family, himself or others. I know that there are times when we are fooled into something that turns out to be different than what we were told or how it was represented. Discernment, prayer, asking for council from a wise or trained and trusted friend is important is these situations.

But the basic rule of thumb when it comes to honor, trust and reputation is simple. When the alarm goes off, get up. When you agree to do a job for a man, do it even if it costs you. When God speaks to you, listen and obey. Stand up for what you believe, do what you say, get your brothers back, get there early and stay late, give yours plus one.

Trust is the key to many a door when lost, so the opportunity to open those doors is lost as well. Yeah, I’m a hard guy sometimes but the basic truths remain. I get too nervous to hit the snooze, just my luck that would be the one day I should have been there. That would be the day Jesus comes to the coffee shop to just talk, the rich guy is walking around handing out $100 bills, the biggest buck walks past my deer blind and the kitchen remodel guy on TV was at the Home Depot looking for a kitchen to redo, free! No, I’m getting up, we need a dishwasher and stove.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Joe Mayes, West Texas Preacher

This was a note to my pastor and dear friend recently when I was not at our weekly men's meeting to provide him with a Staff, Sword and Shepard's Crook. I was in charge of the Staff and the Sword, my close friend Brain Mathews handed over the Crook. He is an amazing leader caring and training up the men in our church to lead.

Joe Don Mayes,

Well I know if I was there with you guys this morning I would not be doing what we talk about many days there between 6 and 7:30, creating memories with our kids and wives, leading our families and showing them through our actions our love for them is a priority.

Joe Don, God has prepared you in so many ways to lead the Fellowship Church family right now and I know for you, looking back, you see it clearer than we do – but we know some of the stories, the life line – the trail you rode that brought you to this place, this morning, this group of men, your Band of Brothers and we know that you were lead by the Holy Spirit here to this place and time.

LT. Coronel Alan Stokes was known as a fighting soldier’s soldier during WW II. During one push behind the enemy lines he came up on a group of his soldiers outside an old farmhouse taking fire from the enemy inside – When he asked the commanding officer on site why he had not taken the farmhouse he was told “because they are shooting back at us”. He looked at his officer puzzled, he told him – “rally your men and fall in behind me – get ready to fight” he pulled his Army issue Colt .45, loaded it, then took a grenade in his other hand.

Then Stokes stood, yelled at the top of his lungs “ FORWARD” – and he charged through gunfire and smoke leading the squad to the house firing and throwing his grenade inside taking out the enemy gun that had held them at bay.

As they cleared the farmhouse and Stokes prepared to leave he turned to the commanding officer and said ”son, that is how you take the enemy” – and he left heading to the front lines. That day those soldiers saw the courage and leadership they needed to conquer the enemy that had them held down.

The Staff is our symbol that we will honor you, our elders and leadership – we will accept discipline and guidance from the God given authority that He placed in you and them through our church – we will learn, we will teach, we will lead by that example.

The Sword is a symbol of the warrior, the one who stands ready to die for the cause, to battle the enemy– to stand in the way of danger and oppression. It also hangs on the side of the guard at the gate and the mounted warrior horseback.

Shepards Crook - (Brian)

Many think we have spent the last three years in a battle for our church, our family. But they are wrong. Yes we had battles, but not every day has been at the front line – your men have held close – this group of warriors on Wednesday morning – we have grown in our walk with mighty leaps, through tears and laughter, brokenness and victories – together. You and Brian have trained us, been faithful in leadership – you have taught us by example – Today brother Joe Don Mayes, Pastor, Fellowship Church Southwest - We stand behind you – ready to follow your lead – ready to battle on all fronts for our church family – prepared to continue searching for the heart of Jesus with you and lead our families in God’s love and compassion – we are your Bonerges’ “ Son’s of Thunder – we are your Band of Brothers - - - “Let’s Roll” –

Mark 3: 13-17 - 13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

The Shuttle and Dead Shrimp are Part of Who I Am

On July 31, 2011 at 3:16 in the dark morning skies, the shuttle Atlantis came to a stop on the Cape Canaveral runway in Florida. Thirty years of inspiration and amazing space travel came to a close at that moment, and, for me, it was very emotional because I grew up in the center of the space program.

Mom and dad built a small but comfortable home in Nassau Bay back in the early ‘70s after moving us from the Bellaire area of Houston. Nassau Bay is a well appointed neighborhood south of Houston. Nasa Road 1 was the main drag running across the front of the development and is the main route to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center off Interstate Highway 45.

The neighborhood had lots of kids and young families. Parts of Galveston bay and a fresh water lake drew me and my gear loaded wagon to the water’s edge. Mom says I spent hours fishing and catching anything and everything.

I was in my early teens when we arrived on St. Charles Street, and my friendships were all new. Evans and I quickly became inseparable. He had two older brothers, and Wyatt became John’s, my older brother, friend. Evans and I spent so much time together it was not uncommon for one of our moms or dads to joke, “Why don’t you just get married?”

We did everything together -- good and bad. We build forts in Gaston’s woods, swam in the bay and snuck out to walk the neighborhood at night. Occasionally we would be wandering as the sun came up and see the milkman delivering to homes. With timing and precision we would sneak up on the unsuspecting homeowner’s porch and snag a half gallon for breakfast. Lord, forgive me for that and so many other sins in my youth.

The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were a huge time for the space program, and we were in the middle of it. NASA (the name before it was changed) was where it all happened. It was the control center and training facility for the astronauts on the ground and in space. Evans and I would walk over to the Space Center and explore. We would go into most any of the buildings, and I don’t remember ever being questioned or kept from exploring.

One of our favorite places was a news center with satellite dishes and all types of antenna on top of the hotel just cross from the Space Center. While the astronauts were in space, the news center would come alive and be broadcasting the news and reports. We would just walk in and watch it all happen. It was exciting.

Apollo 12 was the sixth manned flight in the American Apollo program and the second to land on the moon. It was launched on Nov. 14, 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Mission Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean performed just over one day and seven hours of lunar surface activity while Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon remained in lunar orbit. There were six Apollo spaceflights; 12 men walked on the moon. These are the only times humans have landed on another celestial body. The Apollo program ran until 1975.

Tom Gordon was Astronaut Captain Dick Gordon’s son and a running buddy of mine and Evans. During many of the space flights, his parents would be gone and we would hang at his house and raid the fridge. I remember lots of cool things his dad had received as gifts from kings, presidents and leaders from around the world after his moon flight. One specific thing I remember was a rose dipped in pure gold -- it was way cool.

But as much as I wish I could say things for me back then were perfect, I have to admit they were not. I don’t know exactly what it was that got me off track, but I began to explore drugs and my school interest began to tumble. Things at home turned hard, and my father’s drinking began to take its toll.

Today as a dad and armed with my life story, I want to keep my family from experiencing a lot of the same hardships. I want so badly for them to have memories and life lessons from a father who clearly trusted God and strived for His guidance in every way. I want them to know that we all make mistakes and make bad decisions, no matter who we are. I want them to know it boils down to knowing a loving God and that each day they can push the restart button and try to do it better, with Him.

Of course the list of things we did back then is long and troubled. One particular day we had been fishing and throwing our casting nets out in the shallow bay. Small shrimp were a common catch and this one day we pocketed a few for later use. Mid-morning found us at the pancake house on Nasa Road 1, sitting at the counter drinking soda. A small voice on one of our shoulders, I really don’t remember whose, tricked us into putting the small dead shrimp in the ketchup bottle and putting the top back on before we left. I know that later, at some point, a waitress was angry, a cook was angry, a customer was mad. I confess and ask for forgiveness today as I write this. I promise to never do it again. Thank you, God, for Your grace each and every day. Man, do I need it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fear Be Damned....

I am not sure where we were, just some mountain area, most likely in Colorado. Back when I was a young boy my family did the summer vacation road trips each year. Being on a mountainside looking over the valley below and a mountain creek flowing next to us were the kinda places my dad would find for us; it was beautiful. This particular day as we watched the valley, a storm drew in and the skies turned grey. Then it happened.

The bottom of one of the clouds began to spin, and a point formed. The point dropped down, and then it was a narrow tube. A tornado. We could see it from the mountainside, and my family and the other campers near us gathered to watch Mother Nature do her thing. Twisting and turning wildly through the valley floor, tearing up pastures and brush as it moved along.

I was so scared when I saw the tornado. I am not sure how to describe it except that maybe like a dog that senses a thunderstorm and is filled with anxiety and fear. I remember asking my mom what we would do if it came up to where we were. How would we be protected?

My first encounter with a mega-storm was just a few years earlier when Hurricane Carla came across the coast of Texas near Galveston. I was just 3 years old, but I remember playing on the front porch of our home in Houston during the eye of the storm. Roofing shingles, dead birds and branches littered the front yard as I rolled my metal Tonka truck back and forth under the covered porch. Then little-known newsman Dan Rather reported live from the Galveston Seawall during the storm, an act that would be imitated by later reporters. This marked the first live TV broadcast of a hurricane. I don’t remember being scared at all.

Growing up each year on his birthday, my oldest son got to go fishing. We would skip school and head to the lake and spend the day doing what we loved to do. One day as we floated along talking, he looked at me and started laughing and pointing.

“Your hair is standing straight up,” he said with an innocent laugh.

At that very moment I realized we were in trouble. I told him to set his rod down and sit down. I quickly hopped into the driver seat and motored us to the closest dock. We had been watching a thunderstorm roll in but were enjoying the breeze and the increased action with the fish. I never thought about the potential we might get hit by lightning. It is rare but possible, which scared me.

Fear is something that can wreak havoc in our minds and our lives if we don’t understand it. Unreasonable fear can cause phobias like driving on a freeway or riding in an elevator. There are times I am walking in the dark and in my mind I know it is safe, but I still fight being scared of something. I don’t quite know why that is, but I do.

I truly think that Satan uses fear in our lives to take us out of the game, too. He uses fear to keep us from asking for help. He uses it to keep us from making friendships or taking off time from work to be with our family. He uses it to convince us we can’t do things and are unworthy. He uses it to keep us from opening up and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to our spouses or friends when we are hurting or have needs. It can keep us from being who God wants us to be, who He has trained us to be. Fear manifests itself in so many ways, and for me I have to check in with God regularly and ask what is it I am afraid of that is keeping me from Him. I have to be willing to ask, and I have to be unafraid to hear the answer.

When we were on the mountainside that day and I asked my mom what we would do to keep safe if that tornado came up the mountain she said, “Well, we could lay in the ditch right there, and it will go right over us.”

I ran to the ditch and checked out where my spot was going to be – I wanted to know where I was going when it hit. The whole thing only lasted a few minutes before the tornado dissipated. I learned later that it would not have come up the mountainside anyway. I didn’t know that then and I was scared but knowing my mom had a plan, that she knew what to do, made me feel better.

I know today that God has a plan for me and that everything is part of that plan. I know He has a safe place for me when things are dangerous. Even still, in my humanity, I forget and feed into the fear of everyday life. Fear of death and sickness, money and accidents. But all in all I learned that tornados don’t go up the mountainside and hurricanes come and go. I know that those times I run and jump into the ditch He is with me, protecting me and I am safe. Fear, be damned.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I have a sit spot. No it’s not a blister on my butt from being lazy. It is what “Coyote Mentoring” calls a place in nature you sit regularly and learn about nature, tune into nature, leave the electronics behind and sit still and quiet. In one spot, the same spot and learn it. I love it.

Recently when my daughter and I were walking in some public area, I don’t remember exactly where it was, a mall parking lot or festival grounds, she told me to “walk faster.” “Dad, you’re walking like an old person, let’s go”. She said partially aggravated, partially laughing. I told her I was just taking in the moment with her. Really I was thinking and really not in much of a hurry to be anywhere any faster. I was content. But, I sped up my pace.

It wasn’t long after that the same thing happened, “Dad, you’re walking slow again.” This time it concluded with “you’re walking like an old man, let’s go.” Now, I am laughing. I find myself comfortable in a different pace than this 16-year-old kid and I like it. I like that it aggravates her first and foremost. I am always looking at ways to aggravate my kids with a purpose and this was a good one. “Slow down, enjoy this time with your dad.” I said. Didn’t work, she was trying to get to the truck to get home, a comfortable seat to text from or something along those lines I guess.

Now first of all, my kids are loving and caring as any kids ever. They are also teens and oblivious to a lot of things that don’t include their current life needs or crisis. I lived that way for almost all my life. To this day I find myself caught up in a whirlwind of electronics and business that means absolutely nothing when it comes down to the core things of importance.

Core level is living in the beauty of the moment but tends to only happen when someone is dying, coming back from tragedy, living in pain or hurt in one form or another. We as humans tend to have to have a brick to the side of the head to see life’s true core beauty.

I wanted to say here that there is something to be said for the hippie way of life. I wanted to find a correlating lifestyle that defined what I am trying to describe. I looked up hippie to see if that fit, peaceful, introspective and compassionate but most of the definitions for hippie were anti-establishment and included drugs. That doesn’t fit. But then I realized that in the bible Jesus often went to find still quiet places to pray and be comforted. He would spend the day talking to thousands then jump in a boat and go across the lake to a quiet wilderness area. He often went to the garden to be still and quiet. He found sit spots to connect to His Father and His creation, to reflect on the core level things important to us all.

When I called my daughter at work, Callahan’s General Store, and asked if she would bring me a bird feeder home and some seed she laughed. She joked with the other employee’s at the store who know me about my new obsession with bird watching.

I am liking trying to figure out my humming bird feeder and my new seed bird feeder. I get up early with a cup of coffee and sit on my porch swing and watch in anticipation of a bird coming to the feeder. It is exciting to see the different types.

Oh man, did I just say it is exciting to see birds coming into my bird feeder? Did I just reveal that I am enjoying sitting on my porch swinging in an old swing? Oh geez, I am getting old. But ya know what, I would not change this time in my life for all the youth and muscles and hair in the world. Thanks God for core experiences I will have today through You.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Health and Healing

When mom called a few weeks back and told me she had breast cancer my heart dropped. Since we lost my dad several years ago I had not had to deal with a personal loss at this level. I dread the idea but know that she and my step dad Bob are getting past mid seventies and things start to happen.

Lee was a dear friend and we spent years together hanging out and doing life together as single dads. Lee had an amazing story. He ran away when he was 14 and joined the circus. After the circus years he became a merchant marine and travelled the world. He was a great story teller and he always had one.

A nuclear power plant could not produce as much energy as Lee. He was always planning his next deal or business, visiting or socializing, working or loving on his two daughters. One day out of the blue my cell phone rang and it was Lee. “Hey, I’m in the hospital can you come see me,” he asked. Worried I left right away and when I got there he told me the news. He had pancreatic cancer and they were going to start treatments right away. What, Lee, how in the world?

It was a fast progression from that call to when he moved into our home where we cared for him and his daughters as he prepared for the end of his time here with us on earth. Through it all we learned about the horrific disease and watched this vivacious, little ball of fire turn thin and frail. It hurt. We were introduced to Hospice and finally Christopher House through this experience. Lee left for his reward Feb. 13, 2006.

Lee told me one time that 11:11 on the clock was special to him. I can’t remember what it was, probly something to do with winning the lottery or a finding a wife, I’m not sure. These days it seems I look at the clock a lot and it happens to be 11:11. My wife and I always say hi to him at 11:11 and talk to him for that minute or two. He left that with us to remember him, weird but classic Lee.

What seems like just a few months ago my wife’s best friend’s husband Jeff was diagnosed with the same hideous cancer. They were married less than a year and he was gone. It ravaged this strong, courageous, funny, brilliant professional poker player just as it did my seafaring friend Lee. My wife walked closely with her friend and shared what we had learned just a few years earlier. It may have helped some, but there is little you can say during those times.

I know the Lord can do miracles and healing is one of them. There are mighty and wonderful stories of those who were diagnosed with a horrific disease only to have it vanish. There are those who have lived years past the date they were told would be the extent of their time on earth. I believe in all my heart God does these things.

As Jesus walked the streets and people learned of His healings and believed His teachings they came from near and far. Just to touch His robe was enough to be healed for those who believed. Jesus healed with mud and spit and touch. He healed by speaking it over someone and professing that they be healed, He even empowered His apostles to heal the sick and lame.

The part that is hard for many of us to understand can often be “why won’t you heal me or my family member or friend.”To be honest, I think I struggle with that as well. But even His closest friends, the apostles, had a hard time with healing and miracles and truly trusting up to the end and they spent three years walking next to Him.

When Lee was sick we talked many times about what his life meant. He was often concerned about his legacy and what he was leaving behind. He prayed to accept Christ while he was sick. Although I think he had already done it, he wanted to, again, showing those around him He loved Christ. He began to share his faith with those who came to see him and at those emotional times I saw Lee’s ministry at work. We experienced amazing healing of hearts at his bedside, we saw people walk away changed. We may never know the impact he had on everyone who came to see him or heard about his illness. I believe God used it to His good and Lee’s daughters and friends found a peace in God they may not have found elsewhere.

I know that sometimes God does not answer the questions when I think He should. Sometimes He does not answer them the way I think He should. But I can honestly say that as far back as I can remember all those moments I thought it could never be any worse, got better. The pain of so many things I did not think I could live through has faded. I believe one day I will know the answers to all the questions and it will all have been based on a loving Father’s care for His boy, me.

My mom had her surgery, all the lumps we removed and they believe that for now she will be fine. We were blessed by Gods love in real time, our time. I want to learn to be OK with however He answers or not. I want to learn to listen better and ask for his hand more often. As far as I am concerned, I am fine with less of me and more of Him. I need all the help I can get.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Miley Cyrus is Missing Something She Won’t Find Where She is Looking

As I read the news reports on Miley Cyrus and her wild escapades, I was bummed out. I loved the show “Hannah Montana,” and it was on the totally approved list at our house. She was a good kid in that show, and her father was a cool, relaxed guy who seemed to do well with his role as a father.

Every Wednesday morning I meet at 6 a.m. with a group of guys from my church. We are a men’s Bible study with an open format. God takes our conversations all over the place, and recently it was the father and daughter relationship. We talked about all the usual things like when your daughter starts dating, praying with your kids and being a good example to your daughter as a man and a husband to your wife. All key elements to raising good kids, but we know that, don’t we? In our hearts we know it.

So we know it, but why don’t we always do it? Why do we still struggle with creating those moments, those lessons, those memories? Yes, there are super dads, the perfect guys who have good jobs and take wonderful vacations with their kids and have a great wife. The super dads seem to have everything organized, and their kids are wonderful in every way. OK, I admit those guys bug me. I am happy for them, but that life I do not know. The family life I know can be hard and unorganized; we argue, we laugh and love each other through it all.

Dads, a daughter needs to know you care about them. They need to know you think they are precious and important. Single moms, it’s a tough order for you. Girls need to learn from their daddy they are special, but when he is not present, she is missing half the team God intended. You have got to find a male role model, and it won’t be easy. Coach, teacher, instructor, uncle -- it’s tough.

I read an article a couple years back about an organization that provided a girl with a hunting opportunity. They claimed in the article that their organization and the hunting experience forever changed that child’s life. But at the end, on the bottom tucked in the raving reviews on the organization was a quote from the little girl.

“I want to thank my shop teacher for introducing me to this program. I want to thank him for always being there for me and helping me get through high school. I will always be grateful to him.”

Maybe a bit off the exact quote, but what I read in that was that it was the teacher who changed this girl’s life. It was this man who mentored and challenged, loved and cared for his student. It could have been bowling, softball or horses. It was a man who was committed to her and cared about her.

“The Cosby Show” was on the air for eight years from 1984 to 1992. The Huxtables were an affluent family living in the Bronx. The ratings for the popular show soared and dominated TV sitcoms in the ‘80s. Cosby was instrumental in the show’s success in many ways, but most important was his insistence that the show be educational and carry good moral and ethical themes. It is not unusual for America to be drawn to good; it is in our hearts. We want to live in a loving family that cares for us. It is natural. Mommy, daddy -- the names and needs are universal.

I live a life of many mistakes. I use a lot of mulligans daily. I am not always welcomed into my daughter’s life at the age of 16. I get that. I know I could do better in a lot of areas, and it hurts sometimes when I think about the opportunities, the moments I passed up or ignored to speak into her life. But one thing I know as truth. I trust God. I believe that I can push the restart button any day, and if I am true to my heart and God, try again to do better, it will matter. I know she has given her life to God and he will ultimately, long after I am gone, continue to take care of her, father her. That is a huge blessing.

To my precious daughter, I love you. I love who you are and who you are becoming. I love watching you grow and the moments you let me participate in your life. To God, I love you. Watch over her and shepherd her. Instill in her a heart for you. To the hairy-legged little boys out there who will meet my daughter -- she is very special and her expectations are high. She has goals, morals and virtues she lives by, not to mention her big brother is kinda crazy, and although I have never actually castrated a bull or wild boar pig, I have seen it once or twice and I am willing to learn.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Loving People

Love can be the best or worst emotion you ever experience in our short existence here on the planet Earth. Webster defines love as a feeling of strong attachment induced by that which delights or commands admiration; preeminent kindness or devotion to another; affection; tenderness.

Today for me, the idea, the emotion, the feeling of love, after my love for God, is mostly directed toward people. I have loved a dog dearly. I have loved hunting, fishing the mountains and the beach. I have loved good meals, cold beverages on a hot day and a warm fire in our fireplace. Today, however, I feel and experience it mostly in relationship with people. There are those who love others in ways I have yet to experience, and their testimony of love amazes me.

Years ago my dear friend adopted his grandkids. Their mom wasn’t able to care for them and the dads, well let’s just say they were not available. His wife passed away soon after, which was devastating to him. I have rarely heard a man talk so passionately about the woman he loved, loves, than this friend. I can hear it and see it in his eyes, and he remains that way today many years later. For the last several years he has been raising these grandkids alone.

I met him after watching him at the little league and softball field. He was always there, always with them. He told me once, “I don’t know what I would do without them in my life.” He loves and cares for these kids deeply, and the effort he invests in them inspires me endlessly.

Recently he has been very sick, which, for someone in their late 70s, is never good. They have discovered cancer in his liver and lung and are evaluating the extent of the problem and how best it is going to be treated, if at all. As we talked about his concerns, I see the pain of love in his eyes. He so dearly loves his grandkids and doesn’t know exactly what to do next. He is truly a man of honor and respect, loves with his heart and lives it. He expresses his testimony of love so clearly.

My wife’s best friend’s husband is going into the final stages of pancreatic cancer, and he is beginning to get pretty weak. One morning recently we were with them praying and talking. I did the guy thing and asked what he wanted to make sure got done before and after he died. When the girls stepped away for a moment, he told me he would be fine but he worried about her. His biggest concern was to make sure she was surrounded by friends who would love on her.

His love for her is obvious in his eyes when he talks about her. He has adored her since they met and loves her without compromise. They were not married a year when they found out he was sick; he probably won’t see their second anniversary. Today his heart is in every moment they are awake together, the small things, the quiet moments, the tears and laughter. Their love is obvious to all. Their testimony of love is moving.

Mom called last week and told me her doctor found a spot on her breast. As I write this she just called and told us they found cancer in the early stages. Next week she will get it removed and begin preventative radiation. We don’t know the full extent of it until they do a few other tests, but we are hopeful. We are praying for healing and care for her, comfort and rest.

My mom and I are very close and I can’t process the idea of her not being around right now. I love her dearly. I pray my testimony of love is healing.

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:8, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

I want to learn how to do that. I want to learn to love so well you can see it in my eyes. I don’t want to waste a day angry or distracted. I have lived as a hard man for many years, and I understand it was what I thought I had to do to protect myself. The only way I have found I can get even close to being that man is through my relationship with Christ. There I have found relief, forgiveness, courage, humor and a love beyond anything I have ever known. His testimony of love is forever.

Thanks to my wife for loving me through all things; you are my best friend. To my kids, I love you so much it hurts. Mom, you’re my mom, and I love you so much. To those of you I do life with, you know who you are, thank you. I only pray I am the friend or brother you need and are proud of.

February is the month of love. Love on someone today. Share God’s freedom and love. If you want to know more about Him, I am happy to share it. It’s amazing.

As far as chocolates, flowers and a card on Valentine’s Day, of course. I am smart enough to remember the basics and how it all works. The last thing I want is the ole’ pillow and blanket on the couch invitation. That’s just a drag, I remember.