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.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Firebird 400 and Giving Back

So I love the idea that each day we have the opportunity to push the reset button on our lives. We can wake up and tell someone sorry, or thank you, or love you. It is a rare day I don’t reflect on something I wish I would have done differently. At 51, I am also contemplating what will be the takeaway from my life that folks are going to have.

That all being said, the new year is a really cool time to put a plan into place. By now, most of you have been beaten over the head with new year’s resolution information overload. You have been told to trim the eating, go to the gym, buy a new vehicle and give to the charity of your choice ( These are not bad things to do, but sometimes they can be a set-up for a letdown.

A wise old man told me one time, actually I can’t remember if it was a guy and if he was old, but it sounds good -- don’t set giant new year’s goals. Set small goals that are achievable, like, don’t eat a bowl of cereal every night before bed, read a paragraph out of the Bible each day or walk to the end of the street and back once each day, no matter what. When you conquer a small goal and feel successful in achieving that step, you prepare yourself for the next bigger goal.

When I was a teenager, I convinced my then godfather to loan me $1,000 to buy a car. I had found a really cool late ‘60s / early ‘70s Firebird 400. I wish I had that car today; it was the beast. The car was fast as lightening, white with a black interior and if I didn’t have it, the world was going to end. Mr. Fischer, my godfather, had not seen me in who knows how long, maybe since I was born, but I called him. I don’t remember having a job or any reason he would lend me that kind of money, but for reasons I still to this day don’t understand, he did. That was a lot of money in the mid-‘70s.

I got the money, then the car, and it was good times for T.J. I don’t remember going by and showing Mr. Fischer the car or saying thanks. What I remember does not speak well for me; I just ditched him debt and all and went on my way. I had the car a few years and was too irresponsible to care for it. Eventually I sold it and continued on with my lost and self-centered living.

Years later, many years later, the guilt surfaced. It got to a point where I could not continue to ignore the way I treated Mr. Fischer. I made a vow to send him money every month, the same amount, and pay him back. I did just that. Month after month it felt good, really good, to put that check in an envelope and mail it away. Finally I sent the last check and a note to make sure he was OK with it. He sent back the most wonderful letter telling me he was proud of me, that they were struggling and the money was a blessing. Wow.

I am exposing myself quite a bit here telling this story, but it was a new year resolution I made many years back that was doable. It was a huge and wonderful God-honoring, man-honoring, T.J.-honoring resolution from which I gained a lot of pride and heartfelt satisfaction.

I have gone to the gym, saved money, quit smoking, ate healthy and not cussed resolutions in the past. Each one them were met with minimal success. All good things, just not quite time for me to bring them about fully. I do believe in pushing yourself out of the comfort zone, hard work and getting your butt off the couch to accomplish goals, so this is a personal challenge when it boils down to it.

Even the apostles made promises to Jesus right to his face and broke them. “I will never forsake you or deny you,” Peter said. It was just hours later he said three times he did not know that man they called Jesus. Alas, we are forgiven, and Jesus forgave Peter. We all make commitments we can’t keep and promises beyond our ability to fulfill.

Reset is something we should incorporate into our lives daily. We all know it; our heart tells us that. Take something this year and pay it forward, ask forgiveness, walk to the end of the street everyday or begin donating to a worthy cause. By doing something hard, something small, something meaningful or something good, you will not only feel better but it lifts all humanity up a notch and, man, do we need it now. Amen.