31 August 2013

Day 31: The Bucket List

I've never made a bucket list.  I've never seen the movie "The Bucket List."  Oh, I know I'll eventually kick one, everyone does, but nothing in particular seemed like a "must do."  But there's a few things I can share (and a few I can't):

Find the love of my life: Oh, wait, I already did that one! :^)  Happily married seven days now, HAPPY ONE WEEK ANNIVERSARY, SWEETHEART!  I love you!

Travel: I really want to go to Europe.  Great Britain, Ireland, Normandy, Germany, Austria, see the Carpathian Mountains, lots of different places would do.  I wouldn't mind going back to Hawaii or taking an Alaskan cruise.  Maybe a New England cruise in the fall, see the coast in fall colors!

Drive a race car:  Just once.  I've driven my street car around a 2 mile road course, but couldn't push it because, well, I couldn't afford to wreck it and it wasn't designed for that.  SO that didn't really count.  I'd love to take one of the two or three day driving courses, but they're outta my price range.  Maybe after I win the lottery.  I suspect my chances would improve slightly if I actually bought a ticket.  But only slightly.

Read a book: No, a hundred books.  I have a big bookshelf full of books I've never read.  Unfortunately, real life intrudes on my reading time and I read painfully slowly.  My attention span has shortened significantly in the last 5 or 6 years, too, and I'm easily distracted.

Finish writing my book: I started it a few years ago as a short story for my daughter, and it's mostly written, it just needs a major edit and a partial rewrite to resolve a conflict in the plot where I changed horses in mid-stream.  It's about a nerdy kid who invents a time-manipulation machine and loses control of it.  I lost a decent size section in the middle where I printed but didn't save a couple of chapters, but thankfully I found the printout while I was moving, so I hope I can get back to it soon.

Be a good husband and dad: This is the one I can't let slide.  I love my wife and kids with all my heart, and if I fail at these, it doesn't matter much where else I succeed.

What's on YOUR bucket list?

30 August 2013

Day 30. A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself.

I don’t like this one. I’d much rather tell someone else everything I love about them.

I’d love to tell me oldest son how I love the simplicity of his life. How the same movie can keep him entertained all day. How he finds so much fun in introducing everyone to his shirt, how he finds it so easy to hug almost anyone, how completely unselfconscious he is.

I’d love to tell my daughter how much I love what a strong, level-headed young woman she is. How I love her love for God and His people. How I love that she cares about people no one else cares about, how she resists, even scorns, peer pressure, and how she still finds joy in the kids’ movies she grew up on; quoting Shrek, Spirit, Little Mermaid, The Incredibles, Bugs Bunny, the Smurfs, and Land Before Time.

I’d love to tell my youngest son how much I love watching him play video games and make up both sides of the imaginary conversations of the people in the game, going on canoe trips, watching him catch a football, safely and properly handling firearms like a responsible adult (better than many), and showing me his awesome karate moves.

How I’d love to tell my stepson how much I love the way his mind works, how he thinks and reasons and plans, how he can memorize and categorize volumes of information and explain it in minute detail. I love the logic I see clicking in his head, how nothing gets past him! I love that he takes time to explain his obsessions to me, even when I clearly don’t get it.

How I’d love to tell my bubbly, vivacious little stepdaughter how much I love her smile, her laugh, the little notes she writes me, and how she lights up rooms. How easily she wraps me around her little finger, and watching her crawl up into her mom’s lap when she’s sleepy, and how she shows me how her doll stuff works when I’m too much of a guy to figure it out.

I’d love to tell my wife how much I love the sound of her name, how beautiful she is, how she makes me see so much more of the world than sad, serious Steve ever did. How much I love and admire her as a person, a Jesus-follower, a mom & stepmom, a professor, a writer, a friend, a wife, and a lover.

But the challenge is to write what I love about me, and that’s far harder. I love my life, but it’s harder to love me. In the end, I’d rather be loved by others than by myself. I don’t believe that “you have to love yourself, first” stuff. I believe the love other people freely give is far, far more important than some narcissistic, delusion, self-aggrandizement.

My kids love me.

My stepkids love me.

My wife loves me.

And Jesus loves me.

I’ll settle for that.

29 August 2013

Day 29. Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.

To be more patient and easy-going. Because my kids deserve a calmer, less reactive dad. My wife and step-kids are helping. I’m not one that believes some dude can walk in off the streets and start barking orders, so I’m somewhat laissez faire with my wife’s children. I think I have to earn the right to be an authority figure to them, so I let her handle most of the discipline.

But my three are 10, 18, and 20. If I tend to be too reticent with her kids, I tend to be too harsh with my own. I don’t yell and scream at them, but I get bent out of shape, worked up over things that don’t amount to anything; failed logistics, mostly. So we’re a couple of minutes late, so what? So the leftovers, which didn’t amount to much anyway, got ruined, so what? So my child’s most frequent memories of me are when I’m mad, so…

Yeah. That’s what I said. I’m learning to treat those closest to me, the ones who are stuck with me, like I treat those I want to get closer to. Learning to give everyone the care and attention I use when trying to win someone’s heart.

28 August 2013

Day 28. What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?


No, seriously! It’s pretty unlikely, though.

When I met my wife, I was 47 years old, and convinced that my baby days were over! My youngest child was 10, and most women in their mid-forties aren’t looking to carry a baby, either!

But my wife was only 39 when we met, and we both love the idea of creating a little life together. But after some serious discussion, we opted to take that possibility off the table. Pregnancy, for both parents, is tough after 40, and the chances of some sort of complications increase exponentially. I have mixed feelings about it. I’d love to create a mini version of my lovely wife! But I have a son to carry on the Spencer name, and having a baby would alter life as we know it in ways that are legion. God has blessed me with five wonderful kids, and I’m content with the quiver I’ve been given! Psalm 127:5

27 August 2013

Day 27. What’s the best thing going for you right now?

I love my kids.

I love my wife.

I love my job.

But the best thing in my life is, as it has to be, my relationship with Jesus.

Without Jesus, I would have people in my life, but no life to have them in.

Without Jesus, I would have no hope that bad things would eventually be made right, that injustice would ever be righted. I would be groping blindly to figure out how to love the people I love most.

I would have to believe that a billion random miracles, all improbable and some flatly impossible, had to link up in an unbroken chain of events, completely at random, for me to even be here. Or worse, some nonsense such as reality not actually being real; that we’re all an illusion. How we’re all having the same illusion, I’m not sure. I should not send in my truck payment this month and tell them it’s their fault for having the wrong illusion.

I don’t have enough faith to belief in a billion critical miracles occurring completely at random in a precise, unbroken chain, the absence of any one of which could have prevented us from being here to have this conversation.

The question to ask is not “what do I believe,” but rather “is what I believe…real?”

“Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” - Del Tackett, The Truth Project

26 August 2013

Day 26. Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?

Of course. Who hasn’t? I know I haven’t experienced the level of depression and misery that a lot of people have, but there have been times I felt like giving up, if not on life in general, then just on certain aspects of it.

The most recent was just this past spring. After taking a couple of years out of the limelight, so to speak, I had been actively seeking a dating relationship for a few months. I had a six month membership on Match.com, and it was about to expire. I’d been on one date. It seemed God just didn’t have that planned for me, and I was okay with that. As I said yesterday, just being a dad is honor enough.

I spotted a beautiful young woman in one of the daily emails they sent me. On paper, she was ideal. But she was younger, prettier, and smarter than I considered myself worthy of (still do, although she does an amazing job of convincing me otherwise). I’m an introvert. No, I’m (or was) a hermit. I considered it “taking a chance” to even click “I’m interested” on her profile. I was happy, but quite surprised, to receive and email that said “Hi, wanna chat?”

“Boy, do I!”

Okay, that’s not what I said, but I emailed her back and we exchanged a few “tell me about yourself” emails. I gave her my real-life email address… and didn’t hear from her again. I figured I’d said something to scare her away, and although I was disappointed, I wasn’t terribly surprised. Being conditioned for rejection is a terrible, life-sucking thing. I never realized that before.

I can’t describe the feeling I had when, out of the blue a couple of weeks later, I get a message on Facebook. “Hey, just wondering if you’re getting my emails, haven’t heard from you.” Long story short, an aggressive spam filter was blocking ALL her emails before I even saw them. I fixed that and we agreed to meet for coffee.

She was even prettier than her pictures! Tall, with beautiful long, dark hair, intelligent, and very confident. Everything I wasn’t. I liked her immediately, but didn’t think I stood much of a chance with her. But she gave me a shot and we agreed to meet a second time; Mexican for lunch and bowling. By the time we had our third date; Subway in the park after work one day, I was hooked! It took some time for me to believe she could possibly be interested in me. But she’s been very patient with me and allowed me to grow out of my shell some, and she appreciates me. She makes me see life from a whole different perspective. She makes me laugh. She got me to take a salsa dancing class, and stops short of falling out of her chair laughing at my extremely cracker hip work. She makes me feel loved.

25 August 2013

Day 25. The reason you believe you’re still alive today.

My kids. My highest calling is to be Dad. It’s the greatest honor I could ever receive. And if I fail at that, it doesn’t matter much where I succeed.

I have three kids from my first marriage and two more now that I’m married to their mom (HAPPY ONE DAY ANNIVERSARY, HONEY!). I consider them all “mine.” Being adopted, I’ve always considered it a matter of fact that you don’t have to contribute DNA to a child to be their “dad.”

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” Ephesians 1:5

We (mankind) are not “all God’s children.” We are all God’s creation, but He is “Father” only to those who are adopted by salvation. My great privilege is that I don’t have to legally adopt my two stepchildren to be a “dad” to them. I simply have to do all the things a “dad” does: love them, support them, seek to understand them, nurture them, be there for them, empathize with them, be patient with them (my own say I need to work on that one), .

I’ll do my best to do those things and more, and hopefully with a home more conducive to routine occupation by school age children, I’ll get to spend more time with my own younger ones, as well.

24 August 2013

Day 24: Special Report!

I married my best friend today!

I always heard that your spouse is supposed to be your best friend, but I never thought that was possible. How could a best friend be someone of the opposite sex? Men & Women are just too different!

Then I met my lovely new bride. It’s scary how much alike we are! Good in some ways, not so good in others. We share some of the same weaknesses that will make life challenging at times, but we make each other better people. We make each other better parents. And we’re not completely identical! She challenges me in some areas and I challenge her in others. I have a hard time being silly and she sometimes has a hard time being serious. I can truly say she completes me, and I’m happier than I ever dreamed I’d be!

“Paulie: [talking about Adrian] “You like her?

Rocky: “Sure, I like her.

Paulie: “What's the attraction?

Rocky: “I dunno... she fills gaps.

Paulie: “What's 'gaps'?

Rocky: “I dunno, she got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.”

Day 24: Make a Playlist to Someone

I did this one in real life, sort of. From April 29 to May 29, I tweeted my fiancée a song every morning. Some of the more important songs were: God Gave Me You – Blake Shelton (“our” song)

What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life – Ronnie Milsap

I Love the Way You Love Me – John Michael Montgomery

Wanted – Hunter Hayes

Like Jesus Does - Eric Church

23 August 2013

Day 23: Something You Wish Had Done In Your Life.

I have two. I wish I had finished my college degree when I was young, unmarried, and working part time instead of cramming 4 years into 24. That’s right; 24 years separated my first college course (an 8am English class in the fall of 1984) from my last (a senior project in May 2008). By the time I finished, I was paying more for a textbook than I started out paying for a class. I’m glad I finished (my fiancée likely would never have even spoken to me if I hadn’t had a degree), but I finished with a load of student loans I wouldn’t have had if I had done it the right way. And my career might have advanced farther faster if my resume had gotten put in the stack to be interviewed instead of rejected without examination because I didn’t have a degree.

Second, I wish I had done at least one tour of some sort of military service. It would have been the perfect time. It was after Vietnam but before Desert Storm. The biggest thing we invaded was the island of Grenada, which I think required a bass boat, four riflemen and a squad of cooks. But alas, I had already discovered the allure of making just enough money to spend it all, and the military don’t pay SQUAT (a fact I will rectify one day when I’m President).

22 August 2013

Day 22. Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.

Gotten a credit card.

My parents were very fiscally responsible, or at least my mother was. My dad had (maybe) a third grade education, and had to work harder than I can imagine to make a living for me and my stay-at-home mom. She managed the money, and although I didn’t have a lot of things I wanted, nothing I needed was ever an issue. As far as I know, she never juggled a bill. We never had to wait until payday to go to the grocery store. I went to four years of private school from 3rd – 7th grade.

They say if you can’t be a good example, be a dire warning. I hope my kids will see the stress it puts on a family to try to spend their way to prosperity and be more like my Depression-era parents.

21 August 2013

Day 21. Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?

Whaddaya mean, “What do I do?” I do the same thing I would have done if we hadn’t had a fight.

My best friend is my fiancée, something I never considered before I met her. I’d heard all about how your girlfriend/spouse is supposed to be your best friend, but that had never been my experience. I didn’t even really believe it was possible. But she is, I love being with her no matter what we’re doing! It doesn’t have to be something romantic, she may be washing dishes while I’m cleaning the shower, and there’s still no place I’d rather be (except to have my kids with us, too).

So I’m assuming you mean that she’s been injured and in the hospital, which, of course, means I’m there, too. I’m the sentimental one, so yes, I’m probably apologizing profusely and berating myself for fighting over something so stupid, but I’m doing the same thing I would be doing even if we hadn’t had an argument: I’m there with her, going through whatever she’s going through, supporting her, doing everything I can for her, and considering it a high privilege.

20 August 2013

Day 20: My Views on Alcohol & Drugs

“Thou shalt not consume fermented or distilled beverages.”

Nope. Not in there. Anywhere.

There is abundant admonition against drunkenness (Eph 5:18, Prov 23:31), just as with many other excesses, but no outright prohibition. And even some approval (John 2:10) and recommendation (1 Tim 5:23).

I don’t do drugs. I don’t brag about this, but I smoked pot twice, 25 or 30 years ago. I didn’t like it. Everything was funny, which meant everything was just stupid.

I don’t drink enough to say I drink. I don’t particularly like beer or wine, just never developed a taste for it. An occasional shot of bourbon in a Coke or a shot of butterscotch schnapps in a holiday egg nog or hot chocolate is the extent of my drinking adventures.

I grew up in denomination known for its anti-alcohol teachings. Total abstinence and a reverence for the Eighteenth Amendment. Even a cold beer at the back yard cookout was unthinkable.

Then, like many folks, I did my stint (roughly a summer) on the bar tour; shooting pool, beer and pizza, mixed drinks if it happened to be a bar or other liquor-serving establishment. I rarely drank enough to get drunk, but there were a few occasions I’m not proud of. The last time I got drunk was approximately 1989-90. I was sitting at the end of the pool table, waiting for my shot. Completely without warning, the half a pizza and pitcher of beer I’d consumed minutes earlier decided to evacuate, and I was nothing but the egress tunnel. Riding to a friend’s house, in the back seat of my own nearly-brand-new Camaro, praying I didn’t throw up in it, cured my desire to drink for effect.

Budweiser used to run a series of commercials (maybe they still do, I don’t watch much TV) using the slogan “Know When to Say When.” The biggest problem with that philosophy is that every drink impairs your ability to know when “when” is, and lowers your inhibitions to doing things you may regret, albeit not remember. And with everyone having a smartphone these days, it’s good advice not to do anything you don’t want posted on Youtube.

19 August 2013

Day 19. What do you think of religion

I am a Christian.

I believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant word of God, revealing the character of God and His plan for His creation, and the only source of divine authority on Earth. I believe it gives us everything we need to determine how to be saved, which we all surely need to be, and how to live in this life and the eternity to come.

Of “religion,” I think poorly, if at all. The human concept of religion is generally nothing more than a way to define, categorize, and communicate whatever one’s personal worldview demands of him/herself, and therefore what he/she likely demands, or at least expects, of others. I’m not interested in your religion, I’m interested in what you believe, and whether that belief has any basis in reality. I am a Christian because I am convinced, utterly convinced, that the claims of the Bible are true, that historical and archaeological evidence has time and again proven the biblical record accurate in every meaningful particular, that not one major doctrine is affected by so-called “errors,” that tens of thousands of pieces of manuscript evidence point to a nearly completely accurate modern survival of the original texts, and that if God exists at all, He is who He said He is in the Bible. If He had meant something different, He’d have said something different, and if He’s not who He said He is, He’s not God at all.

But in the end, if God does not exist, my faith won’t conjure Him up. But if He does, all the accumulated doubt of the ages cannot harm Him.

18 August 2013

Day 18. Your views on gay marriage.

Touchy subject. I addressed this a few months ago when the Supreme Court case regarding DOMA and Prop 8 were being argued. I know it’s a little lazy to simply reprint that post here, but likely there’s a few of you who hadn’t seen it before, and my views remain unchanged. Here’s a summertime rerun:
My only comments on the matters currently before the Supreme Court:

I believe right and justice belong to Mr. Pelkey. But I'm afraid the law may lie with Dan’s City Used Cars, Inc.

Seriously, look it up.

Okay, okay, on the matters on everyone's minds and tongues:

Many, if not most, Western civilizations have acknowledged the existence of committed, monogamous relationships between members of the same gender. I'm aware of none that has equated these relationships with "marriage." If there is, I'd appreciate a link.

That said, with due apologies to my conservative friends, I think we've lost this battle. In fact, I think we lost it a long time ago, and we'd be better off settling for "civil unions," which I personally consider little different from marriages performed by non-ministers, or even unbelieving ministers. Or any marriage among unbelievers. America lost all semblance of Christianity years ago, and the government has neither the inclination nor the ability to bless or curse anyone (except Christians, of course... and Israel, for which we risk a very clear warning).

As for the matter of homosexuality in general, I have, and hopefully still have, gay friends. I pass no judgement on the deeds of any man (or woman).

But the Bible clearly does. In no uncertain terms. Not on the people any more than others, on their deeds, just the same as many, many other deeds the Bible speaks of, including others of a sexual nature.

Don't look at me, I didn't write it. But Moses and Paul, at a minimum, did. To argue otherwise, one must necessarily take a low view of Scripture. Or of God's willingness, or worse, ability, to preserve His Word over the long passage of time. And of the "cultural" argument, I would say only that we are about as far removed from the writings of the New Testament as Paul was from the writings of the Old, and the "culture" of desert-wandering Hebrews was a far cry from 1st Century Roman. And yet Paul held no such "cultural" view of the writings of Moses.

As always, just my two cents. Keep the change.

17 August 2013

Day 17. A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.

Besides The Bible, of course. And I've read the whole thing at least once. But for casual reading, I never read a book that would disagree with me.

No, seriously, I don’t avoid things that disagree with me, but I tend to read a lot of historical non-fiction, so a simple retelling of the past is hard to dispute. Something I have read lately changed my views on an important historical issue, however: Abraham Lincoln, the Abolitionist.

The papers I was reading were assigned as part of a free, online history course in American Heritage, offered by Hillsdale College online.hillsdale.edu in Michigan. During the course of the readings, I studied Lincoln’s campaign speeches, inaugural addresses, and personal writings. I found that he was much more stridently abolitionist than I had previously believed. His wartime speeches and correspondence give the impression of a man who simply wants to preserve the Union, at whatever cost to all things but the most basic of American values. One of those values is freedom, which, of course, at that time, did not include complete freedom for much of anyone except white landowners. As late as 1865 (the war ended in April 1865), there were still many, many people in the North opposed to emancipation and abolition. Many Northern states still tolerated slavery, and many Northern officers were as vehemently opposed to the “rights” of “colored” people as in the South, just as parts of the South (most notably western Virginia and eastern Tennessee) remained staunchly Unionist throughout the war. Any discussion of Lincoln’s view of slavery inevitably includes the quote from a letter to abolitionist newspaperman Horace Greeley:
“If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”
But the quote in question does not reflect the predominance of Lincoln’s opinion on the issue. Rather, it reflects the practical expediency of a man sending young men to their deaths by the tens of thousands, and who desires only to end the bloodshed without presiding over the destruction of the nation he governs. Lincoln argues forcefully and persuasively for an end to slavery, while recognizing that his is not the only viewpoint. It was a new perspective on Lincoln’s slavery views that all of my wide reading on the subject had not brought to light.

16 August 2013

Day 16. Someone or something you definitely could live without.

Heat. It wouldn’t bother me if it never got over 70 degrees all year long.

I grew up in the South, so when Salem hits 85 and 25% humidity in July, you’d think it was a walk in the park, right? I mean, that’s the first week of March through the end of November back home, and most of that time the humidity is sky high! I never believed that “dry heat” stuff until I moved out here, but it really does make a difference. Even when it hits 100 here, in the shade it’s not so bad if there’s a little breeze blowing.

But the apartment I’m in is a middle floor unit, and it just traps the heat all day long. I just can’t get enough air moving to keep it comfortable, and when it gets into the mid-upper nineties, it’s just unbearable. Once, a few weeks ago, the last time I looked at the clock, it was 1:17AM and it was 88 degrees in my bedroom. Fans just blow hot air around. NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip was once asked whether or not the side vents in the race cars that deflected air into the drivers’ faces helped with the 150 degree plus heat in the car. He replied that if you take 100 degree air and speed it up, you don’t have an air conditioner, you have a hair dryer.

I could have an air conditioner, but I’d have to get one of the portable ones and they’re more money than I want to spend, on that, anyway. Too many other, more pressing needs. And my bride-to-be has a portable, so we'll be comfortably cool newlyweds in a week! We’ll be moving into a new place this fall/winter, so we’ll plan to take things like air conditioning and air flow into consideration this time. But really, I'd move to the Mojave Desert to be with her, so all things comfort are relative. Given the choice, however, I'll take 65 degrees over 85 degrees every time!

15 August 2013

Day 15. Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.

There are only six people I cannot live without:

My kids.

My fiancée.
And except for my kids during the time right after my split, I’ve never tried to live without them (subsequent to meeting Jesus & meeting my fiancée, of course). Lord willing, I’ll never have to.

So I’ll have to use a “thing:” caffeine.

For a couple of months earlier this year, I suffered what seemed one health problem after another. Wholesale changes in medications and seasonal allergies, combined with not enough sleep and poor diet, made it a miserable period of time. I felt old, and my fiancée thought she’d found an invalid. At her encouragement, I’ve tried to eat healthier and get some more exercise, and the short term result is that I lost about 20 pounds. I could stand to lose another five or so, but it’s a good start.

One of the things I gave up, for a while completely, was caffeine. I never was a three-latte-a-day person, but I used to drink something with caffeine in it almost constantly until lunchtime. What I found was that I was falling asleep in my oatmeal, and having withdrawal headaches. I’ve added a single serving, rarely two, back into the routine, and it definitely makes a difference. I think I’m safe in moderation.

Is caffeine an indispensable part of your day? Have you given it up and you’re glad?

14 August 2013

Day 14. A hero that has let you down.

I haven’t had a lot of heroes in my life. So this answer isn’t particularly personal, but I’ll relate the story to illustrate the point. And some of my challenge answers have been cop-outs before, so the lack of an ultra-personal answer should come as no great surprise at this point.

For much of my Christian life, I’ve listened to Christian talk radio almost as much as Christian music, or any other music for that matter. I have a short list of radio and internet preachers I consider outstanding and listen to on a regular basis, at least when time and radio programming permit:

John MacArthur – Grace to You

Chuck Swindoll – Insight for Living

R.C. Sproul – Ligonier Ministries

David Hocking – Solid Rock Radio

It is with Dr. Hocking that our story today is concerned.

In October 1992, Hocking admitted to an extra-marital affair with a member of his church congregation. He resigned the pastorate and his radio ministry. He was expected to undergo a period of counseling and repentance under the supervision of elders of his church. Whether he did so or not remains a controversial subject, but he has returned to teaching. You can read briefly about it here.

People, no matter how wonderful, will let you down. Only a perfect person can behaved perfectly forever. Only in Jesus can you find a perfect Person. Thank God he puts imperfect people in our lives that make them rich and meaningful, relationships where we find love and acceptance. And He believes in second chances. Just ask the fisherman sitting silently on the beach as the One he denied three times cooks breakfast for him (John 21:15-19).

13 August 2013

Day 13. A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough days

My favorite band in the world is “Third Day.” They have a few songs that have meant a lot to me at certain stages of my life.

When I went through my separation and subsequent divorce, I felt pretty alone, not knowing what to do or where to go. Right about that time, they released a song called “Revelation:”
“Gimme a revelation

Show me what to do

Cause I’ve been trying to find my way

I haven’t got a clue

Tell me should I stay here

Or do I need to move

Gimme a revelation

I’ve got nothing without you”
I needed a revelation, and over time, just at the right time, I got one. It wasn’t often the dramatic, thunder and lightning, pillar of cloud by day and fire by night thing, but I got through those days one at a time.

In the midst of that turmoil, other of their songs, based on Psalm 36, gave me a focal point outside my circumstances.
“Your love, oh Lord

Reaches to the heavens

Your faithfulness

Stretches to the skies"
I remember sometimes just walking around singing that song in my head. It brought me a lot of comfort.

Long about the time I described in Day 10, I found a song on their “Revelation” album that was not released as a single. It said, in part:
“Yesterday I found

That everything I knew was wrong

It was upside-down

The life I thought I had was gone

But you came and whispered love to me

And you gave me strength to carry on

And oh, the sun is shining

And oh, a new day’s dawning”
It would take me a couple of years to find the one who would be that new day for me, but she was worth the wait!

12 August 2013

Day 12. Something you never get compliments on.

Salsa dancing.

Actually, the instructors in the Chemeketa class my fiancée’ and I are taking are very encouraging. It’s going better than I expected it to, but possibly because my expectations were so abysmally low to begin with. I’m really trying, it’s something that makes my sweetie very happy, and I really want to do a good job for her… but my body just don’t move that way! When we’re doing the hip movements, my muscles and joints are screaming “AAAAAHHHHHHHHH! What’s he doing?? We’ve never done that before!!”

On a more serious note, this is one I’ve thought about often in the past couple of years. Ask anyone who knows me what one word comes to mind when they think of me, and with the possible exception of my bride-to-be, not one of them will say “love.”

You might get “smart.”

You might get “funny.”

You might get “witty.”

You might get “jerk.”

But you’re probably not going to get “loving.”

“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 He didn’t say we’d be known by our correct doctrine, although that’s important.

He didn’t say we’d be known by our service, although serving others can be a sign of love.

He didn’t say we’d be known by our social status, church attendance, manner of dress, appearance, or what we do/refuse to do.

He said we’d be known by how much we love others.

"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” – Matthew 5:46 Do I really love anyone that doesn’t love me back?

I love my fiancée’. More than I’ve ever loved anyone and as much as I know how to love anyone. I’m still learning, and she’s still training me, and I’m profoundly grateful to God for answering my prayers beyond my wildest dreams.

I love my kids. There isn’t anyone or anything on this Earth that could come between us. I’d die, or kill, to protect them in a heartbeat. I love my soon-to-be-step-kids. They’re awesome and they’ve welcomed me into their lives with open arms. Obviously, I’ve never been a step-dad before, but I figure if I just try to be a good dad, I’m probably on the right track. Having been adopted, the concept of choosing to love a child you didn’t give birth to is one my mom and dad modeled for me my entire life. I love those kids, and I’m so looking forward to being there for them. And hopefully, to get some more time with my own kids as they get older and make their own choices.

But I have to admit… people are inconvenient. Sometimes by their mere existence. They drive too slow or too fast. They use the self-check cash registers without knowing what they’re doing, basically putting an untrained employee on the equipment. They always seem to know exactly where to stand reading every label on the shelf when the one item I need is right behind them.

I know I need to change this. I need to learn to see others as God sees them. As He once saw me. As He sometimes still does. For some, loving others comes easy. For me, it’s something I need to work on.

11 August 2013

Day 11. Something people seem to compliment you the most on.

I’ve never been much of a compliment magnet, but my beautiful fiancée’ complements me about something almost every day! Sometimes it’s my looks (I think she needs her eyes examined), sometimes it’s because she says I put other people, particularly her and our kids, before myself. The greatest compliments I get are when she tells me she’s lucky to have me. I know, it’s a crock, I’M the lucky one that she ever even agreed to go out with me, but I love hearing it!

When you think about it, being complemented is not something you can fish for. If you have to ask for it, you don’t deserve it.

10 August 2013

Day 10. Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.

I’m not there now, but I’ve been there.

I won’t go into details, but I remember the moment when I knew.

I’d been trying to save my marriage for more than four years. Oh, I know, I wasn’t perfect, even while trying to win her back, and I don’t mean to imply that I was. But I can honestly look myself in the eye and say I tried.

But I remember the moment I knew that what I thought I was trying to save didn’t exist anymore and probably hadn’t for at least a couple of years.

Letting go was surprisingly easy. I’d spent so long desperately not wanting to let go that finally doing it so easily surprised me. Reba McEntire sings a song that says:

“I guess the world didn’t stop for my broken heart.”
That was the day I figured out the world didn’t stop for me. That I still had three kids that needed their dad. Life would go on and God would go with me, and although I didn’t know it at the time, He knew what lay ahead for me, and it was more than I would ever have imagined.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,” – Jeremiah 29:11
That was April 2009. I didn’t know it then, but April 2013 would look much, much brighter.

09 August 2013

Day 09. Someone you didn’t want to let go of.

In June of 2007, my family and I moved from Arlington, Tennessee to Salem, Oregon. Ostensibly, it was going to be a fresh start for our family after a few very rocky years.

My mom was 84 when we moved. He mind was failing, and almost every night on the phone, we’d have the same conversation:

“No, we’re in Oregon, Mom.

“No, not Arkansas, Oregon.

“Yes, it’s pretty far away.

“No, it’s more than you could drive in one day (a good 4, 12-hour days of driving).”

Thanksgiving Day of the following year, Mom’s husband called me. She was in the hospital with a bad respiratory infection. I got to talk to her on the phone a handful of times over the next few weeks, but she deteriorated from unintelligible to non-responsive quickly. She died 15 December 2008. The last time I saw her was during a Christmas trip home, 2007. She never figured out where Oregon was.

Losing my mom was hard. But the truth was, I had to let her go a year before she died. I moved out here knowing it meant I would not be there when she passed. But we make choices, and we do the things we think are best for everyone at the time. I tried to do what was best for my marriage and my kids. Some of those decisions don’t work out, at least not for everyone. When I went back for Mom’s funeral, I wouldn’t have recognized her. She had aged 30 years in those 18 months, a frail little old elf rather than the relatively tall, strong woman she had been.

Yet here, four and a half years later, even though I’m a lot farther away from my kids than I’d like, I have a good, stable job at a great employer, and I’m engaged to the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known. She has two great kids I’m looking forward to being step-dad to…, no, wait, I’m looking forward to being dad to all five of my kids!

“Now we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you will not grieve as also the rest, who have no hope.” - I Thess 4:13
Everybody has to let go, sometimes. Letting go can be an ending or a beginning, or both. And I’ll see Mom again. I thank God for my life today.

08 August 2013

Day 08. Someone who made your life difficult.

There are a couple of different routes I could take her, but both are too personal to share in a forum such as this. So please forgive me if I take the easy road.

Me. Yeah, I know, that’s sort of a cop-out; I don’t want anyone else to recognize themselves in here, on the very slim chance that much of anyone will ever see this anyway. I started to list old bosses, co-workers, people that picked on me in high school, anonymous, irresponsible clients, but the truth is no one has given me as much grief as myself. I shoot myself in the foot with alarming ease and regularity.

I do and say (or fail to do/say) things that are not true to my character, and not pleasing to my God. I am a faithful follower of Christ, but not always faithful as I follow. I love my kids with a consuming passion, yet I don’t get to see them as often as I want to, and sometimes I’m impatient with them and clueless about their feelings. I love my fiancée’ more than any woman I’ve ever known, but can be distressingly unthinking. I wouldn’t hurt her or my kids intentionally for anything in the world, and I’d die for any one of them without a second thought, but to live for them every moment of every day, well, I’m still learning how to do that one decision at a time; one act of putting them before my own needs at a time.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” – Romans 12:10 Life works better when you’re putting others before yourself.

07 August 2013

Day 07. Someone who has made your life worth living for.

The romantic in me wants to say my fiancee'.  And she does.  It thrills me every time I look at my left hand and see my ring (yes, I'm already wearing my ring, if she gets to wear one that tells the world about me, I get to do the same).  But my kids came along first.  And they made my life worth living from their first breaths.    But what makes my life complete, and makes the rest of it possible, is my faith in Jesus Christ.  I'm no saint.  I still struggle at times (no more than a couple dozen a day) to match my beliefs and my actions.  But my faith is my single most defining characteristic, and makes it possible for me to at least try to be who the other most important people in my life want and need me to be.

06 August 2013

Day 06. Something you hope you never have to do.

This one is easy: Go to the morgue and identify a body.  No, seriously, I read stories of people who have to view the remains of a loved one after some horrible accident, and I can think of nothing worse that I could be asked to do.  Face a grizzly with a switch? Check.  Work at manual labor (I'm a banker) until my fingers bleed to provide food for my family?  Check.  But this?  No way.

I have three kids, and soon will have five, with my wife-to-be's two, and I can't bear the thought of losing any of them, or the love of my life.  I've been told it's selfish to not want to outlive them, and I guess it is.  But as bad as losing them would be, having something like this be the last memory I have of them terrifies me.

05 August 2013

Day 05. Something you hope to do in your life.

Easy.  Travel.  I've never been much of anywhere, and have never considered myself the traveling kind, but my fiancee' has open my eyes to a world of possibilities I never would have seen sitting on my butt in front of the TV.  She's traveled fairly extensively, and the stories she has to tell are amazing.  I love the idea of revisiting some of those places and sharing them with her, and making a list of our own, new experiences to have together.  I expect it'll expand faster than it gets checked off, but our current travel bucket list looks something like this:

Hawaii (Maui or Kona, we've both been to Oahu)
China (to walk on the Great Wall)
South Africa
New York City
Washington DC
New Zealand/Australia
Canadian Rockies

Suggestions?  Where have you been?  Anyplace you x go back to?

04 August 2013

Day 04. Something you have to forgive someone for.

I should have read this list before agreeing to this challenge.  Yesterday, I described my feelings about my half of the breakup of my family.  Today, although hard to talk about, I have to acknowledge the fact that, while I can say I've forgiven and moved on, forgiveness is an ongoing, sometimes daily process. I tend not to dwell on it, as nothing good comes from that, and there's no sense reliving the past.  But if I'm honest, and I intend to be in this challenge, there's more work to be done in this area.  Having a wonderful future to look forward to helps, and I do.

03 August 2013

Day 03. Something you have to forgive yourself for

This is the most difficult day so far; easy to say on day 3.  Regular readers, all three of you, will recall that I'm divorced.  I hate what that has put my kids through.  I hate that they live 4 hours away and I only get to see them once a month, twice if I'm lucky.  I hate the pride and selfishness that contributed to the destruction of my family.  I take responsibility for my share of the breakup.

At the same time, I can look myself in the eye and say that I tried.  And I can recognize that God can take awful, stinky, disgusting manure and use it to grow a beautiful garden.  I've found an incredible woman who loves me, loves my kids, and appreciates what I've learned from the mistakes I've made.  Her kids love me and I love them.  God has brought us both through very difficult times to a place where we can find happiness and love, and I'm grateful for my second chance.

02 August 2013

Day 2: Something I Love About Myself

Day Two of the 31 day challenge brings me to: Something you love about yourself.

I try to be willing to have a rational, reasoned argument with people who disagree with me.  One of our greatest faults, particularly in contemporary politics, is the unwillingness to accept the possibility that people can disagree with us without being stupid.  The tendency to ascribe pristine motives to our allies and nefarious intent to those who oppose us, without acknowledging that their words and tactics are virtually identical, prevents us from finding common ground.  

Take the recent NSA scandal, for instance.  The same Democrats who would have (and some who did) burn George W. Bush in effigy for his Patriot Act measures vehemently defend President Obama for using the necessary tools to thwart terrorists, despite the fact that much of what has come to light originated under Bush and was merely continued under Obama.  Likewise, Republicans who excoriate Obama as a Socialist Dictator peeking in our mail slots vigorously defended Bush for being tough on terrorists.  The issue isn't as important as the attitude, and it's hindering our progress and fragmenting our unity.

01 August 2013

Thirty One Days of Truth Challenge: Day 1: Something I Hate About Me

Suzi Shumaker, an active blogger of some repute, recently turned me on to a challenge by another blogger, Faith and Substance, called Thirty Days of Truth (edited to 31 to fit August).  I begin the month today on the subject of Something I Hate About Myself.  This shouldn't be too hard.

I tend to over-analyze.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and nowhere more so than between my ears.  In the absence of hard information, I'll make something up, usually with little to no basis in reality.  The result is I worry and stress over conditions that do not, in fact, exist.  It leads my Inner Critic to imagine all sorts of ways to expose and exploit my shortcomings.  It makes it difficult to accept that someone might genuinely mean the nice things said about me; hard to grasp the concept of being loved and appreciated.  I'm blessed to have a loving Savior, the best kids on Earth, and to be loved by the most wonderful woman I've ever known, all of whom tell my IC to go fall on his head!