Remembering

I was taking some time today reflecting on the road I’ve traveled over the past year. In remembering the sometimes smooth, and often bumpy path, I started to recall a message I posted pretty much exactly one year ago to the day. It’s called The Power of Remembering. In this post, I shared the literal meaning of the word remember, as it is the opposite of dismember. It’s literally taking an experience either we went through, or that of someone else, which has had an affect on who we are. Then, we reattach it to our thoughts so that we may, to some degree, re-live the experience. By doing so, we hopefully have a greater understanding and appreciation for who we are and the blessings we enjoy today.


Since I wrote that message a year ago, my mom unexpectedly passed away. As I spent this Thanksgiving Day with my dad, we both brought up random memories with which this remarkable woman blessed our lives. Some memories were funny, some were poignant, and some were painful to relive. But each was significant in remembering the sum total of who she was as a person.


I sometimes wonder what people will remember of me. In the past year or two, I have reconnected with hundreds of people I have known throughout my life. Through Facebook, I’ve reconnected with some who go as far back as kindergarten. Despite the fact that they knew me when I was still struggling to tie my shoes, they know very little about anything that has happened in my life since we last saw each other at the end of our school careers in Petaluma, California. It was then that my life took a serious course change. Enter a different cast of characters. I have also reconnected with some people who got to know me from the years of roughly 1983-1985. Those were amazing years for me, but those people know virtually nothing of my life before or after that short time. Then came my college friends, friends from this church, and that church, this city and that city. When I look at my Facebook friends, I’ve got at least one representative from pretty much every facet of my life. But none of them were there for even half of the sum total of my experiences.


Everyone is going to carry different memories of me. Some may be funny, some may be sad. Some may even have frustrating or bitter memories. Because none of us knows how much time is allotted to us in this life and what it will contain, we have no way of knowing what memories are yet to be made. All I know for sure is that I pray my best days are still ahead. I pray that the sum total of my experiences, the people who have come and gone, and some who have re-entered the picture, will serve to inspire great things ahead. 


What I would like to communicate to those who read this, to those who have known me for decades, or only weeks, or maybe those who I haven’t yet met, is that who I am is defined most by a relationship I started back in April of 1983. The only individual who is in my life today who has known me not just since I took my first breath, but going back even long before I was born. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not some wacky bible thumper known for confronting people with hell fire and brimstone. I’m just not that way. But if I’m to truly remember the single greatest influence in my life and that of my family and closest friends, I must daily reattach to myself the most loving and sacrificial act ever performed for me…and for you. 

I have enjoyed some wonderful memories and friendships throughout my life. They blow my mind. I have been truly blessed. I can honestly and without hesitation attribute each of the greatest experiences of my life to God’s love, grace and mercy. I can also tell you that through the most difficult times in my life, He saw me through it. He saw my tears, felt my broken heart. People come and go from our lives. It’s just life. But through it all, God has never left my side.

I owe Him all that I am, all that I have, all that I will be and will ever have.  


I will daily remember His love, His faithfulness, and His sacrifice for me.




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Unsaid

As we draw to the close of another calendar year, and as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, you might say I’m in a fairly reflective mood. Perhaps more than usual, which is saying something.

One thing I’m very thankful for as I think about this past year is for the wonderful opportunities I had with my parents over the past 15 years or so in which we were open about our feelings for each other. Growing up, our household wasn’t the most affectionate in the world. We weren’t a huggy kissy family, nor did we really ever say “I love you.” That all changed about a decade and a half ago, and we definitely made up for lost time.

So many people miss out on this blessing. I met a woman at a church I once attended who shared with me her story of an argument she had with her dad one morning just before he took off for work. She said some pretty harsh things to him that day which have haunted her ever since. On his way to work that morning, he had a heart attack while behind the wheel of his car, and died.

I’m so thankful my family had many years to hug and kiss, and verbally affirm our love for one another. I’m thankful that when it came time to tell my mom it was OK to let go of this life because we’d be fine, that I had left nothing unsaid. Sometimes I told her how I felt about her, sometimes I wrote it. But in any case, it was important for me to express my love and appreciation for the woman, the mother that she was. I’ve done the same for my dad. As is the case for probably many father-son relationships, we weren’t terribly affectionate. But I recall driving home from spending a few days with them over Christmas, and being overwhelmed with emotion. My dad took such amazing care of my mom for so many years. It was truly inspiring. That was my mom. He took care of her every need. On that drive home, I called him and poured out my heart to him. I don’t know if it was awkward for him. If it was, it probably wasn’t because of some macho guy thing as much as it’s hard to receive accolades for things you just do for someone you love.

The past 15 years of my life have taught me the importance of leaving nothing left unsaid to those in your life who have inspired you, sacrificed for you, believed in you. Tomorrow is promised to no one, so don’t put it off. Maybe there is someone from whom you are estranged. Maybe today is the day that you make the decision that this person is of far greater value than that thing which caused the division. Maybe there’s someone you figure just knows you love them, but you haven’t taken the time to tell them, and tell them why.

Take the time to think of the people who have participated in, and contributed to your life in ways which have made you a stronger and better person. If it’s at all possible, reach out to them and let them know that their influence has inspired you to greater things. Believe me, you’ll feel great, and I’m willing to bet you’ll make their day.

No Other Life

I had a conversation recently in which the concept of commitment to a lifestyle came up. The context was commitment to our faith. During the conversation, I recalled the scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption in which Brooks, an elderly man who had spent virtually his entire adult life in prison, had been released from prison. He found himself to be a foreigner in a world of freedom. The pace of life was overwhelming and unfamiliar to him. Despite the confinement and restrictions of prison life, it was familiar and even comforting to him. This is called being institutionalized.

In describing my level of commitment to my faith, I used this same word. Despite the fact that I lived the first 18 years of my life without any type of faith or commitment to God, or much of anything else, at the age of 44 now, I know no other life. It’s not that I have no other choice of a lifestyle to live. It’s that I’ve eliminated the option of walking away from from my faith. When you’ve made a choice and there is no turning back, you’re left with one option when the going gets though. You deal with it. You stick with it. I’ve been through some of the most difficult times in my life just within the past year and a half. But at no time did the thought ever come to just walk away from my faith.

I think of Job in the Old Testament. I don’t dare compare my trials to his, but this man is the poster child for what I’m talking about. Satan was out to prove to God that no one serves the Lord out of pure devotion, but instead, of a selfish motive of material wealth and blessings. Life was good for Job. Of course he loved God. He had a great family, a great business, good health. God called Satan’s bluff. Satan let Job have it. Stripped him of everything. His business, his family, and even his health. 

Job’s friends, and even his wife all told him to just give up. There were times when Job wondered why his life had blown up the way it did. He wondered why wicked people prospered. He asked “why me?

Ever been there?

Me too.

Even after his life had completely fallen apart, after his friends showed complete ignorance and insensitivity, and his own wife turned her back on God, Job uttered these words: 

“Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.” (Job 13:15)

When Job chose to love and serve God, he closed and locked the door behind him. There was no turning back no matter what happened. To Job, there was no other life. If walking away from God meant he would get all the comforts of his life back, but in exchange it would cost him his personal and intimate relationship with God, it wasn’t worth it. 

About all Job and I have in common is that we’re male and require oxygen in our lungs. But I’d like to add one more thing. I want to be able to say that I trust God even in the most terrible moments of my life…and mean it! Turning back is not an option. There is nowhere else to go but to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Even when I question “why?”, I will trust that even if I never get an answer, He is God…and I’m not. 

I’m not here for the wealth. Hello! Have you met me? I’m not here for the comfort. I’m not here for fame. I’m here because God has shown me mercy and grace. I’m alive because He has chosen to bring me into being. 

I will not turn my back on Him who died for me…no matter what.