Testing, 1-2-3…is this thing on?

Hi, remember me? I’m Corey, your once-faithful blogger. I know, I’ve taken some time away. For those of you who have written or spoken to me in person saying you’ve missed my posts, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

This post is just to let you know that I’ve got a few topics brewing in my noggin, so it’s just a matter of sitting down at this contraption and putting them into words. First, I need to remember how this thing works. 

If you haven’t left me for another blog by now, I hope you’ll stick around to see what’s coming. Frankly, I don’t even know yet. It’s always a surprise to me, too. That’s just how I roll.

So, you’re on notice. Crossing Paths is still in business. I just need to clean some of the cobwebs and dust which have taken over the place. 

See you soon!

Restored Glory

I saw a t-shirt in a store the other day that really got under my skin. The shirt had an American flag on it that was distressed in color. That’s cool. That’s a popular look these days. But the caption under the image is what irked me. 

Faded Glory

I understand this is the name of a clothing line, but the close association with the Stars and Stripes caught my attention, and ire. There are many in our country, including many prominent government officials, who feel the need to preach to us how flawed America is. The fingers of blame point in every direction, except for at themselves. If, in fact, America’s glory is faded, there are many who delight in it.

Like a middle aged person who isn’t eating well or exercising, America isn’t as fit as it once was. We’re not as united as we ought to be. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here. In the hours, weeks and months following the unspeakable events of 9/11, this country was united. It didn’t matter who you voted for. It didn’t matter if you were for or against abortion. For a while there, we were all on the same team. 

Sadly, we’re back to bickering and blaming. 

I’m upset at the t-shirt, but I’m more upset that people find some degree of satisfaction in seeing America fat and out of shape. I’m upset that some people delight in our difficulties so they can blame someone else for it while doing so with an “I told you so” attitude. 
For America to be great, we must return to our values. We must return to the principles upon which this country was created. God’s name and word were all over the consciousness of the framers in the late 18th century when they were carving out a new nation. Now, 234 years later, under the guise of progress, we’ve become more sophisticated. We’ve become “enlightened”. In doing so, we’ve become independent from God. We have drifted from our fundamentals as a people. We are going it on our own. And look what we’ve done to the place.

When in doubt, read the instructions

Have you ever assembled a toy with “some assembly required”? If so, it’s good to read the instructions. If you go it alone, you’re likely to have extra parts lying around, and a toy which doesn’t work right, if at all. Our founding fathers were guided by God and the bible when writing the instruction manual for America. Now, we look at those documents as archaic. Now we look at them out of the context in which they were designed. 

Look what we’ve done to the place.

I love this country. I truly believe our best days can be ahead of us. But that can only be possible if we anchor ourselves firmly to the guiding principles of God. As we were on September 12th, we must focus on what unites us. It’s time to return to being one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. It’s high time to restore glory in this great country!

I close with this video by the legendary comedian Red Skelton from back in 1969. How sad that what he feared over 40 years ago is inching its way toward reality.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend.

Lessons From A Rivalry

As you may know about me, I am a major baseball fan. I just love everything about the game. I love the history, I love the time of year when it’s played. I love the ballparks, the crowds. This past weekend saw the renewal of a rivalry which goes back 120 years. The Giants and the Dodgers. The rivalry started when both teams were only 8 miles apart in New York City. The hatred between the teams was fierce. In 1956, the legendary player, Jackie Robinson, rather than accept a trade from the Dodgers to the hated Giants, retired! 

In 1958, both teams moved to the west coast from New York, and the rivalry continued. I want to focus on one of the more infamous moments from this rivalry, from August 22, 1965. If you’re not a baseball fan, please hang in there. There is a non-baseball point I’m going to make, so bear with me.

The Giants and Dodgers rivalry was fueled not just by geography, but by competition. The teams often were fighting, literally and figuratively for supremacy on the field. In late August, the competitive fire escalates as the regular season draws to a close, and teams are vying for the post season. One such season was 1965. For the first of only three times in their storied careers, future Hall of Famers Juan Marichal for the Giants, and Sandy Koufax for the Dodgers, pitched against each other. It was a Sunday afternoon, and all eyes in the baseball world were on Candlestick Park in San Francisco. 

Some bad blood between the two teams had built up between them earlier in the series, and Sunday’s game would reach the boiling point. In the picture to the right, you’ll see the culmination of this inevitable eruption. Juan Marichal, #27, took exception to a throw from the catcher, Johnny Roseboro, that grazed Marichal’s ear when he was at bat. Marichal was widely regarded as one of the nicest guys in all of baseball. Mild mannered, but a fierce competitor. In this moment, he snapped. He hit Roseboro over the head twice with glancing shots, drawing blood. This incident marred Marichal’s reputation, and lives to this day as a dark cloud over his head. 

However, this is where the story gets good. 

Marichal was very remorseful and repentant over this incident. He was quick to offer public apologies, but Dodger fans would not forgive Marichal for his actions. Their reaction to him was vitriolic for many years. But during this time, Roseboro had forgiven Marichal. He chose not to let it affect him. It was over and done with.

In 1975, Juan Marichal’s contract with the Giants had expired. He was free to sign with another team if he wanted. Of all the teams, he wanted to play for the Dodgers. It was a personal obstacle he felt he needed to overcome. He needed to wipe this incident from his reputation, and this was the way he felt he could do this. Dodger fans would have none of it. They were violent in their reaction to the signing. But it wasn’t until the then-retired Johnny Roseboro publicly announced his forgiveness of Marichal that things started to change in the hearts and minds of the fans. Not only did Roseboro forgive Marichal, but he took responsibility for the incident, admitting that he purposely threw the ball back to the pitcher close to Marichal’s face. He provoked Marichal, not expecting to be attacked with a bat. 

In the years to follow, Marichal and Roseboro became close friends. After their playing days were over, Roseboro would fly to Marichal’s native Dominican Republic to participate in a charity golf tournament hosted by Marichal. They played together at Old Timers games where the soft spoken men were more than comfortable having pictures taken of them smiling and showing off their deep friendship. 

In later years, Roseboro suffered from heart problems, and had two strokes. Marichal regularly kept in touch with Johnny and his family, offering his friendship and support. Finally, in 2002, Roseboro died from prostate cancer. The first person Roseboro’s wife called was Juan Marichal in the Domincan. She asked him if he would be kind enough to speak at the funeral, and Marichal didn’t hesitate.  

In this story, we see the redemptive power of forgiveness, humility, honesty and personal responsibility. As the most bitter of rivals, fueled by intense competition, people can be prone to doing terrible things. But forgiveness released both men from the infamy of that moment. Instead, that horrific incident served as a catalyst to a friendship and a connection that could only come through a mutual passion. Even though they were on opposite sides, they had something greater that served as a bond. 

I know there have been people in my life I’ve had silent rivalries with. I know many people who have had them with me. Sometimes they’re only one way. Sometimes it’s mutual. There comes a point when you have to let it go. At the funeral, Juan Marichal said Roseboro’s “forgiving (me) was one of the best things that happened in my life.” 

You hold the keys to releasing someone, and yourself from the bondage of unforgiveness. Learn the lesson from this baseball experience. It’s not too late. Even if the other person isn’t living anymore, you can forgive them. Other people may hold on to negativity because of the wrong that happened to you. You can release them from their unforgiveness by being forgiving, just as Roseboro did. You can bring peace.

The only way to go from rivalry to friendship is through forgiveness. 

Marriage and Lawn Care

This is a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. It doesn’t really serve a purpose for this post, but I thought it was a light way to enter into the topic I want to discuss.

I know this is a bit of an odd topic coming from a guy who has never been married. While I can’t claim to be qualified by personal experience, I was raised by a married couple, and most of the friendships I’ve had for the past 20 years have been with people who are, or had previously been married. What I’m about to share is just an itty bitty piece of what I have learned from them, tempered by what I believe God intends for us. Maybe someday I’ll get to put it into practice.

I’m simple minded, so I like to take the complex and put it in a context which is easy for me to understand. With that being said, I believe marriage is very much like gardening. Yards take a lot of work to get healthy and beautiful. If you let it go, some stuff dies, some stuff gets overgrown, and weeds infest the landscape. When you let a marriage go, love dies. Trust dies. Respect dies. In their place pop up resentment, impatience, negativity, jealousy, distrust, and so many other weeds. 

When a yard gets to this condition, it takes a lot of backbreaking work to restore. When I was a kid, I was given the task of clearing the dirt pathway along the entire side of the house of the weeds that had grown there over a period of several years. It was a stretch of the yard we never used. It was behind a fence, so no one ever saw it, either. But it was ugly, and actually, a fire hazard. I spent several weeks of my summer vacation battling the nastiness of that part of the yard. I had to battle the heat, contend with my allergies, and overcome my fear of the insect world which made a home in the tall and tangled web of weeds. After I had finally cleared this area of the ugly growth, I watched over it like a hawk to make sure it stayed clear of anything that would undo all the hours and sacrifice I put into it.

I know that marriage takes a lot of work. But performing daily maintenance is certainly much easier than trying to get rid of all the ugliness that overwhelmed the beauty that once was. Even if people can’t see it because you’ve got it hidden behind a fence, it’s still a hazard. You’ve got to pay attention. You’ve got to work together. Spend time together reading and discussing the bible. And one last commonality with gardening. You already know this if you’ve spent any significant time doing yard work. You have to spend a lot of time on your knees.

They’re Watching Us

I’m not a very confrontational guy by nature. This is especially true when it comes to people I don’t know. But I’ll share with you two examples where I did confront people I didn’t know, and then I’ll get to my point.

One evening as the sun was disappearing in the western sky, I was driving down a relatively major street on my way to my church for a rehearsal. Because it was a densely populated part of town, the street was four lanes wide, and cars were known to drive rather fast up and down it. About 50 yards from the light-controlled intersection, a woman and her small child were crossing the street from the grocery store, across the four lanes, to the apartments on the other side. They had gotten as far as two lanes, and she stopped in the middle of this busy street because cars were zipping around the corner from an even busier street. Had she just gone down to the corner, she could have pressed the button and crossed in the crosswalk, controlled by a light. But no. With child in tow, she decided to play real life Frogger. I was driving down one of the lanes she had already crossed. I slowed down, rolled down my window and gave her a firm drive-by lecture. If you’re going to be stupid with your own life, that’s one thing. But when you endanger a child, that’s absolutely criminal.

The next story was again involving my being in my car. I was circling a parking lot outside a very crowded movie theater. I noticed some people were getting in their car to leave, so I patiently waited for them to back out. They were to my left, so I stopped and put on my left turn blinker. I waited a minute or so. Just before they began backing out, another car was approaching from the opposite direction, facing me. As the parked car began backing out, it became clear they wanted to go the same direction I was going, so they were backing out in front of me. As they did so, I was effectively screened out from being able to move into the spot until after they put it in Drive to move forward. The car that had just showed up had a free shot at the newly vacated parking stall, so he took it. He was there long enough and without obstruction to see that I was there first, with my turn signal activated. Yet, he took the spot and violated parking lot etiquette. I sat there stunned. I waited for him to get out of the car, when I noticed he had a little girl with him. I said to him, “Nice. You’ve set a real nice example for your little girl.”

I have a real problem with people who take lightly their responsibility as a role model. Kids, whether they’re your own or just children you know, are watching you. I recently saw an exchange on Facebook where a woman from a large church had updated her status to communicate, “Let the drinking begin”, followed by another which indicated how much she was needing “lots of drinks”. That could mean anything, but the following back and forth comments made it clear she meant adult beverages because she was stressed out. Then, a teenager from the church, her son’s age, innocently, perhaps naively, asked if she meant energy drinks.

Whether we like it or not, we live our lives in front of an audience. Facebook, Twitter and all that only make the world smaller, and our influence greater. What are we communicating to those who are watching us? Are we sending mixed signals? Are we one way when we see people in church, but something very different when we think no one is looking? Or when we forget that they can see us?

As an adult, I understand we all have the desire and the freedom to cut loose on occasion. But we need to be mindful of the message we are sending to those who see us as role models. Are the things we are doing consistent with the message we preach? If you want to get a little wild and crazy with your own life, that’s between you and God. But if you do it in plain view of children who look up to you, the stakes are higher.

Crossing Paths Contest!

I’m very excited to announce the first ever Crossing Paths giveaway contest! Details are coming this Friday. I’ll give you a few hints to whet your appetite. 

First, to qualify, you need to be a member of the Crossing Paths Facebook fan page.

Next, you must be available the evening of Saturday April 10, 2010. 

Last, you must enjoy a taste for luxury.

Details are coming in the Photo Phriday post this week! If you’re not already a member of the Facebook fan page, join now! If you are, but your friends aren’t yet, they still have time to qualify for the fun! 

Stay tuned! 

(I’ve always wanted to say that)

Encouraging The Encourager

I’d like to think of myself as an encourager. I really like thinking positively. It’s very easy for me to do for you, but it can be a chore sometimes to think positively for myself. But I’ve really been working on that. Things don’t always go the way I’d like them to, but I still know I’m blessed. I have many things for which to be thankful, even on bad days.

I’ve been writing about joy. I’ve been writing about being strong and courageous. I’ve been writing about daring to leave the comfort of the familiar for the unknown treasures of faith. I believe all those things passionately. But the other night, I was feeling a bit discouraged. I found myself frustrated about something which is still an area of vulnerability in my heart. 

Late that night, just before going to bed, I posted on my Facebook page that I was feeling a bit down. I even shared that it’s sometimes a significant challenge to practice what you preach. Crossing Paths is undergoing some significant growth in terms of audience in recent weeks. Because of this, I have a more significant responsibility to walk the talk. If I’m going to talk about faith, joy, courage, strength and such, I can pretty much guarantee I’m going to soon face challenges in those very topics. That’s just the way it works in ministry. It’s not enough to say these things. You have to live them.

I had a very special experience when I dared to be honest about my feelings of discouragement on Facebook. I was hesitant to admit that despite trying to be Mr. Encourager, I sometimes need to be encouraged. But when I woke up the following morning after my late night “confession”, I found these messages waiting for me from friends:

  •  “The good thing about living in Christ is we don’t do this alone! Hang strong in Him!”
  •  “You are hereby granted grace and mercy, Corey, so that you don’t have to struggle to ‘practice what you preach’, but can rest in the security of your relationship…knowing that you are loved and accepted regardless of ability to perform. then, out of that love and peace and rest, you will find the strength to succeed.”
  • “I know what you mean my friend, dealing with problems and problem people can suck the life out of your joy. It is so easy to fill the void with anger and frustration. I believe that is why God surrounds us with good people and his love. With His and their support we will get out of the valleys. Stay strong and in faith, and joy will come to you. Have a blessed day!” 
  • Matching Calamity and Serenity is only acheived through belief that I will be taken care of . NO MATTER WHAT…”
  • “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that
    all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. John 12:46 (New Living Translation)”
  • “This too shall pass… Hang in there!”
  • “I definitely can empathize with you, Corey. When I feel that way, I keep chanting that famous phrase from Psalm 30:5 – “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.” I pray that a sunny morning comes your way soon.”

Most of the friends who rallied to offer me encouragement are people I haven’t seen in over 20 years. With the exception of two of the encouragers, who are brothers, these people don’t even know each other. These messages came from people I really didn’t expect. It was a real blessing to find these messages. They were special because they weren’t the tried and true boilerplate responses. I found myself strengthened and lifted up with each message.

I have always said that I think you can tell a lot about a person by the quality of friends in their lives. I can honestly say that I have had the blessing of knowing some truly incredible people in my life, and I’m humbled. They have definitely raised my game. 

Thank you for reminding me of the wonderful blessing and necessity of great friends. If we’re not yet friends, please feel free to add me as your friend on Facebook. As iron sharpens iron, we can work together to bring out our very best. 

Comfort and Destiny

Yesterday I referred to the bridge that connects the “lands” of Comfort and Destiny. Comfort can be a rather misleading term. More often than not, the land of comfort isn’t comfortable at all. More accurately, it’s simply familiar. How many times have you heard stories of women who were abused by their husbands or boyfriends, but chose to stay with them? They don’t stay because they’re comfortable. They stay because their afraid of being alone and starting over. They’re afraid that if they make a change, they will face greater danger. So they opt for familiar.

That is an extreme, but common example. In fact, we have all been there. We’ve all stayed in relationships of some kind that were toxic to us. Whether it was a friend we allowed to influence us in ways that were not healthy, or a job that was so negative and stressful that it literally affected our physical and emotional health. We’ve all experienced times when we chose the familiar over the unknown.

Some of you know the story of why I moved from San Jose to Rocklin. In short, I was standing face to face with exactly what I’ve been talking about. The choice to remain comfortable, or to chase my destiny. In the comfortable, I knew exactly what next year was going to be like. It was going to be just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. I hadn’t been growing. But God heard my prayers about not wanting to be the same. I wanted to grow. I needed to grow. Rocklin wasn’t and isn’t my destiny. Being willing to step out of what was comfortable forced me to explore my own potential and gifts. After 18 months, I believe I am very different from who I was before. It wasn’t about leaving San Jose. Nothing bad was happening there. I needed to prove to myself, and to God, that I was serious. I needed to take an extreme step of faith to make an extreme step of growth. My destiny isn’t a place on a map. It’s my character. It’s my integrity. It’s my maturity. It’s in using the tools God gave me to make a difference wherever I am.

If you find yourself facing the choice of comfort or destiny, of the familiar versus the unknown potential you have in Christ, I urge you to go for it. Choose your destiny in Christ! It takes faith. Intense faith. But it brings tremendous liberty. And liberty is in increasingly short supply these days.

Go for it!

More Thoughts About Bridges

Yesterday I wrote a few thoughts about bridges, since I seem to have developed a recent interest in them as photographic subjects. My previous post on bridges focused on some human parallels to bridges regarding our foundations being strong and rooted deeply.

Today, I want to discuss the fear factor of bridges. Recently, I took some pictures of California’s tallest bridge, the Auburn-Foresthill Bridge. It stands 730 feet above the rocky riverbed below. It is not a terribly wide bridge, and can be a bit intimidating psychologically. In fact, a friend of mine commented on Facebook that she’s never crossed it due to fear. If you’re scared of heights, I can totally understand. 

How many of us are standing at a precipice? We’ve reached the edge of the land of Comfort, looking across to the other side, the land of Destiny. But there is a rather intimidating chasm between Comfort and Destiny. It is inevitable that as we travel, we will come to the edge of ourselves. We will come face to face with our limitations and previous experience. In order to further our personal development, we must be willing to cross that bridge designed to carry us across the impassable terrain.

It can be quite scary at times. The key is to focus not on our fears, but on our goal. Keep your eyes forward. It’s a simple fact of human nature. Where your eyes are fixed, that’s where you’re going to go. If you get caught looking over the side, you’re going to drift in that direction. 

Today, you’re standing on the cliff of where you’ve always been, across to where you need to be. God has given you an insatiable appetite to grow and explore. Your fear of change must be overwhelmed by your refusal to remain the same. Fix your eyes on God. Fix your eyes on His promises. Fix your eyes on His word. Once you cross that bridge, you will never be the same!

A Few Thoughts About Bridges

I wouldn’t expect you to notice, but many of the most recent pictures I’ve taken in the past couple months have been of bridges. There has been no explicit reason why. I mean, it’s not like I’ve had this fascination of bridges that dates back to childhood or anything. I’m not an engineer who marvels at their construction. But I do see a trend. 

When I started thinking of bridges, I couldn’t help but see some human and spiritual truths about them. For instance, a bridge’s integrity is determined by how strong it’s foundation is. Isn’t the same true for us as humans? How many high profile people have we seen recently who have failed in the area of integrity? How many of us have failed in our integrity at times? When that has happened, what did we need to do in order to begin to put life back together? In order to find stability, we must be rooted in something stronger than ourselves.

In order for a bridge to be of any use, it must be able to withstand a heavy load. No one is going to trust a rickety bridge. If I have any aspirations to be of service to others, I have to be strong. Bridges are often made of the strongest materials, such as cement and steel. But it all comes down to the foundation. It doesn’t matter what I’m made of if my personal foundation is an inch deep in sand. My strength can only be found in God. He must be my foundation.

I want to be a bridge. I want to be trusted by friends and strangers alike that I can see them safely from where they are to where they want to go. I want to bridge the gap that leads people to safety in their lives. 

The ultimate bridge is the cross of Christ. As we approach Easter, I’m reminded that what happened on the cross provided us safe passage from the wages of sin to eternal life. What greater bridge has ever been built?