On the shoulders of a giant

Today, October 30th, is my dad’s birthday. Yes, if you’re keeping score at home, my parents’ birthdays are five days apart, each born in 1935. Yes, my mom robbed the cradle.

As I have done for my mom, I have written many posts about my dad. I’m not going back to review them, so please forgive me if I inadvertently repeat some of my thoughts and memories.

My dad is an understated, humble man. Highly, highly principled. He was a bit of a thrill seeker in his younger years, which carried over into his professional career as a cop in San Francisco. In the 60s and 70s, being a cop in any city was not for the faint of heart. But in San Francisco, it was an especially volatile time and place to be in law enforcement.

In his private life, Dad was a little league baseball coach who eventually rose through the ranks to become the president of the league for several years. He also built numerous haunted houses for my schools, floats for the Boys Club during the annual city parade, as well as dressing up as Santa Claus to entertain and amaze children.

Together with my mom, they were an amazing team. In later years, after Dad had retired from the police force, they bought a motor home for the purpose of making numerous trips to a Mexican orphanage for which they were on the Board of Directors. They loved those kids with such a heart of tenderness and compassion. After a career of seeing the worst in humanity, he easily saw the best in children.

At nearly 60 years old, my dad approached my mom about a radical direction he felt God was leading them. He asked my mom to begin praying about the possibility of moving to Costa Rica to begin a ministry there. For a year, they prayed. They made frequent visits to the area they felt would be their eventual home. They then bought some land down there. And that’s about all that could be said about it. It was land. A hillside cow pasture, to be more precise. After they had made their move to Central America, they transformed a cow pasture into a well-manicured paradise. I’m sorry that I don’t have any ‘before’ pictures, but this ‘after’ gives you a little idea of the natural beauty of only a sliver of the land on which they worked so hard.

Costa Rica lawn

It’s hard to tell anything by the picture at this size, but this land was beautiful. None of the structures existed before they bought the land. The house at the top of the picture was their home. The purpose for this land, and their being in Costa Rica, was to minister to pastors and their wives. It wasn’t a retreat center. It wasn’t a place for pastors to vacation. It was a place for them to get counseling, seek God, get good teaching, good meals, and love. Many came with serious marital problems. My parents saved many marriages and ministries in their years in Costa Rica. Something they were too humble to talk about.

While they intended to live the rest of their lives there, my mom’s health became a factor. After eight years there, they were forced to return to the United States in order for my mom to receive better medical care. It broke their hearts to leave, but they made an incredible impact in such a short period of time.

The next several years were the most amazing years, in my opinion, of their entire marriage. As my mom became less and less independent, my dad had to take on the role of caretaker and homemaker. This man among men, who never had to make a sandwich because my mom was always willing and able, now had to learn to cook, do laundry, and all those other chores that my mom took care of as he worked. As she continued to deteriorate, the things he had to do to take care of her had to be awkward for each of them. But love, true love, sacrificial love empowers you to overcome any and every obstacle.

My dad has always been my hero. But never more than in those last years in all he did to take care of the woman who brought me into the world. He completely gave up his life in order to do anything and everything he could to take care of her. The way he watched over her, prepared her substantial regimen of pills each day, fed her, helped her dress and undress. Absolutely heroic. At the same time, he was no spring chicken. He has his own health issues. But he would wear himself to the bone to take care of his Love.

Mom has now been gone for four and a half years. The woman God brought into his life long before he would completely understand why, was no longer by his side. My dad, who couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, was married to a woman who spoke it fluently. No big deal, until decades later when they would take on such active roles in Mexico and Costa Rica. God knows what we need before we do.

My dad is a giant. Not in physical stature. I am much taller and larger than he is. But he casts a tall shadow in every other way. His influence in my life is immeasurable. The man he always was, and the man he became in the face of extreme heartache is the greatest example of the attributes of love, listed in 1 Corinthians 13.

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails.

I pray I can be half the man my dad is. His life has been, and always will be an inspiration to me. What an honor to be the son of a man of his stature.

Happy Birthday Dad. I love you.

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Sap isn’t just for trees

If you’ve been reading my posts over the past couple of weeks, no, I haven’t been auditioning for Harlequin.

I admit, I am a sappy, sappy man. I have been criticized by men and women throughout my adult life for being a deep feeler. It makes some people uncomfortable. Transparency makes people feel awkward. I’ve received well-intentioned advice from female friends that I need to be more of a ‘bad boy’ in order to attract women. As Leo Durocher famously said, “nice guys finish last”. Male peers look at guys like me with a skeptical eye, as if maybe we’re confused about our gender identity.

Even in this day and age, and maybe even especially in this day and age, fathers all over the land get nervous if their sons are emotional and creative. We’re not supposed to cry. If we are hurt, physically or emotionally, we’re supposed to rub some dirt on it and not show that it hurt. My dad would probably kill me if he knew I was telling this story, but I think I can outrun him. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I injured my arm at my neighbor’s house. For three days, I complained about the pain. My mom was very concerned, but my dad wanted me to tough it out. “C’mon, tie your shoes. You’re fine.”

Finally, a few days later, my dad relented and took me to the doctor. When we returned home, I emerged from the car with a cast from my hand all the way to my shoulder. My mom watched us through the living room window as we made our way up the driveway. I had this cool cast, my trophy for my broken arm, and was grinning from ear to ear. It wasn’t until I was an adult when my mom told me my dad had the guiltiest, most remorseful look on his face. See? He has a heart!

God gave us emotions. Whether it’s love, anger, sadness, fear, excitement or happiness, EmotionsGod intended us to experience a wide range of feelings. The key is to embrace them, but keep them under control. We can’t let them control us. Any of these emotions can lead to impulse issues. We must control these impulses. However, there is nothing wrong with feeling and expressing our emotions, when appropriate.

In the past week, many of you have shared with me your emotions, and how you were touched by the content of my posts. Many of you have paid me very nice compliments about my writing. I don’t even know how to tell you how much I appreciate these comments. The only thing I know to say is that what you’ve been reading is a direct result of accepting and utilizing the way I’m designed. As such, I try to harness my emotions to communicate through my writing, my singing, my speaking, and my actions. God has used my sensitivity to connect with teenagers with self esteem issues. With kids with special needs. With the elderly. With people enduring heartache. And now, God is using my tools in a new and special way for my own life.

For men, young and old, it is not a indictment on your masculinity to express sensitivity. We must embrace it and express it. Being Mr. Macho is fine with the guys, but not so much when you’re with your mother, wife, girlfriend, daughter, etc. I have worked with kids of all ages, and so many boys feel guilty and confused if they show love or sadness. Whether it’s peer pressure, or something they’re conditioned to think by their culture at home, there needs to be some teaching to boys and young men about how to express their emotions in a healthy way.

Harnessing emotions comes with maturity. Believe me, I’ve had to learn from a lot of my own mistakes and heartaches. God is faithful, however, to take these things and use them for His purpose. But that is just so God. The Great Improvisor. He makes us all different. We all have our own skills and tools. The important thing for each of us is to utilize the gifts He has given us to serve something bigger than ourselves.

Others may do things differently than we’d do it, and that’s okay. God will use me in ways He may not use you, but He’ll also use you in ways He won’t use me. Be who you are. And please, encourage kids to be who God designed them to be, even if it’s different than we are. God will bless and use them in special ways. For each of us, we need to yield back to Him what He has given us.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.   ~1 Corinthians 15:10a

The past is prologue

Some of you have known me a long time, some of you are brand new to my life. Others of you may only know me through Crossing Paths. In any case, welcome!

I created Crossing Paths in July of 2008. What inspired it was the fact that I was moving snoopy-writingfrom a city, church and friends that I loved very much. I named this Crossing Paths because I wanted this technological venue to be a place where our paths could always cross, even when our roads may be far apart. There is also some intended double meaning, as the cross represents God’s ultimate love and sacrifice for us, and He is constantly giving us life lessons that bring us closer to Him, bringing our paths together with His. That has always been my aim with my posts.

I am a lifelong single man. In this day and age. that typically generates a myriad of questions ranging from my sexual orientation to my desire or ability to commit to a relationship. I understand those questions. They don’t offend me. Maybe at one time they did, but I’ve never been shy to share why I’ve remained single.

Don’t be mistaken. I’ve dreamt of being married, having kids and a family throughout my adult life. During my early to mid 20s, I was really exploring life. I went to college, I traveled in a Christian band, ministering in churches, schools, prisons, Indian reservations, on television and radio, and youth camps. I worked in Christian radio and banks. I volunteered with youth groups, as well as actively participated in leading worship. As I started to near 30 years old, I really began to explore what I hoped would be the next phase of my life. Being a husband, and hopefully, a father.

I watched videos, listened to tapes, read books. I studied the marriages and lives of my friends. I learned from the successes and failures that happened around me. I had relationships, but obviously, none of them led to marriage. I know I could have gotten married if I were wiling to go with the crowd and settle. But I chose to live by the motto, “I’d rather be single than wish I were.”

I have absolutely nothing against anyone I ever dated. Breakups are never easy. Even the smoothest of breakups are, at best, awkward. Sure, you could call them failures, but I see each of them as experiences that revealed who I am, who I want to be, and who I don’t want to be. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

God makes each of us unique. We may have similarities, but we have vast differences. Our experiences will shape us, one way or the other. The important thing is to remain true to who you are, while using the lessons from the “failures” as bricks in a stronger foundation for our character.

There have been times, even recently, when I have about given up. When it seemed my best days were behind me. Humans can only take so much rejection and failure. Am I just too difficult to live with? Are my hopes and expectations too high? Am I too this and not enough that? Have I failed God? Am I going to be alone the rest of my life?

Reaching the end of ourselves is where God is just beginning.

Bigger dreams than you thought

dream-quotes-images-6-f3f199deLately, I’ve been a little fixated on dreams. Not the ones that happen during the night as you sleep. The ones that you have while wide awake. The ones that God inspires in you. The ones that shape your character and your decisions.

Years ago, I shared this story of 3 trees to a large audience of kids and their families. I thought it was especially poignant in speaking to children because their whole lives were in front of them. After sharing this fictitious, yet very real interpretation of dreams often times coming to fruition in different, yet bigger ways, I shared with them a very personal story.

Since my mid-to-late 20s, my desire to get married and have a family grew very strong in my heart. I shared my heart with friends with families. I learned from them. I watched videos. I read books. I listened to audio tapes from seminars. I wanted so much to learn all I would need to be a good husband and father. I was preparing for my dream.

As I stood before that audience that night, I was about 40 years old. Still never married, and still no children. In preparing my message for that audience, I sensed the Lord was speaking to me probably more than He would speak to those children and their families. What God had given me wasn’t one or more children of my own, but hundreds of children, even thousands I could inspire and influence in some way.

I am now 48 years old. Still never married. Still no children of my own. Yet, I’ve been able to develop wonderful relationships with kids throughout the years. Many of whom are now adults, and even parents themselves. Some of them have mild to severe disabilities. Some have endured devastating heartbreaks in losing parents to cancer. Many are living full lives as they build a strong foundation for their futures.

Just like these kids, my story isn’t yet complete. My dream is still alive and well. It won’t turn out as I had envisioned it all those years ago.

It will be even better.

Overdue rant

ranticon(The following is a rant I posted on Facebook on April 10, 2013. I’m posting it here for those who may have missed it)

I’ve felt a good rant coming on for weeks on a variety of topics, but I’ve pretty much kept it all in. At least in an online format.
I must say that the recent controversial comments in the MSNBC ad by Melissa Harris-Perry have challenged my restraint.

Whether you agree or disagree with her view, I just have this to say. Your kids are not my responsibility. They are not the community’s responsibility.

They are yours.

The community is made up of individuals. These individuals are as different and diverse as the stars. No two are alike. No two agree on everything, and no two see things exactly the same way. There is commonality, and there is contrast in each of us. We all have different gifts, talents, temperaments, weaknesses, vulnerabilities and experiences. Our experiences influence the expression of our innate tendencies. Our experiences often shape what direction we go in our lives.

My responsibility is to take all that I have experienced and learned in my life, and be a contributing member of the community. Because I know probably less than 1 percent of the population of my community, perhaps my greatest contribution is by getting out of the way of others in their pursuit of happiness. To those I know, my responsibility is to be the best me I can be.

My parents raised me with core values. They taught me the real meaning of responsibility, and it always came down to me.

No one else.

If I had a bad teacher, that didn’t give me an excuse to be an idiot. If I had a rotten neighbor, that wasn’t an open door for me to be a criminal.

Take responsibility for yourself and the ones who depend on you. Don’t rely on “the village”. If you do, you relinquish the right to complain about what happens next.