Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Mess of Thoughts with a Bad Memory

Do you ever have those days where every thought you want to put pen to paper, yet you don't do it that very second?  You know you will remember that thought later in the day and you'll write it down then.  No?  Just me?  Fine.  Must be my age.  Man, I had hoped I wasn't alone, but maybe I am.

Of course, I follow a guy on Facebook that brought this subject up earlier today.  Even the great Bob Beeman (Sanctuary International) admits that his memory doesn't remember the things he wants to write down later.  So, I'm learning to listen to those I respect and admire.  If he says he doesn't remember what he needs to write down, then I trust that he speaks with an intimate knowledge of a failing memory of certain things.  I should take heed.

So, I'm going to try and do something that may cause others to wonder about me.  They will question why I'm just randomly speaking into my phone.  It will probably put me into the, "certifiably crazy," category.  Not that this classification would be new to me, but solidifying that status would be great.  What is it I'm going to do?  Easy, I'm going to download a recording app on my phone that will allow me to record my thoughts.  This should allow me to remember what I need/want to write down when the opportunity presents.

I share this with you for transparency.  I'm not perfect, and my memory is even worse.  I have had a lot I've wanted to share, but due to not writing it down at the time of the thought, I haven't shared.  So, I'm going to teach myself a lesson.  Record it and then I shouldn't have an excuse.  Key word, shouldn't.  Also, I share to provide you with a fair warning.  I'm going to be writing more.  Hopefully a lot more.

The more writing starts tonight.  For the next couple of weeks I'll be sharing with you at least every third day.  My desire is for that to be therapeutic for myself.  With any luck, I hope it will be therapeutic for some of you as well.  Do I know what I'll be writing, sharing or discussing?  NOPE!  Not at all.  But, I will share.

That's all for tonight.  On the bright side, I at least remembered to share about my failing memory.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ariana And Manchester

Our world has been shook one more time.  It's a story that seems to be repeating itself.  Large gathering, bomb(s) explode, injury and death following.  It never gets easier to see, more painful to listen to and enrages even more.  This time, Manchester, UK.  Another concert, this one just happened to be a pop singer - Ariana Grande.

As a person that can't comprehend this atrocity, upon learning of the bombing I wanted to know.  I needed to know as many details possible to learn about the scene unfolding.  In today's world, it's what most people do, turn on the news.  I'm gripped by the scenes on my computer (I stream everything - no cable).  More importantly, I'm broken by the thought of children being the target of this recent attack.

Initially, the dad in me kicks in.  How could...better yet, what kind of coward would attack kids.  I don't care if it was a 21 year old attending the concert with their mother, a 14 year old attending their first concert alone, or the 7 year old celebrating a birthday at a concert with their friends.  These are kids, a future ahead of them brighter than whatever kind of pathetic life this person ever lived.  I was enraged.  Coward was the nicest name I could think of in describing this person(s).  The anger and hurt vied for leading emotion in my head and heart.  Justice being served in death for whomever did this started as a rally cry in my mind.  Then, rational thought began to take over, especially in light the guilty was apparently dead.  Yet, it was this rational thinking consuming me and truly breaking my heart.

Yes, the loss of 19 lives is devastating.  More than 50 injured is senseless as well.  Despite this, my response was understandable as a dad.  But, as a person professing christianity, I'm not sure it was the right response.

See, as I understand it, we should mourn the loss of life.  All life.  Every single person that passes over to the other side is meeting their eternal fate.  And it is there that we who believe are to be concerned.  Where are they spending their lives eternally.  All life, all people, coward or not, innocent child, parent or grandparent and everyone in between.  Gone.  And I was more concerned about retribution.

Wow!  I failed.  But, God brought me back around.  My heart aches for Ariana.  I'm pretty sure there is a level of guilt she feels.  She shouldn't, but she will.  I can't imagine my child missing, the feeling of not knowing where they are, if they are anywhere.  Yet, there are parents lost without their child by their side.  They probably feel guilt as well.  Sadly, they will probably feel that guild the rest of their lives.  My heart breaks for those parents.  There are children in a hotel room with strangers caring for them.  They are being cared for, but it's not their parents.  I'm pretty sure they couldn't sleep or eat, and certainly are scared.  Tears are welling in my eyes when I think about these poor children.  Life isn't fair to begin with, and then going through something like this is beyond comprehension.

Then, there is the perpetrator.  My human self is glad.  My faith led mind and heart breaks for this individual as well.  I'm not inclined to believe they are in heaven tonight.  Sure, they could be, and I won't say definitively it's impossible.  They had a family as well.  Their family will never see their son/daughter/husband/wife ever again, just as the victims families will never see their child/parent/spouse.

But, what is more troubling to me is the response of other christians.  Sure, they'll post on social media, text their friends and call their prayer chains about praying for Manchester.  Yet, they will just as quickly show their anger towards terrorism (which they should) and how we need to eliminate every radical muslim.  They'll share how no reasonable parent should take their 6 year old girl to see someone who said they hate Americans.  They'll judge Ariana as not being a great role model for girls today.  Just remember, pray for the victims.  The double standard will be set and reached in a matter of minutes.

This double standard is what truly disgusts me.  I reiterate, every life matters.  The coward, the young and old.  Every single one.  Terrorist, peace maker, believer or not, they matter.  A fact that many christians conveniently forget when it comes to things like this.  Maybe, just maybe, one day we'll learn.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved in the Manchester tragedy.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Paradox

Easter!!!  Another chance to celebrate a holiday.  Another day many of us expect to spend with family, sharing laughs over another gluttonous spread of food.  Some will partake in the regular attendance of a worship service, while others will attend one of their mandatory two services at a random church.  Kids will hunt for baskets of gifts at home, then turn around and fill those very baskets with eggs found in a hunt at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  Yes, Easter is filled with celebration aplenty.

Today as I traveled the streets of Cheyenne, I couldn't help but think about the double standard we have set in America.  Yes, I know.   You're probably tired of hearing about a so called double standard.  All of us are bombarded by media (both right and left) pointing out a double standard in things.  But, it hit me today that Easter is a paradox of holiday standards our society has set.

Name a holiday that is considered mostly sacred where the expectation is to relax and gather as a family.  You guessed correctly.  Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Everyone is entitled to gather with family and relax on those two holidays.  We as an American culture demand the time off to relax, enjoy the time away from everything related to work and fill our stomachs to our hearts content.  If we find ourselves scheduled to work, our inclination is to raise hell to our bosses claiming an unfairness not found in other countries.  We then look for any and every other profession that gets the day off and demand equal treatment.  And if you are afforded these holidays off, you look for those professions that do open on these holidays so you can protest, complain and yell of injustices of those businesses by not being fair to their employees.  Example: go back to Thanksgiving 2015 and how appalled the masses were when they found out Target, Kohl's and WalMart were going to be open Thanksgiving evening.  Or how shocked you were to find out the movie theater was going to open Christmas evening.  Be honest with yourself, you and the masses were outraged over these outlandish events with many an hour spent yearning for yesteryear.

Well, where is the outrage today?  Why are we silent about companies being open on Easter?  Why are we not calling for unity to boycott the businesses open on Easter?  Well?  Where?  Yeah, that's what I thought.  It's not something anyone wants to spend time on.  Or is it the fact that if falls on a Sunday anyway, and most people have Sunday's off?  Maybe it's because we want to gather as a family at a buffet for Easter Brunch and if places aren't open, then how do we do that?  See the paradox now?

See, we as a society are all about convenience.  It is convenient for us to protest about something one minute, yet not lift a finger the other because if we did we'd lose some of our precious traditions.  Whats worse is that the very ones who don't complain about places being open on Easter are the ones that should be relaxing and celebrating more than most, and that those claiming to be christians celebrating the sacred holiday.

OUCH!!!  I bet I just struck a nerve with many of you.  Yeah, you the pastor, the Sunday School teacher, the board member.  You are the ones that rightfully find disdain for companies open on Thanksgiving and Christmas yet expect your favorite dining establishment be open for you after a long day at work (because Sunday is just another day of work, right).  Sure, you proclaim the triumph Christ has over sin and death, but then are disappointed when Target isn't open so you can get those Easter gifts for your kids at prices discounted enough to help make sales for the holiday.

Don't worry, I'm guilty too.  I made a quick run to the office supply store to get some things printed.  My wife ran to the neighborhood grocery store to get food for the work week.  But, here's where my thinking lies.  I didn't raise Cain about people working on Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I'm not inclined to hold one holiday in higher regard than the other.  I truly believe that these days are just the same as the next.  Sure, I enjoy the time spent relaxing and sharing a meal with family as much as the next person.  However, why should I do that on days that society tells me I should be doing it?  If I believe what is in my Bible, then shouldn't I celebrate Christ's victory over death and sin every day, holiday or not?  People in many professions don't have the option to have every holiday off, but they don't complain, and live these days just as the next - believer or not.  And, if they can do it, then so can I.  And if I can do it, then so can you.

So, explain to me again.  Why isn't anyone upset that WalMart, TacoBell and Office Depot were open today, Easter Sunday?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Beautiful Daughter

Dear Beautiful Daughter,

The moment I laid eyes on you was the moment you had me wrapped around your little finger.  You knew my voice, but you were meeting me for the first time.  Your cry excited me knowing that I was going to hold you very soon.  That cry also scared me as I knew the world would soon come knocking.  But, at that moment nothing else mattered than hearing you cry, seeing your mom cry in joy, and knowing that you were mine.

As you grew you continued to have me wrapped around your little finger.  You would fall asleep on my chest, your eyes twinkled every time you looked in mine, and you would hold my hand every time we walked through the mall.  But it wasn't just me that you had wrapped around your little finger.  NO!  Your grandparents, those who baby sat you, your teachers...every one you came into contact with you stole their heart.

Why did you steal my heart?  Because you were you.  To this day you have no fear of people.  There is no person you won't talk to.  There isn't a friend you have never met.  This "no stranger" attitude has given you a beautiful soul.  So many wish they could talk to people the way you do.  So many wish they had the energy you do.  Sure, some will joke about you having too much energy, but in reality, one can never have too much energy.  And that energy is beautiful.  The fact you talk to everyone is scary at times, but it shows a love for them no matter what.  That love is beautiful.

Truth be told, you could be quiet every second of the day, and that would be beautiful.  You could love to read, ride dirt bikes, bake to your hearts content or do anything else, and you would have stolen our hearts.  You are me, and yet you are your own person.  That, the person you are is enough for me to have my heart stolen by you.

As you've grown, words are harder to find, emotions aren't as easy to share.  The laughs are still there, but sometimes not as hearty.  It's okay, it's a part of life.  However, I need you to know, you're still beautiful.

I still need you to know how precious you are, no matter the age.  I need you to know you still have me wrapped around your little finger.  I need you to know that the only opinion of you that matters is my opinion of you, you mothers opinion of you, and most importantly God's opinion of you.  I need you to know that wherever life leads you, I still love you.  All these words to express and yet I can't say enough.

Dear Beautiful Daughter, read these words as often as you need.  They will never change.  Their meaning will never be any different.  And, no matter what the world tells you, please know that you are my Beautiful Daughter.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Casper, Cheer and Angry Mom

My two children are active in athletics.  Both Ethan and Rachel participated in everything they could in elementary school.  Ethan just slid into a baseball routine in Junior High, with the exception of one year playing competitive basketball.  Rachel still participated in anything and everything she could in Junior High sports.  Now in High School, the single sport path is alive and well for both of them.  Ethan remains in baseball, and his Senior season begins in about a month.  Rachel opted for Cheerleading.  Yes, I called it a sport.  Yes, I'm serious.  She's always getting kicked, kneed, elbowed, knocked in the head and any other weird injury you can think of.  Plus, she does weights after school and during the summer.  So yes, cheerleading is a sport, and a very competitive one at that.

I love watching these two participate in the sports they love.  I get to as much as I can, simply to make sure they know I care and support their endeavors.  With baseball, that has meant a lot of travel, both in state and across this great country.  Cheer hasn't had many travel options, and it may not in the near future, but long term future...who knows.  But, the travel for cheer did finally happen this month.  March 8th to be exact.

State Spirit Competition for Wyoming High Schools was held up in Casper on March 8th.  Every single school in 3A and 4A, plus one 2A school converged at the Casper Events Center for one afternoon of cheer and dance.  Sitting there, supporting my daughter, I couldn't help but think about how all the other parents there were just as proud of their daughter/son as Janda and I were.  And, the more I watched, the more proud I was of my daughter.  The more in awe I was of how athletic her and her peers are.  But there was one more observation, again of the parents.  Man, there are some competitive cheer mom's out there!

Top to bottom, these teens poured their hearts out, leaving everything in the hearts of the judges.  All overcame injury (only one on the mat that day), individual adversity and doubt, team challenges, and one team even overcame tragedy (more on that later).  At the end of the night, awards were handed out for All-State Dance, All-Cheer, and All-State co-ed (first time guys were recognized in Wyoming).  Then, team awards.  Some categories had 4 trophies, some 3, a couple 2 and even one category had 1 trophy (the only 2A school represented that day).  While all the scores were tallied, every single cheerleader converged on the mat and waited, anxiously to hear the results and get a trophy...hopefully.
A couple of the Cheyenne schools placed, including Rachel's team taking home 3rd in All Girl Stunt, something they were surprised with after the long year they had.  However, of note for this type of competition, one school took home every top trophy.  One of those was as co-winner, but still the best in the state.

This is where the, "overcoming tragedy," part comes into play.  Kelly Walsh (Casper) was at the top of their game.  Everybody in the building knew what they had gone through (small state, tight knit cheer community, word spreads quickly).  The East High cheer squad honored their team one night by wearing green ribbons in their hair (guys had bandannas).  A team should never have to go through what K-W had.  On their way out, the dance team carried their fallen team mate out with them by way of a banner.  Her picture and words of love on the banner, they made sure she was present as well.  They did all they could to honor Aurora.  These girls gave every ounce they could.  Every bead of sweat, ounce of blood, ache in joints and muscles were felt by them and on display for all to see.  At the end of the routine, with their fingers point to the sky, each girl broke down and cried, with good reason.  They did it!  They finished their season, one down and a team still in shock with their loss of a friend and teammate.

Day over, dinner consumed and back at the hotel.  Janda and I turned in for the night.  The next morning I woke and made the trek to the breakfast serving area.  I tend to mind my own business in these areas simply because I haven't had any coffee fully consumed.  I won't be anti-social, but try to mind myself.  I also have a bad habit of eaves dropping on loud conversations.  This morning was no different, loud conversation easy to be heard in the entire room.  Good morning, Angry Mom!

As I listened to the conversation, I am amused, bewildered and eventually disgusted with the discussion.  First, mom and family discussed how unfair the judging was (national judges flown in from around the country, not local).  Mom was upset that her daughters school didn't place.  Okay, I get that, but in the spirit of good sportsmanship, being angry about it achieves nothing.  She also believed one school should have won over the other.  Problem, said schools are in different classifications (3A and 4A respectively) and did not compete against each other.  Lastly, the part that disgusted me was her disdain for K-W.  She didn't think it was fair of them to carry a banner out of, "That girl," and gain sympathy from everybody including the judges.  "They shouldn't have done that.  It was an unfair advantage for every team and that's why they won."  Okay, this is where I took exception.  Mom is now upset about a team rallying around a fallen teammate.  Upset these girls took all of their emotions of losing a teammate/friend/family member and went all out to honor her through their routine.  C'mon lady!  You're picking on a dead girl!

This is when I reflected on society as a whole.  Are we so focused on ourselves that we refuse to see a bigger picture?  Are we so arrogant that we believe only our kin should win?  Do we have a hard time recognizing the good in others performances?  What are we doing to ourselves, our kids and our friends if we continually focus on ourselves and how we feel we've been wronged?  How low will we stoop to justify our words of disdain/displeasure over outcomes?  Sadly, too many would do the same as this angry mom, be upset over a team grieving the death of one of their own, and doing so publicly during the biggest moment of these girls lives.

Congrats, K-W, you deserved it.  Congrats East HS on your accomplishments.  South HS, props to you as well.  And, to all the other schools that placed, job well done.  For those that didn't place, your work did not go unnoticed.  Well, it didn't go unnoticed by most of us anyway.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Open Letter to Hollywood

Dear Hollywood,

I love you!  I love you as the people you are.  I love your art.  I may not agree with every movie you put out, but I love the fact it is an art, and you are free to express that art any way you see fit.  That is a gift, you use it to the best of your ability, and I love you for that as well.  Despite my love for you and the arts, I've never looked to you for my moral compass, my voice of reason, or my understanding of reality.

Sure, some of your movies are based on a true story.  Based on, not really is.  That means you have used your artistic liberty to add, subtract, shorten, modify as you see fit to make the film.  These are some of the most touching films one can see.  Yes, they reach my heart strings.  No, I don't believe the events are complete reality, but I do believe the events are close to reality.

Even your purely fictional movies have a bit of reality in them.  Maybe based on something you have experienced yourself or something a friend or family member has gone through.  Maybe you saw something on the drive in to the studio that caught your eye and made you laugh.  You thought, "Now that would make a great movie!"  And you should incorporate your life, your thoughts and what you see into your art.  It is who you are.  It's formed you to be the person you are both on and off screen.  Okay, maybe not on screen, but at least behind the scenes while filming.

However, that is your reality, not mine.  Yes, you have a job that not many can do.  You act like a person you are not.  You memorize lines folks like me could never begin to memorize.  You put your life, and the life of your family, out in public eye for everyone to see.  That is not something I would be willing to do on such a constant basis.  Yes, you live a tough life, one that I'm not envious of.  But, you also live a privileged life.  Your job allows you to travel the world if you so choose.  You are able to have house keepers, trainers, chefs and more if you desire.  Some of you have nannies that take care of your kids 24/7 regardless of you being home or at work.  A lot of you are involved in charities you believe are worthy of your time and financial support.  Great!  All if it.  Great.  You have the means, and I support that.  Good on you.  You've worked hard to afford all of what you have.  Me, I can't say I would want that responsibility.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a trainer that comes to my house, a chef, or a house keeper.  I'd love to travel the world.  But, I don't.  And I'm not sold on me not changing my habits if I were able to hire the people you hire.  I'm not sure I would like me if I had those people coming in and out of my house all the time.  My kids might be even more spoiled than they are now if I had a nanny for them and me providing everything for them.  Sure, the finances would be great!  I could support so many things I love, just as you support your chosen charity(ies).  But, I don't have the job you do that provides millions every time I finish the last day of work.

See, the Ben Affleck, Meryl Streep, DL Hughley and Whoopi Goldberg's are not my reality.  They are well respected actors/actresses, but they do not live in my world.  Just as I don't travel the world acting, they do not reside in Cheyenne, WY.  Sure, some of the Hollywood elites have worked in middle America at jobs that pay minimal income.  Some of them may have been raised on the streets of the inner city or suburban America.  But, because of what they do now, they have lost touch with me, my family, my friends and my peers.  Because they have, they presume many of us have as well, even if they work with charities supporting those that don't have.  How can I relate to someone who wears thousand dollar suits to events where tickets to attend cost hundreds of dollars?  How do I relate to someone who believes the only part of life is the arts?  I'm sure I may have something in common with Hollywood elites, but it won't be much.

Here's my plea.  My desire is simple.  Dear Hollywood Elite:  Come, join my family for a month.  I don't have much, but I have enough.  I don't expect anything from you.  Just come.  Eat with us.  Go to work with us.  Go to school with my kids.  Join me as I watch my daughter cheer at her High School Basketball games.  Or, come on out in the summer (it might be warmer, but no promises) and watch my son's baseball team.  Join me in the press box keeping score for his team.  Sit in the bleachers with his mom and grandparents.  Seriously!  Just come and visit for a month.  You'll get tired trying to keep up with all we do!  My wife volunteers at the County Fire District both in running calls and teaching classes, on top of her full time job.  Oh, she is also a part time student.  I own my own business on top of my full time job, volunteering for the Legion Baseball Team and a local concert promotion company.  You could even join us at our church on Sunday or either of my kids youth groups on Sunday and Wednesday.

See, dear Hollywood Elite person, the very one you think you speak for is more like my family and I than you and your peers.  Most of us work full time jobs, volunteer at our kids schools/sports teams/churches/etc, and somewhere in the full schedule we actually have a social life.  We spend our money to see the end result of your job.  Please, give us a the courtesy of treating us as equals to you instead of ignorantly thinking you know what we want and believe.  And if you could, Hollywood, please share this letter with your peers in the top 40 music industry as well.  Sadly, they've been fed the same line of thinking you have been.  Remember, it is us, the fans of your work, that have made you your millions, given you the recognition and a platform you can use.  It is up to you to use that platform, that money and recognition wisely.  Speaking for me is not using it wisely.

There you have it, Hollywood.  My open letter and invitation to you.  Which of you is up to the challenge of living in Cheyenne, Wyoming for a month.  Who is willing to run to and fro with my family?  The door is always open, the invitation has no expiration.  I will ask nothing of you except a friendship, a chance to shoot the breeze, maybe seek some knowledge, and a chance for you to see some of the most beautiful county in America.  If you do take me up on the offer, I'm easy to find, just drop me a line and we'll plan your visit.  Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The End Is A New Beginning

The end of every year brings most of us hope, joy, family and a whole lot more.  Many a child dreams of snow days and Santa bringing the perfect gift.  The older children dream of relaxing a little, sharing special moments with friends and family and most importantly, making someone else's day just a little brighter.  For most of us, the holidays do indeed provide all of the above and more.  More food, more laughs, more stuff and more moments to be cherished.  What a beautiful time of year.

This year, I found myself enjoying all of the aforementioned pleasures of the holiday season.  Yet, I also felt much more than joy and elation.  It was the realization that this year had a lot of endings, a lot of beginnings and a lot of continuations.  I reflected on more than I normally do...or have for quite a while.  And in all these reflections, I heard the words, "The End is the Beginning," as sung by Cloverton.  The main part of what I keep hearing is the simple reminder that, "Where death makes way for living, It's on you I'm depending, and it all begins in the end."



As the year closes, I've reflected on what was, and what is ahead.  The tears that accompanied the was are many.  Every where I've turned I see what was, both physically and mentally.  As the great Ron Burgundy once bellowed, "I'm in a glass case of emotion."  Yes, that is currently me as the was plays in my head.  Yet, as the what is ahead flashes, I'm encouraged.  I'm excited to see what God is doing, and yet I'm nervous about what indeed lies ahead.  Most importantly, I know I'm not alone in this glass case.

The was of 2016 saw friends having babies.  My wife has started school to pursue nursing.  My daughter is in the infancy of becoming a photographer thanks to school and her yearbook class.  My son is pursuing life in the music industry.  I saw friends buy houses and cars.  Heck, my wife has a new car too!  Yet, all this joy has also been surrounded by friends entangled in addictions.  Friends have separated from their spouse (some restored their marriage) and divorced.  Friends and family have dealt with various illnesses.  Most recently, friends that are family have been stung by death.  I can safely say 2016 has been a roller coaster.

Now, as 2017 greets me, I know there are things and events that will be life altering.  Moments that I already cherish knowing how unforgettable they will be.  I'll get to see my son graduate high school and participate in his final home game in baseball.  I'll be watching my daughter cheer at her first Wyoming State High School Cheer Competition.  My wife and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage!  I'll be vacationing with friends and family during the baseball season, and as we visit a dear friend we have to see to help all of us heal.

Good bye 2016. It is your end that is the beginning of healing.  The beginning of renewed life.  New adventures lie ahead and 2017 is ready, willing and able to host these events.  Yes, there will be bumps, bruises, and certainly some losses, but through it all I know that indeed, "It all begins in the end."  Me, it is my pride, my ego, my hurt, my everything that will end, and it is that end which will begin my joy, contentment and peace in Christ.