Monday, January 26, 2015

Stranger At My Door

What would you do if you had a random stranger show up at your door asking for some food?  Or, what would you do if you had a friend show up at your door in tears asking to use your phone and grab a glass of water?  Of course, the other fun scenario is that drunk guy on the corner of Main Street, USA asking you for your spare change for, "some food."  What do you tell him?  Do you give him your change?

These questions are the premise of a book I completed reading last week.  "Strangers At My Door" by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a biography of sorts.  He (Jonathan) chronicles the adventures of making his family home an outreach/mission.  Not just any mission or outreach that you might be familiar with.  He and his wife decided to take the Bible at its word, decided to open their front door to anyone and everyone, and watch what happened in the lives that walked through the door - including theirs.

Such a powerful book.  Despite it being different than I had anticipated, the ending was indeed challenging.  Open your door.  Don't be afraid, no matter how scary the act might be.  We know the knock is coming, so be ready.  Even when the knock interrupts a meal, a family movie, or your alone time, just be ready and answer.

But, this is not a book review.  I'm not good at writing reviews.  I have a hard time finding anything wrong with books.  If I don't like the book at the beginning, I'm not gonna read it.  If I like the book, I read it and will recommend it to people.  But, to write a review, yeah, not my calling.

Let's revisit the questions above.  What do you do when you have a knock at your door?  Usually, I'm curious wondering who it is that is knocking.  But what if the knocking at my door is just a metaphor for something bigger?  What if there is a broader application of that door?  Is it possible that any knock on a door is a reference to the hungry guy on the corner as I walk through downtown?

As the book concluded, one line really spoke to me.  Jonathan is talking about family meals, the banquet John saw in his dream while on Patmos and his haphazard family sitting at his table.  "You do not know what tomorrow will bring, but you whisper the only grace that makes sense at such a meal: 'Thank you. Help us. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.'"  Simple right?  Wait, what were those two words after thank you?

Help us!  Help with what?  Reading the book, Jonathan speaks frequently of what he needed help with.  He was often hesitant to ask for help, especially when it was seemingly the same people being asked of.  But, he asked, even when it was hard.

Asking, this is what this blog is about.  What is the hardest part of asking for help?  Is it the pride keeping us from seeking help?  Or is it the shame in acknowledging our need and inability to provide for that particular area in our lives?  Maybe it is even the simple lack of knowledge of who could help.  Whatever it is, there is a huge void in our lives when it comes to asking for help.  Even more tragic, is the fact that for those of us that attend a church regularly seem to avoid seeking help even more than those that don't attend church.  Oh SNAP!!!  I just admitted that!

Yes, I'm call out myself and others that attend church.  If we need help, why are we so afraid to seek the help?  And if we are so afraid to ask for help, does that prevent us from opening our door to those who knock seeking help?  Doesn't God tell us that if we seek, we find?  If we ask, we receive, don't we?  Well, do we believe what he says?  Or is it just lip service?  And for those that are knocking at our door (literal or figurative doors), they must not be to afraid to ask.  But, are we too afraid to answer?

Am I making sense?  Am I the only one seeing this paradox?  I must confess, I'm not perfect at any of this.  Sure, growing up as a pastors kid (or church board members kid) there were times I remember a knock on our door at odd hours of the night, during meals or family time.  I remember my dad being late to pick up my brother or I because of someone needing help.  Answering the door has never really been a problem as God has always provided both the example to teach, and now continually provides a way for Janda and I to provide.  Yes, we've received calls and knocks at odd hours from bands and friends needing a place to stay, or needing a meal, or just someone to talk to.  We love that, but it doesn't mean we've been perfect.  But the part I struggle with (even after learning how) is the asking for help.

Going through my battle with cancer taught me it is okay to seek help.  I had to ask for help.  There was no way to survive without that help.  I marvel still today over how much help we received during that year.  Yet, it seems I still have a long way to go in learning how...and when to ask.  I find that I'm not alone in this lesson.  I know too many people who are afraid to ask for help, especially from the ones that are supposed to be helping.  It shouldn't be this way.  Christians shouldn't be afraid to ask other Christians for help!!!  Yet, we are.  We just don't, and it needs fixed.  But how?

Here is my challenge:  Ask.  Ask for help, even when it is gonna hurt, ask for help.  Even if you don't know what you need help with, ask.  When you're done asking, then open the door when you hear a knock.  Maybe, that knock you hear is more than just someone needing help.  Maybe, just maybe that knock is someone there to help you when you need it most and don't know how to ask.  Helping them turns out to be the best help that you can not only provide, but receive.

Yes, that is the one thing in "Strangers At My Door" that I learned.  Jonathan wound up providing so much help, that eventually, those he was helping became the ones that helped him the most.  Helped him learn to lean on God more than he ever knew he was going to have to.  Helped him to trust, even those that could hurt him or his family.  Helped him pray when he had no idea how to pray.  Helped him to just ask.

Who is your stranger?  What is your door?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Thank you,from Anonymous

Dear Family of Stuart Scott,

Thank you!  Thank you for sharing your son, ex-husband, father, boyfriend and brother with us.  I could tell you all the positives I know about him, but you already know those attributes, after all, you knew him personally.  I might have lived with him in my house nightly, but you saw him daily.  You had him at your side every minute of every day.  So really, I don't need to tell you what you already know.  Rather, I just feel you need to hear an average Joe thank you for your selfless sharing of the man you knew and loved.  Or is it know and loved?

I'd also like to ask a few questions, ones that you have no answer least not one for me.  But, there really isn't one you need to offer to me.  Actually, these are questions that I have found myself reflecting upon as I look at my own mortality.  I had to ask myself these questions once before as I began my battle against cancer.  In light of Stuart's passing, I've found the questions resurfacing. Please know, these are from the heart and are meant for nothing more than reliving the joys and triumphs of the life you lived with Stuart.

First, what a roller coaster life you live!  What was that like?  Seeing him graduate from high school, and then North Carolina, you couldn't have been more proud.  What was it like seeing him move south to Florida to work his first gig reporting the news?  Did you miss him?  Were you able to see many of his reports?  Better yet, were you able to take a little vacation yourselves, mom and dad, to sunny Florida to spend time with you son?  What kind of a celebration did you have with him when he was offered a position at ESPN?

Former Mrs. Scott and now current life partner, what was it like sharing your husband/other with the world?  Was your house always on some sort of sport?  How often were you able to enjoy a work trip with him?  What was your favorite city to visit?  Hearing all the stories of his passion for family, I'm sure he helped around the house, took you to dinner frequently (or even cooked a meal or two during the week) and probably watched your favorite movie with you every so often.

Taelor and Sydni, I'm sure you knew how much your dad loved you.  He spoke of it often to his peers, and I'm sure he told you every night.  Heck, he even told the world during his ESPY's speech, including hugging you, Syndi, on live TV!  Yet, I'm sure you find yourselves asking, "Now what?" and "When will I wake up from this nightmare?"  Sure, you certainly had your disagreements on when homework should be done, which friend you could have spend the night, or even which boy you could go out on a date with.  Rest assured, as a father to you, he was doing it out of a love that only fathers know.  It is that love, that fathers love, that you will hopefully one day understand how deep and unspeakable of a love it was.

Lastly, to Stuarts siblings, how many fights did y'all get in growing up?  How much mischief did he cause that somehow got you into trouble?  Did he ever blame you for being mom and dads favorite, or was it the other way around - him being the favorite?  What about the times you picked on him just because you could?

I say all this to simply say, I can't imagine what you are going through.  However, I do know the emotions of cancer.  I do know some of the thoughts Stuart had during his battle with cancer.  I have faced the prospects of death in my battle with cancer.  I struggle daily in accepting my diagnosis despite being in remission for two plus years.  I know my cancer can, and probably will return at some point in the future.  When faced with death, I asked myself if my kids, my wife, my parents and my brother knew how much I loved them?  I'm certain they had emotions that I will never understand, just as you had when watching Stuart stare face to face with both cancer and death.  I also wondered what kind of a legacy I would have left behind had I not won my battle?  I believe Stuart wondered what he could leave behind for all of you to remember his legacy by.

What now?  Words of encouragement fail me.  Sure, his colleagues, friends and peers have sent you many cards, flowers, condolences, called and what not.  But me, I only have this letter and I'm certain you will never see it.  I'm okay with that, maybe it isn't for you to see.  Maybe it is only for me to write and other random people to read as an opportunity to cope with their thoughts and grief.  It is something therapeutic for me to write these thoughts, and maybe that is all it is.  No problem, at least I hope it isn't a problem.  I hope and pray that if somehow this reaches you, you can reflect on the many great times you had with Stuart, and that these questions caused you to find solace in one of the memories.

Again, thank you for sharing Stuart with us.  Know, that if he never impacted anyone through anything other than his battle with cancer, know that he has encouraged thousands with his attitude and his never give up spirit over the years of fighting this horrible illness.  Know that my life is forever impacted by how he continually stared at cancer, spit in it's face and told it to kiss off.

Sincerely and God Bless,

Aaron C Casey
Average Joe America