broken but not crushed

Helping each other live successfully and abundantly in the face of brokenness.

Location: Columbus, Central Ohio, United States

Friday, June 30, 2006

Best Friends part five

Dear Friends,

We are nearing the end of our short series of blogs on the art of making and keeping best friends. We’ve been making some observations on the incredible example of two characters we find in the Bible, Jonathan and David. These two guys are tied together in their hearts – they are what we today call best friends.

We’ve seen that friendship is more than skin deep, and that true friends are generous and unselfish within the relationship. Yesterday we found out that friendships, as well as every good relationship, requires time to grow and develop.

Today, though, our observation has a dark side. We live in a world that sometimes takes aim at us with cruel and harmful intentions. There are days, especially for us who are broken, when it seems that at every turn life is conspiring against us. Pain overwhelms. Personal challenges become nearly unbearable. Even the weather is bleak. And then it happens – some unthinking, sometimes uncaring, usually rude person attacks us.

It happened the other day at Lowes. Susie and I had taken an opportunity to restock the lumber racks in my woodshop, and after two doctors appointments and pushing my manual wheelchair through the big store, I had just about come to the end of my endurance. As a love gift to me Susie went to get our truck from the parking spot quite a distance from where we exited so I wouldn’t have to push myself to it.

She got there and was about to enter the truck when two women, who had parked in the handicapped space beside our truck, walked by and started complaining – very loud, very rude, and without giving the circumstances a second thought - attacking Susie for being in “their” handicapped parking space. The attack was obviously unfounded and uncalled for, but it happened anyhow.

If you are broken you know this kind of unexpected rudeness happens. People, with their own agenda and, selfishly, without giving others a second thought, just attack without provocation. Sometimes it is face to face, but most of it, like our encounter at Lowes, is cowardly. They just talk real loud and make a scene that is intended to hurt and damage.

David and Jonathan teach us an important lesson with their lives. We will call it …

Observation #4: True friends defend each other

As we’ve seen, Jonathan is a great example of unselfish friendship. He could have been pretty put out by the knowledge that God had taken the reigns of power from Saul’s family and given it to David. Think about it – knowing your best friend will probably take your job, your power, your position, your financial benefits, your titles, your future – that could but a damper on things, don’t you think!?!? But Jonathan was a true friend, willing to suffer loss to defend David’s right to be the king of Israel instead. What a true and noble friend Jonathan is. He shows us how its supposed to be done.

But this friendship went even one more extra mile. In more than one instance Jonathan saved David’s life by warning him of his father’s unholy intentions. Saul absolutely hated David. Several times Saul would chase David down in an attempt to kill him. This could have put a strain on Jonathan and David’s friendship, but because they were committed to each other at a deeper level, Jonathan became David’s defender. Jonathan was willing to stand up to his father at his own peril just to make sure David would survive.

That example is for you and me to follow. Now, I don't expect that many of us have an insane king chasing us with murder on his mind. But rude people can be cruel. Unthinking people can be crass and mean and not even know it. And sometimes it is up to us to defend our friends against these kinds of folks. No, it is not always easy, nor is it even without it’s built in dangers, but sometimes it is necessary and it is YOU and ME that God calls to defend the defenseless. It might mean you are going to have to put your own comforts on the line, but if that is the way it goes down, then I, for one, choose to go down fighting. Oh, maybe not physically, but a word, chosen carefully and spoken timely, can carry great weight in defense of a friend.

And I’m not just talking about the rudeness we encountered at Lowes. I’m also talking about stopping gossip and bad-mouthing in its tracks. I’m saying that we do NOT join in when another is being criticized or berated, but we enter the conversation in defense of the other’s character. We choose the high road less traveled and stand, sometimes at our own emotional peril, in defense of those we consider friends.

Yes, it requires action on our part, and yes, it means we are putting our own selves on the line, but it also means that we do the right thing, the good thing, the Godly thing, and take our stand in defense of the weak and broken among us. It might also mean taking local government to task for its lack of wheelchair accessibility. It might also mean taking a stand in a business, a sporting arena, or even at your church in defense of those who otherwise would be defenseless and left out because of their brokenness. It means taking a stand, and then standing there – even if its in your wheelchair – unflinchingly defending what is right.

I know this sounds like I’m waxing militant today, and maybe I am. But we all know people who, without someone to stand up for them, would find themselves on the outside, with burning tears in their eyes, looking in. Those of us who are strong need to take up the cause of the weaker. Because if we don’t, who will? And if not today, then when?

True friends defend each other whatever the cost. Decide to defend today.

Standing tall in my wheelchair,

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Best Friends part four

Dear friends,

If you have been following this short series of blogs about friendships, you know that I’ve been encouraging you to get out there and make some friends, and maybe out of the process you might find a really good friend, or maybe even a best friend.

But today, I want to focus our attention on the most important way to help develop a friendship that you already have. Maybe this is a ‘new’ friend, like someone you’ve just recently met and the chemistry is right. Or maybe you have a friend that you care dearly for but you haven’t had much time to devote to that relationship. Or possibly you have a friend that is just plain special to you and you want that friendship to flourish even better.

Well, in these cases as well as others there is a one sure way to improve your friendships. It’s found in today’s edition…

Observation #3: Friends spend time developing and sustaining their relationship

Friendships don’t just happen, they are made.

Let’s just be very practical for a moment – we've been talking about friendships, but this is good advice for marriages, family relationships, neighborhoods, church relationships: The bottom line is this – if we are going to have good relationships of any kind they are going to require that we take the time to make them good.

Husbands and wives - it means you are going to have spend time together, growing this thing called love. No, I don’t mean just watching TV in the same room or going to a movie where you sit quietly in the dark and watch someone else’s life, but spending uninterrupted time actually communicating.

Parents, it means you are going to have to take the time to be with your kids, doing things together, learning their likes and dislikes, and sharing their lives. The TV commercials that say that involved parents are the best anti-drug are telling the truth. Actually, in their hearts kids spell love T-I-M-E.

Neighbors, it’s going to take more than a “Howdy” over the fence once a week. If you want to turn an acquaintance into a friend, it’s going to require a time component.

It is this simple: Time is the master key to relationships. If you want a better relationship with your kids, your spouse, your friends, your co-workers, your church family, with anyone – spend time together. Developing the relationship requires time, and nothing else will be an adequate substitute..

And, as a Christian, if I might add one more simple truth as well – if we are going to have any kind of relationship with our heavenly Father it means we are going to have to spend some time with him as well. We need to read the Bible because that is God talking to us. We need to spend some time thinking about what we read so that we understand what it is that God is saying to us personally. Then we need to pray; that sacred conversation between a person and their God.

Relationships are built on time spent together – David and Jonathan knew that, and we do too.

"But Dwight, I don't have that kind of time!" If that is you talking then I have only one thing to say - you are too busy! If your schedule doesn't include time for developing friendships then you need to adjust your schedule. when it is all over for us - and that time comes for everyone - we won't look back and say "Oh I wish I would have closed that deal" or "Aw shucks, I didn't make it all the way to a million dollars", or even "Boy, I wish I'd have spent more time at the office". No, when we face the end of days on this planet the only thing that will matter is "who do I love, and who loves me".

Yes, my friends, this is THAT important! Do whatever it takes to develop a really good friendship with someone you will learn to love if you don't already. Talk face to face, write an old fashioned letter, make a phone call and plan to spend more than two minutes talking about the weather, spend some time composing a REAL email, not just a forward, and actually say something of value.

And please, don’t just plan on spending time with a friend, MAKE the time to do it – and you’ll be glad you did! Maybe right NOW would be a good time to start...

Until we meet again,

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Best Friends part three

Hello there, friends,

Well, today we get to take a look at one of the wonderful benefits of having a good friend. Remember, we have been looking at this topic through the eyes of a couple guys who became best friends in spite of the surrounding circumstances. What a great example Jonathan and David set for us to follow. So here is today's ...

Observation #2: True friendship is generous and unselfish.

It is highly probable that David, a poor young fellow from an ordinary family, didn’t even have decent clothes to wear. He had been in the field with sheep when his father asked him to go take some bread and cheese to his brothers in the battle with the Philistines where, as history tells us, David killed Goliath and was not allowed to return home by order of the king. David didn’t have normal fighting clothes - which is why Saul tried to have him wear the kings armor - and more than likely he hadn’t even brought along a single change of clothes. David was between the proverbial rock and a hard place!

So what happened? Jonathan literally gave David the clothes off his back. His friend needed something and he didn’t give it a second thought – he took off his robe that was probably made of better cloth than David had ever even touched and he included the tunic so David would not get cold in the night.

And then Jonathan did something unheard of. David had come with a sling, a common shepherd’s weapon, and Jonathan recognized that David would need more than that if he was being forced into military service at the kings right hand, So Jonathan gave David his sword, his bow, and his belt.

Now understand, swords were very rare and were reserved for leaders and kings. This is a most significant gift for the sword was the symbol of power. 1 Samuel 13:22 says “So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.”

In simple terms, Jonathan gave David a gift that ONLY Jonathan could give. His generosity was compounded by the addition of the bow, a weapon that could save David’s life.

The belt is also significant and the most practical of the gifts. Weapons could get very heavy, especially when they were NOT being used in warfare. A belt was where the sword’s scabbard was attached and the sheath for arrows for the bow – this was a simple yet completely necessary part of the weaponry Jonathan gave to David.

Finally, one last important detail – Jonathan did not give David A sword, bow and belt, he gave him HIS sword, bow and belt. These were not just some run of the mill gifts scratched up from the guys in the field, these were royal weapons, designed and made for the kings own son. This was unselfish generosity at its highest level, brought about by the deep friendship one man had for another.

Hear me – true friends are unselfish and generous. Not just with the leftovers, but with the things that are most precious to them. True friends share time, finances, worldly goods and resources – whatever their friend needs, if it is within their power to do so, they provide.

Are you a true friend to someone? Over the years I have been on the receiving end of many people’s unselfish generosity. My life has been enriched and my soul fed from the great bounty of good people’s love that has sustained and held me when I needed it most. Most of the time it was simply impossible for me to reciprocate. I wanted to, but it was just not possible. But these friends of mine didn’t do what they did so they would get something in return, they did it out of love and care for me. I am blest beyond measure by the love and generosity of good people down through the years. I am better equipped today to help others because of how I have been helped.

Have you ever seen the movie “Pay It Forward”? Not exactly a world class movie, but what a concept! Do something generous for no reason except that it needs done. If the truth be told, these things many times do come full circle. Oh, maybe not the same people, or the same circumstances, but you know as well as I do that a generous spirit inspires generosity in others, and that kind of attitude is something we call ALL live with.

When was the last time you showed your friendship by being unselfishly generous with a friend? What skills do you possess that you can share with those around you? What gifts have been given to you by your Creator that maybe someone else could use?

Why not give generosity and unselfishness a try today. Do a random act of kindness and who knows, you might end up with a life long friend out of the deal! As my Mom used to say, “Ya never know….”.

Till tomorrow,

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Best Friends part two

Good day, my friends,

Yesterday we began a series of blogs centered on this idea of “Best Friends”. Many thanks to those of you who have already written with notes of encouragement – they are much appreciated.

We figured out yesterday that real friends sometimes require serious effort on our parts to make them work. But we also made a clear determination that we NEED good friends, and that life on this planet is not healthy unless we have one or more of them.

And finally, we took a look at what the Bible has to say about a couple guys who were best friends. An unlikely friendship at best, but, hey, let’s just take a look at my …

Observation #1: True friendship is more than skin deep

David and Jonathan’s friendship was born deep in their spirits. It involved their emotions and their intellect, it was based deep inside their very souls. It’s a good thing, too, because if you took a look at the outside trappings there couldn’t have been two more different guys. Let’s take a quick look at their …

Financial standing. Jonathan had at his fingertips all the resources of the entire kingdom of Israel. He merely spoke and his every wish was granted. He lacked for nothing, and was showered with abundance. David, on the other hand, didn’t even own clothing fit to be seen in the kings court. He would have been offered the least in compensation for his efforts, would have inherited the least from his father, and would have had to work his entire lifetime just to survive.

Family birth order. Jonathan was the Prince of Israel, the king’s first-born son and first in line for the throne. David was the last born of 8 sons, and in line to tend sheep.

His families place in society. As stated, Jonathan was the first son of the first king of Israel. There could be no higher standing in the nation. David’s family was an ordinary, tax paying, garden variety farming family. David was the least favored of the whole family of least favored folk.

David and Jonathon were complete opposites. There was nothing visible that would have drawn these two men together in a lifelong friendship.

But obviously, everything is not visible. The story we read last time stated that these men “loved each other like real men” and that they “made a covenant” between them.

These two guys, as opposite as humanly possible, became best friends in spite of their obvious differences. They completely ignored the externals and focused on their hearts, and in their hearts they were brothers.

What’s holding you back from making a real friend? Could it be your financial picture? And by the way that goes two ways! Some feel they are too good for the other guy because they have so much more money, and then there are the ones who believe they aren’t good enough simply because the other person has made more money over their life time.

Could it be that you feel like the other person is above or below you socially, and it just wouldn’t be right to associate with that person who might one day become a friend?

Let’s be real for a minute - none of that really matters! Oh yes, I am fully aware that there are some very real barriers to making friendships, especially when you are broken. For example, I have never met the people who live across the street from my house. Because of the architecture of my home and my access ramp direction, I have only been in my own front yard one time since we moved in. And since my "across the street" neighbors have no reason to come out to the back alley behind my house, I’ve never met them.

But I HAVE met the people that connect to the back of my house, and they are good people, and I’ve made some very good friends among them.

What am I telling you? That YES, there are barriers, sometimes insurmountable and impractical ones that stand in the way. But we dare not allow them to become an excuse. We must not foolishly build artificial barriers that we then hide behind – hey, it’s so easy to make excuses based on things that just don’t matter. And when we are feeling down and out already, possibly because of our brokenness or some of its related issues, we could tend to want to hide away from the world even more. But it’s those times you need a friend more than ever.

Make provisions for your friendships. Take the time necessary to go deeper than “skin deep”, and refuse to allow yourself to become the victim of friendlessness. Whatever you do, think through this issue for yourself. Then DO SOMETHING about it.

You’ll be glad you did!

Till tomorrow,

Monday, June 26, 2006

Best Friends

Hi there friends and neighbors,

This morning Susie had on the morning news. The lead story was about study just completed that said Americans have fewer real friends than we have ever had. How sad! The news report said that there are lots of reasons people don’t have good friends, but that not having them is very unhealthy. It also went on to say that 70% of those who DO have friends say that their only close friend is their spouse.

So many of you had something to say last week when I posted the blog about friends. The comments, and especially the emails, were filled with your own stories. I heard your success stories and I also heard your struggle. The general consensus is that it is really tough making real friends, and that best friends take a lot of work. But some of you also said you would do almost ANYTHING to have just one person on this planet who really cared.

It seems God created us with the inborn need for the sound and the touch of another person - not just any person, but someone you could call a friend. As most of you know, I am a former pastor – former because of brokenness, and a Christian. Therefore, when I am confronted with a major dilemma, like this issue of so many people hurting for a real friend, my natural bent is to turn to the Bible for answers.

What I find there is that people are God’s passion. We, for reasons known only to our Creator, are incredibly important to God. And because of that truth, he absolutely loves it when WE love people, too! It is our Creator’s deep desire that we have healthy, growing friendships.

In addition, I believe that best friends are a very special gift from God. I think God sometimes uses his own, great power to create situations where we can make strong, special, lifetime friendships. It wouldn’t be the first time…

The Bible talks about a couple guys who became the best of friends. David and Jonathan had a most unlikely friendship. Truth be told, the very real challenges they had to overcome to be best friends would have made most people just quit trying. I’ve heard of parents not liking their kid’s friends, but Jonathan’s Dad, King Saul, hated David so much he was trying to kill him – actually sent a whole army to hunt him down! Not exactly the best beginning for a lifelong friendship, huh. My parents didn't like some of my friends, but they never sent out the militia to kill them off!

Let's talk - Over the next few days I want to make some observations about the kind of friendship that stands the test of time: good friends, REAL friends, lifelong BEST friends. I want you to think with me and talk with me. What you have to say is important and significant. That's why we are revisiting this hot topic issue in the first place. And to help us understand God's point of view we are going to use a small paragraph from the Bible about David and Jonathan to help us get a good grip.

So you don’t have to look it up I’ll just print the PDV (Pastor Dwight's Version) here. But if you want to read the whole story in your own version, it’s found in the Old Testament, in the first of two books called “Samuel” (my son’s name!) and the 18th chapter. David just killed the giant Goliath and had instantly become a national hero. Saul was entertaining the ugly little bug of jealousy. The story goes like this…

“After David had finished talking with Saul [the king], Jonathan and David became best friends, and they loved each other like real men. But from that day on Saul kept David at the palace instead of letting him go back home. Jonathan made a covenant (an absolute promise, a binding contract) with David because he loved him as himself. Now David hadn’t even packed a suitcase, so Jonathan gave David one of his favorite robes and his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”

Think about the implications of that kind of friendship, and tune in tomorrow for my first observation in our serious look at Best Friends.

See you then,

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Let’s get the truth out there right away – I can’t dance! You say “But you are in a wheelchair, Dwight, no one expects you to dance.” Nice try – I couldn’t dance pre-chair. It’s amazing to me that God gave me so many musical gifts – singer, songwriter, keyboardist, instrumentalist – and I've had so many jobs in the music field – concert artist, worship leader, choir and orchestra director, college professor – and I just can’t dance. For some reason my feet have never been connected to my brain when it comes to dancing.

I’m reminded of a somewhat painful story. Fifteen years ago I did quite a bit of local theater. I’ve played some really fun roles – The Wizard in the “Wizard of Oz”, ship’s captain in “Anything Goes”, and my favorite of all, the Ghost of Christmas Present in “A Christmas Carol”. Once, when auditioning for a role there were three separate auditions, one for speaking voice, one for singing voice, and one for dancing.

I went to the first audition - speaking - and the summation on the clipboard said “Wonderful voice! Deep, resonant, very pleasant to listen to. Should be cast in a leading role”. I kind of liked the sound of that review.

I went to the second audition – singing – and the review sounded even better to me. “Amazing voice. powerful delivery - excellent technique – well trained, should be hired to teach others. Easily the best voice in the house today.”

Reviews like that can make one’s head swell a little.

Then I went to the third audition where we were asked to just move on the stage. Not dance, mind you, just some ordinary, flowing stage movements within the rhythms of the music. I will never forget the blunt, two-word description of my attempt. “No hope!”

So there I had it. The official proof, a professional judge’s two-word opinion of my abilities – “No hope!” I thought they could have done away with the exclamation point, though I was well aware that I deserved it. Because I just can’t dance.

But I like the idea of the dance. I celebrate the joy of a body flowing to the rhythms of good music and the art of telling a story without words. I applaud the dedication and single mindedness of the prima ballerina. I watch “So You Think You Can Dance” and, like many of you, giggle at those who dance like me, and then I am utterly amazed at the skills of some of the best.

Two of my most priceless moments in time were when I danced with my two daughters at their weddings. Goodness, they knew I couldn’t dance – I mean, they knew I had NEVER danced! But they wanted to dance with me anyhow, so I walked out there in front of all those people, held my daughters close enough to hear them breathe but far enough away so I wouldn’t step on them, and I danced. To this day my eyes fill with tears at the simple remembrance of those nearly sacred moments in my life.

I think the thing I like most about the dance is that it speaks to my soul of the freedom to express ones self in spite of any other circumstances. Several years ago there was a country tune called “The Dance” sung by Garth Brooks that told the sad story of love lost, and concluded with the line “I could have done without the pain, but I’d have missed the dance”.

I live there in my everyday life, just like many of you. Let’s face it, no one likes to hurt. But I don’t want to miss the dance either. The worst advice I ever got was from a doctor who told me “If it hurts, don’t do it.” The results of following that advise was that I just sat in a chair because everything hurt. For a few months I did nothing, went nowhere, reached no one, and couldn’t have cared less because I was following the doctor’s orders.

My favorite book besides the Bible is a small volume by Tim Hansel titled “Ya Gotta Keep Dancin’”. I’ve read it no less than 9 times and I recommend it without reservation to anyone who is hurt or hurting because it describes the journey to joy in the face of the pain. Let me quote a short paragraph that literally changed my life. “Sometimes you have to choose the pain. If you want to accomplish anything in life, you have to choose the pain and then get on with it. Not that you celebrate the pain or the agony. This isn’t a sadistic choice. But if you want to really live your life you sometimes have to decide it’s worth it to hurt.”

And so I have adopted that advice, and many times over the years I have been heard repeating the phrase “I choose the pain.” And it has been worth it! By the way, I danced at those two weddings, pastored a church for 10 years, and played those roles at the theater AFTER my first accident, after the onset of the pain and the birth of the disability. I dare not even begin to imagine what I would have missed had I not chosen to live in spite of the pain.

My desire for each of you is this: no matter how much you hurt, no matter how many obstacles you face each day, no matter what challenges life has thrown at you, I WANT YOU TO DANCE! Choose to live! If you haven’t done so already, decide that today will be the beginning of your quest to make something worthwhile of whatever life has left you. If you are already doing it let’s celebrate together! I can’t say it loud enough nor can I express it more emphatically – DANCE, my fellow traveler, DANCE!

Spinnin’ in my chair,

Monday, June 19, 2006

Finding Simple Freedoms

Dear friends,

Last week I had a most free-ing thing happen to me. I went to a local establishment to buy a pair of shoes. Now, because I’m in the wheelchair and have diabetes my legs and feet have done some fairly strange things, so I was getting one of those “prescription” kinds of shoes. The shoes I had been wearing were beginning to look a little worn and were getting snug across the tops of my feet. So I thought a new pair of shoes might be in order.

To make a long story short, after going through the process of being “fitted” for these shoes, and waiting six weeks for them to come in, and then going back for a second fitting, I can’t wear them. The soles are so thick, supposedly for my comfort, that they drastically changed my balance while sitting in the chair. If I wear the shoes, my feet are supposedly safer – but I get saddle sores in unmentionable places because I’m not sitting properly in my chair anymore. I’m sticking to the old shoes.

While getting the second fitting I mentioned to the shoe technician that these new shoes were the ugliest things on the planet. That’s when it happened. He looked me in the eye and said “So what?”

“Excuse me?” I responded.

And he answered “So what! If they fit and are comfortable, and if they help you live better every day what does it matter if they are ugly or the most beautiful shoes in town?”

I looked at him and a flood of thoughts raced through my head. “He’s right” was my final conclusion. What was I afraid of? And what really was my problem with ugly shoes? Was it pride? Or maybe some screwed up sense of self-esteem? All I know is that at that moment something in me broke – broke in a really good way!

Goodness, those of us who are broken already know that we sacrifice our pride early on in the process. We get poked and prodded by any number of health care professionals in some pretty “unmentionable” places. I’ll never forget being in the hospital in nearly unbearable pain, almost out of my mind in fear, and wishing I could just die and go to heaven - when what I just knew was the entire population of female nurses on duty at that hour gathered at my bedside to put in my very first catheter. I swallowed my pride and silently let them do their job – which wasn’t really that much of a deal when you think of it, and probably didn’t phase the one or two that were really there one bit.

Back to the subject, I looked at my old shoes when I got home. They really weren’t all that bad after all. So I took out a cutting tool and with a little snip here and a tuck there I solved the snugness problem. What incredible freedom I experienced when they just slipped back on my feet after my limited version of shoe surgery. No, I didn’t make them beautiful, and they are still the same old shoes, slightly worn and now with a visible nip and tuck. But they “fit and are comfortable”, and they help me live better every day. So really, what does it matter if they are ugly or the most beautiful shoes in town?

So what lesson have I learned that I can pass along to you? It is simply this: Our dignity and self-respect do not depend on whether our shoes are in style. These really important things depend on my character and the quality of my moral fiber. I need to look at myself like God does – more concerned with who I am, rather than on what I own or look like.

When you are broken, personal freedom comes in small packages, and we are grateful for each gift of freedom along the way. Don’t let pride or an exaggerated sense of self get in your way of having a better life. The freedom I experienced when I put on my old, altered shoes was like a breath of fresh air on a hot, muggy summer day.

I intend to apply the same principle to other parts of my life. “Pride brings about destruction, and a know-it-all attitude will make you fall flat on your face!” the Bible says in Proverbs 16:18 (PDV)

My hope for you is that today you will enjoy great freedom - from self, from pride, from unrealistic expectations, from fear, and from worrying about silly things. As a child of God, though, my greatest hope is that you will experience freedom from the enslaving guilt of sin that causes all of the above. If you have questions about how to do that, please email me and we will talk. I’d love to help you find ultimate freedom.

Till next time,

Saturday, June 17, 2006

You are not alone - the incredible value of friends

Hello there, fellow travelers,

I have been reading your responses in the many emails, blog comments, and even a few telephone calls and I have discovered one giant, glaring, nearly overwhelming truth – I have, over the years, made some pretty incredible friends. Some would say that it’s because I’ve been pretty friendly myself, and there might be some truth to that since I just plain love people. But I am the recipient of so much love and friendship that it must have something to do with YOU as well.

I confess, the temptation at this point is to start naming names. In fact, this is the fourth or fifth version of this article because I have succumbed to the temptation in the first several drafts. The first draft just flowed – but when I began to approach 50 names and the list was only getting started I realized that not even I would read something like that – except to find out if MY name had made the list. Oh come on, be honest, the thought crossed your mind too, didn’t it?

But there is a greater truth here. It is my friends – starting with my wife Susie (yes, I did name one name – sorry, couldn’t help myself) and then dozens of good people (and you know who you are) – that have brought about my emotional healing. I can hear some of my Christian friends telling me that it was God, first, who was my help in time of trouble, and I agree. But let’s be real here, it was my friends who prayed for me, who wept with me, who sat with me, who visited me in the hospital, who helped me up and down the stairs and who even built the ramp that made it possible to come home. It was my friends who were the hands, feet, and mouth of God during my darkest days.

Truth be told, there is a two month period of time, right after the intensive drug treatment at the Cleveland Clinic that probably saved my life, when I don’t remember very much of anything. Between October and Christmas everything is a blur. I kept a journal in my laptop and there are pages and pages of gibberish – I knew what I was writing at the time, but it sure made no sense in the light of day. But hear me well - the one thing I DO remember are the visits from Bill & Donna, and Fred & Gigi, and Terry & Sandi, and a few others who refused to allow me to slip into oblivion but held me up emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It was my friends who made those unselfish investments in a broken guy they loved. I will be forever grateful! I am able to help others today because of their love and commitment to me when I needed it the most. Yea, I named a few names – hey, it’s my blog, isn’t it?

Which brings us to the point of today’s installment. It is my guess that most of you find yourselves in one of two places today - either you are hurting and alone and in serious need of a friend; or you have healed or are healing pretty well – at least emotionally - from your own personal brokenness and you can be a friend.

If you are in the first category, allow me to be your friend, at least from a distance. I can assure you that, no matter how you feel, even if you feel like you are all alone, know that you are never alone. I serve a God whose Word says simply “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. And having served the Lord for over 45 years and having been in desperate need of help myself, I can guarantee with certainty that what God says He will do, He does. You can take it to the bank!

Also, take a look around. Most of us have invested ourselves in people through the years and it is likely some of them would be willing to return the favor if they only knew you needed them. Push your pride to the back for just a short while and reach out for help, and it is my hope that in your own circle of friends you will find it. In the Bible, in Proverbs 18:24, it says that “if a man wants to have friends he must BE friendly” (PDV – that is, Pastor Dwight’s Version). Please don’t expect people to instinctively know you are hurting – I can’t read minds and neither can you. But people DO respond to sincere calls for help.

On the other hand, if you have healed, or are doing pretty well – at least in the area of emotional healing - then it is crucial that you make yourself available to someone who is not so far up the road. There are some cliffs that are simply impossible to climb without someone letting down a rope and helping to pull you up. Sometimes we are at the bottom needing the rope, and sometimes we are at the top and can let down the rope. Choose to become unselfish, choose compassion, choose friends and stick by them through thick or thin. Look for someone you can help and do it on purpose. It is my belief that you will never make a wiser investment than the investment you make in a friend.

I will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude I have for my friends and their love for me. But then again, they never asked to be repaid, only that I be their friend – and I am!

Till next time,

Friday, June 16, 2006

Some changes are in order.

After posting my first blog ever just yesterday I got so many wonderful comments, questions, and new ideas from so many of you that I went back into the "creating" area of this and made some changes in an effort to make this a better place to visit. Who knows - this process might go through several evolutions before we get it all right, but my desire is to make this blog as interactive as possible within reason.

First, thanks to my son's suggestion, I have removed the blockage on annonymous comments. He pointed out to me that sometimes the things that we need to talk about are too painful to put a name on, and that there might be some who REALLY need to be included but are afraid to do so for fear of having their name out there in cyberspace. So, we are going to give this a try. If you are reading this and you are a spammer, please don't muddy up the waters. There are people already who have emailed me with deep brokenness who really need to talk and I don't want to shut the door on them because someone want's to sell a condo in Zimbabwe. So spammers, go somewhere where you are wanted, please.

Secondly, I have included the link to my email address in my profile and after my signature for the same reason as above. Sometimes people want to talk but need to do so in private, so I've included my email address so we can communicate. My promise is that I will try to answer as many as possible. If this gets out of hand I might have to figure out a better way, but for now we'll just give this a try. But please know this: I must refrain from too much giving of counsel to those whose lives I do not know. Every one of us is different and every one of us has special circumstances we are facing that may or may not be unique to us. There are going to be the big issues we all face, but then there are some thing that are simply unique to us as individuals, and when we get into those areas counseling would need to be much more involved than we have time for in this medium.

Back to changes, I wish there was some way to eliminate the silliness of astrological signs and chinese calendar stuff off my profile - anyone who has an idea how to get rid of that stuff please let me know. I don't believe in that foolishness and I really don't want any part of it, but it just kind of "showed up". Any ideas?

For those of you who wonder what right I have to give advice I have this say in my defense. First, I am a God called, ordained Pastor who, because of the accident and subsequent brokenness, is serving in a support role as Worship Leader (and newsletter editor) at my church. Second, I am a certificated Christian counselor, having taken the necessary course work from the Center for Biblical Counseling and have been a member of the AACC, the American Association of Christian Counselors. I have many years of practical experience in the role of Senior Pastor of a growing church and practicing Christian counselor. Furthermore, I have been a husband to my wife for 34 years, a Dad to three fabulous kids, a Father-in-law to three pretty incredible spouses of my kids, and now a grandpa to 5 of the most beautiful children the world has ever produced.

But maybe my best credential is that I am, personally, broken - and yet still living successfully and abundantly in the face of that brokenness. Oh no, that does not mean I am always happy and that life is a bowl of cherries. Far from it! I face the same kinds of stuggles and challenges and debilitating pain many of you do. But I have decided that living abundantly is so important to me that I will choose the pain and get on with it.

And I have discovered that there are a lot of people out there willing to do the very same thing. Who push themselves and strive with all their might to be and do everything and anything they are capable of doing, and then living with the fact that there might be some things they will never do again. I give you a standing ovation - well, as close to standing as my wheelchair will allow - but I'm applauding REAL loud! I am constantly amazed at the power of the human spirit and the just plain grit and vinegar of some people who refuse to consider their disability disabling. Hurray for you!

So, there you have it. I have attempted to open the door a little wider for you to be part of this ongoing discussion. If you have any ideas that might help the process even further, please become part of the group. Have a wonderful day and I'll see you next time, here in Broken but Not Crushed.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Good morning friends, family, and, apparently, fellow bloggers,

As you might be able to tell, this is my very first blog ever, and as you might expect, I'm just a little apprehensive about what I'm doing. But if you don't try, well, then you never grow and learn, and I intend to grow AND learn, so here goes!

Here's the bottom line - My goal is to create a place where we talk about living successfully while dealing with brokenness. My particular "brokenness" is the result of a spinal cord injury that utterly changed my life only 4 years ago. One week after shooting my best game of golf ever - actually had my first birdie on the par 5 sixth hole - the accident occurred that put me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

And I thought my life was over. Two weeks in two different hospitals, two years of physical therapy, and two legs that just don't work so well anymore and I thought that was it. But that wasn't "it". That was a new beginning of a new kind of life. Not exactly the kind I envisioned when I was younger and making plans for my life, but it was 'life' - sometimes difficult, constantly painful, at times tearful, and often frustrating and maddening - but it was LIFE, and I intend to live it successfully no matter what ugly stuff it throws at me.

So, this 'blog' is going to talk about how I go about living this broken life with success and vigor. How to face down the temptation to quit, how to fight through debilitating pain, how to make waves even if I'm stuck in the wading pool - frankly, how to LIVE ABUNDANTLY while playing the cards I've been dealt.

This tool called a blog is for everyone who has either been told they are broken or that a loved one is broken. And brokenness is what we call it. Mine happens to be physical, but it has involved my emotions, my intellect, my relationships with everyone I love, and my faith. The stressors involve my wife and kids, my church and my friends, my way of life and goodness, even my sanity.

Your brokenness might be in some other way. Maybe you've been told you have cancer or that your spouse is going to die within the week. Maybe you have faced down the brokenness of financial ruin or blindness or being hearing impared. It could be that you brought this brokennes on yourself or, like me, this new lifestyle came as a complete surprise, out of the blue and with no warning. It doesn't matter HOW you were broken, but it maters to me that you ARE broken and you would like to deal with it as successfully as possible. Most of us who are broken know we can't fix what's busted, but there is alot more to life than just the broken pieces of what we had planned or hoped for.

We'll talk about faith, and stress, and family, and joy, and sorrow, and anger, and frustrations galore. Well address good days, and not-so-good days and even worse nights, but we will talk. I want you to respond as often as you wish. I want to know your story, how you are doing, how you cope and what tools you use to live successfully while dealing with being broken.

But in the end, I want to press this issue of living successfully, living abundantly, living above and beyond the ordinary, living better than the brokenness seems to demand - I want to make sure we LIVE! and not just make it - to THRIVE instead of just survive.

So here it is, blog number one. What do you think? Can we talk? Let me know.

And I'll see you next time ....