broken but not crushed

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

Location: Columbus, Central Ohio, United States

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sacred Moments

Dear friends,

I do not use the word “sacred” lightly. I reserve this word for those times when God Himself demonstrates His presence in ways that are so far beyond our human comprehension that they can ONLY be attributed to God.

My wife is out of town on business this week, so my youngest daughter Kristen graciously volunteered to “take care of Dad”. We’ve had a marvelous time together. Kristen comes, as young mothers often do, with two little ones in tow – my grandchildren Jackson, 3, and Aurora Lilias, just 7 months old. Because of them, this week has been a virtual love fest for “Papa”.

I have developed a habit with all 5 of my grandchildren, that before they leave to go home after a visit, I gather them in my arms and pray for them – not in a big group, but while the rest of life goes on around us, I pray for them, with them, one-on-one. I wish I’d have been smart enough to have done this with my own kids as they were growing up. Sure we had family devotions every morning before school and I prayed for and with them lots of times, but this habit of praying while in a big bear hug is a very special time for both grandchild and grandpa. These are surely sacred moments.

Because I could this week, on several occasions as Jackson would be walking by, I’d just scoop him up (giggling and wiggling all the while), give him a big bear hug complete with sound effects, we would blow air kisses at each other, we’d give each other one more growling bear hug and then I’d put him down. Talk about putting a smile on BOTH of our faces!

But for the past two days something new has been added. I still scoop him up wiggling and giggling and we still give bear hugs with sound effects, but Jackson has begun to ask, “Papa, will you pray for me?” Are you kidding! We stop the world so Papa can pray for Jackson, then we blow air kisses at each other, give each other one more big growling bear hug, and off he scoots. I prayed for him at least 6 times yesterday. Sacred moments.

But last night, as they were preparing to go home and we went through our little routine, somewhere in the middle of my praying for Jackson I heard him whispering. So, while words and thoughts were coming out of my mouth I listened, and Jackson was saying, “Yes, Jesus … [pause] … yes, Lord”. Apparently, he had heard either me or his Mom, or maybe someone at church, agreeing while someone else was praying, and he was practicing praying as he had heard it done.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I continued praying, and when I got to the end, I laid my hand on Jackson’s head, as I do for all my grandchildren and as I have done in countless dedication services through the years, and prayed the blessing of Almighty God on him. That’s when I heard him whisper “And bless my Papa, too, Jesus”. I barely squeaked out “In Jesus’ name” and we said simultaneously “Amen”. I got my bear hug and air kisses and off to home he went.

Sacred moment indeed! It was as if the Almighty Himself had come to stay in my little house in Columbus. Ever since last night I get the strange feeling that if I go through a doorway too fast there will be a couple angels around the corner hugging each other with happy tears in their eyes. Or if I should go to the kitchen without warning there might be a couple of them dancing the jig in front of my refrigerator while high fiving each other.

Even at this moment I sense that if I turned around quickly right here in my office that I’d find a small band of angels kneeling with arms and hands raised in praise to the Almighty One whose presence fills this place. It would appear to me that Almighty God, Maker and Creator of universes, Sustainer of life itself, and Ruler of all that is, listened when a 3-year-old prayed His blessing on a fellow in a wheelchair. Yesterday I dealt with nearly unbearable pain, but I slept better last night than I have in months. While eating my bowl of Special K this morning I had the wondrous sense that I was wrapped in the arms of my Savior and it was going to be OK. Special K never did THAT before, so it must be the blessing of God because of the prayer of a child.

“Oh, God, make my prayers that effective when I’m praying for them!”

And my prayer for you is that somewhere along this road you are traveling God will pull back the curtain that separates mortal from immortal and that you, too, will experience a truly “sacred moment”. It will transform the mundane into the magnificent, the ordinary into the extraordinary, and your pain into praise.

Basking in God’s blessing today,

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Dear Fellow travelers,

Opposition. For most people it is something we would like to avoid but usually can’t. It comes in many forms and occurs with a wide variety of intensity, but it is almost always a pain. Sometimes it is naturally occurring and sometimes it is on-purpose and defiant. Either way, opposition is no fun at all!

And it comes with a regularity that is almost predictable. I’m reminded of a sculpture dedicated to church governing boards. It’s a mother duck swimming on a lake followed by three ducklings, two of which are swimming behind momma duck without a problem. But the third is headed the opposite direction as fast as those little webbed feet can take it. The title of the sculpture is “There’s one in every crowd”. Everyone who has ever served on one of those governing boards knows exactly what I’m talking about – in fact, you can probably either name the person or can see their face right now no matter how long it’s been! “Whatever it is, I’m against it!” is their motto.

No matter your station in life opposition sometimes comes from unexpected places. But for the broken this hostility is especially painful because it is often people related, and therefore not only unexpected but unjustifiable. A person you thought was a friend suddenly – but underhandedly - opposes your inclusion in a group because your brokenness is an inconvenience. A leader or superior on the job whom you thought you could trust now ignores you as if you no longer existed – and then passes you by at promotion time. Later you learn you didn’t get the job because they didn’t want to have to deal with your handicap – but, of course, you can’t prove it. I could go on, but we know what we’ve faced. These injustices can be annoying, frustrating, humiliating, and demoralizing. And they can make you want to quit.

Oh, my dear, broken friend, hang in there. Opposition is a fact of life for nearly everybody, and especially for the broken ones. You are different and there are some people who are frightened and hostile toward anything and anyone different. There are going to be people who don’t understand and, frankly, don’t want to understand. There are going to be obstacles you will need to face that others around you take for granted. And you will be frustrated, turned away, and unjustly treated –

But that’s no reason to quit. Granted, it’s kind of stupid to just keep trying with jerks who don’t want to try, but there are good people out there who DO care and DO try and sometimes they just need a little time to come to terms with the new you. I’m not telling you to roll over and play dead, but I’m also not telling you to “shake the dust off your shoes” too soon. Yes, YOU are going to need to learn patience, not just the folks around you. YOU need to develop a sense of fairness and rightness and justice even when it seems you are the only one. RISE UP to a new level, become what you expect of others, demand of yourself a level of excellence that will either encourage and inspire - or embarrass - those around you.

Because you are already a winner! You have faced down brokenness and you are winning the battle. It is very possible you might need to be the teacher, the leader, the example for others to follow so that their attitudes can be changed and their actions can become fair and just. Don’t expect others to do all the adjusting – YOU be willing to go the extra mile, walk a while in their moccasins, and set a standard of excellence higher than anyone expected of the “crippled guy”.

RISE UP, broken friend, and let’s change our world in spite of opposition – and maybe even because of it!

Kicking and screaming – nicely, of course,

Monday, July 24, 2006


Fellow travelers,

I appreciate feedback from readers – this one came about a week ago and I have been formulating an answer ever since. It went like this: “Dwight, you always seem so ‘up’. Are you always ‘up’ or is that just what you show us on the blog? Really, no one can be that ‘up’ all the time, can they?”

My first thought was “Wow, that’s brutal!” But then I got to thinking about it and I began to understand where the questions – and the emotions - were coming from. When people hurt they go through an amazing transformation from what they used to consider ‘normal’ into something they would love to run from but can’t. If you were caught of guard, like I was, then these changes are literally thrust on you all at once, and they can be hard to take, even years later.

I have a new friend who is blind and has been since birth. He is heard, every once in a while, saying “OK, I’m tired of being blind. So I quit! Whatever lesson I was supposed to learn I think I’ve learned it - so, can I go back to normal now?” He has such a good humor about it and is such a card the rest of the time you aren’t entirely certain if he’s being honest or just joking – but I think it might be some of both. Broken is a pain in the neck, and there’s no reason to deny that fact.

And please, I do not EVER want you to think that I am minimizing your brokenness. I would never insult you that way. But let’s be real for a minute. If you are hurting, or disabled, or broken in some other way, it does us no good to simply bemoan our plight over and over and over again. I refuse to fall into the universal pity party and ignore the hundreds – yea, thousands - of broken people making a substantial and significant contribution to society. I know people who could have quit, who had every reason to sit still and wait to die, but instead are making an impact on their world in ways that astound and impress. And quite frankly, I want to be one of THOSE people!

To be fair, I am a positive guy by nature, so, yes, I am ‘up’ more than I am down. I also believe that what I write is very honest and authentic. But I don’t rely on my nature to keep me ‘up’. Rather I read good books, work hard at my music, tinker in the workshop when the weather allows, write something every day whether it gets published or not, and CHOOSE to be positive about life.

And that is the bottom line, isn’t it? How we approach life is a CHOICE. I can play the victim and bemoan my situation, or I can grab myself by the scruff and the neck and change my situation. I can fuss about how much this brokenness has taken from my life or I can get up and get going and do whatever I can with whatever is left. It is a choice, and to NOT choose is still a choice – the wrong one!

And no, this isn’t an easy choice all the time. There are days when the pain wins, and I sit sometimes for hours and just weep because it hurts so badly and I’ve already taken all the drugs I’m allowed to take. Thank God that doesn’t happen much, but it does happen and I have to recognize that life isn’t always going to be a bowl of cherries – sometimes it’s just the pits in a broken shard of pottery.

But successful living is not judged by how many times you are knocked down, but by how many times you get back up. Some folks are fortunate that life only knocks them down a time or two. But if you are reading this you might be saying “Life has knocked ME down a hundred times and I’m tired.” OK, rest while you are down there – shucks, you’re horizontal anyhow so you may as well take a nap. But then get up the one hundred and first time and refuse to play “poor pitiful me”.

So, to answer the reader who asked, yes, I choose to be ‘up’ most of the time. I choose to write about how to get back ‘up’ - about how to fight and win. I choose to encourage you to strive and push and struggle and wrestle with your brokenness and sometimes even come out on top of it all.

One of my heroes: Franklin Roosevelt. No, I was born after he was gone so all I have is books. And I don’t know much about his politics. But this man ran a country, brought it out of the Great Depression, fought a war, formed successful international alliances, made the peace, and changed the world from a wheelchair! From my wheelchair I want to be like him – I want to make an impact that makes a difference.

So, yea, I’m ‘up’ and intend to stay that way.


Friday, July 21, 2006


Dear fellow travelers,

I got an interesting email the other day and in it there was a question that many of you might be asking. It went like this: “Pastor Dwight, you keep telling us to hang in there, keep trying, and to ‘go for it’. If I might be so bold – what is ‘it’, anyhow?”

Hmmmm? Good question. Truth is, there is no simple answer that fits every person. Today we are going to discuss the principles involved, but each person will need to fill in the details for themselves - because every person on earth is different (just look at your fingerprints) so, every answer will also be different. “It” can range from discovering a cure for cancer or founding a multinational multibillion-dollar business to making sure your journal is up-to-date or just making it to the end of today without allowing the pain to stop you in your tracks.

“It” is both large and small, long term and short term, life changing and daily sustaining – but it is always looking forward, for though it learns from the past it is never paralyzed by it. It is always a choice not an accident. And it can be judged and evaluated in both qualitative and quantitative ways.

Sometimes ‘it’ is a CALLING - a sense that you were placed on the earth, in this particular time and space and in your present condition, for a purpose bigger than just you. It is, in every sense of the words, doing what you were meant to do and knowing God smiled.

I have had the unbelievably humbling experience of knowing God’s call on my life more than once, and when the chips are down and things are going haywire, sometimes “the call” is all there is to hang onto – but it is enough! And ‘the call’ is not just to church-based ministry. I’ve known successful God called businessmen who ran their business as if God were the senior partner. I’ve also known God called public school teachers who felt called to teach in an otherwise Godless place - and felt His blessing when they obeyed.

‘It’ also involves your own GOALS. The simple fact is that real goals are powerful tools in the struggle for and attainment of success in ANY venture. They become the road map with directions to a specific place. They are the guidance system and wise council for making smart decisions. A goal is NOT a pipe dream that you’d like to “get to someday”, but rather is the clear and decisive target on which you set your ambitions and actions. I expect we will address this issue many times in the future – stay tuned!

‘It’, though, is not just “something out there”, but always involves the PROCESS - and the process always involves ACTION on our part. I could say all day that it would be nice if I wrote a blog today, but if I never discipline myself to sit down, type a draft, throw out the junk and write another, and another and another until this is readable and helpful, then this short essay would never happen. It would be a pipe dream without substance or usefulness.

And I would have failed to follow my own advice to “Go for it!” I desperately want to encourage you to DO “IT”. Only you know what ‘it’ is for you. But don’t allow yourself to be lulled into setting goals that are too small just because you are broken. God calls us to things we cannot do sometimes just to prove He is still God. I can’t walk, yet I climb five steps every Sunday morning - in God’s power - so that I can be a God called Pastor of music and worship in my church. Is it easy? No way! Is it logical? Not quite. But is it what God expects of me to fulfill my calling? Absolutely! So every Sunday morning I climb those stairs and a fine young teenaged man named Jonathan carries the chair up to the top of the stairs for me and I lead worship as God has called me to do.

‘It’ involves a call, a goal, a process, action, and a finally PASSION. A passion is a single minded sacred obsession to work harder than you have to, reach further than you can, accomplish more than is expected, and stretch yourself until you have re-created ‘you’ into something better and more like what God’s deepest desires are for you. It is not just “making do” with what you have, but it is applying your creativity and resources and energies into striving for more, bigger, better – all the way to outstanding and unbelievable. It is delight in becoming, and not just in existing. It is wanting and choosing to THRIVE and not just survive. It is joy in the journey and not just the reward. It is excitement and enthusiasm in taking action to accomplish something you were meant to do, and becoming who you were meant to be.

And so, one more time, and with all the gusto I can muster ---



Wednesday, July 19, 2006

From the Workshop...

As I write this blog I am working at a computer neatly tucked into my “dream desk”. Since before I can remember I have wanted a huge, finely crafted, cherry roll top desk. When I was working as a professional cabinetmaker I never had the time to make one for myself – you know, like the cobbler’s kids going barefoot. But a little more than 10 years ago, through a series of good fortunes I won’t bore you with and my wife who knew my dream, I became the owner of this wondrous piece of fine furniture. It weighs well over a hundred pounds and takes “three men and a boy” to move. I simply LOVE my desk!

I was sitting here a few mornings ago, looking at the beauty of the finely cut decorative edges, and the writer/cabinetmaker/philosopher in me thought “I wonder what this desk would say if it could tell it’s own story? I wonder what the parts would say about the whole? And most importantly, would it say anything of value to MY life – or yours?”

Let’s see. The cherry tree might tell of its longevity, of a century or more of good growth and the drought of 1923. It might speak to us about the lover’s initials long since incorporated into the very fiber of it’s existence. And then it would probably talk of its death. Chainsaws cutting it off from life giving roots and stripping it of branches and leaves. Then, while it was still conscious, it would speak of large saws ripping it into pieces, huge planers shaving off what it took a century to grow, and giant sanders creating so much friction and pain that it was beyond words.

The wood planks themselves would speak up next. They would chat with us of strength and structural integrity, of character traits and reliability. And they, too, would talk of saws and planes, but would add the sharpness of drill bits and the shearing and shaving of routers. shapers, and joiners. And finally a discussion would arise about perfect finishes that were made of caustic and deadly chemicals sprayed on - and the fact that after the finish is applied, no one would actually touch the real wood ever again.

Now, the wood made into moldings and cut into decorative edges speaks up about what was lost in the process. Making an edge is as much about taking some wood away as it is about what is left behind. Razor sharp blades whirling at speeds up to 25,000 RPM tear away decades of growth rings and make mountains of sawdust and shavings in the process. Then more sand paper and more caustic chemicals, and finally even more rubbing and friction and stress.

The sawdust would just sigh, knowing that unless it was burned as fuel in the furnace or pressed into manufactured wood, it would be called “waste” and would just be tossed out with the garbage or thrown on a pile to rot.

But the decorative edge itself, only conscious of itself since it is nearly the last thing done, would speak only of beauty and intelligent design. It would talk of ogees and half rounds, of mating ship-laps, eased edges and custom finishes. It might wait longingly for the hundreds of people who will caress its edges and admire its loveliness, and might speak of traditional or modern or Shaker design influences. It cares nothing about structure or strength or time or waste – its only thought is for the magnificent splendor of perfectly finished furniture. Its very existence is the stuff of beauty and excellence.

My friends, God desires to make of each of us a thing of beauty. Oh, I don’t mean superficial “movie star” pretty or artificial particle board with phony plastic wood-grain attractive. Those things are a dime a dozen, and are, frankly, just not worth the investment.

Rather, God sometimes allows life to bring us to our knees. We face pain, stress, great loss, and frustration on the way to understanding strength, wisdom, reliability and integrity. Like the wooden plank our character is forged in the fires of adversity and in the cutting and shaping of our struggles.

But that’s the way it works. It’s the struggle that creates the strength that allows us to stand in the face of brokenness. Reliability is more than words or promises, it is proven on the battle fields of time itself. We don’t stand the test of time by wishing it so, we stand by standing – and, as the Bible clearly states in Ephesians 6, when all else fails and there is nothing else we can do, then stand!

And so, I close with three important questions:
1. What beauty can be seen in you? Adversity can make us bitter or better, and the choice is ours and ours alone.

2. Have the fires purified us or have they singed us? Fire can do both – the choice is ours and ours alone.

3. And after all the cutting and sawing and planning and drilling – would you be considered a beautiful, useful, durable piece of furniture or a just pile of sawdust? The choice is ours and ours alone.

Please, choose “beautiful” today!


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Terry's Story

Today I want to be completely honest with you – and then I would ask that you be completely honest with yourself, too. Last week we talked about storms - and it is so very true that storms come; they come hard and fast and deadly, and they leave behind damage. These life storms come unexpectedly, seemingly without reason or purpose, and an honest look at the situation often shows there was absolutely nothing we could have done to prevent them or even to slow them down. They just come.

But what should we do about a storm - hard, fast, deadly, and destructive – that really IS our fault? I mean, we’ve blown it - and we find ourselves in the middle of a storm that is the direct result of our own failure. What then?

May I introduce you to one of my dearest friends in this whole world? His name is Terry, and in my humble opinion Terry is one of those truly good men – you know the kind: Smart, good natured, a quick sense of humor, friendly, compassionate, well informed and well educated – the kind of guy you just expect to “make it”. He was in ministry, the pastor of a medium sized church in a nice community, was married with children and was dearly loved by his congregation and community. He was seemingly settled in for the long haul in this assignment. For all intents and purposes nothing could stop him from being a huge success – well, nothing except himself. I’ve asked and received his permission to briefly tell you his story. In respect for your time, I’ll hit only the highlights.

To put this as gently as possible, Terry blew it. He made some really terrible choices that led him down a path of utter destruction. He lost his ministry, his wife and family, his home, his self respect and the respect of nearly everyone he knew and loved. He found himself in a neighboring state, alone and broken – and when I say broken I mean completely broken. He, by his own choices, had failed his family, his church, his friends, and most importantly, his God. The storm had come with a vengeance, and to be blunt, it was all his own fault.

When I first met Terry he had just faced another round of rejection. Many years had passed since his “failure” but he was pulling his life back together again. He had come in humility to his Heavenly Father and God had forgiven completely. He had married a very special lady who is my dear ‘sister’ in every way except blood, and he was trying to find his place in ministry once again. But since his original failure was done while he was in the ministry, the church-at-large was basically unwilling to welcome him back. Just between you and me, I’m still pretty ticked at this religious “judgment call”. Who better to show the way out than someone who had already been there? Their logic is illogical, to me. Anyhow, this latest rejection was extremely painful. Rejection usually is. And it also seemed to be the final blow, with no recourse and no more appeals.

Let’s be real blunt for a minute: Terry could have decided that, "Hey, if the church doesn’t want me, then I quit. Why keep pounding on a door that just isn’t going to open, especially when it is the religious leadership holding it shut!?!" It would have been logical for him to walk away and not look back. Face it, hundreds, yea thousands, of people have done just that and are still outside the church because of the pain they found there. God forgive us for our lack of compassion and for the additional damage we’ve caused already broken people.

Be that as it may, God had a hold on Terry’s heart and Terry had hold of God’s – and God had plans bigger than the church’s narrow focus would allow. Terry and I became best friends and soon he and I were working together in the church where I pastored. We became prayer partners, and believe me, there is nothing in the world that can draw two men closer and more intimately tuned in to each other’s lives than to regularly, seriously pray together. Our lives became irreversibly intertwined. He was working as a counselor with seriously troubled teens – so troubled that this was in a locked-down residential facility with rules and lifestyle similar to a prison. These kids were abuse victims, drug addicted, gang members, physically damaged, crime infested, throw away kids that society had deemed too dangerous to their world and to themselves to be out on the streets. Talk about broken!

God broke Terry’s heart for these discarded kids. In turn, and because of Terry’s passion, God began to break mine. God’s plan, though, was big, bold, and, to be honest, a little brazen and from a practical point of view, impossible. You see, God wanted us, as a team, to start a brand new kind of church inside that “prison” for messed up kids. Now understand - this was a facility with government funding, ‘secular’ counselors, and “separation of church and state” issues galore! You don’t just start a Bible based, blatantly Evangelical Christian church inside a government funded facility. Oh, it took some time, but it happened, and the end result is that more than half the residents of that place – these discarded, abandoned, damaged, broken kids - came to know the Lord personally. Dozens of kids had their lives turned around and were changed completely because of what God did in that place.

The facility closed down a year or so ago, so, obviously, the church also closed. Truth is, that’s the only reason we can even talk about it now. But God, through a man others had rejected because of his own mistakes, dramatically and significantly changed the lives of more people in two years than he might have reached in a lifetime of “church” ministry. Terry is now in the final stages of earning a doctoral degree in theology. Not bad for a failure, huh! Never quitting, never allowing the circumstances of his own bad choices to determine the outcome of his life, never listening to the discouraging words of those he thought would be his support group. Terry’s life is a shining example of what God can do through a man, broken by his own design, who simply refuses to quit trying.

And that brings us to you and me. What if the mess you’re in right now is your own fault? What if you blew it and when the damage was assessed it was beyond fixing? What if your own stupidity has resulted in brokenness that has left behind raw and painful wounds?

First, turn to the Lord for forgiveness. Forgiveness is an essential part of healing. And as part of that forgiveness process allow yourself to be forgiven. The worst thing you can do is seek forgiveness and then reject it when it comes. God said he would forgive if you asked, so trust Him and accept it.

Second, know that failure is not final. It is usually painful, often life changing, and hard to admit, but it is not final.

Third, own it. If you blew it don’t try to blame something or someone else.

Fourth, refuse to listen to discouragement. People are sometimes cruel and heartless, and the ones who are the most vocal are often the most guilty themselves. Simply REFUSE to accept that you are a “failure” and ...

Fifth, know that failure is an essential step in the process of success. H. Stanley Judd says, “Don’t waste your energy trying to cover up failure. It’s OK to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.”

Finally – GO FOR IT!!! Like Terry, after the healing and forgiveness has done it’s vital and important work, refuse to stop, refuse to quit, refuse to “lie down and wait to die”, instead, get up and get going.

Thanks for allowing me to introduce you to a man among men, and my friend, and more importantly, God's friend. Please learn from Terry. You will not be sorry you did.

I expect we’ll revisit this topic for more insights some other time,

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just No Comparison!

Dear Fellow travelers,

I understand there are commonly accepted standards that serve us as benchmarks and criterion for achievement in certain fields. I’m sure I wouldn’t want even the most professional blacksmith doing heart surgery on my family members, nor would I accept the very best preacher in the country mixing my drugs at the pharmacy. Standards are useful and give us a point of reference for certain tasks.

As a Master Cabinetmaker there were certain practices that were simply requirements of my profession. For example, within my specialty as a designer and builder of specialty, custom casework, I was required to know dovetails. What is the difference between a French and an English dovetail? What angle is best for a hand cut dovetail that will be seen? How do you set up the machinery to make production machine cut dovetails? How, where, and why do you use them in a particular piece of furniture? Dovetails are a minimal, acceptable, elementary requirement for being a cabinetmaker specializing in casework. A person simply should not be called a cabinetmaker if he or she does not know dovetails.

All of life has standards that we are required to meet if we are going to be a productive part of society. Without them life would be chaos.

But when it comes to success and failure – both of which are required elements of a productive life, I can think of nothing more unproductive than comparing myself to someone else. Oh, sure, the temptation is there because so much of our society is trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses. I even heard one the other day that said “Forget about keeping up with the Joneses, just drag them down to your own pitiful level.”

We are walking a fine line today. While there are normal standards by which we must judge our finished product, whether we are successful or not is not dependant upon that comparison. One could look at an Olympic soccer player and say that he or she had reached a high level of expertise in that sport. That person could go professional and make a considerable amount of money playing soccer. But in reality, that person might not be as successful as they might have been because - what we don’t know - is that they have settled for playing well enough to get a paycheck and no more.

But if we compared that professional who is just riding the gravy train of his natural skills to a 24 year old soccer player in the Special Olympics who is giving it all they have, we might easily say that the professional, though playing at a much higher level of expertise, is far less successful than his considerably less skilled counterpart. That fellow running at about 1/10 the speed and kicking at only 5% of the velocity might be the most successful person playing the game today.

And the reason is plain to see: success is not judged by comparison to others, but in a face-to-face comparison with ourselves. Stewart B. Johnson puts it this way, “Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves – to break our own records – to outstrip our yesterday by our today.”

Dear fellow traveler, when you are broken there is often a tendency inside us to make unfair comparisons with other people. Let me tell you that you need not compare yourself with anyone but YOU! You know if you are trying your best. You know if the effort you are making is worthy of respect and admiration. Only you can say how hard you are trying, how much you are sacrificing, how far you are prepared to go to make it through. Only you can count the cost of your own struggle, and can understand the energy required to go that one more step, do that one more thing, or reach just one more inch.

Hang in there, friends, and don’t allow negative thinking or unrealistic expectations steal your joy and wreak havoc on your attitude. Go for it with all you’ve got and try to break your own records, and outstrip your yesterday by your today.

See you tomorrow,

Friday, July 14, 2006

Dealing with Storm Damage - part 4 in the series

Over the past several days we’ve been dealing with the unexpected “life storms” that come our way. Because they usually come in hard and fast and deadly they also, as a general rule, leave behind a path of destruction that we are left to deal with. We learned on day two that we need to give ourselves time to heal and time to assess the damage in the light of day without foolishly plowing ahead without a plan. But then yesterday we also added that it is critical that after we’ve honestly assessed the damage, we need to start to deal with it and do something productive!

Today, as we continue to address this issue of storm damage, we’re going to get more personal than we’ve tried before. There is no question that storms come and that when they come unexpectedly there is produced a profound shock to our system. It often sends us reeling out of control. Our stunned minds feel violated and our broken bodies shudder in sympathetic vibration with the shock wave of trauma that attacked us. No part of us is left unaffected. Every feeling, every relationship, every plan, hope and dream, every expectation is instantly tossed aside like a rag doll in a tornado.

And as soon as we can begin to make sense of it all, that’s when ‘it’ hits us. This overwhelming wave of anger and resentment that starts to permeate the very fiber of our being and then rushes in to assume control of our every thought. Our fist slams into the pillow in a blind rage that threatens our sanity and drives our hatred of this crushing intrusion.

Be honest, now. Hey, you may as well be honest – EVERY person who has had to deal with devastation goes through a period of anger - and if you don’t there really IS reason to call the men in the little white coats. Oh yea, some of you are going to say “Oh, that’s just life and we have to take what we’re given…” and any one of several other mamby pamby psyco-babble answers to life’s toughest questions. But if you have just been through a life storm that has left behind devastation and destruction that you might never, ever, be able to clean up, it is perfectly reasonable to be angry. It is right and proper for you to want to go hit something; to feel this small rage building inside yourself at the unfairness of it all. Come on, it really ISN’T fair, and you really ARE damaged beyond repair, and there’s NO ONE on earth that can fix what’s broken. It’s just plain wrong!

And what’s worse, some of your closest friends are going to get very distant because they don’t know what to say. Your job may be in jeopardy or be gone altogether. Your finances are probably going to take such a hit that may take years or decades to repair. The pain will steal your ability to produce and that’s going to try to destroy your self confidence and self esteem. No, fellow travelers, there’s nothing nice or sweet or joyous about the feelings of utter destruction you feel in your soul, and no amount of pats on the back for doing “so well” is going to change the fact that you’d just like to go smash something into smitherines.

God knows how you feel. He got so angry at mankind’s sin that the first time he destroyed the whole world with a catastrophic flood, save for a few men and women. Then he got so angry with Israel for there sin that he sent them into exile for generations. And finally he got so disgusted with man’s sin that he sent his only Son to the earth and allowed him to pay the ultimate penalty by dieing on a cross. Oh, yea, God knows what angry is.

And he tells us it’s a good thing to go ahead and get mad. Go ahead and lash out at that pillow or the empty room. Go ahead and ask Him the tough questions and even question His existence and his love for us. God is not threatened by our frustrated anger any more than he is caught off guard by our brokenness and the circumstances surrounding it.

But, fellow traveler, we need to keep the whole thing in perspective. While it is quite OK to get angry, it is something entirely different to stay angry, and then to allow the anger to possess and control you. Anger expressed and “let out of the box” is healthy and cleansing. Anger kept and nurtured becomes bitterness - and bitterness left unattended turns to poison – a dangerous life threatening poison that threatens to destroy us more than anyone else.

So go ahead and get angry – and then, with time and attention, get over it and move on. The raw emotion of anger can cleanse your mind and allow you to deal with the complex unfairness you may face for the rest of your life. This is also a great time to allow God to help you through the anger and then on into a healthy, productive life. Prayer is a marvelous way of connecting us to our Creator, and I recommend Him to you without reservation.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Storm Update - part 2 in the series

When the TV stations all broke into normal broadcasting last night with the news of the tornados hitting south west Ohio my heart went out to those in the path of these storms. It is a terrifying experience to be in a twister. When our children were young and we lived in a mobile home we were faced with just such a disaster. While our tornado was quite small and only moved the house off it’s foundations and ripped trees from the ground in the neighborhood, it was terrifying none-the-less. I could only imagine what it must have felt like when the sirens went off and the news people said not one, or two, or even three, but up to six tornados on the ground at the same time. Utterly terrifying!

TV stations from Columbus sent crews to the area to survey the situation. Since the trip takes about an hour and a half, the reporters got to the area after sunset. One called in to say, “It is so dark we can’t really see anything. The power is out and the lightning has passed, so … I think we are going to have to wait until sunrise to see the extent of the damage.”

She was simply stating a fact of life. We can’t see in the dark no matter how hard we try. But what a profound truth for us to consider today.

Yesterday we talked about another fact of life – storms come. We can’t stop them, or move them, or make of them anything less than what they are. Many times the storms in our lives come in hard and fast and deadly. They show up without warning and without mercy. And they often leave a path of destruction behind them that takes a long time – sometimes a lifetime - to clean up or deal with.

Now, let’s just talk for a moment, OK? Like it or not, storms often leave us in the dark. Our human power is exhausted or maybe even knocked out by the intensity of the storm. We know there is damage but the darkness hides the full story from our minds, and we simply can’t see well enough, or think clearly enough, to make sense of the whole thing.

This is an incredibly difficult time. Unfamiliar pain or brokenness is suddenly, alarmingly, and profoundly a stark reality. We were caught off guard – blindsided, if you will – and the darkness feels like it’s sucking the air out of our chest. Your mind races and wants to fix what’s broken, but the path is unclear and the answers unspoken. It is a terrifying experience.

It’s time to wait. Oh, fellow traveler, I didn’t say waiting was easy. But we must wait anyhow. To plow ahead and make decisions or plan strategies would be foolish and reckless. Even though you feel like you are alone in a lifeboat and adrift in an endless ocean and you want to do something – anything! - we’ve simply got to wait. When it’s dark it is impossible to survey the extent of the damage – or the dangers still waiting. Darkness also hides possible solutions we might miss if we ignore the mandate to wait for the sunrise. What if in the darkness you rowed that lifeboat like your life depended on it, and in the process you rowed out to sea while shore was only 20 feet the other direction?

In the darkness following the storm it’s time to find a friend who will just hold you and wait with you till morning. Quite often the wait is a short one. Sometimes it takes much longer. But time has a way of healing wounds that can heal, and time also gives us the recharged stamina to deal with the ones that won’t.

So, when the power is out and the lightning has passed, wait until sunrise. The Bible does say “Joy comes in the morning.”

Hang in there, morning is coming.

Storm Damage Cleanup - part 3 in the series

Storms come. We didn’t need to make that discovery on paper, most of us have been in the storm and we know that they come without warning, without mercy, without asking permission. They just come. And often they come in hard and fast and deadly. We also established that storms usually cause serious damage and that we need to wait till morning to assess that damage in the light of day. We dare not make foolish decisions nor should we rush into the darkness in some attempt to fix what’s wrong. Rushing in can be as deadly as the storm itself.

But today I want to make sure you understand that it is just as foolish to just keep waiting …

and waiting …

and waiting …

and never doing anything about your own storm damage. Yes, life’s storms can seem to “knock the stuffing” out of us. They can leave us hurt and hurting and wandering if we even CAN get up again. They sometimes leave behind such a massive amount of destruction and debris that we might be convinced there just isn’t even a reason to try again.

But you will never know until you try, and that is the point of this short blog today. Far too often I have met and counseled people who have faced a personal storm and are now afraid to pick up the pieces and start again. The storm scared them into indecision and fear paralyzed them into inactivity. And the longer it goes on like that, the less likely they are to ever want to try again. Instead, they are like a ship without a rudder – aimlessly adrift on life’s sea, without purpose or direction.

The biggest problem is that those in that state of indecision get used to it. The storm’s destruction that looked so stark and terrible in the light of day begins to look less and less terrible, until we rationalize it into acceptance. “There’s nothing I can do about it so I might as well get used to it” are the usual words we hear. We even convince ourselves that we really have tried to take care of it and we “just can’t do it”. And the longer the storm damage is ignored, the more it becomes just another part of the landscape of our character.

So what do we do to make sure this does NOT happen to us? As we found out yesterday we must first give ourselves time to heal and time to get used to the new realities. It took me at least 18 months before (a) the damage had healed and the terrible side effects of the healing drugs finally wore off and (b) I felt confident enough to be regularly in public in a permanently broken state. It has been almost four years since the accident and I am still, almost daily, making new discoveries and trying new ways to accomplish things better. Hear me – this is usually NOT a “flash in the pan, its fixed, let’s get on with things” kind of storm damage cleanup. It is hard work and is incredibly time and energy consuming.

Sometimes people around you will not understand the amount of effort you are exerting and therefore won’t understand why you are so tired (and sometimes irritable). In my case, not being able to walk is a real nuisance, and chronic pain robs me blind. There are reasons they call this thing a “disability”. On those days forward progress is a matter of sheer will power.

But, my fellow travelers, to do nothing is simply unacceptable! I refuse to just curl up and wait to die. It is the coward’s way out of cleaning up the storm damage. No, I may not be physically able to do what I once did though I demand a lot of myself along those lines. But what I can do I intend to do, God helping me.

And that’s what I want to encourage you to do as well. Refusing to do what you can do is a waste of your God given gifts, skills, talents, and graces. I would encourage you to reevaluate the damage your own storm has left behind. In the clear light of day be honest with yourself and then, with a clear head, make a decision to do something – anything! – to begin the storm damage cleanup in your life.

By the way, if you are well along on your way to the end of damage control, then try something new. Talk to a friend or read a good book and find fresh and exciting inspiration to go for something you’ve never tried before. And if you find someone who IS trying something new, lend your encouragement so that they keep trying and continue to grow. Though the storm has probably placed limits on what we might have done had the storm never arrived, there is NO LIMIT on the possibilities ahead nor is there any reason to not try.

So, fellow traveler, go ahead and wait for daylight so that you can heal and get used to the new you, but then do something productive with your life.

Your friend and fellow traveler,

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

STORMS !!! part one

WOW!!! I am glad I don’t live just north and northeast of Columbus. Yesterday, in Mount Vernon and surrounding areas the storms came and left behind up to 6 inches of rain. In a little town called Jelloway the little creek in town rose six FEET in just a half hour. That puts new meaning to the term “flash flood”. The evening news showed herds of cows swimming for their lives, people being carried to safety, and lots of destruction.

I’m reminded of a story found in the Bible. Jesus and the disciples had just completed a really rough day of ministry – thousands of people and almost as many needs met – and they were really tired. In the PDV I can imagine Jesus saying, “Hey, guys, I’m bushed. Take us to the other side while I go catch 40 winks.” Then he went down to the forward cabin, climbed into the hammock, and fell fast asleep.

Then the storm came. The disciples were, by and large, experienced boatmen. Most of them were professional fishermen who spent the biggest part of every day on the water, so a storm was no big deal. But this storm was a big one. In some ways, it might have been THE big one if Jesus hadn’t been in the boat. Try as they might, they simply couldn’t make it right. They lightened the load, threw out the anchors, trimmed the sails and rowed for their lives, but the storm was bigger than they were and they honestly expected to die.

Most of you know the rest of the story. Peter woke Jesus who came on deck, told the storm to be quiet and it did, and then he scolded the disciples for their lack of faith. Amazing story of an amazing man.

But the part of the story that speaks to me is this: the disciples had done everything right! They obeyed to the letter every single thing Jesus told them to do. They sailed, rowed, and steered the boat right. They were in the right place at the right time, and they were going exactly where Jesus told them to go. They were completely surrendered to the ministry of Jesus, who they firmly and rightly believed was God’s Son. They hadn’t done anything to make God mad - and they had not sinned to take away the blessing of God on their lives.

But the storm still came. Oh, fellow travelers, it not only came, it came with a vengeance. This was a seriously life threatening storm. It came fast and hard and deadly – the boat was nearly swamped and these professional boatmen were at a loss as to how to save their own lives. I can imagine in the middle of taking care of boating business they were praying for their souls that they fully expected would be standing before the Almighty within the hour.

It’s at this moment the story becomes my own. I can’t think of anything I was doing wrong - I could recite the details but I’ll refrain. Instead I’ll just say this: the storm came anyhow. Just like the Bible story, in the middle of doing exactly what I still believe was the center of God’s will, the storm came that nearly took my life, and at the very least left me changed and broken – at least physically - forever.

And it is at this moment this story becomes yours. Some of you can’t think of a single reason why your storm came. The simple fact is that storms come. Storms are no respecter of persons. They don’t care if you are good or kind or faithful or even fruitful in your profession or ministry – storms just come. And sometimes they come in hard and fast and deadly.

And just like the storms in central Ohio yesterday, they often leave behind a path of destruction and devastation that takes a long time to clean up. In our lives, sometimes the storm leaves behind damage that will take the rest of our lives to clean up. And unfortunately, sometimes we will never get it done. Just like in New Orleans after Katrina, there is some devastation that will simply be left alone as a silent and permanent reminder of the storm.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss what we do next. But for today I want you to know that you can be doing everything right, you can be in the right place at the right time, you can be living in obedience to the Lord and every Divine command you can think of, and sometimes the storm will still come. We can try to do everything in our power to prepare for the storm, but most of the time they come in hard and fast and deadly - and there absolutely nothing we could have done to prevent the damage. And if you find yourself in that place, don’t allow anyone to try to turn you into a criminal or say you did something wrong or even worse, that God’s mad at you and it’s all your own fault …

… because sometimes, storms just come.

Know you are loved,

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Dear Fellow travelers,

I had an interesting thing happen to me yesterday. I was in my woodworking shop when a friend stopped by just to talk. After watching me work a few minutes he said “Dwight, do you realize that in this space you have completely redefined “normal”?

I just looked at him with what must have been a quizzical look on my face. He added, “Think about it. You have done more than adapt a place where you use tools to build things. You have so completely transformed every detail that a normal person - you know, someone who can walk - is as uncomfortable in this environment as you must feel out in the rest of the world. The only way I could work in this shop would be to get in a wheelchair and chase you around in circles! You have, at least in this small part of the world, redefined ‘normal’. Out there (pointing outside) normal is one thing, but you walk through this door and it is something completely different.”

Wow. I really didn’t intend to rewrite a part of the dictionary. And surely I didn’t plan on friends or family feeling uncomfortable or out of place in my shop. But when I think about it, he’s right. I really have redesigned the interior space of my workshop to fit a man in a wheelchair, and I’ve included every detail – the height of things like the front door lock, light switches, the workbench and the operational area of every single power tool. And it’s not only the height of things. I’ve redesigned the tools themselves – new tables, fences, stands and stops – all made so that a man in a wheelchair feels right at home. It would be backbreaking for a person of normal mobility to enter my little world. Truth is, I can’t imagine they’d last long - all the bending would likely cause such pain that it would force them to stop.

Redefining “normal”. That’s a pretty good definition of a broken person’s lifestyle. All of those details like light switches, thresholds, door widths, and stair wells are monumental challenges for those with mobility issues. And for those of my friends who are visually impaired you must just adore those folks who feel the need to move furniture around just for fun. That must simply drive you crazy! Within minutes of my first wheelchair arrival I came face to face with the need to redefine normal - and there’s hardly a day goes by that I don’t need to continually redefine it again and again.

We all do. May I congratulate you on your ability to change the very definition of such a commonly used word in your own world. Erma Bombeck notwithstanding, normal really IS more than a setting on your dryer. It is the very “stuff” of living.

And if you haven’t done the legwork (an interesting choice of words for a guy in a wheelchair, don’t you think) to change at least a small piece of your world so you can feel right at home – get busy! Don’t just sit there with your teeth in your mouth, go change something. Make it work for you, make it ooze with your personality –put simply, make it your own. Try to get along with the rest of your world, but you know, it really doesn’t matter if the rest of the world is not completely comfortable there. Face it, we’re not all that comfortable out in the “normal” world either. Go find a spot and transform it into YOUR spot.

Then settle in and be at peace, if only for a few moments at a time.

Carpe Deum!!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Shade Tree Counsel

Fellow travelers

I’ve seen too many people quit. Every time I hear of a good person broken by life’s unexpected dark side who has chosen to just sit down and wait to die, a part of me wants to scream “NOOOOOOO!!! You have so much to offer, so many gifts, so many people who love you ... why quit, why stop, why now?”

OK, let’s dare to be honest: the temptation is there for every broken person. Some days the mountain seems to grow right before your eyes, and when we decide to sleep on it the grade looks steeper today than it did yesterday. Anyone who tells you that you’ll get used to it is lying – you never get used to brokenness. True, it becomes more familiar, less intimidating, and the way through becomes easier to find over time, but you don’t “get used” to being broken. You deal with it, you fight through it, you make adjustments and refinements in your routines to make things a little easier, and you learn the hard lessons because you have to – but I’ve never met anyone who gets used to being broken. Broken is still broken. And we can just, plain get tired of it - tired of the struggle, tired of making the inevitable mistakes, tired of trying one more time to do something the rest of the world takes for granted. Or, if your brokenness came later in life like mine, what I, myself, took for granted for 50 plus years.

But come on, do you really want to quit? Or would a nice stretch of R&R serve a greater purpose? If there is one thing I’ve learned in this strange journey through brokenness it is that God really does help us compensate if we will permit his help. The broken people I’ve had the privilege of meeting are some of the most creative people on the planet. Not so much because they are creative by nature or birth though many are, but because they HAVE to be creative to make it through the day. Knowing you makes me proud to be a part of the community of the hurt and hurting.

Please, my dear fellow traveler, if you’ve been tempted to stop trying, let me encourage you to run as fast as you can away from that temptation, then stop and take a breather.

I’m reminded of the story of Elijah in the Bible – he had just won the biggest battle of his life. It required everything he had physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually - and when God came through for him he became the winning-est man alive. Then he was confronted by yet one more challenge, and he just couldn’t do it. He ran off into the desert and begged God to kill him so he didn’t have to face tomorrow. He was exhausted and couldn’t take one more step - and he just about quit. But God said, “Hey, buddy, go over there by the brook - yea, under that shade tree - and take a nap. God had birds bring him food and Elijah, the great winning prophet, rested for weeks until he regained his strength. From there he moved on to do his greatest ministry ever.

My fellow traveler, hang in there. Take some time and rest those aching bones, relax your weary mind, and allow time – and God – to soothe your stressed out emotions. Who knows, the best times you’ve ever known might be just around the corner if you just hang on a little while more.

Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometime learns
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with just one more blow.

Be encouraged!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I’ve learned to growl.

No, it’s not the menacing growl of a Rottweiler or the fearsome growl of the German Shepherd. It’s not even the “Do Not Enter” growl of a Terrier who thinks he owns the house. Mine is more like the under your breath growl of the big old cuddly English Sheep Dog who knows he put that bone out there somewhere but just can’t seem to find the thing.

Yes, my growl is the growl of frustration. I’m convinced my growl is a good thing, though, because when I vocalize the “grrrrrr” it helps me get past the initial irritation of the moment and allows me time to think of a solution to the problem at hand. My growl is very useful to me, and though it isn’t exactly socially acceptable in public places, I kind of like it. I scared a couple kids the other day when my wheelchair got stuck in a crack in the sidewalk, and while trying to figure out a way out, I growled. You should have seen the look on their faces! I’m still giggling under my breath.

Really, though, I am a person who thinks more clearly out loud, which I do acknowledge, isn’t always the easiest on those around me. I think my wife is learning to growl too, except her growl of frustration is at me growling! When I growl out loud she usually rushes to help me fix whatever is wrong, or at least calls out “what can I do for you?” Bless her heart, she is really trying to be a great wife, and she does a pretty good job of it. But truth be told, most of the time I’m just growling to help me think more clearly and her coming to help really doesn’t help. I don’t want to think about answering a question, I just want to solve the problem.

So I growl again – no, that’s not a good plan. But frustrations can really weigh down the thinking process. When I’m working in my woodworking shop and I’ve got a handful of ‘project’, I don’t want my chair’s wheels to get turned against each other. I have to stop cold, put down whatever’s in my hands, wiggle the chair until the wheels line up, move back to where the stuff was I put down and pick it up again and then try to maneuver across the room to the tool I was headed for in the first place – GRRRRRR!!!

My friends, I’m not going to try to tell you that you need to learn how to growl like me. It just so happens that a simple grrrrr works for me. But what I AM going to tell you is that if you keep every frustration bundled up inside you they will grow and fester and eventually explode sometime, somewhere, on someone - and from my experience, those occasions are not pretty. We all need to find ways to release those seemingly petty every day frustrations into the thin air so they can blow away without hurting us – or worse, causing pain to someone we love. We dare not allow an accumulation of nuisance aggravations grow into life defeating roadblocks that make us ineffective and unproductive.

Please, PLEASE learn to growl, or some other form of release that suits you, and refuse to allow frustration to paralyze your mind, freeze your soul, and stop your progress.

So, just for fun, why not try a good "Grrrrrrr!!!"

Growling along,

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Choice

Welcome friends,

“Life is what it is - and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

That is a quote from an email I got recently from a fellow broken person and I think I know what he was trying to say. There is a level of truth here that is a little frightening to us all. Life can throw some pretty ugly curve balls our direction sometimes and there really IS little we can do about what comes our way. It is what it is, whether sunshine or rain, good times or pain, financial security or the plant closing down. Life simply doesn’t ask permission of us – nor does it ask our opinion – about what happens that is beyond our scope of influence. It happens. Period.

But I’ve given some serious thought about this and, though I confess there is a big temptation to accept this without question, there’s something that bothers me about its resolution. Sure, I agree that there are things that are simply beyond our ability to have any impact upon. The car accident; a medical malpractice; a legal attack; the store moving to Georgia; or a Mom taking the drug the doctor prescribed and finding out 5 years later it caused the birth defect. Beyond our control, outside our jurisdiction, farther that our limited reach.

But we DO have control over our reactions to these things. We can allow them to defeat or destroy us, or we can make the choice to fight with all that is in us. Winning or losing is not the question here – fighting and hanging in there is. Sometimes the battle is won or lost before we even take our stand, but is that a reason to not try anyhow? Is not life the journey and not just the destination? Is it not true that I have to look at myself in the mirror and ask, “Did you give it your best shot, or did you just fold up and give in?”

Now, I do understand that we need to choose our battles widely. For me, to constantly beat myself up over not being able to walk would be a waste of energy. But to continue to live, to strive, to win and lose, to ever challenge myself to higher goals and greater victories - with all of the challenges and failures and rewards - is my choice, and I choose to thrive, not just survive. When it’s all said and done I want my life to count. I want to have made a difference and a contribution. I choose to refuse mediocrity and leave my mark. And I encourage you to do the same.

Life might be what it is, but I CAN - and I WILL - do something about it. Will you? The choice is yours and mine – choose well!

One ship sails east and one sails west
By the self same winds that blow
Tis the set of the sail, not the force of the gale
Which determines which way they go.
-- Unknown

Set your sail and catch the wind. Bon Voyage!!!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Rough days

Dear fellow travelers,

Today is a rough day. When the weather takes a turn for the worst so do the pain levels. My body –like many of yours - becomes less responsive to what I want from it. It’s harder to move the wheelchair, especially on carpet, and harder to move when I need to adjust my position. And as the joints begin their unrelenting downward spiral of pain I’m reminded that there is a reason we call this state of being “broken”.

For the longest time I tried to explain what was going on inside. People who live with only occasional pain don’t understand that it takes an enormous amount of energy just to stay sweet when the pain is constant and merciless. I was reading a Times magazine recently (in a doctor’s office, no less) and I came across an article on chronic pain that began with a short explanation that I wrote down and have shared with those who ask why I tend to wear out toward the end of the day. It was written by Claudia Wallis, and it goes like this:

“Chronic pain is a thief. It breaks into your body and robs you blind. With lightning fingers, it can take away your livelihood, your marriage, your friends, your favorite pastimes and big chunks of your personality. Left unapprehended, it will steal your days and your nights until the world has collapsed into a cramped cell of suffering. And it takes more than a prescription pad to really bring relief.”

That is the best explanation I’ve ever read, and I pass it on to you in case someone asks you, or, unfortunately for some of you, berates you, for needing to take a rest or a break, or wonders why you are not able to do what they want you to do at 8 PM.

My friends, I have no great answers, only this truth – if you are anything like me, the sun will shine again and the good days will come back. Psalm 30:5 says "Your weeping might last all night long, but don't be discouraged for joy comes in the morning" (PDV) Hang in there. Be encouraged even when the pain is trying to rob you blind.

I leave you with a few lines from my favorite poem, “Don’t Quit”:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill
When the funds are low and the debts are high
When you want to smile but you have to sigh
When pain is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit!

Hang in there, my friends, for joy comes in the morning!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Best Friends - FINAL PART in the series

Dear Friends,

Well, we’ve come to the end of this short series of blogs on making and keeping good friends. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

What if I told you I have, totally by accident, discovered the cure for aging.

Yes, I was working with my little chemistry set in the workshop when I dropped one of the beakers on the floor where it broke. It spilled on a mixture of sawdust from various species of wood and also some from plastic I had cut on the bandsaw. The whole thing went PUFF! And there was this amazing looking gel on the floor of my shop. I picked it up and accidentally got some on my hands. Almost immediately my hands began to look younger, and the strength I had years ago began to come back. Within an hour or so a complete transformation had taken place on my skin. I was ecstatic!

But then I did a dumb thing. I came in to eat lunch and just forgot to wash my hands. I fixed my ham sandwich and without thinking licked the extra mustard off my fingers. Man, does that stuff taste terrible! But within the hour I began to feel my leg muscles strengthening and a strange warm feeling in my spine. Listen, over night I am now back on my feet – and it also seems the diabetes is gone, too. I’ll check with the doctor but I think my blood pressure is doing fine on its own as well. I’ll have them check my cholesterol too, it’s only a guess but I think it will show a marked improvement, thanks to my little accident.

If this little tale were true, what would you think of me? Would you be happy? And more importantly, after checking it out with the medical professionals do you think you might like to give my little accident a try? I don’t know too many who would say “no”. There would be great joy around the world at this breakthrough discovery. People would be patting me on the back and telling me how wonderful I am.

But then, what if I went on to tell you that I think I’ll just keep this to myself. Come on, people are going to ask how I made it—everyone would want a piece of me! What are the chemical formula’s? How hot was the reaction? What kinds of sawdust were on the floor? All those questions I can’t answer. And people are going to want me to talk about my great discovery and I really don’t want to do that. And the medical and pharmaceutical people are going to make demands on my time and energy – so I think I’ll just share this discovery with my immediate family and a few close friends and let the rest of the world have their own accident.

NOW, what do you think of me? Am I being fair with the rest of the world? Might you ask yourself “Am I one of his close friends - is he gonna share this with me?” Would you think that I was being selfish, uncaring, unconcerned with the plight of people in general? Would you tell me I was being self-centered and egotistic and that I needed to share this great discovery with the rest of the planet?

Well, this little story is NOT true, as you expected. But wait! Not so fast with that dismissal. You see, I DO have the answers to the greatest challenges of this age. I hold in my hands, every single day, the answer for divorce and hatred. I already know the solution to the problems of discrimination, murder, rape, and filled prisons. I can also tell you where to find these answers yourself, and give you directions as to how to solve these challenges in your own life.

No, I cannot force you to accept my help, nor do I have the right to insist that you accept my solution, but since I am absolutely sure the solution I found works, every single time, in every single case, don’t you think I have a moral mandate to share that information? I mean, if the above cure for aging were available, or a cure for cancer, or Parkinson’s, or heart disease, or AIDS - don’t you think I would have a moral imperative, an ethical obligation to share that wisdom with you? Surely it would be the proper, decent, honorable thing to do, right?

Absolutely! I would be considered the most selfish man alive were I to keep such a thing to myself. And yet, at the same time, I am told by some to keep silent when I have, in a complete package, the proven, confirmed, and experientially verified answers to life’s greatest challenges.

Bottom line?

Observation #5: True Friends care for each other spiritually

1 Samuel 23:15,16 “While David was at Horesh he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God."

I have purposely saved the most important quality of true friendship for last.

> Yes, it is true that true friends have a relationship that is more than skin deep and will stand the test of time and stress.
> It is true that real friends are unselfish and generous with one another and that the people involved are willing to take the time necessary to nurture and grow the friendship into something valuable.
> And yes, it is true that friends willingly place themselves on the line in defense of their friend.

But there is no more important sign of friendship, no other act that expresses just how real and true and important a friendship is to the other person than someone willing to risk their friendship to make sure their friend makes it to heaven.

Please understand, friendships that are based in earthly things are important and good, and have incredible value to us as people. But there is a friendship that reaches beyond the earthbound stuff of ordinary living. This friendship is one that has an eternal point of view, a mindset that transcends human need and understanding because it cares about the other person’s never dying soul.

This old body is going to someday fade away. Oh, my friends I’m glad of that. No more sickness or pain. No more drugs that take away one problem and leave you with another. No more brokenness, emptiness, frailty. Because one day all of this will end. Please hear me, this is not all there is. There is a heaven to gain and a Hell to shun. There is hope for the redeemed, rest for the weary, and wholeness for the broken. There will be an ultimate healing where every tear is dried and every disease is forgotten. Praise God, this is not all there is.

And a real friend, one who cares for you and loves you and wants the best for you, will make sure you know about the Lord. They will not keep silent about the cure for eternal damnation. They will refuse to be quiet about Jesus, about being saved, about the redemption of our souls that only Jesus could buy and only Jesus did buy. They will want you to know joy unspeakable and full of glory. They will want you to be introduced to the Savior.

This is the great mark of the best friendships. Your REAL friend will risk your anger and your rejection to make sure you know about eternal, abundant, joy and love filled LIFE! Why? Because it is the difference between life and death for your eternal soul. It is the difference between really living and trying to make it on your own and failing miserably.

And so, at the risk of my friendship with you, I offer this truth …

Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that he came to this planet and paid the penalty for your wrongdoing even before you were born. He wrote the contract for your eternal life in paradise and signed it in his own blood. It is free for the taking, as a love gift from the Creator of the Universe.

But it will never be put into effect until you accept it for yourself. Like a Christmas gift you leave under the tree unopened, you can’t have this gift until you accept it and open the box. God has made this provision for your soul and mine, and it requires that …
(1) You realize you can’t get rid of your own sin on your own and that you need a Savior,
(2) You accept that Jesus is the risen Son of God and that he IS that Savior you need. When he died on the cross he paid for your sin with his own blood. When he rose from the dead he proved he had the power to do everything he said he would do.
(3) Finally, when you accept this for yourself you believe that you are clean from the inside out.

That’s it. No hocus pocus, no magic formulas, no special incantations, no hoops to jump through – just honesty about yourself and your sin, belief that Jesus, God’s Son, is the answer, and acceptance of the answer for yourself.

If you need to talk or if you’ve made this most important decision about your future, please contact me. I’d be glad to part of your new life!

Love in Christ,