I have not posted for quite some time because I was studying/living-out this concept of “long-suffering”. The Greek word used in the New Testament is makrothumia. It means patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance. The Old Testament Hebrew is arek meaning “slow to anger”. It is used to describe God and his grace in not obliterating Israel for blatantly disregarding his commands and turning their backs on him who delivered them from slavery after they complained about it for 400 years. He put up with nothing but complaining for 40 years in the desert, too. Nothing was good enough for them.

In the New Testament, it is used as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Believers. The Apostle Paul refers to it in nearly every one of his letters to the churches. You should love in the face of being wronged. You should turn the other cheek. In other words, you should dwell on the good and not the bad because that is what God, himself, has done for us.

Please understand, I am by NO means comparing myself to God nor the Apostle Paul. Yet, I believe each has given me a template by which to live, and I can confess today that long-suffering has brought me a LONG way from where I was even a year ago. The grace and peace that is to be found within long-suffering is unimaginable to anyone whose life is chaotic and filled with stress, as mine was at one time. I think this is why long-suffering is a concept lost on modern American society.

First, one must “put up and shut up”. That’s the best way I can describe it. I used to love to let others know just how “awful” my life was and what a burden I was lifting. At times I actually got joy in heaping negativity on someone else. “You think you’ve got it bad, let me tell you how bad my life is…” How wicked is that? Where is the life? No wonder I lived in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because I went looking for it. Even when something good happened, I would always frame it in a negative context.

So, one day I stopped. I just let things be what they were. I didn’t read anything into them, and I didn’t add anything to them. I went forward from there. Even if I had to take two steps back, I would not allow it to impact my perception. Life was just life and things were. Period. This was tough because I found myself trying to add to it, yet I had to clear my mind and calm my spirit.

Second, I asked the question, “How could the Lord be using this for good?” Study the historic account of Joseph starting in Genesis 37. Joseph had to put up with a lot: sold into slavery by his older brothers, falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned, left to die. He could have cursed God and done nothing but complain. He didn’t, and God made him ruler of Egypt. The lesson Joseph learned through long-suffering is summed up in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Third, I accepted my life and stopped trying to control it. The cliche’ is “let go and let God”. It’s simplistic and it’s very true. I asked the Holy Spirit to fill me more, and I gave the Lord control of my life. I submitted to Him – another lost concept in American society. We do not like to submit – to anyone, anything, anywhere at anytime. We think it will allow others to control us. You know what I found? Peace. Why? Because in giving the Lord control, I also gave Him the headaches. Isn’t that the case in all situations where a leader is involved? Isn’t it the leader’s responsibility to come up with the answers, make the decisions and handle the ramifications? My job is to go where He tells me to go and do the work He calls me to do. I offer up feedback, opinion and make requests. He handles all the rest. WHAT A RELATIONSHIP!

Peace is to be found in this. The self-fulfilling prophecy worked the other way, too. As I focused on the good, I found more and more of it. Was my life any less stressful? Yes and no. The external stress kept coming, but I no longer received it. Why? Because I had reframed it. I no longer was a “victim”. I would take whatever life threw at me, and try to turn it around for good. Did the outcome matter? Nope. Why? I wasn’t in charge. The Big Guy would handle the outcome. Very cool.

So, what ultimately became of this? I am happy to share that I am on the verge of living my passion: I have accepted a position that will make me a principal trainer for my organization’s primary application, which is the backbone of what we do. I will be creating all the learning for it and training staff to utilize it. Nothing makes me happier than helping others learn. This is what the Lord created me to do, and now I will be paid to do it. No longer will I be in a position that makes me work 70 hours a week in a no-win pressure-cooker trying to do the impossible. I feel like Joseph when he was freed from prison and given the keys to the kingdom. I don’t say this to impress you but to impress upon you the power of long-suffering.

If you will but submit to it and submit to Him.

Just Today, Lord

I find myself tempted by the thoughts of the damned. Thoughts like the following: Hope is a dangerous thing. It seems to be something in which I can place little faith. There is precious little in this world in which to hope. I think I now know why Scripture says our hope should come from above. Everything on this planet is imperfect. While some might argue this is where beauty comes from, I say it is a source of considerable frustration.

What good is it to get one’s hopes up? Just as it is futile to worry because 98% of what you worry about never happens and the 2% that does is in a way you never anticipated, so too it seems 98% of what is hoped for never occurs. It seems ludicrous to wait for the 2%. One should get down to the business of living in reality and making the best of it.

I don’t want to believe these words. I CAN’T believe these words or I risk losing the one thing to which I cling.

Yet reality is making it difficult to hope. Defeat after defeat. Setback after setback. The list continues to grow. Even when I do something I think is worthy – or even exceed expectations – I’m told such is not the case and that I could have done better. It never seems to end. There is always one more. Always better. Always something just beyond my reach.

Lord, give me enough to make it through just this day. Looking beyond is too overwhelming.

Lord, I don’t even know where to begin. You know it all. You know with what I’ve been struggling lately. I can’t share it with anyone around me. Jen has enough on her plate. Besides, does she need any more negativity in her world? I think not. I don’t really have any friends around me consistently anymore due to our circumstances. Not many people know what parents who have children living with Autism go through, and those that do are usually in the middle of it themselves, so it makes it challenging to develop meaningful relationships because there’s not enough consistent time.

Counseling? We’ve gone the counseling route with the church. We were given a couple of sessions, handed a 100-page analysis and told “Go through this on your own. Good luck.” and that was that. I tried going through counseling offered at work. Not much luck there. It seems if I’m not an alcoholic, addicted to porn or looking to cheat on my wife, there’s nothing they can offer.

I’m so very tired of being on an island. I’m so weary of putting on a brave face because that’s what people want – because I have people depending on me. I don’t have any answers, and I need some, terribly.

I look for a hand, and I find none because my hand has been holding up my family and not reaching out to others. Should I have done otherwise? Would it have been better for me to serve others and neglected my family? Isn’t our first ministry to be our own family? Even in that I feel I have failed. Perhaps it’s just as well there is no hand to help me. Why should I drag others down where I seem to be?

I’m not sure I even know which way is right any longer. There are times I find myself doing what is most expedient simply because it is the easiest or path of least resistance. How can this be right? How can I compromise like this and still hope to have any integrity? When did just making it through the day become my overriding purpose? Yet when I go to share these thoughts with others, any real meaning gets lost in the translation. They are too bombarded with their own lives and too little relationship remains for any connection to be maintained. Help is a long-term commitment, and we are a short-term culture.

It’s understandable. Any relationship takes effort. You need to pour energy into it. Yet, one of the ironies of having a family with special needs is the amount of energy you must expend simply to get through an average day leaves you exhausted for any other relationships. It’s hard to pour energy into outside relationships when so much is demanded from you in your daily family interactions and work on top of that – especially when you work in an environment where more is demanded from you than you can possibly ever give. So, outside relationships wither and die.

Inside relationships wither and die, too. There is so much to do that hope, desire, dream all get pushed back. You find yourself relating to your spouse, not out of love, but out of function and necessity. Your relationships with your kids become processes based upon compliance and expediency. Why? Because there’s simply no time or energy to have it otherwise – there are too many demands.

Lord, I pray this is only a season, yet I also find myself desperately praying the damage I cause my family and any friends I may yet have left is not too great. I am trying to cover all the bases, yet I know I cannot do this along in my own power. Yet as I look around, I seem to be the only one on the field.


Each year as the holidays approach, I start looking back and become introspective. What was this year like? How was it different than previous ones? How can I ensure the new year will be better? I don’t know if everyone does this, nor do I recall where this habit began in my past. It just seems to be what I’ve always done.

As I reflect on 2010, it has been a good year. I am so very blessed by all that is in my life. Too many blessings to list in a single sitting. Still, if I had to say there was one thing that kept popping up in my review, it is the happenstance with which I allowed my life to unfold in recent years. This led me to contemplate how I can keep this from recurring. I don’t want my life to just happen to me, I want to make my life. The one word that encapsulates this for me is “intentionality.”

I was fortunate enough going into high school to have a good friend named Glenn. He and I did nearly everything together, and I don’t think there was a week in my life from 8th grade through senior year in high school where he and I didn’t spend time together. Well, in the summer just before starting high school, Glenn and I sat down and actually had a conversation about our future. “This is supposed to be the best time of our lives.” We said. “Let’s do things in order to make memories so we can talk about it 20 years from now.”

With that simple conversation, we laid the foundation for what I believe was one of the best times of my life. We went looking for experiences that were designed to be outrageous, rich, vibrant and above all fun. We did stuff simply because we knew it was something we would remember doing 20 years in the future, and that made for an exciting life. Sure, we had set-backs and negative things happen during those pursuits, but we didn’t let that affect us. We focused on getting the best out of the experience.

For example, one night Glenn and I decided to drive to another state to see if Dr. Pepper tasted the same. How could we know? We’d only tasted Dr. Pepper bottled in our state. What if we were missing out? What if there was a better tasting formula just across the border? So, 11pm on a school night, we hope into Glenn’s car and head to Kentucky. We had no clue where we were headed. We just went – and we had a blast along the way. Sure, we got lost because we had no idea where we were. We didn’t even have a map. In today’s mindset, I would say this was horrible because it was taking too long to get to our destination, why were we sacrificing sleep for something so trivial, etc. Finally around 1am we found a 7-11 in the middle of nowhere. We bought 2 cans of Dr. Pepper and sat on the curb in front of the store, almost like a sad copy of Bill and Ted. “You ready?” he asked me. “Yeah, you?” I replied. “Yep. Go.” We popped open the cans and drank with eager anticipation.

When we had sampled our treasure, we sat in silence taking it all in. The warm night air. The bugs buzzing around the lights over the fuel pumps. The smell of spilled gas on the concrete. The chirping of crickets. “Taste the same to you?” Glenn asked. “Yep.” I said without hesitation. “Ok, let’s go.” We hopped back into his car and headed north. We did have school that day, after all. I’m sure I dragged in school that day. Here I am 25 years later, and that experience is still as real to me as the night it occurred. I’m sure if I really thought about it, I could tell you what I was wearing, what songs we listened to and even how much the Dr. Pepper cost.

My point is – what if you could live life like that EVERY day?? What if I focused on the most positive things and eliminated the negative? How much richer would you life be? How much more exciting – even with “common” things? We would turn mundane exercises into real experiences – like clothes shopping. For many guys, this is NOT fun. We don’t enjoy it. It something we have to do because to walk around naked, especially as one gets older, is dangerous. Glenn and I would try to find the most outrageous shirt or the coolest pair of jeans. On numerous occasions, we would talk a gibberish Italian. He would pretend to be from Italy, and I was his translator. Many a sales clerk were treated to our spiel. “Can you help us? My friend here is looking for something,” I would say. “Sure, how many I help?” the clerk would smile. “Mana-mana ti a fatto. Leguitti a portuto li agui.” Glenn would say without a clue what he was saying but laying on an Italian accent and trying to make the words sound foreign. “My friend wonders if you sell underwear with ‘extra space available in front’, if you catch my drift.” I would come up with something out of thin air. The trick was maintaining a straight face for both of us. I truly wish we could have videotaped this stuff.

Now, I’m not suggesting I take the boys out shopping and have them translate for me (although I would like to try that again and see how creatively they can improv), yet what if I took them shopping with the idea of making the experience fun?

Another example I think helps explain this (if the underwear example is too much) is to think about Christmas Day. For many this is the “most wonderful day of the year” as the song says. Think back to the Christmases you had growing up. Weren’t they the best? All the anticipation, all the joy, all the lights, all the energy leading up to that day. Now, I ask you: what if your tree had burned down that day? Would it have mattered? Would it have diminished your day? Most likely not because you were so determined to focus on the positive that nothing negative could bring your day down. You intended to have a great day. You forgot about the tree and kept your focus on opening all those presents! Who cares about a stupid ol’ tree? Let me at the gifts! Besides, telling the legend about how the Christmas tree burned down, how it freaked mom out, finally got rid of that awful painting on the wall and made the house stink for weeks can become a family tradition each year when this year’s tree is put in place. The negatives become speed bumps instead of mountains.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped purposely living my life looking for memories. I let the daily routine of life take over, and I stopped making experiences. Consequently, my life of color faded to a dull gray, and it became more of an idea of “getting through” life. I worried more about the Christmas tree burning, how much it cost, how long it would take to get the smell out and repaint the walls, than I did about how cool it was my family was together and enjoying each other’s company. What if I became more intentional about the experiences I create in my life? What if, instead of allowing life to happen to me, I set out to make my life again? What if I could choose to make the best occur? What if dinner with the family turned into an opportunity to see who could come up with the corniest joke? What if folding laundry could be a time to tie the arms of someone’s shirt into knots or – to make it positive for everyone – a time to pin a small note to the shirt letting them know you love them and were thinking of them?

So, as I reflect upon 2010 and look forward to 2011, I want to recapture the best of my past to create the best of my future. I want to drink deeply from the fountain of life. Not only do I want to live the length of my life, but I also want to live the width. I want to look back on these days 20 years from now and smile when the boys recount all the outrageous, rich, vibrant and above all fun experiences we had.

It starts with me. It all starts with me. It starts with my focus going into it. It starts with intentionality.

Perhaps then life becomes something greater than just marching ever onward

Changing of the Seasons

I wrote a while ago about coming to the end of a season: we put our house on the market for a new one. We found a new house, and we’re closing Oct. 2nd. We move the following week. The challenging thing is we still haven’t sold our current house.

This is one of the happiest challenges I’ve taken on in years. I have spreadsheets, project plans, lists, product comparisons and timetables galore. I’ve used home-design tools to see what our kitchen would look like with an island – then with white cabinets, then maple, then oak. I’ve painted our new house with virtual tools. Our rooms have been 12 different shades of color (each room, I think. I played with that tool for an entire afternoon). About the only thing I haven’t done is virtual landscaping, although I’m sure there’s an online tool for that🙂

Jen and I went to the new house and measured the rooms. I’ve since recreated them in Microsoft Visio. I wish it had a 3D option, but at the very least I was able to get an idea of spacing when I measured and threw in our furniture. Now I can’t get the images out of my head and find myself waking up thinking about what piece of furniture is going where.

I’ve taken the entire week after we close off to work on the house. Yes, the project geek I am actually has a daily project schedule/plan laid out. No, I didn’t put it in Microsoft Project because I really hate that tool. I’m finding Microsoft OneNote a much better application. I can throw any research into it directly from the web. I current have pricing research for a paint sprayer, insulation, drywall and cleaning supplies. I simply printed the webpage from Firefox into OneNote 2010. Boom. Done. No retyping, and all the info is intact from the website. Love it!

So I’ll be painting the entire house pretty much by myself, I think. I estimated about 11 gallons of paint. We’re talking 11 areas/rooms to be done. Thus, the research on a paint sprayer. I’m good with “Old School” tools. Heck, I painted our entire house by myself over Memorial Day weekend a few years back with nothing more than a brush and a roller. I worked straight through – 36 hours – until it was done. I’m thinking it will be similar this time around, except I’m 10 years older. Did I mention the research on a paint sprayer? I’m having visions of paint going everywhere, though. Floors, ceilings, carpet, doors. I’ve never used a paint sprayer. But, heck, they sell them at Lowe’s and Target and Walmart – how hard can it be?

I’ll be demoing half our basement, too. It currently has this sickly light-gray paneling up. I say sickly because it’s warped from moisture. I don’t think the current owners ever bothered to put a dehumidifier down there. There’s a nice odor, too. They also had dogs. So, I have my work cut out for me. I have two days scheduled to tackle the basement. There’s a shower down there. I say “shower” in name only because it’s a flimsy plastic stall with poor drainage, no venting and a lighting package that would electrocute you if you touched it. I believe they used it for their dogs. Yeah, that’s gone within 20 minutes. There’s also a sink, which will be gone. I’m pretty much gutting the basement, and then we’ll decide how we want to (eventually) remodel it.

Did I mention we’re moving the washer and dryer from the basement to the garage? Fun. We’ll need to run the 220V dryer line from the basement into the garage. We’ll then need to run hot and cold water lines out there, too. Then there’s the drainage line and the dryer vent line. I don’t have a clue how to do these things. We’ve had a couple of volunteers to do the water lines. I’m still looking for someone to run the electric. I’ll also be putting up insulation in the garage and then drywalling it.

This is only half of the work needing done. For some reason, the previous owners either didn’t know how to run electric or want to run proper electric throughout the house. We have holes in walls and extension cords put through them. This is either an electrician’s dream or nightmare. Still, even with all this, we felt the house had too much potential to pass it by. It is a blank slate with many projects for us to tackle in the coming years. Home improvement is my new hobby! (Funny how the Lord works – I haven’t had a hobby in years).

I don’t think it is coincidental that this is occurring during the natural change of seasons – summer changing to fall. We’re leaving one season in our current house to a new season in our new home. New colors, new shades, new challenges, new experiences, new memories. I’m only praying our current house sells soon so I don’t write a post about “the winter of our discontent”.

Still, with a smile and gearing up for some rewarding labor, I move ever onward…

I am sitting at the beginning of a busy Thursday morning at a Starbucks near my office. I arrived before the sun came up and sat facing the front door sipping my bold coffee. Watching the scene outside as the sun came up was breathtaking in its own way. Knowing I didn’t have to rush by and miss it was even more so. This is how life was meant to be lived.

Why do we make our lives so hectic? What are we trying to get out of it by doing this? I’m all for living life to the fullest, yet I think we’ve been brainwashed into thinking this comes through the number of activities we pack into our daily routines. I not only want to live the length of my life, but I want to live the depth and width of it. I believe the depth comes through times of reflection, times of pondering. Stopping the flurry of mental activity and sorting out one’s thoughts. What does this mean? How does that apply to my life? Why did this occur?

While we may never know the answers to such questions, I believe it is good to ask the questions. We learn by doing the asking, even if we do not receive the answer until we’re on the other side.

I also believe this cannot be done with “passing efficiency” meaning you take 5 minutes out of your day here and there. It has to be focused attention. The funny thing about this is I believe this slowing down of the soul and engaging of the deep insight of the mind is therapeutic. We cannot appreciate beauty rushing by at 50 miles an hour. We cannot embed memories with quick references. Think back to all the memorization you did in school. It was through focused, concentrated effort – and it wasn’t done quickly.

I am sitting watching a young couple have a difficult discussion. If I had to guess, they are breaking up. The young woman, a professional from appearance, is doing her best not to cry and mess up her make up. The young man, clad in landscaper’s clothes, is trying to reassure her by gently caressing her knee. They are sitting in a corner, and you can tell by the expressions of both faces – gentle, troubled, urgent – that they care for one another. This isn’t some kind of “we’ve had a few times together now its over” type of conversation. Yet I can tell from her reaction this is a relationship-altering conversation. I am not close enough to hear any of their words, so I cannot be certain of my observations. However, I am noticing things I would not normally see as I grab my coffee and run.

The young man is accustomed to hard work. He has the hands of a laborer – strong, thick, tanned. His dark hair is cut very short: easy to manage and not get in the way. The young lady has her long hair pulled back in a smart bun with a tendril draped over the side of her forehead which she nervously brushes back from time-to-time. He is dressed in a green sweatshirt and khakis; she is dressed in a pair of gray slacks and a black shirt. An interesting match. This is not a quick conversation, either. They have been sitting here for some 20 minutes or so. They do not appear to be in any great rush. They are laughing, then they are serious. He chuckles, and it produces a broad smile from her, allowing her dimples to come out. His blue eyes sparkle at her.

Yet behind all this there is a tension, an uneasiness. This is a young couple talking, but this is a young couple no more.

Outside the street is bustling with cars flying past. The line for the drive-through is thick with customers waiting – from the looks on their faces very impatiently. The sun is casting morning shadows over them. Would all of this happen if I wasn’t here to notice?

Scripture records: “Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10. I am increasingly certain there is a side of God we can only know by being still. In fact, to truly know God we must be still. Part of our humanity comes out of this. It is how we were created to be. Yes, we are called to work, and we are called to be relational with others, yet we are also called into relationship with God. I believe all these observations, reflections, are God’s way of speaking to me.

I do not know why I was meant to see this soon-to-be-ex-couple yet I know it has made me appreciate the other half of my couple so much more to recognize the blessing she is in my life. Yes, I’ve known this on many levels over the past 16 years of marriage and the nearly 20 years I’ve known her. Still, I believe I know it on a certain deeper level now because of this time. I believe I know something more God because of this time. He does mean for us to be relational and to have deep feelings for one another – to the point where when a relationship alters there is pain. To have enough feeling for another that you want to take care of them and gently cradle the hurt even when you are the one causing it.

He also wants us to recognize all these things and to take them in and experience them in their fullness, not just check them off our “to do” list and dismiss them.

The couple parts, and there is relief. You can feel it. They kiss and linger just a bit too long. This is their final kiss. They turn and literally go their separate ways.  There is no glance back at the other, each has their face set.

I wonder if this was just something in passing to them? Did I receive more blessing out of this encounter than either of them?

I didn’t know when I was lucky
Discontented feeling bad
Filled with envy
For possessions other people had

I found my pride had always hurt me
Fought the world to gain control
Not realizing
I was sitting on a beach of gold

Oh Lord, I’m a poor man
With all the riches I can hold
I’m a beggar
And I’m sitting on a beach of gold

The problems I encountered
Gave me strength, helped me sustain
To know the pleasure
First I had to endure the pain

When I was searching for solutions
I found the answer lay outside of me
I’m a drifter
But I’m drifting on a silver sea

Oh Lord, I’m a poor man
With all the riches I can hold
I’m a beggar
And I’m sitting on a beach of gold

I didn’t have courage
My life was as dark as night
When alone in the darkness
I saw the brightest light
Let the light shine down

Are you out there now on empty
Feel you’ve nothing left to give?
Sick of trying
Have you lost the will to live?

Don’t be drowning in the shallows
With the beach so near at hand
Hear the voice say
Stand up get up
And join me on the gilded sand!

Come and join me on the beach
With all the riches I can hold
Cause I’m a beggar
And I’m sitting on a beach of gold

Oh Lord, I’m a poor man
With all the riches I can hold
I’m a beggar
I’m sitting on a beach of gold

My children, my salvation
The father to this man
They’re my teachers
Playing on the golden sand

With my family all around me
I’ve all the riches I can hold
I’m a beggar
Sitting on a beach of gold

Oh Lord, I’m a poor man
With all the riches I can hold
I’m a beggar
Sitting on a beach of gold.