Home

The Day I Lost My Vision

Leave a comment

Confession time. I lost it…I mean totally and unequivocally, lost it. Picture a 6’5″ grown man crying and sobbing like a five year child who just had his Christmas presents stolen on Christmas morning. Yes. That bad. L.O.S.T. Lost. It.

Another confession…it’s never been my vision. It’s God’s vision. I’m just the one who was allowed to see it.

Tonight, I’m relaxing and recovering after a STRONG push this past month in getting our Upward Basketball & Cheerleading season started. We’ve been busy drafting 612 (and growing) players to teams, screening and vetting 130 volunteers, training Cheer Coaches, planning for and conducting the annual Prayer Breakfast, managing team equipment for 72 teams, and ordering equipment for the season…all culminating this past week in a final push to prepare for, setup and conduct two training sessions for 100 basketball coaches and a cheerleading clinic, both held this weekend. This morning saw two of those events at the same time, both worthy of being called a major event on its own, a basketball coach training session in one half of the building and the Cheerleading Clinic in the other half. As this morning’s cheer clinic came to an end, I confess that’s when I lost it.

Flash back to last night. After a 14-hour day ended with the first of two 4-hour Coach Training Sessions, I was praying on my drive home. I told God that I felt like something wasn’t right. Something’s missing, but I don’t know what it is. It feels like I’ve been distracted and scatter-brained…more so than usual anyway. And as I stopped talking to Him long enough to actually listen, God revealed to me that I’d lost the vision. What?! I know the vision. I just shared it with 50 coaches hours earlier as I cast the vision for our season! I’m the leader of the ministry…knowing (and sharing) the vision is my job. How could that be? And then He reminded me that I was so wrapped up in preparing for what I was going to say after the video message from Caz ended that I didn’t hear Caz say it. “Loving people trumps everything.” If we’re so wrapped up in what we’re busy doing that we don’t take time for people when they need to engage us, then we’ve lost the vision. Because “loving people trumps everything.”

Unable to see the vision for the various tasks before me this past month, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I’ve become so engrossed in the task over the last month that tunnel vision has been keeping me from seeing the vision that started me on this journey in the first place. That’s really, really hard to admit…that as the person who’s ultimately responsible for casting the vision for the team, I got caught up in the to-do list and lost focus. But it’s the cold hard truth. I lost the vision.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the to-do list, isn’t it. So easy to fall into the trap of being busy doing the *work* of God that we miss the *face* of God. Convicted of that, and then waking up this morning, still exhausted, to get back to the task of another Coach Training Session, I needed something to help me see the vision clearly again. As the coach training session ended, I was able to steal away for a few minutes to walk in for the closing moments of the Cheer Clinic on the other side of the building. I spent three minutes watching as dozens of young cheerleaders were reunited with their parents after having spent two fun-filled hours of exciting, energetic, high impact time with their new teammates and coaches.

Three minutes. That’s all it took to have me crying like a baby as God illuminated the vision for me again. For three minutes, the work was gone. The to-do list was gone. The details were gone. And the reason we’ve invested hundreds of hours already was right in front of me. For three minutes, I simply sat back and enjoyed watching the vision unfold before my eyes. I went from seeing the things right before me to seeing the bigger picture. And I lost it. Yep, cried like a baby.

I’ve got the vision back. And I’m ready to get back to work with a renewed passion. I walked away from that three minutes inspired…excited and on fire once again with the passion to continue in the work of seeing the vision fulfilled through accomplishing the mission of “Promoting the Discovery of Jesus Through Sports.” I’ve got the vision…and I’m ready to share it! Let’s do this.

Love,

Dad

Advertisements

If Not You, Then Who?

Leave a comment

Son,

If yesterday’s note wasn’t sufficient to caution you to the emotional turmoil that comes with the job of a firefighter, let me be clear in helping you see that.  Not to bring attention to myself or the battles I face, nor to glorify myself at all.  Not for any other reason than out of a desire that you never have to say “why didn’t someone warn me?”

The job has its rewards, there’s no argument there.  But…

One day you’ll wake up at 2am and find a teenager impaled on a guardrail, blood still dripping from his body after having been ejected from the vehicle…head crushed from going through the windshield…brain matter lying on the ground beneath him…while his “friend” sits on the curb laughing as if nothing happened because he’s too drunk to know he just killed his friend. Your frustration will seem more than you can bear. You’ll want to beat some sense into him, but you’ll bite your tongue and try to forget. You won’t be able to.

One morning while your breakfast sits on the table waiting for your return, you’ll hold the hand of a woman whose husband lies dead on her living room floor…your hand still sweating after having spent the last hour pumping on his chest…the feeling of his ribs crushing under the weight of your thrusts still fresh on your mind.  You won’t have the stomach to finish breakfast when you get back.

One night you’ll crawl on hands and knees searching with gloved hands through a darkness you can’t see through for a man who’s trapped in his home as it burns down around you.  You won’t find him in time, and you’ll be forced to leave him…only to realize later that unbeknownst to you, he had already burned up and you were crawling all over the top of his burned corpse…his melted skin now covering you, hanging from you like the memory of that night will hang with you…forever haunting you. The smell will be like you never expected…the memory of that smell will ruin many future meals for you.

One beautiful, sunny, warm morning you’ll send your own kids off to school and come to work.  Your first call of the day will be a seven year old boy who’s just been run over by the school bus, his body split wide open from gut to knee.  Still alive, the look in his eyes as you scoop him into your arms will haunt you until the day you die.  You’ll know you did all you could for him, but even knowing that is not enough to keep his mother’s screams and the cries of his friends on the bus from jolting you from your sleep fifteen years later.

Some day you’ll have to experience worse than all that.  Things that can’t be described.  Things that you’ll have to bury deep in the recesses of your own mind just to keep moving forward.  Things that can’t be shared with someone outside of the brotherhood who’s lived it with you.  You’ll hear people say your job is great, that the schedule is nice and the pay makes it worth it.  To that, you’ll force a fake smile, grit your teeth and just walk away…because it’s just not worth it.  You’ll  want to say, “yeah, it’s got its good days, but here…let me dump a career’s worth of memories from the bad days on you and we’ll see how great you think it is then.”  But you won’t.  Because the people who’ll say those things to you don’t know…and they’ll never know.

It’s a rewarding career whose rewards come at a price.  If you’re willing to pay that price, then follow your dreams.  If your wife is willing to pay the price alongside you, then follow your dreams.  If your wife is half as selfless and loving as your mother, then you’ve got a great head start in getting through your career with your sanity intact.  With God leading you and Jesus walking with you, you’ll have what you need to survive it.  I honestly don’t know how someone without Jesus can do it.

Don’t get me wrong…it’s got its good days too.  You’ll watch a man die right in front of you and you’ll have a hand in bringing him back to life.  You’ll carry a woman out of a burning building and hand her off to medics while you run back in to put the fire out.  You’ll hold a lifeless child and be the hands of God that breath life back into her.  You’ll do lots of good things that go unnoticed and unrewarded.  And that’s fine…because you won’t be doing it for recognition.  You’ll be doing it knowing what you got into.  You’ll be doing it because not everyone can.  You’ll be doing it because the guy next to you is counting on you.  You’ll be doing it because if not you, then who?  And that’s why we do it.

Love,

Dad

Future Firefighter, firefighting boys

Future Firefighters

It’s Time

Leave a comment

Doing what I did earlier today was never part of my original plan.  An array of emotions are coursing through me today…it’s certainly a bittersweet day for sure.  When you give fourteen years to something, I suppose there’s a part of you that just doesn’t want to let it go.  But it’s time.

Fourteen years ago, I walked through the doors of a 911 dispatch center for the first time, completely ignorant of what I’d just signed up for.  No one can adequately prepare you for the job of a 911 dispatcher.  There’s just no way to prepare someone for the stress and range of emotions that you’ll face from moment to moment during any shift.  It’s something you just have to live to understand.  I’ve lived it.  I’ve loved it.  I’ve hated it.  I’m going to miss it.  I’m not going to miss it.  I’m done with it.  It’s time.

resignation, God's Plans, stepping out in faith

My Resignation Letter

The saying goes that when one door closes, another opens.  I’m blessed that God opened the next door before this one closed.  This decision has been many months in the making as God has been preparing me for awhile now for this step of faith.  To walk on the water, we have to get out of the boat and take a step in faith.  I’m excitedly (and with some nervousness) taking my first steps in faith through this new door, looking forward with anticipation to what He has in store for me on the other side.  I’m excited and blessed beyond words to be a part of His plan.  Today might not have been part of MY original plan fourteen years ago, but God’s plans are bigger and better than our own…and it’s time.  More to come…

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'” – Luke 9:23

Love,

Dad

My Son is My Brother

Leave a comment

I read Romans 8 in my quiet time this morning. And prayed. I’ve been praying for you for some time now. In more ways than I could ever share in just this note. You’ve had a handful of other Godly men praying for you for over a month now. An army of believers has prayed for you…and today I write this and etch into history the account of how those prayers have been answered.

A SINGLE PRAYER CHANGES EVERYTHING…

It was just over a month ago that we were sitting in church listening to the message when out of the corner of my eye I saw you clasp your hands, close your eyes and subtly move your lips as if whispering. Fifteen seconds later, you opened your eyes smiled like only you smile and whispered in your mom’s ear. As she smiled and whispered something back, motioning my direction, you leaned over and whispered,

“Guess what I just did?”
“What?”
“I ‘axeded’ Jesus into my heart.”
Heart knowledge…you first received it that day over a month ago.

FROM HEART TO HEAD…

As I mentioned earlier, I’d been praying for your faith to grow to the point of understanding and acceptance of the free gift of salvation through Christ for long before this moment. Now, as your heart became filled with the Spirit of God, it became time to begin praying for the understanding of what that means for your life and how to apply it. Over the course of a month of more in depth conversations…lots of questions. You’re so analytical and inquisitive. Finding ways to explain it in ways you can understand was a fun challenge. And then it finally sunk in.

FROM HEAD BACK TO HEART…

I read Romans 8 in my quiet time this morning. And prayed. God’s timing then to arrive at church this morning and have you tell me you were ready. Who am I to stop the Spirit from moving a person to action? 🙂

A NEW BROTHER…

I read Romans 8 in my quiet time this morning. And I read it again this afternoon. In a whole new light. The light of the joy found in having a new brother in Christ. And I share a part of it here now as my prayer over your new walk of faith (with emphasis and underlining added by me for effect.)

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bod(y) by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” – Romans 8:1-17 (NLT, NIV)

SECURE FOR ETERNITY…

God answers prayers son. You are evidence of that truth. You are, now, not only my son, but now also my brother! My brother in Christ. My fellow co-heir to God’s glory! We have a date with eternity, you and I, that can never be snatched from us.

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’ No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

I’m going to “carry my cross” (Luke 9:23) and embrace my responsibility to live my life raising you as my son, and I’ll see you in heaven brother!

Love,

Dad, and fellow co-heir

Hope Comes in Many Forms…Where I Am Today

2 Comments

My head is full. It needs to do what it does when it’s full…vent. There is no order to what comes next, so be forewarned that I’m simply letting loose of the mess currently in my head. My apologies if what you read next is not what you’ve come to expect from me. I’m human, and this is where I am today. Writing is my outlet, so here goes.

Since Saturday, I’ve been in a sort of fog. Haven’t felt close to God. Haven’t felt like much of anything. Worship with dad and my brothers here at church on Sunday was okay, but I just didn’t feel connected to God, ya’ know? Last night, I was searching for the lyrics to a song that express how I’ve been feeling…and all I could remember was “oh God my God, your beloved needs you now.” I don’t remember the song, so it’s probably good that that’s all I can remember.

This morning, a text from my wife asked how I’m doing. I am…

Numb. Alone. Trapped. Spent. Drained. Overwhelmed. Lacking hope. Disconnected from reality…From life…From God. I’ve been better. I’ve been worse. I’ll push through though because that’s what we do. I just want to put closure to this period of life and move forward. I’m an action guy. Waiting is not something I do well. Too much waiting…not enough moving. I’m ready to crawl into the arms of my best friend and our kiddos and not have to make a decision or problem-solve for awhile. I’m ready to come home.

Dad, as you first read this, please know it’s not you or anything you’ve done or not done. It’s just my process. Being with you this week has been a blessing for me more than I’ve shared here yet…sharing that part of all this will come after we have some closure this week…and I hope I’ve blessed you in some small way by being here. I wouldn’t take any of it back or change my choice to stay…it’s just part of being out of routine…away from my wife and children…feelings I’m sure you either already have had, or will, soon after we all leave this weekend.

Yesterday’s hope came through an email from a dear friend on staff at church. The day before that, it came in an email from our Men’s Ministry leader, another good friend. Before that, it came daily in various emails, texts, phone calls and conversations with friends and family back home. Today’s hope comes from a thirteen year old angel…God has been employing her as my angel since the first day I met her in the hospital. Her momma sent me a text this morning that simply read:

Your daughter just prayed for you all by herself. It was so sweet. I looked over at the table and she had eyes closed, head bowed, hands clasped in front of her. And said, “Dear God, please keep my Daddy safe. Amen.”

So yes Lord, your beloved needs you now. Do not forsake me Lord. Your hope comes in many forms…and I have not lost sight of the truth that my hope comes from you. You have met my daily need for hope this past week and a half. SD’s prayer this morning has provided me the hope I need to sustain me today. I’ll take it. Thank you Lord for providing me hope though I deserve nothing.

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Love,

Dad

Making Arrangements

1 Comment

Fair warning…this note is less about words and readability than I’m used to writing. It’s more about what’s in my heart than what’s in my head. So if you’re not sure you want to try and sort through the jungle of “stuff” in my heart, then get out now while you can…because I make no promises that what comes next will make any sense.

New Years Day 2013…I was almost two hours into day two of a triple (72 hour shift). I’d only slept for one hour the night before…crazy end to the year at the firehouse. It was a holiday…I was looking forward to getting the work done for the day and getting some rest. I kept saying to myself, “yesterday was nuts…can’t get much worse than that.”

I was wrong.

When I picked my phone up off the table, I had a voicemail from dad. Figuring it to be an early morning Happy New Year call, I checked the voicemail to hear otherwise. “I’m at the hospital with your mom. She’s in cardiac arrest.” I called him back…got a quick update and helped him make another phone call. Aunt Jean, that was the hardest phone call I’ve ever made. I hope I handled it well, because I honestly don’t remember much of what I said. Five minutes later, the second call came…mom was gone.

That was 6 days ago…

It’s been a weird week. When you hear someone say they’re “making arrangements” for someone’s funeral, unless you’ve done that before, you can’t really know what it means. I’ve never taken part in preparing a memorial service…I’ve never helped make decisions in that…or stood beside a husband while he makes those decisions for his wife’s memorial service. I’ve never taken part in “making arrangements”. Until this week, I could only imagine what that really meant. Now that I know, I don’t want to know…ya’ know?

Yesterday, I spent a couple hours going through mom’s emails and online footprint. That’s weird in itself…a part of me felt like I was invading a personal part of her life, spying on her conversations not meant for anyone but the person with whom she was having them. And a part of me felt like she was reaching out from beyond death to comfort me…to tell me “it’s okay, I’m good“. Like the email to a friend where she recounted her recent trip to our house last summer…it was our annual float trip, the first one we camped out the night before the float. She was recounting the story of our overnight visitor…one which I think should now be recorded for posterity sake…so I’ll let her words tell it:

“Delicious pie and cake. We saved the cake for our float trip. We left it sitting covered on a picnic table. In the middle of the night a raccoon enjoyed the last of it. Jay told the young kids that he wrestled with the raccoon and almost skinned it before running off and that he slept in front of the tent entrance to protect everyone. Haven’t laughed so much in years. I wasn’t able to float, but I had a peaceful campsite, a good book, and was able to get just a little sun. It was a good day. After they came off the river we went to Jay’s for a couple days. A good time.”

I had a good time too mom…and I’m thrilled beyond words that you were able to share that with us. However, I should set the record straight…that raccoon was more like a mountain lion. I saved everyone in the campsite from being mauled that night. 😉

We spent the day sorting through thousands of pictures today. Several observations:

  1. For all the years we gave you so much grief for all the pictures you insisted on taking over the years, I can say now that I’m thankful for them. It was a fun, emotional afternoon strolling down memory lane.
  2. I get why you took so many. You told me once that you took all those pictures so you could remember…and I remember we used to give you a hard time about it…teasing you to put the camera down and live the moment so you’d remember it. As I push 40 this year, I’m constantly reminded that my memory is not what it used to be…and after looking back through all these pictures, I can honestly say I am in hundreds of pictures at events that I don’t remember. I guess I inherited my memory from you…because there are just whole periods of time I don’t remember…so I get it now.
  3. For all the thousands of pictures you took over the decades, you sure didn’t let the camera be turned on you very often. We have thousands of pictures of your family…and very few of you. Just sayin’, we should have done a better job of turning the table on you. 🙂
  4. If the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds any truth, then we filled a dictionary today…and didn’t even scratch the surface. Boxes upon boxes upon boxes of pictures…with more pictures hidden behind the boxes…and we haven’t even found your stash of digital pictures yet…dozens of memory cards and external storage drives tucked away somewhere in this house, still waiting to be found. (Mom, if you could send down a little help from above with where those might be, we’d sure appreciate it.)

I miss you mom. I’m racking my brain these past couple days to remember you…to remember your face…to recall your words of wisdom…to recollect our times together. I expect (and hope) that as time passes, the memories I’m searching so hard for now will come to me naturally…in times I least expect them. It’s like that song you just can’t remember the name of…it’s on the tip of your tongue, but the more you think of it…the further its name slips away from you. I pray that in the weeks and months following your memorial service this week, those memories will come back.

For now, I just miss you. I miss your smile. I miss your laugh. I miss you touching my shoulder as you walk past me. I miss your hug. I miss you doting on your grandchildren. I miss you. You taught me so much about life…so so much. You taught me how to treat those less fortunate than us. You taught me respect for my elders. How to enjoy life. You taught me how to cook a meal…and clean a house…and do laundry. You prepared me for life outside of our childhood home and raised a young man whose wife would one day thank you for.

You taught me how to be a self thinker…to know what I believe and believe what I know. To fight for what’s right, even if it means I’m standing alone. To stand up for the weak and defenseless…to nurture those who need love. To love the ones who do nothing to deserve our love. You showed me that it’s okay to walk across the street and ask the neighbor for a couple eggs when you come up short for the recipe you’re making…and to return the egg with a generous portion of the cake it helped make. You taught me how to play soccer, when all I wanted was to stop running. You hugged me tight when I was sad…dried my tears with your shoulder and showed me compassion in so many ways. You rushed home when I chopped my toe off…and cautioned dad as he walked to his room in search of the belt with which to spank me, that he should probably extinguish the fire I’d started in my bedroom first…I appreciate that he had a chance to cool off before applying the belt of knowledge. 😛

Your grandchildren are so much like you in so many ways. I see you in them. I will miss seeing your face light up as you were reunited with them after a long time away…and I will miss so very much how my dear SD would scream “granny! I miss you!” and come running for her hug. To be honest, I haven’t cried while writing this…until that thought came to mind. She loved you so stinkin’ much mom. She’s gonna miss you more than I’ll ever understand. I will keep you alive in her heart…and in her memories. Like your mother was, you also were a rock…not just to me, but to so many people. I miss you.

It’s Sunday night…4 days until mom’s visitation and memorial service. I’ll have more to share soon, but for now I’m tired. Mentally and emotionally, I am completely spent. I can think of no more fitting way to end this note than with my mom, your granny, in her own words. We found this buried in the boxes of pictures today, written in August, 1970…long before I was even born, my mother understood that time is a precious commodity.

Love,

Dad

Time, funeral, death, memorial services

Time – Karen Meinershagen

P.S. I never meant this to be my tribute to your granny.  In the days that followed me posting this, I just couldn’t muster the strength to put into words what I want that to be.  Even now, eight days after her memorial service and burial, I still can’t must the words that I would consider to be a tribute to the wife, mother, granny and woman she was.  I hope to be able to do that soon.

Love,

Dad

I Like it Here

1 Comment

The last week or so since I wrote Welcome to My Vulnerability has been pretty good.  I’ve been staying pretty busy…very busy actually.  This time of year gets pretty hectic with all of you in school and the Upward Sports season starting up.  Throw in some of the other ministries I’ve committed my time to, and I just don’t really have the time to sit down and spend much time writing.  I miss it.

As I write this, I’m watching Bubba play cars on the chair beside me before we leave for school.  I was clearing memory cards from the camera last night, uploading pictures and making room.  We had pictures dating back to the fall of 2010 on there, so I was getting a first glimpse in several years at what life was like back then  So much has changed since then.  Life is pretty good right now…even for all the hectic nonstop action we have going on during any given week.  I often think back on the times when y’all were kids and wish we could go back.  To a time when you were still learning to walk and talk.  After browsing through pictures last night, I realize I’m good.

Perhaps it’s because I have been so focused on preparing for the basketball season…so wrapped up in my rather large and ever-growing to-do list…that I just haven’t had the space in my head for much else…for any negativity.  I like it here.  I like being right here.  Right now.  In the moment.  I don’t want to live in the past.  Or dwell on it any longer.  The funk I’ve been in for much of this past month has kept me from truly enjoying every moment for exactly what it is.  Our life.  I’m ready to push the memories of that incident aside and move forward.  I like it here.  I like the present.  I like watching you play.  I like playing with you.  I look to the future with hope and confidence.  And with one eye on the future and one eye on the present, I have no eye left for the past.  And I’m good with that.  I like it here.

Love,

Dad

Older Entries