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.



If Not You, Then Who?

Leave a comment


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.



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



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.


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


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.


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? 🙂


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)


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!


Dad, and fellow co-heir

Hope Comes in Many Forms…Where I Am Today


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



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.



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.



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.



A Dad’s Reflection – Eleven Years Later

Leave a comment

Today, Americans all across the nation and the world pause to reflect on the events that took place 11 years ago.  It is a time in our nation’s history that changed the course of our nation forever.  It was a time when strangers helped strangers, and everyday people performed heroic acts of valor, honor and courage.  It was a day when the heroes ran toward the danger, like any other day, not knowing it would be their last.  It was a day where some gave all, and all gave some.  It was a day that brought our nation to its knees…not just in awe, but in prayer.  People who called themselves Christians, but who had been walking without God, came back to Him.  People who never knew Jesus personally called out to Him and believed.  People all across the world watched in awe.  And prayed.  Some in private, some in public.  It was a time when prayer in schools and in any public forum was again accepted all across our nation…and more than not, welcomed.  It was a day that brought our nation together, with resolve and passion to seek God and to seek justice.


It was a day that we will Never Forget.  What do the words “Never Forget” mean to you?  In the words of a friend and fellow firefighter, I couldn’t have said it any better than he did this morning:  “What ‘NEVER FORGETTING’ means to me!  I am humbled and honored to serve with incredible men and women willing to risk their lives WHENEVER called upon.  To our 343 brothers and sisters lost eleven years ago in New York, rest easy, we will take it from here with HONOR and PRIDE!”
It was a day I remember vividly.  I was working a 12 hour dispatch shift, and we watched as the news broke in with live video from the World Trade Center following the first attack.  We watched live as the second plane hit the second tower.  We watched live as people jumped from the towers, hundreds of floors above the ground, to escape the flames.  We watched as the news reports came in from Washington that a third plane had hit the Pentagon.  We watched as news reports came in from Pennsylvania that a fourth plane had crashed in a field, learning as the day went on that everyday citizens on that plane became heroes by preventing further death on the ground at that plane’s intended target.
We sat in disbelief.  In shock.  In awe.  In fear.  In anger.  In grief.  As we watched the towers collapse, we knew instantly that thousands had just perished…that the loss of life in the first responder family would be catastrophic.  We knew the moment the second tower was hit, that we were at war.  That day at dispatch has been, to date, the slowest day ever.  I don’t know the volume of calls we handled that day, but it paled in comparison to the normal call volume.  It was eerily quiet in that little room…all day.  It was quiet at the 911 center that day, because like millions of Americans all across the country, the people we serve were all glued to their televisions.  No one was out doing what they normally do on a Tuesday, unless you had to be working.  Many of us cried, some of us had to walk away to cry alone.  It was a defining moment…one I will never forget.  I remember coming home that night mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I came home to your mom and SD, and wept as I picked little SD up.  Only two years old at the time, I was at a loss for what the future held for you.  For how to protect you from this new evil in our world.  I’m saddened that you, my dear children, will never know a pre-9/11 America.  As you grow, you’ll only know the new “normal”, and that just seems wrong.
To all those servants who gave their all that day, and to the ones who were lost in the aftermath due to the emotional and psychological pain and trauma they endured in the months that followed, we honor you by remembering…and by not being paralyzed by our fear.  We honor you by living out our lives in service to our communities across this world.  I am honored to be a part of the EMS & Fire family.  It’s an honor so few are given…and an honor I do not take lightly.  To be entrusted by strangers with their life and all they have is more than I can fathom some days.  I am NOT a hero, and I am not comfortable being called one.  But I work alongside a crew of heroes.  Everyday citizens serving our community in the little things…and sometimes the big.  I am closer to my men than some of my family, and the bond we share is one only known to those who entrust their lives to one another day after day.
For those of us who know Jesus as our Lord, we honor you, oh Lord, by remembering the sacrifice you made for us on the cross.  We honor you in our humble service to our fellow man.  And we honor you by living out our lives in a way that reflects YOU alive in us.  We lift the families of those lost on this day eleven years ago to you and beseech you, oh Lord, to show them the love shown to us in Psalms 36…to provide them “refuge in the shadow of your wings.”  Give them a peace like no other…a peace only found in you, oh God.  Calm their hearts and minds, Father, and surround them in your grace, mercy and love.  Lord, help them in their search for answers, and walk alongside them as their hearts cry out.  Father, may YOUR will be done, and may you use all that we face to bring us closer to you.  For your glory.  Amen
Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes. - Revelation 21:4   Never Forget

Never Forget

Never Forget


Ten years ago, life was much different than it is today. By the time you’re old enough to read these notes and understand their words and meaning, I’m sure life will be much different than it is now. I’ve heard people say before that every generation has their “defining moments.” Defining, not in that it defines who that generation is, but in that it defines what that generation lost…and what they gained. In my lifetime, there have been few of those defining moments to reflect upon. I was in middle school when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all on board. We watched the launch live from the school library, looking up with amazement as the first teacher in the history of space exploration embarked on a monumental mission, and we watched in awe as something went horribly wrong very early in the launch. I was a sophomore in high school when the Berlin wall came down, marking a historic end to the post-World War II Cold War era. I was a senior in high school when Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, resulting in the first Iraq war. Four years later, I was taking a new job with Sonic Drive-In, traveling to Jefferson City, MO when the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, OK was bombed, killing 168 men, women and children.

Each of these incidents spark a flood of memories all their own…where I was, what I was doing, where I was going, me feelings about what had happened, my fear of the uncertain future. If you asked anyone who was old enough to remember these events, they’ll tell you the same. Everyone has a story, a slew of memories linking them to each event. Like our parents, grandparents and the generations before them, everyone remembers where they were when their generation’s “defining moments” occurred.

It’s odd to sit here and reflect back on life ten years ago. The economy was booming…we had more than we needed, and we lived in abundance…jobs were plentiful, and employers were bending over backwards to recruit and retain good employees…we had freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from the uncertain. We could walk onto an airplane and never once give thought to a terrorist taking us hostage. We could walk into any federal building or national monument, never giving notice to how relatively easy it was to pass through security. We could drive through all 48 contiguous states, passing gasoline tankers on the highway without the thought that someone could use it as a weapon to kill innocent men, women and children. War was behind us…not ahead of us. So we thought.

Then on a sunny Tuesday in September 2001, life changed. For some, they met their fate with eternity. For others, they lost loved ones, friends and coworkers. Others ran toward the front lines, doing what they could to protect life. Still others watched in horror, either right there in the thick of the storm. For the vast majority of us, our only connection to that day’s events was in watching it unfold thousands of miles away, on television. It didn’t matter where you were that day. We were one. As a nation, we were one…united together. Banded together as one people, prepared to shake off the dust…save who we could…honor those we couldn’t…lift each other up and move forward together to heal our wound and strike back at those who had taken us by surprise. In the days and weeks following that day, images of solidarity and unity were everywhere. You couldn’t walk outside, turn on the television or surf the internet without being barraged by images pledging to “Never Forget”, that we are “One Nation Under God” prepared to stand and fight with a call to “Let’s Roll”.

In those moments on that Tuesday morning and throughout the day, we knew. We knew the moment we watched the second plane crash into the second tower. We knew we were under attack. We knew life as we knew it had changed. We knew this was our defining moment. Some say it was our darkest hour. I choose to believe it was our finest hour. In an instant, strangers became best friends, heroes to each other, performing acts of heroism for those in need. Some say the heroes of that day are the firefighters, police, port authority, and ems workers that rushed in, toward danger to help those in need. While they did indeed perform heroic acts, I know that if you asked them…the ones there that day…they would say they’re not heroes, but they worked with a bunch of heroes. As a firefighter, I can honestly say I’m not a hero. I’ve been called one before. I’m not. I’m a guy doing my job…doing what God called me to do and what the citizens of my fire district pay me to do. The heroes of that day, in my opinion, are the average citizens who rose above their own suffering, pain and difficult circumstances to help another in need. There were thousands of them that day.

Yeah, we knew. I was working my part-time job here at the 911 dispatch center that day. I watched in horror as the second plane struck the second tower. We knew we were at war…we didn’t immediately know who our enemy was yet, but we knew we were at war. I watched in horror as both towers fell, knowing that thousands had just perished. Knowing before it was confirmed. I watched footage of the attack on the Pentagon, waiting anxiously to hear news from other possible target location, praying there would be no more. I watched as the reports of another plane crashing in Pennsylvania came in, learning of heroic acts of courage and valor from average people, determined to take a stand. We knew life had changed. We didn’t know yet the extent to which how much it would change, but we knew. In all my years of working at the 911 center, I can say this with absolute certainty. It will go down as the slowest day in history. If the phone rang a dozen times, I’d be surprised. It didn’t take long to realize that everyone with access to a television was seated in front of it, glued to it with an intensity like no other. I still remember calling your mom…asking her if the television was on. On her reply “no”, I told her to turn it on, and she asked “what channel?” I still remember saying something like, “I don’t think it matters. Just turn it on. I love you.” I still vividly remember coming home to hug her and embrace SD with all I had in me. It was a moment of innocence lost, an embrace that spoke volumes about my emotions…as a new dad, it was an embrace of uncertainty, a hug of fear. Knowing that life would never be the same, I wanted to embrace you and your mom as though it was the last time I would ever hold you. Because quite honestly, that day awakened us to the reality that any moment may very well be our last.

As you read this, I pray you take from it what God would have each of you individually to know and feel. Know that as a father, my greatest concern is for your safety and protection. Prior to September 11, 2011, it was not the burden it is now. In a post 9/11 world, uncertainty has invaded us. Ten years later, as the nation pauses to reflect on that day, it’s my prayer that we reflect on our emotions of not only that day, but of the days, weeks and months that followed. When we said “Never Forget”, I pray we truly apply those words to an action. Ten years later, it feels as though the country has become complacent again. As the first commercial planes took the air 4 days after the attacks and in the months that followed…on a whole, we as a people didn’t bat an eye when asked to go through much more rigorous security measures at the airport. Today…not so much.

I’m just a guy. My opinion is no more important than anyone else’s. What I have to say on this topic is nothing special…it’s quite honestly just the ramblings of a middle-aged man getting older, knowing that my time here is short. In the time I have left, I hope to share with you what I believe God has asked of me. Because, you too will face your own defining moment in history. Your generation will come face to face with its own moment in time when life will forever be changed. When you do, find peace in remembering these words. I believe that in sharing with you my personal story of that day…my emotions, my fears, my resolve, my uncertainty, my memories…in this, I remember.

It’s my way of keeping my promise to “Never Forget”. It’s my way of remembering. From a video I watched online Saturday, “When we remember, we honor. When we honor, we value. What we value, shapes who we become. Throughout Scripture, God urges us to remember. The sacrifices made…the freedom gained…the promises kept…the faithfulness of God. God has urged us to always remember. Because He knows what remembering does inside of us. Remembrance gives purpose to our past by drawing wisdom, strength and resolve from our pain and loss. Remembrance brings gratitude for those ordinary people who became extraordinary heroes. Remembrance strengthens community as we discover what God does through us when we’re unified. Remembrance provides perspective for what God has done on our behalf, despite our fears and worry. Remembrance reignites hope in what God will bring us through today, and forever. Because God is faithful, even in our darkest hours. God is always there, whatever we face today, whatever trial it seems we cannot endure. Remember that God has always brought us through. And He always will.” – Steelhouse Media Group

There are wonderful things that can be learned from grief that can’t be learned from laughter. In our grief, we are reminded of the brevity of life. Our time here on earth is short in comparison to the eternity we’ll spend afterward – either with God or separated from Him after our death. Our perception of time is based on what we see, here and now in this life. Instead, it should be based on what is not seen, as through the eyes of God, because God’s perception of time is based on eternity. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”James 4:14. There is a brevity to life, and we must prepare for eternity. We should examine the purpose and direction of our life. What are we living for? That’s one thing that changed in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. There was a return to religion…to faith…to belief…in something more powerful and more omniscient and omnipotent than us. Even many of those who did not have a personal relationship with God called out to Him that day. As a nation, we turned to God for comfort, grace and peace. We turned to Him for forgiveness of our own sin and grace for our own lives. Ten years later…not so much. As a nation, we have forgotten. Forgotten how we felt that day…how we turned to Him for comfort. And we have once again cast Him out of our lives.

As Pastor Ralph explained, how we act in times of adversity determines whether we become bitter or better. “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”Ecclesiastes 7:14. When faced with adversity and loss, we can choose to either blame God or to seek God. Know this, though. We are all going to die…it’s inevitable…there is no escaping it…it is natural. “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure…The end of a matter is better than it’s beginning and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”Ecclesiastes 7:2-4;8-9.

The end of a matter is better than it’s beginning. Let’s take just a second to break that down. God is basically saying that the day of a man’s death is better than the day of his birth. Why? Because it is in his death that we are reminded of the brevity of life and naturally take pause to reflect on our own life and its meaning. It’s in our grief that we turn toward Him for our comfort, and it’s in Him we find grace. It’s in those moments we can reflect the light of Jesus Christ. God rewards patience. Patience in our grief is knowing that although we don’t have the answers to the question “why?” right now, there will come a day when all is revealed. In one of my personal favorites, Paul shows us in Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” I couldn’t say it any better myself.

Like every generation before you, yours will be faced with its own defining moment. Your moment may come with advance notice. It may not. Most likely, it will come like “a thief in the night”. When it comes, I encourage you to rise above your fear. Rest your hope in the Lord and rise above your fear of the uncertain and the unknown. For only God knows the plans He has for us. Be prepared to pick up the sword of freedom and the shield of righteousness to protect and defend your family, your community and your nation. Freedom is not free. It comes at a cost. A great cost of sacrifice. Freedom cannot be passed from my generation to yours…or from yours to the next. Every generation must preserve it for themselves. It’s in the moments you’re defending your freedom that you will encounter your finest hour. As you do, take pause occasionally to reflect. To remember. Because it’s only in remembering that we will truly “Never Forget”.

I love you!



Just Another Grass Fire


I’m laying here in bed at work…wide awake after waking from a dream. It was a dream that was partially rehashing a call we ran earlier today, a grass fire on the side of the highway. By the actual definition of “close call”, it was not. It was a routine call, without further incident. However, I quite honestly consider every time I step off the truck on the highway, and live to tell about it…a close call. I’ve said for years I’d rather run into a burning building with little chance of survival than to step off the truck on the interstate.

Let’s just call it what it is…generally speaking, the general public doesn’t give a single thought to the safety of their firefighters, police officers and paramedics. When they’re driving down the interstate and see my firetruck, their first thought isn’t “hey, I’ll slow down…move over a lane…and do my part to make sure these guys make it home to their wives and kids tomorrow morning.” No, they have somewhere to be, and my firetruck blocking a lane of traffic is impeding their progress. They’re distracted with their cell phone…or the cup of coffee in their hand…or with the radio…or…you get the picture. And honestly, I don’t blame them…completely. Until you’ve stood on the interstate in the middle of the night…in the pouring rain…and watched as cars and semis whiz by you at 70+ mph, within two feet of you, you really just don’t get it. Until you’ve been knocked off balance by the force of the wind from a passing car…or sat in the stopped truck waiting to open the door to get out, as it rocked violently back and forth from the semi that just passed within inches of you…or had the smack on your backside from a passing car’s side-view mirror…you just don’t get it.

So as I lay here, thankful that what transpired on the roadside grass fire in my dream is not what I faced on the highway this afternoon, I’m left with a vivid image of a road sign from my dream…a road sign with a peculiar inscription. On our highway call earlier today, it was a road sign that sat 200 feet in front of us and read it’s a state law to slow down and move over when emergency vehicles are stopped on the highway. Ironic, eh? The following is what was written on the road sign in my dream:

“There comes a time in every man’s life when he’s called upon to do something that offers him no tangible benefit in return. How he responds to that call will follow him beyond the grave. The benefit of his decision to act is in knowing that he did so merely because it was the right thing to do.”

Be safe out there, and remember…slow down and move over when an emergency vehicle is stopped on the highway. Somebody is counting on you to do your part to help him make it home to his wife and kids in the morning.



Older Entries