STEPS OF HONOR

steps of honor

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I love tennis shoes. I love bright ones, sleek ones, light ones, basketball and cross trainers. I even have a couple pairs of red patent leather ones. It’s time for another pair. I know this due to the pain in the ball of my left foot reminding me the current pair are in need of retirement. This is one of those pains brought on by a life of steps taken in shoes I now regret.

This last pair have been workhorses, they took me a lot of places, some comfortable and easy, some difficult and somewhat dangerous. Not like the old pairs, they covered ground no shoes should ever have to.

I think back to the places that my shoes have taken me in my life. I consider the steps, some honorable, some not so much. I’ve been down some wide paths in my shoes over my lifetime. Those wide paths of destruction were easy to get to and very easy to navigate in the flesh.

Those were the steps I’ve taken that would fall into the “dishonorable” category. I regret those steps, and yet God uses the memory of those steps that led into pathways of destruction to remind me of His grace, or undeserved favor and mercy.

My shoes have walked deep inside old mine shafts, jumping over holes inside of those caves that you couldn’t hear a dropped rock hit the bottom of. My shoes have run down the same jagged terrain at full speed to find them completely shredded by the time we got to the bottom. My old shoes have also been high above a mighty river, worn to protect my feet from a jump too high to accomplish without their protection.

My shoes have bravely marched into harms way, sometimes unknowing, sometimes knowing full well the possible consequences, but the obedient shoes steered by the ignorant navigator ventured in.

In days gone by I would wear shoes that were uncomfortable, as long as they looked cool. I let what other people thought of my shoes define the ones I’d wear. I’d even walk in the same paths as the people I was trying to look good for. Of course in hindsight, those steps taken led to dead ends and sometimes close to spiritual and physical death.

I thank God for the redirection of my steps. He placed my feet upon the Rock, the firm foothold that led off the slippery slope of destruction, to the narrow much closer to straight and level path now traveled.

The steps I take are still prone to wander, (Lord I feel it) but the wisdom He’s given me along the paths of my life allow me to fail less and take fewer dishonorable steps.

Imagine that your footprints could be seen by everyone everywhere you went. What would the paths chosen and their footprints say to the world? I guess you’d be able to tell a lot about a person by knowing where they went and how they spent their time. “If those shoes could talk what tales they’d tell.”

I still appreciate a nice pair of shoes, especially tennis shoes. They need to be lightweight, comfortable and supportive. If they look cool, that’s just a bonus. The most important part of my new shoes are the steps that will be taken in them.

I pray to God for guidance along the paths He’s chosen for me and mine. May I walk with steps of honor.

BIG BOYS DON’T CRY

big boys don't cry

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I’m fascinated by the events in a person’s life that helps determine who a person really is. The lumps along the path of life are common to all of us. It’s how we process the pain that eventually heals into a scar we get to carry forever that is the difference.

Up until I was in about 2nd or 3rd grade I had a speech impediment. Before the age of “Political Correctness,” I was fair game. Even adults back in those days made fun of me. Not fun for the kid who couldn’t pronounce “R’s.”

Around that same time in my life, my grandma on my dad’s side passed away after a long bout with cancer. We had some good times even during the process.

Kids weren’t allowed in hospital rooms in those days. My mom and dad told us, “You’re going to get to see Maw-Maw through the glass.” They said it over and over like it was extra special. I know it was, but the way they carried on about it, I thought “The Glass” was magical.

They gave us directions to go around the hospital, turn here, go over there. I didn’t pay too much attention to the details, I left the navigation up to my big brothers to lead us to “The Glass.”

We climbed up a small grassy hill and there was my Maw-Maw in bed, my mom and dad standing beside the bed waving. I thought to myself, “That’s It”! – “That’s, “The Glass”? “That’s just a big window”! I waved, pushed my sister and started running down the grassy hill in hopes of inducing a game of tag.

I remember my uncle Buck driving his truck into the middle of our front yard in the middle of the night. I vividly remember him pounding on our front door calling for his brother.

I could hear my uncle Buck telling my dad to get his boots so they could go get those “Sons-a-_itches.” I listened as my dad calmly said, “Buck, you know I don’t do that anymore.”

I was the only one of my siblings who wasn’t tall enough to see over the edge of the casket at my grandma’s funeral. My dad didn’t shed a tear at the funeral. My uncle Galen the youngest of the nine siblings cried like I’d never seen a grown man do before. My uncle Buck, the oldest of the surviving siblings didn’t cry either. I watched in wonder, learning the lessons of life without shedding a tear as well, just like my hero’s.

I’ve pondered the many events and the ultimate impact they might have on my life. These few incidents are just a thimble of water in the swimming pool of life, but for the few and total here’s what I’ve got so far.

I didn’t let my speech impediment damper my love of Halloween. Sometimes even while laughing at the way I said “Tlick-a-Tleet,” I scored double the candy. That speech impediment landed me in Special Ed. The kids in that pre-PC society fondly referred to the class as the place for M-R’s.

I received one on one teaching with a specialist. Once the speech therapist finished, I would come to speak plainly and read at a college level while in grade school.

My dad was the only person in the world to have some control over my uncle Buck. I learned of my dad’s quiet strength. I learned of his self-control, sacrifice, and love for his family. My dad’s priority was God and his family. I watched it in times of testing. He never failed.

I think God spared me the confrontation with death at an early age. I held up the line as long as I could on my tippy-toes trying to catch a glimpse over the edge of the casket at my Maw-Maw, before being gently moved along by my dad.

I wondered most of my life if I would be strong like my dad was in public. I wondered if I’d scream with nightmares in the middle of the night like he did after he lost his mom. I’m certain that everyone deals with death one way or the other. I just wasn’t sure how I would deal with it. It was something I was hoping to put off as long as possible. God did give me enough years to know how I would respond.

God used all the events in my life to bring me to a place of understanding. His will is perfect and everything that happens in our lives has a purpose. I thank God for the place He’s brought me to.

Just before God took my dad home, I told him how proud I was to be his son. I shared with him how honored God and his family were by “The good race he had run.” My dad cried… My mom, wife, and though big boys don’t cry, I myself joined them.

At my dad’s funeral, I cried again… I know for sure it won’t be the last time…

“A LITTLE HELP HERE”!

I can almost hear the bongo drums photobucket.com

When I was a kid my mom and dad made me pray. Nothing heavy just the basics. Thanks to God for what I would come to understand as his protection and provision.

When I was older and had inherited some independence I didn’t pray as much. With time in inept lostness, I didn’t pray at all. I was pretty sure right about then that it was my world. In fact, I considered the world my baby and I was takin’ the candy.

When a person is that far from the reality of God’s world, especially already having been chosen and shown grace and mercy, a wake-up call is on the way.

Tough times certainly have their purpose. To my point, most everyone probably has heard the saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” In other words, almost everyone facing potential immediate death send up a Hail Mary prayer to God.

I wonder what our Creator who controls all things feels like at that moment?

I must have been around four or five years old when a rare visit to the lake, paired up with some good old fashioned disobedience to my mom, taught me a lesson that I’ve been relearning my whole life.

I had waded out into the water about waist deep. My mom warned, “Don’t go any deeper”! Knowing she wasn’t much of a swimmer herself. I had swimming trunks on, but she was full dressed. I thought to myself, “What’s she gonna do come in after me”? “Uh, I don’t think so”!

I was in complete control, so I kept creeping a little further out. My mom patiently calling, “Don’t go any deeper.”

For those of you familiar with lakes know about “shelves” or “drop-offs.” They sneak up on you. The soft sand gives way pretty easy. I remember watching my mom from just under the water with my tippy-toes keeping me about six inches under. Thinking “A little help here!”

I was flailing my arms like a drowning person does. I watched as she set her purse down, took her shoes off, readying herself to wade into the water she tried always to avoid.

I was trying to run up the sluffing shelf. My legs were moving at light speed, at least it felt like it. It was like in the old cartoons when the character is starting to run. Their legs are moving, but there not going anywhere. Then comes the sound of bongo drums to represent their furious first strides.

This was no cartoon, but I started to get traction just like one of my favorite cartoons characters as my mom finally reached me.

She should have yelled at me or something, but she didn’t. Instead after recovering I didn’t say “Thanks” or “I”m sorry.” I said, “If you knew I was drowning how come you had to take off your shoes and purse”? I continued, “You should have come and got me as soon as you saw me drowning”! She calmly replied, “I knew you weren’t going to drown.”

It seems we as humans treat God the same way. We willfully disobey, go our own way knowing He’s warned us not to go that way. When we get into trouble we send up the “Hail Mary” and expect Him to come running.

Worse yet we question why He would allow us to suffer, never stopping to consider the consequences of our disobedience. Yet like the ultimate parent He’s always there, ready to pull us out of our deserved fate.

No one has to make me pray anymore. Through good days or bad it is my gift from God to talk with him. Every morning I thank Him for his mercies that begin new each day. Every night before sleep, I thank Him for His protection and provision. His mercy and grace. I ask for guidance and strength.

I pray for my family, friends and ask Him to make mine and our paths straight and level before us. Even now, I still tend to go my own way.

When He  pulls me up from my folly, I now say, “Thank you Father”…”Please forgive me.”

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

no place like home

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This post was published the first time November 9, 2010.

We just got home from a quick weekend trip. We managed our way around a canceled flight, a rental car that sounded like it wasn’t going to get us back to the airport, and another delayed flight.

We also had to endure the grouchy people who make up 80% of all people in airports to get back to the place we sleep most often, our home.

Often the old timers would find out where a person lived by asking the question, “Where do you call home”? I believe that home is where the heart is. Knowing the answer to that question had a deeper meaning than the currently asked, “Where do you live”?

I love to visit California, what’s not to love? The weather is as close as you can get to perfect, but as much as we love the weather my wife and I both agree we wouldn’t want to call it our home.

Homes are so important in our society because what it represents. The most pitied people in our society we call “homeless.” The home represents security, safety, stability, and most importantly, family.

You’d have to be asleep to not have heard the about the current housing crisis. People are losing their homes at a rate not seen since The Great Depression.

What’s in a home?

I’m amazed how a piece of dirt can be transformed into a place that houses more than bodies, the home houses our hearts.

Have you ever noticed whether you rent or own when you physically pass through a door into a house how your senses perceive a difference? Even when a door is left open to the same atmosphere, it feels like a different one.

God and His word acknowledge the significance of homes. The Death Angel “passed over” the houses marked with sacrificial blood above the support of the front doors of the Israelites temporary homes in Egypt, right before Pharaoh released them into their journey toward the Promise Land.

From a Biblical perspective, the word “home” usually doesn’t refer to a dwelling place. It refers to family.

I’ve lived in a lot of different houses in my life, some of them had wheels. It didn’t mean much to me the few times I slept outside while working out of town calling that my temporary home.

As an adult, it wasn’t until God blessed me with my wife and family that I had what I would consider a bonafide home. We’ve moved many times as a family and along the way I’ve learned that my home, as the Bible indicates is where my family is. The size or shape of a house has nothing to do with measuring the hearts that dwell within.

There was a year or two we spent in a rental home. The kids grew and the big girls learned how to dispose of dead animals left by our one-eyed cat named Wink. (named by the animal shelter by the way) The little one took her first steps in that rental house we called home.

One of my favorite pictures of the girls is all three of them in the driver seat of my old 64′ Vette while we called that house our home. My wife loves to recount the Fathers Day I stayed at home from church to catch up on paperwork. The baby was napping in her crib. By the time I heard her awake and went in to check on her, she had managed to remove her diaper that was well past needing changed.

The mess was everywhere. So much for getting extra work done. I was cleaning a baby, clothes, bedding, walls, and crib spindles. My wife laughingly says, “That’s what you get for working on a Sunday. Especially one that also happened to be on Fathers Day”!

I hate it when she’s right… All the memories made in that house that wasn’t really even ours and the house didn’t matter. It was the home that meant everything.

Our ultimate home is with our heavenly Father. He provides temporary shelter here in houses we call homes. Since we know our home is where our heart is, we can look forward to our real home with Him in eternity, along with our loved ones we share our hearts with.

We’ve lived in a lot of houses, but “There’s No Place Like Home.”

 

This post has been reposted at http://peterpollock.com/blog/

SOMETHING STUPID

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We listened to all types of music around our house when I was growing up. My dad liked old country. Artists like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash were his favorites. My mom’s taste was on the other end of the spectrum. Some of her favorites were Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, and Boots Randolph.

My brothers and sister were like most young people at that time who listened to pop/rock. The Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Jimi Hendrix were some of what they preferred  at that time.

Being the youngest (and smallest) put me at the end of the turntable line for dropping on one of my favorite 45’s, Winnie The Pooh.

I naturally developed an appreciation for all kinds of music. One of the songs I enjoyed as a kid was Frank and his daughter Nancy Sinatra’s “Something Stupid.” The chorus was perfect for a child who’s favorite word was “stupid.” I was thrilled to hear a song use the word I usually reserved for my siblings.

For the younger readers that might not have heard the song, the chorus is; “Then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you.”

I was in complete agreement at the time. Saying I love you wasn’t in my vocabulary back then. To be honest, it took most of my life to come to the point where I could say  those words with comfort. Even now, I don’t say it as much as I should. I blame Ole Blue Eyes for my unwillingness to use the term. After all, he is “The Chairman Of  The Board.” (Another nickname for you youngsters) How could I argue with him?

The Bible says that “Love is patient, love is kind.” I certainly didn’t have a lot of those attributes at that point in my life. In truth, I struggle with them still.

Our youngest has taught me a lot when it comes to this department. Since she first learned to talk she never let one day go by without saying to me or her mom, “I love you.” What does Frank know?… I guess he knew how to sell music…

My wife and I were headed out of town last Friday. My niece and her husband had just arrived the night before for a one night stay over before heading north to hike the Grand Canyon. They hadn’t had much sleep so we had encouraged them to sleep in. My wife was taking our daughter to school where after she was going to spend the weekend with Grandma.

A few minutes before she left I told her to be as quiet as she could heading out to the garage so as not to wake up Toni and Chris. She got busy packing her backpack, I guess in the excitement she forgot about our sleeping guests. As she was heading out the garage door she yelled back to me in the kitchen, “I love you, Dad!”

I quickly answered, “Thanks for being quiet!” The garage door shut before I could say anything else. Immediate regret… Talk about stupid… I quickly headed for the front door to catch them before my wife got out of the garage. My full blooded Italian wife has something in common with another Italian besides Sinatra, that is Mario Andretti. She was pulling down the street as I got to the front door.

That’s the first time I didn’t tell my little one, “I love you too …  Who’s stupid now? I texted her immediately, “I love you too,” and “Who loves the Gurmy Girl”? She didn’t have her phone on. She, unlike her dad, follows the rules and doesn’t turn her phone on until after school. Those are the school rules.

I was bothered all day. That afternoon I got a text back, “You do!” In answer to my question. Love is patient, love is kind, love is forgiving. Thank God she’s not like her dad. I have something stupid to say: To my wife, kids, family, and friends. For all the times I didn’t express myself, I’m sorry and…

I love you.