Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Journey Through the States

During my life, I’ve had the opportunity to visit 34 different States in our wonderful country. A thorough swing through the Northeast would cover a good portion of those I haven’t visited. Oddly, I’ve never been to a directional State, one starting with North, South, or West. I’ve been to California and Washington, but Oregon, sandwiched in between the two, no. From its locale, Oregon might not ever get crossed off the list!

While these are the geographical States that I’ve been to, there have certainly been other states that I’ve dabbled in, and even spent considerable time in, that are not on any map. I bet with a bit of reflection, you’ve been to these states at various times in your life as well.

One morning at work in 2001, my wife phoned and told me someone had just flown an airplane into the World Trade Center. I first found myself in a State of Ignorance, not really knowing for sure exactly what the World Trade Center was, nor what it represented. Before that fateful day, we now know simply as 9/11, I think most of our country lived more in a State of Innocence, not fully realizing the capacity of evil our world was capable of.

Later that fateful morning, I gathered around a television with others, watching in silence at those unbelievable events. I stood in a State of Disbelief as people leapt from the upper floors of the towers before the buildings finally collapsed. I’m certain I traveled through the States of Confusion, Understanding, and Anger, in that order. You might well have had the same travel itinerary...

Several times during my career, I was uprooted from one work location to another. It seemed that each move occurred while my life was residing in a State of Contentment. With each incident, I entered a State of Doubt of whether or not God was truly in control of the situation. But every time, through the vehicle of hindsight, I was delivered to a State of Awareness that He indeed was guiding my life in order to achieve His purpose for me and my family.

In August of 2003, we were vacationing with our grown children, grandchildren, and my in-laws. We’d pulled campers to a favorite campground in Branson, Missouri. Basking in the States of Joy and Happiness all week, we enjoyed swimming, boating, and all the area had to offer.

About three o’clock on our final day there, my mother called and hit me with news that jerked me to a State of Devastation...biopsies had confirmed that the suspicious spots on my father’s chest x-rays were indeed cancerous. Without treatment, he would live about six months...and there really wasn’t a feeling that treatment would do any good. I sat alone in a State of Shock.

Later, I pulled my wife aside and told her the grim news. She immediately led us to a State of Prayer. I asked her not to say anything to the rest of the group. I didn’t want our last night to be spent in the States of Gloom and Despair. Later that evening, I treated my father-in-law to his first ever helicopter ride, and had an especially memorable time on an area thrill ride with our oldest daughter. You might say I was spending time in a State of Denial, but I think it was more a State of Realization of how precious our time with family really is...eight short months later I stood over my dad’s flag-draped casket in the definite States of Loss and Grief.

All too often, I’ve not dwelled in a State of Appreciation for all that has been sacrificed on my behalf. Further, I’ve sinfully lingered at times in a State of Apathy about my salvation, keeping my heart to myself instead of sharing the fullness of the Father’s perpetual State of Grace.

Yes, I’ve had the good fortune to visit a good portion of our great country. But it has been the various States that my heart has traveled through, often despite my efforts to protect it, that have left the deepest impressions in my life. It was during those journeys that God molded and shaped me into the man I am today.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Power...

A few years ago, I led a men’s group at our local church. The first session, I started the group by asking each man who had been the most influential person in their lives. There were 15 or so men in the group that day and, almost to a man, each one said, "my father." I then asked them to tell us a little about their dads, and why they had named them the must influential in their lives. While each man had a different story to tell, many of the grown men were moved emotionally, some to tears while testifying about their dads.

I could relate to those men that day. My dad’s influence in my life is just as strong now though he passed away over eight years ago. Fathers possess a special quality that can be quite powerful. I hope I’ve had the same impact on my children my dad has had on me. 

Please let me reshare one of my favorite stories from another men’s group I had the privilege of leading many years ago in Louisiana. Eighty-five year old Brother M.C. Kelly told us this story about his dad and the impact he’d had on his life. Nothing I can think of relates the power a father possesses more than this:

"When I was about 10 years old, the little town I grew up in was forming a baseball team. I really wanted to be on that team, but I had no ball glove. I was in the local general store with my father and there was a ball glove in there for $4.00. We were very poor, and it might as well have been $400. My father worked long hours, but we barely had the means to feed our family, and oftentimes, did not. I looked longingly at the glove, but knew better than to ask. 

We left the store and the prospects of trying out for the baseball team were vanishing. Over the course of the next week or so, my father was absent for the evening meal. In fact, I went to bed every night without seeing him, and when I got up early the next day, he was already gone. 

The first night I saw my father again, he walked into the house with a package under his arm. He handed me the package, which I unwrapped to find that $4.00 ball glove inside. You see, my father had been working before and after his regular job, chopping wood and any other odd job he could find for a quarter, a dime, or whatever, because he loved me and wanted me to have that glove..."

Bro. Kelly’s voice trailed off and we looked up to see an 85 year old man openly weeping as he remembered an incredible act of love of a father, 75 years prior....now that’s real power.

Blessing to each of you dads this Father’s Day. Never forget what lasting impact you hold on someone’s life.