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Archive for the month “February, 2014”

God, This Is What Happened!

Lloyd was a good friend of mine growing up.  Maybe we were good friends because he was the exact opposite of me in a lot of ways.  He was always talkative, always trying to justify whatever it was that he wanted.  I was shy and kept to myself a lot.  Maybe it was the fact that Lloyd was like he was that attracted me to him in a weird way.  They do say opposites attract and it surely can relate to friends too I think.  I have already written about Lloyd in a couple of different stories. One was “Leaving A Record Behind” where I almost drowned in a swimming pool.  Although it was Lloyd who saved me, it was also Lloyd who got me into that situation in the first place!  The other story Lloyd was in was “Taking A Flying Leap” where his ranting got me so upset I tried a flying drop kick big time wrestling move on him, which didn’t work like it did on TV and knocked me out!  You could say that I am blaming Lloyd as an excuse why I made bad decisions those times and you would be right.  In retrospect though I can’t blame anyone or anything for what happened. Though we are influenced by circumstances and people it is important to note that we have the final say in decisions we make.  The decisions that I make in life are mine and mine alone.

I think that Lloyd missed his calling in life.  I think he should have been a Lawyer.  They say that the mark of a good coach in sports is that they could take their team and beat yours.  They could also take your team and beat theirs!  That usually described Lloyd when it came to arguing.  It seemed he could take any circumstance and turn it in favor of his argument.  He was constantly talking my mom into things after she originally said NO!  Usually they were things he wanted us to do which she was completely justified to waiver either because of my safety or some other flaw in his plan.  When she said NO it was Lloyd who would make the plea of “let me talk to her!”  Of course Lloyd would say whatever it was that would reassure her that everything would be alright.  It was Lloyd who would talk so smoothly that it made her back off on her fears because he would be there.  It was Lloyd who undoubtedly could turn the argument in his favor and get what he wanted.

It was a Sunday night and Lloyd was 16 and I was 15.  He was driving us to church along with a couple of other kids.  Lloyd had a car and he opened up our world back then because he could get us places!  Lloyd had a tendency to step on the gas pedal a little too hard and this Sunday night was no exception.  On this particular Sunday night traffic was very thin.  I think he was doing 50 when the speed limit on the road going to the church was 25 or 30.  Almost nobody was on the road except us and unfortunately a car with lights on the top.  Yes, the lights were flashing and Lloyd pulled his car over.  With the successes of his winning arguments in our minds, we thought there was a good chance he could talk the police officer out of this one!  We didn’t hear the conversation that went on, as the officer had Lloyd get out of the car and when he came back he had a ticket.  I don’t know if he tried to make a case, but if he did it went on deaf ears.

Officer giving ticket

Recently I was driving home from work.  The roads were terribly icy and very dangerous.  Slowly we all were creeping along as we stopped for a traffic signal.  One car which I couldn’t help keeping an eye on spun out of control in the lane going the other way.  Luckily for her nobody else was in her lane going that way as everyone seemed lined up in our direction.   It didn’t look like she had ever driven in bad conditions before because she was trying to go way too fast!  After her car spun out she pulled into a nearby driveway and backed up way too fast.   I sat there watching her as she spun her tires and saw her car coming straight for me.  I laid on my horn as she was getting dangerously close.  Suddenly I heard the thump and knew I had been hit.  She had backed her car through her own lane and all the way over into our lane.  I got out to try to inspect the damage as the cars were all lined up waiting to go.  On quick examination I didn’t see anything and thought somehow I was extremely lucky.  I asked her what she was thinking and she said “did you see how slippery it was and how I was sliding all over the place?”  I thought to myself, “If you were sliding all over why were you trying to back up fast?”  A friend who happened to be behind me told me later that the lady wasn’t interested in looking for the damage in my car and after our brief exchange she ran to her car and took off in a hurry.  Of course when I got home I found the dent.  It was higher than where I was looking as she had an SUV vehicle.  Unfortunately I didn’t get her name or insurance policy or anything.  I blame myself for that omission and think about it every time I pass the dented area of my car!

It was lunch time and I was walking out to my car recently.  Suddenly I noticed to my horror that my life was in danger!  A car was backing out of a spot and was coming at me at a pretty good rate!  I quickly started running in the other direction and it missed me!  Quickly I ran up to the window to see who was driving so carelessly.  I saw the person that I knew and they gave me a quick waive and left.  I didn’t see this person for a few days but one day we were walking out the door together.  I made a statement calmly kind of in passing.  “Be careful backing out of your parking spot, you almost hit me the other day!”  I hope under the same circumstances I would have said “Oh I am so sorry!  Obviously I wasn’t thinking or something, please forgive me!”  The response I got was “Oh, you were probably in my blind spot. I always look before, you must have got in my blind spot.”  In my mind I’m picturing a court of law and the judge asking this person “so how do you plead to running over Lewis in the parking lot?”  “I’m completely innocent judge,  you see he was at fault because he was walking in my blind spot!”

sports_racquetball

Kahler and I are great friends and we play racquetball every week!  Previously I wrote about our weekly battles in “What Is Your Hometown Like?”  Anyway we both enjoy the competition and the fact that we feel better after we play!  It is hard to find time to get exercise and this weekly time helps us do it in a fun way.  Our abilities are fairly close but lately Kahler has been beating me.  I think he has won five or six straight.  The last time we played he pulled out ahead again which seems to be the way it’s been going.  We play to 15 and he got up to 13 points when I started chipping away at his lead.  I was serving and had 12 points to his 13.  My serve looked to me like it was 6 inches past the line and I was waiting for him to hit it back when I heard him say “Short!”  I have to admit that it upset me because clearly I saw it being good.  Kalhler from his view didn’t see it that way.  I want to say here that I know that he would never do anything that he didn’t think was justified and neither would I!  It was just a case of two people seeing something differently.  Yet in the heat of competition I lost my composure.  When he invariably won the point on the second serve I tried to whack the ball as hard as I could into the wall in frustration.  Unfortunately it hit Kahler in the arm and I felt bad.  We have played probably 300 times and after every game we shake hands.  I was still so frustrated after he finished me off that I didn’t shake hands with him.  Clearly however I felt I acted completely out of line.  My wife put me in my place when I mentioned what happened when I got home.  “You are not playing for money or anything so who cares?”  Unfortunately I did and my actions weren’t right.  I can still picture Kahler’s look in my mind as he was stunned after getting hit with the ball.  In the end nobody felt good about what happened.

A couple of days ago I saw Kahler in his office.  I felt tears come to my eyes as I asked him to forgive me for how I had acted.  I remember my mom was much the same way!  A wonderful Christian person with enormous faith she sometimes battled her temper.  I don’t remember exactly the circumstances but I do remember her getting upset with me a couple of times.  Invariably we wouldn’t talk for a day or two.  Then the phone rang and it was her.  In circumstances like that some people might start talking like nothing had happened but that was not my mom’s way.  The first words out of her mouth were that she was sorry and I knew it was heartfelt because she would be crying.

I sometimes wonder why it is so hard for people to be remorseful?  Why it is so hard to say you’re sorry and mean it?  I think it is a matter of pride.  People don’t like to admit they are wrong because they see it as a sign of weakness.  Yet in reality it is a sign of strength!  Who in their right mind would claim that they are perfect?  From what I understand about the Bible one of the biggest flaws that we can have is pride.  As the Bible states “For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.”  How hard is that to admit and how many times do we try to justify our actions to right the wrong we did?  While we are still here we need to be remorseful for sinning and forgiving to those that trespass against us.  We need to come to a point in our lives when we realize that we can’t get ourselves into heaven.  It is only through God’s grace and his grace can only be received when we admit our short comings and accept his son as a sacrifice for our sins.  At that point Jesus Christ becomes our mediator (kind of like our Lawyer!)

courtroom scene 2

I’m picturing the Great Judgement and that court room we all must go through with God as the judge.   In this life we make a choice for that day of Jesus being our lawyer or representing ourselves.  I’m sure many going it alone will try to justify themselves thinking that they can argue themselves out of it like Lloyd often did.  Many will argue that due to circumstances the event was in their blind spot.  To the true believers though our attitude should be completely remorseful.  “God I throw myself to the mercy of the court.  I have sinned greatly against you and only by your grace do I stand here unashamed before you.”  It is that attitude that the prodigal son had when he came to his father completely selfless and humble.  His father rewarded him greatly much like how our Heavenly Father will reward us for having the good sense of accepting his son Jesus as our representative and the only way to eternal life.

The Trial

From the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997
by Lewis Hamilton

The prosecuting attorney had his case prepared
to send me straight to jail
He had evidence to string me up
so I knew he wouldn’t fail

He called out with a convincing voice,
We’ve got movies of your sins
The courtroom door was opened
a projector was wheeled in

We watched my actions prove his case,
my hands were very red,
my sins were played on a big screen
He roared son, you’re as good as dead!

I glanced at my attorney
What would his reaction be?
His smile caught me by surprise
with the evidence against me

The prosecuting attorney made his case
It took three hours, maybe four
He had a list ten feet long
or maybe even more

He glided by my attorney
with a smile upon his face
He’s guilty as the blackest sin,
you don’t even have a case

My attorney walked up to the bench
He said, Father, Here’s my plea
I know this man is guilty
just as everyone can see

But he asked me to forgive him
and you know I paid the fee
So I ask you, my loving father
Please, set this captive free

Son, the judge and father said,
Consider your will done
The price you paid was more than enough
to cover everyone

He hit the gavel on the desk
and threw away the list
He said with a voice of authority
This case is dismissed.

For there is one God and one
mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave
himself as ransom for all men-the
testimony given in its proper time.

I Timothy 2:5-6

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Gathering Strength After The Devastation!

It’s been over twelve years now but I can remember the day so vividly.  It was a normal work day but it would soon be very different.  The date was September 11, 2001.  I was at my computer when my boss came in with the news.  Apparently a plane hit one of the world trade center towers.  Although we thought it was a tragedy it never occurred to us that it was on purpose.  We heard that the stock market had taken a sudden dive downward.  A TV was brought into the office and we watched the building burning.  While there was still speculation as to what happened another plane hit the second tower.  Everyone was in shock around me and no more work got done that day.  President Bush made a statement in response to the terrorist attack and everyone was feeling sad and confused.  We were told officially to go home and we all left in a state of shock!  I remember the hollow feeling as I just couldn’t believe this had happened.  That night I remember watching local prayer services of all different religions.  It was as if we had been sent a message and it had stripped our human pride down to it’s bare levels.  It was like OK God you win, we have nothing else to hold on to.  We have been broken down and we desire to draw close to you.

Nine-Eleven

At first security was on high alert.  There was special efforts made to make sure nobody brought anything that could be made into a weapon onto an airplane.  I remember going to a football game the following Saturday when we played the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  I have never seen anything like what we went through that day.  Ladies were told to empty their purses and anything not approved was kept by security.  Maybe it was an over reaction as hundreds of games were played before on that field without such measures.  Then again maybe it was viewed as a different world than what it ever was before.  I suppose the price of our freedom at that point was in fact making sure that we were not the enemy.  I am amazed that although 9/11 is a part of all that lived through those days, we have learned to move on.  We were stunned, but didn’t stay that way.  We went into action to fight terrorism.  We were hurt but not knocked out.  We were down but not out as we proved how resilient we really are!

It’s hard to measure shock but I believe that shock comes to individuals every day.  The fact that everyone isn’t effected like that September 11th day makes individual shocks fly under the radar.  Yet they are just as real as that airplane crashing into the tower.  Recently a member of my family got a bad diagnosis from the doctor.  That kind of diagnosis is just like the shock of 9/11 because it is impacting their life in such a devastating way.  Most of us are not seeing this proverbial destructive plane but it’s impact is hitting a life just the same.  Those close to our loved one are just as concerned as relatives of the 9/11 missing were.

I have a friend who used to work in my building.  After she got a different job we would still sometimes talk on face book.  I was shocked when I read a post she made stating that it was day 3 in the hospital and that her doctors were fantastic.  I asked her to write and tell me what was wrong but I heard nothing.  A couple of weeks later I found out from her sister that she was in dire straights.  Her liver wasn’t working and the doctors were frantically trying to find out why.  In the next day or two the news kept getting worse. I found out that she was not responsive for three days.  Then on a Friday it got worse if that were possible.  She was put on life support and we were praying for a miracle.  I was in contact with her sister but I prayed I wouldn’t hear anything else.  I figured that no news was good news.  Out of the total darkness a little light came in the form of a post on face book by her sister.  It said that she is being flown to a different hospital and she gave the name.  All of the sudden from total darkness a little light was shining.  If they didn’t think there was hope why would they fly her somewhere else?  It was like a candle in the darkness but it was there!  Our spirits picked up and a work  friend said words that sounded like a prophet.  In fact I believe that it was a prophesy.  You see my sick friend wants to write a book someday of her experiences.  She has had many that would glorify God not including this one.  Well my work friend stated out of the blue “she is going to live and write that book!”  The words were so powerful at that particular moment that the candle of faith seemed to glow a little brighter!

In the days after 9/11 I remember our country seemed completely together.  Usually we hear arguments on policies and decision making and all of that.  In those days following 9/11 it felt like we were all on the same team!  I guess it is like the idea that I may talk bad about our country much like a brother might get annoyed with his sibling, but it is fighting words if an outsider pushes him around.

Flag

In thinking about 9/11 and the days that followed.  I believe there are steps that we as a country took that helped us heal.  The first step was  total shock as the event happened.  There was a time of sorrow as the news got worse.  It was like getting stunned by a punch to the gut and wondering if we would ever breath again? As time passed we realized that the world did not end.  We  are still breathing and we clung to any inspiration we heard.  One of the ones that has helped me in devastating times is “If it don’t kill you it will make you better!”

Once the shock has lessened the second step comes into play.  The second step is to take the first step of action that will help you recover from the devastation.  For example if you are diagnosed with a terrible disease at first you are shocked and stunned.  After awhile the human spirit takes over.  OK so it is what it is, now what can be done?   That is the survival spirit that God puts into us!  I have a picture in my mind of a basketball player going up for a rebound and claiming it before he gets bumped a couple of times and loses his balance.  He doesn’t fall but he clearly isn’t in a position to go up with his shot.  However what usually happens is he takes some time and rights himself, regains his footing, gets his bearings, and plans his attack.  At the precise given moment with his feet now solidly planted he pushes back up with a strong jump and puts the ball in the basket!

My friend in the hospital still has up and down days but is slowly recovering!  They have moved her from Intensive Care to a regular room!  My beloved family member will get her consultation with a doctor soon.  Prayers have been made and will continue!  The dark room of not knowing will be replaced by a little light.  That light is the hope that we have and the faith that we need.  At the moment she has been stunned and shaken.  In time with Gods help she will gain her balance, get her feet together and go up strong with her eyes on the light of faith that is within her!

I’m Not Trying To Be Mean But…

The late George Plimpton was one of my favorite all time authors!  George wrote the famous book “Paper Lion” where he was allowed to practice with the Detroit Lions football team and actually play Quarterback for a set of downs in an exhibition game years ago.  He then took this experience and incorporated it into his book!  This was only one of many of George’s attempts to actually live the event or experience what he would write about.  He became a boxer and fought Archie Moore in a 3 round boxing match, he became a goaltender for the Boston Bruins in hockey, and a pitcher against a team of Big League all-stars in baseball.  In the non sports world he became a trapeze artist in the Circus and a comedian.  In every one of these attempts you could say that his performance was a failure as far as his abilities.  Yet they were of enormous success in the books he was able to write because he was part of the action.

When asked what the most pressure he faced when becoming what he would write about George surprised me with the answer he gave.  “It was when he was part of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra”, he revealed.  The great Leonard Bernstein was the orchestra leader and George told of an experience with bells.  There was this bell instrument that had eight or nine different bells and he was to ring them eighteen or nineteen times as a prelude to the Orchestra’s song.  Pardon the pun but his part set the tone for the whole number.  Well George got a little confused and overdid his bells much to the dismay of Bernstein.  Bernstein made the decision to not do another performance with Plimpton aboard, but the band liked George and talked Bernstein into giving him another chance.  Bernstein agreed but only if he could switch Plimpton’s role.  He put Plimpton in the percussion area one time with the cymbals and another with the triangle.  As simple as it seems to George it was an enormous amount of pressure.  George explained that music is not like the sporting world.  If you are playing Quarterback for instance you can take your time at the line of scrimmage and dictate the action.  Only when you want the ball snapped do you call for it.  “In music once it starts there is no stopping it”, he explained.  George said that “there are three fears when playing the triangle #1 that you drop the triangle, #2 that you drop the stick, and he couldn’t remember #3.  So he is sitting there waiting for his part and suddenly Bernstein turns to him.  Bernstein probably forgetting who was there and expecting his regular person  see’s Plimpton.  George said that there was that shock in his face as their eyes met.  “Musicians have a non verbal way of talking to each other”, Plimpton offered.  “If they like what you did they rub their foot on the floor.  Seeing many people rub their foot at the same time was instant feedback if they thought you did a good job.  One time George was doing the cymbals and he felt his timing was close so he banged those cymbals together with all that he had!  After that he wondered if he had really messed up, but to his relief the band members started rubbing their feet in unison!

books

Much like music where once it starts it keeps going we can get involved in things that it is better that we don’t start.  Once we go down that road the snowball just keeps rolling and getting bigger.  I’m reminded of the guy that was going to swim across the lake and got halfway out and decided he couldn’t make it so he swam back.  I’m reminded of commitments we might make that we made for the wrong reasons.  Suddenly the time comes and we are committed to do it even if our heart is not in it.  It’s like getting on an airplane and heading for a destination.  At that point there is no turning back.  You are on your way whether you changed your mind or not!

This is not Plimpton, This is an expert!

This is not Plimpton, This is an expert!

Words are something each of us sometimes regret.  They are like music, once we say them they are a matter of record.  In the heat of the moment sometimes we say things we normally wouldn’t say.  There are times our words can hurt someone.  Sometimes our words cut like a knife into someone else digging into a weakness that they have or that we perceive they own.  Trust me, this is something that I have been guilty of.  When I point a finger I feel like three are pointing back at me.  However, I think it is important to face the battle that we may have with our tongue and be guarded in the words that we express.  This is such a common thing we all go through.  How many hit songs expressed how if they could do it all again or if they could take the words back they would?  One of the best remedies is if you are truly sorry for something you said to someone just go to that person and ask them to forgive you.  You will be surprised at the reaction that most people will have!  It is usually an emotional one as they ask you to forgive them of something too!   The Bible mentions both asking for forgiveness and forgiving people when they ask!

A lot of times we get ourselves going the wrong way on the street of no return just in how we start a sentence.  If we can just eliminate this line we would be much better off.  “Not to be (fill in the blank) mean, unkind, hurtful, heartless, rude, and then we continue..But and we keep talking.  Suddenly that snowball is rolling and getting bigger.  Suddenly the music is playing and it is not going to stop.  There will be no foot rubbing on the floor of heaven, only a stare of disbelief over the door we just opened.  Let’s vow to ourselves and God that we will stop this practice of downgrading speech!  The next time we catch ourselves thinking about using the words “I’m not trying to be mean”, or “Not to be hurtful”, or “I don’t want to be rude”, or “I don’t want  to cut anybody down”, BUT ….Let’s get it out of our minds before it hits our lips!  For after we say those words we are about to be the very thing we said that we don’t want to be.

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