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Archive for the category “Story of the Year”

#1 What Does It Mean To Be Saved?

#1 What Does It Mean To Be Saved?  March 12, 2016

How would you answer this question?  A health scare at the beginning of the year caused me to re-evaluate my answer.  The lightenload story that was most popular in 2016 and most meaningful to me follows.

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/what-does-it-mean-to-be-saved/

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#1 A Change Of Heart

#1 A Change Of Heart

March 15, 2015

The story of the year is the story of an amazing lady from Kenya who I am proud to say is my friend!  We have never met in person but after we met on Facebook her words of encouragement and testimony have been such an inspiration to me! I was amazed when I read parts of her story.  Lydia was humbled when I told her I wanted to write her story.  Her love for the Lord has endured through her trials.  She has been tested by fire and has come out of it stronger!   May God continue to use Lydia to touch lives in the years ahead!

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/a-change-of-heart/

Trish, A Memory Maker!

I can still see the smile on her face in my mind!  She was at my desk telling me about the upcoming visit of Benson from Africa to her house.  She had been discussing the possibility with family and friends and was sharing their reactions.  It was well meaning comments that seemed to intrigue Trish!  Maybe the thinking was that Trish had not thought of safety first and the possibility of her stepping out in faith turning into a disaster.   “Do you mean that you are going to take in a complete stranger from another country into your house to be around your kids?”  She was telling me her answer as  a smile formed on her face along with a twinkle in her eyes!  “Yes!” was her reply to the questions of doubt!  I could tell that this was a position Trish liked to be in!  This wasn’t the first time she did the unexpected!  If she believed she was doing the right thing she listened to the concerns of others, but eventually did what she thought God wanted!  The smile on her face was a smile of  contentment and puzzlement.  I think she was proud of the fact that she was like she was!  The puzzlement part wasn’t about their reaction as much as her amazement of how once again she was defying logic!

This best captures the smile of amazement that she had!

Of course the safety concerns about Benson ended up a non factor just as Trish’s faith told her it would be.  Benson ended up being a blessing to her and her family and showed them a different way of seeing the world.  He brought to them an education that Trish relished because she was always looking for the behind the scenes view!  I remember her coming in tired one day and explaining to me that she had talked to Benson long into the night.  She gravitated to people who gave her a different perspective that she could embellish too!  For all of the good that Benson did once he was here, it was Trish who orchestrated the whole thing.  It was Trish who did not hesitate when she received the call asking if someone she knew could house Benson for a week.  “He can stay with us!” was her reply almost immediately and completely on her own.  Once Benson was here it was Trish that picked him up at the airport.  It was Trish that made the effort to get to know him and made Benson feel at home!  It was Trish that organized events where Benson could speak to different groups!  We saw Benson and his wonderful ministry up close as again Trish orchestrated a luncheon for our workplace.  Benson had a wonderful testimony but behind the scenes there was Trish making all of it possible!

Trish worked for quite awhile in our area before we got to know each other.  Usually we’d say hi in the hall or she would be bringing a gift in as part of her job.  She was a fund raiser at the University and I processed gifts.  Naturally we formed an acquaintance but that was all it was.  Then one day a little over two years ago all of that changed.  The subject happened to come up about the Christian poem book that I had written when Trish stopped by the office. Upon seeing the book Trish’s spirits picked up!  Although she never outwardly showed it Trish admitted that she was having a rough day.  I think performing the duties of her position could be an up and down roller coaster ride.  There was a lot of travel involved and she was feeling drained.  She talked some about her position before of fund raising for a church!  I could sense that although she liked a lot about her position at the University it really didn’t fulfill the big question in her life of “What am I supposed to be doing?”   She talked about her missionary trip to Africa and how fulfilling that was!  She told me that she would go back in a heartbeat!  I read her a poem from my book and she was all enthused!  Her wheels were spinning as to how she could help market my book!  She told me as she was leaving how our talk had made her day!  After that day we looked at each other differently.  Usually when we see people in their jobs we associate that person to the job that they are doing.  After that day we both saw the deeper person in each other who happened to be performing a job.

Trish had a heart for missions!

Trish had a heart for missions!

Trish was a deep thinker and that was something we had in common!  I think that as a writer you tend to see things in a different way.  Instead of hiding your emotions you express them in words.  If you really hit the mark you are describing things about an event or experience that nobody really thought about!  Getting people to think not only about the obvious but the other behind the scenes factors is my dream when I write!  Trish was a writer too!  She wrote down her experiences in the form of poems.  Her poems were not usually the rhyming kind.  Hers were more of the deep reflections that were working behind the scenes.  She wrote about experiences in a heartfelt personal feeling way!  It was like here is what you see, but this is what I am feeling as you see me!

As time went by I shared my website “lightenload” with Trish.  She enjoyed my stories as ten times she left comments!  Her comments almost always included some encouragement or thanks to me along with a message to myself and my other readers!  They were based on her experiences and how she saw the topic from her perspective!  Many times they were very deep and personal comments because Trish was a deep thinker!  One time I  wrote “What Are You Waiting For?” which was a story about anticipating Christmas as kids and how much time we wait for things in life, and how we shouldn’t wait to receive Christ.  Trish responded to this story by showing her true heart!  “I love this Lewis” she stated, “I was thinking about waiting in the grocery store the other day and anyone with fewer items than I had I would let them go in front of me.  I am the same way when it comes to traffic. There are certain things to be patient for and most certainly God opportunities extended to us to act upon.  Keep shining the light!”  Trish showed her sense of humor after a poem I shared called “The Devil Is A Liar”  She said “Amen my friend, He doesn’t come in a red pajama suit with horns and a pitch fork!  He is a bit smarter than that.  I love your posts and thank you.” When I wrote a story called “A candle In The Ice” about my family getting stranded in frigid temperatures for a whole night on a Georgia highway, Trish wrote “I wish I could have been driving then.  I would have picked them up.”  Knowing Trish and her sense for doing the right thing no matter what public opinion was there is no doubt in my mind that she would have!

Trish was a light in the darkness!

As someone who writes Trish realized how important encouragement was!  Her posts were always thoughtful and always had a little encouragement for me.  She knew how hard it is to put something out there.  She knew that when you put yourself on the line you are inviting trouble along with agreement!  Trish was a great supporter and inspired me with great compliments!  She commented after “Benson’s Lemonade” which was the story of her and Benson, “Thank you Lewis, for using your God given talent to share this story.  Beautifully written and true.”   Another time even though our positions are some of the lowest rated she said “I think you guys have the most important jobs of all of them!”  She was talking about my job and co-workers of processing gifts.  I joked the other day about what she said.  “She lied to us but it made us feel so good!”  Seriously though, I believe that Trish meant it!  She had a different way of looking at things and she saw value in the little things that others didn’t.

I played racquetball with Trish once.  I had convinced her that she should take advantage of the Rec Center the University provided and she was interested in learning to play racquetball.  Although Trish was a willing student she found that racquetball was a much more difficult sport than she had anticipated.  I taught her how to serve and she delighted in the fact that she could get her serves in!  We played a game we made up where we both worked as a team to see how many times we could hit the ball into the wall without it bouncing twice on the floor.  It turned out that I stayed in the back and got a good workout running down balls while every now and then Trish hit one.  Still Trish’s spirits were high and I heard her say in delight “I like this serving!”  I realize now the attribute that made her successful!  She had a knack of discovering what she could do and following through with that!  She realized that she was just one person and she couldn’t  do everything.  Yet, she knew she could make a difference in what she could do!  The glass was always half full in her eyes!

When I got to really know Trish I was  seeing more of a finished product.  Her triumphs and defeats that happened earlier and shaped who she was at that point were behind her.  Yet she lived for the moment and the day she was in.  Her outlook was on the future and not on past accomplishments.  When she decided to accept a position at another foundation I was shocked.  Yet when she took the time to explain her decision it made perfect sense that she would accept a new challenge.  After she was on the job for a little while she came back to visit.  “They don’t know anything about fund raising”, she said as that smile came on her face.  Maybe they were shocked at the crazy ideas she had for them and the changes she was instigating!

In the last few months Trish seemed to be in her glory!  She thrilled in her role and how she was making a difference!  She was delighted to play checkers, games, or cards with people that had nobody.  She was not happy when someone died that had become her friend but she relished the fact that she had gotten to know them!  I mentioned to her when I saw her a few months ago that she was doing now what was really her.  In true Trish fashion she said “I have no bad words to say about the University.  They were very good to me!”

A comment that she made about the story I wrote called “A Baseball Game and War” really showed an amazing side of Trish!  The story was a deeply emotional one for me about a morning at my cousins and his 18 year old brother wondering if he would be drafted to fight in Vietnam.  Trish wrote a beautiful piece about her father and his experiences there.  It was so pointed and so deep as she shared his attitudes and how they were developed.  How he had buried his friends after explosions and the psychological effects that it had on him.  At the end Trish said something that was very profound and presented the deep thinker that she was!  “I don’t see the world like he does, but I didn’t experience the things that he did.”  Amazingly Trish knew that we all are affected by our experiences and that hers were of a world of hope and love.  Yet she understood that her father had experiences that shaped his view and neither views were wrong.

Most people will look at Trish’s life and say that forty three years was way too young for her to go.  That is the natural human way of looking at death and I understand it completely.  A friend made a very pointed statement to me one time that is so true.  “Lew, we aren’t going to get out of here alive.”  My pastor years ago stated another truth “the moment we start breathing we are starting to die.”  God gives each of us a time here and whatever time he gives it is up to us to make the most out of it!  When Jesus told the parable of the master that left his wealth to his three servants while he was away for a long time the master gave all three different amounts.  In the end he expected each one to take their talents given and make an increase.  Trish in her time here certainly did all that she could do to make her Lord and Savior happy!

Trish made her friends laugh!

Trish made her friends laugh!

When I wrote a story called “A True Friend”, which described the difference between a true friend and a acquaintance friend Trish made this deep in thought comment: “Very well put, I have been through a season or two where the true friends supported me in ways beyond what I can express.  The blessings of a true friend is that we go through seasons and it is a reciprocal relationship.  Cool thing about Jesus, He’s always there no matter what you have done, no matter where you have been, he will take you home and he loves you.   Well it seems that Jesus has taken Trish home just like she said he would.  There are some people that you meet in life that are memorable and some that you forget.  Trish is near the top of that memorable list!  She embraced life with everything that she had!  For her taking a chance was not taking a chance as long as she knew God was leading her!  She was a deep thinker who I will miss greatly for her encouragement and support!  Frozen forever in my mind is the smile on her face that revealed everything that she was feeling behind the scenes!

Epilogue

This was a poem Trish wrote and asked me to review in early January.  For anyone reading my Leaving A Record Behind story where I talked about almost drowning in a swimming pool it seems I would be the last one to know the experience she talked about.  However the depth of her deep thoughts were so unique!  Trish was a beautiful deep person who touched thousands in a wonderful way!

living water

Surface:

I remember you…
The touch of your
Eyes, body, hands, and soul
I knew the light I saw and felt around you
You knew intuitively my affection for water
The way that I could submerge
And I knew you would never make me surface while I explored
You trusted that I knew the water
You believed I knew when to dive, ride waves, and surface
I trusted my inner world was no threat to you
I often watched you while under water
Looking through the ripples on the surface
What an amazing journey
Somewhere in me, I knew you’d jump in to save me
But I didn’t need saving
It was a magical water dance
I wish all could experience
The dance continues on
Temperatures change
Tides rise and fall
Waves come and there are hidden undertows
But knowing I have you my friend, I will surface
The water dance continues on.

Trish 12/23/2013

Row The Boat

There is a new energy around the Western Michigan University campus and football program this year!  It started with the hiring of a new head coach P.J Fleck.  P.J is the youngest coach in the NCAA at only 32 years old.  A major reason that he was hired was because of his high energy and enthusiasm!  Another factor was his vision for the program in the years ahead!

Coach Fleck was an assistant on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL team.  Before that he  assisted for 2 years at Rutgers and 3 years at Northern Illinois.  He started out as a receiver for Northern Illinois and played briefly in the NFL.  While assisting at Northern Illinois he was in charge of recruiting.  This last year with many of his recruits on the field Northern Illinois played in the Orange Bowl game!  This is a first for a mid major university!  In his short few months here at Western Coach Fleck is already making waves.  His 2014 recruiting commitment class is ranked number 28 in the nation at the present time!  So what is it about Fleck that is attracting talented kids to play on his team and away from more traditional football powers?  What is it that is making Flecks team an exciting alternative to bigger schools with great histories?  I believe that they are seeing a complete vision and a place for them to come in and help that vision come true!  I have only heard Coach Fleck talk in person one time, but in that talk I came away so impressed and fired up about our program!  He brings such an energy level and it is based on a determination that you can’t help to notice!  His philosophy starts with three simple words Row The Boat!

Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard introduce P.J. Fleck as the next coach! Rowing the boat begins!

Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard introduce P.J. Fleck as the next coach! Rowing the boat begins!

The row the boat concept had it’s beginnings in a personal tragedy in Fleck’s life.  He had a son named Colt that was born with a bad heart.  When he was born they knew that they would only have him for a short while.  His death was an enormous heartbreak to his family.  Through it all Fleck came up with his Row the Boat philosophy.  Rowing the boat meant to him that no matter what happens (good or bad), he was going to keep rowing the boat.  This concept kept him focused on the big picture of life.  I guess you can say it is a simple concept.  If you have everyone in the boat rowing at the same pace and the same direction, the boat will maximize it’s speed and stay straight.  Each person in the boat has to do their part.  It’s more than what they can do individually, it is about what they can do as a team.  If someone doesn’t row, the boat will zig zag but still get there.  If half the people are not rowing, the boat will end up going in circles.

Rowing the boat starts with getting a team in the boat.  When everyone is in they have to be really in.  These are shark infested waters and you can’t be hanging off of the side of the boat and stay intact.  Once everyone is in they are given two oars and the practice of working together begins!  It may take speeding the pace up to keep up or sacrificing a little of the pace for the good of the whole.  Everyone needs to be on the same page with a common goal!  Everyone must be consumed with doing their own job and doing it as part of the team!

This is Coach Fleck's business card, made out of wood!

This is Coach Fleck’s business card, made out of wood!

Rowing a boat is in fact an act of faith.  Each one rowing is facing the opposite direction to where the boat is going.  We don’t know what is ahead of us.  All we know is what we have already experienced.

Fleck talks about the makeup of the boat.  He is concentrating his efforts to build a solid dependable foundation.  Building fast may work in the short term but with no foundation it would be like building with paper mache.  Eventually as time passes the boat will not be able to hold up.  He talks about building an old ironsides type of boat that will last through the ups and downs.  The oars are tools to make the boat go.  The driving force is the people in the boat and how they use the tools they are given.

The “R” in the Row the Boat philosophy stand for Responsibility.  Fleck contends that responsibility is taking accountability and willingness to pay the price for our actions good or bad.  It’s a matter of choices that we make.  He maintains that we make a choice of brushing our teeth for instance.  If we do this consistantly we enjoy the benefits of nice sparkly teeth.  If we neglect this act we receive the opposite results.  If one of the players goes out drinking one night and gets pulled over for a DUI charge that is the consequence of the choice they made.  If they stay out of trouble off of the field and work hard on the field they will receive positive consequences.

The “T” in the Row the Boat philosophy stands for Trust.  Fleck contends that every relationship is built on trust. “If you break trust it is very hard to get it back and you will never get it back to 100 percent”, he states.  “Most of the world lies by either commission or ommission, either flat out lieing or leaving out bits and pieces.”  Within that trust is the belief that you will do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it.  Sometimes you may be asked to do a little extra always with the team as a whole in mind.

The “B” in the Row the Boat philosophy stands for Belief.  Fleck mentioned that you have to believe in yourself, believe in the vision, and be willing to die for the vision.  He states that you should love the vision and trust that it can happen!

Row The Boat!

Row The Boat!

According to Fleck belief can be broken down into two units.  The first is attitude.  He calls for direct energy much like a lazer beam.  Lazer beams are energy directed to one place at one specific time.  He urges his players to direct all of their energy to one three or four second play taking one play at a time.

The second part of belief is confidence.  Confidence in his mind comes from being prepared.  One of the knocks against Fleck was that he was so young and he didn’t have the experience that some of the older candidates had.  Fleck counters this notion with the fact that he has dreamed of this opportunity and he has prepared himself to be successful in  it!  He is confident that he can do the job because he has been successful in everything leading up to this point.  Although he hasn’t specifically coached a college football team, he has coached position players at college and the professional level.  Although he has not overseen all of the aspects of a program, he has overseen the recruiting aspect which is a big part of the coaches responsibility!  All of his little victories has given him confidence that he can win the big victories to come!

Coach Fleck has a vision and it is more than having a successful football team.  It is a vision of giving a vision to the community!  He would like to have an oar in every bank, bakery, restaurant, dorm room, and the list goes on.  It would be a rallying cry that we all can be successful and would help us to look at the football team’s success as an example!  It would be a symbol of support and it would get to the point where people wouldn’t have to ask what it meant, they would know!  They would be motivated to do everything they could as fans, sponsors, alumni, coaches, and everyone else that was involved some way with the team.  Here are your oars, start rowing.  Don’t worry about anything except doing what you are supposed to do at the time you are supposed to do it.

I’ve been thinking about the philosophy of rowing the boat in our christian walk!  Fleck mentions that the philosophy incompasses much more than football.  It could be about a young kid fighting a battle against cancer.  It could be any trouble or trial people are going through.  Have faith in what you are doing and the purpose of working together and keep rowing.

Coach Fleck describes the definition of insanity as “doing the same things and expecting different results.”  He vowed that he would not make that mistake with his program.  Too many times we Christians get into a similar pattern.  We wonder why our church isn’t growing and why we feel like we are seeing the same faces over and over.  We wonder why we are not seeing the power of God as we do our same rituals.  As Christians we have the boat in place.  Jesus Christ is the rock of our salvation.  The old hymn states that “on Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.”  The solid rock Jesus can be compared to the boat.  Our boat is made of the finest materials that will carry us through all of lifes troubled seas.  We won’t be able to see the future, just as when rowing we can’t see behind us.  Yet we know to  keep rowing through good times and bad.  When the sea is calm or when there is an uprising it should make no difference.  We are not controlled by the things going on around us.  We are controlled by the vision that God has for our lives.  We are controlled by him and the desire to do his will!  If we do not feel that passion we need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are truly in the boat all the way?  If God asks us to do something can he count on us to get it done?

The oar represents the tools that he gives each of us.  Whether it is a gift that we can share with others or a listening ear.  Whether it is a kind word we can give or an ability to teach someone something important.  There is something that each of us can do!  The oar is the tool, but it needs force to make it a useful tool.  That is where God’s power will help us if we truly believe!  In believing in him and his vision for us we open the connection to his power to help us row successfully!  He is our strength in good times and times of trouble!  In our christian walk the symbol of our faith is the cross.  Imagine those oars in the water as an extension of the bloodied cross that Jesus died on.  Seeing his blood stains as a rememberance of what and why we are doing what we are doing can keep us going in the right direction and pushing hard for all that he wants to do through us!!

It’s a wonderful scenerio of what can be! The first thing that we all need to do is get in the boat.  We can’t be halfway in the boat because then we can’t do what is needed.  We can’t row if we are not securely settled on the boats floor!  To not be totally in the boat is in fact to be out and is very dangerous as the devil’s waters are filled with hazards.  We are either all in or all out.  Now that we are in we need to focus everything that we have into the moment.  Living one oar stroke at a time by doing what is needed at the time it is needed!  The more we get in rhythm with what we are supposed to do the more faith we will receive as the boat goes forward!   When it’s all said and done and the boat crosses the finish line we’ll get a reward with the comment “well done my good and faithful servant.”  Don’t worry about the past because that is gone.  Have faith for the future that is ahead of you.  Deal in the present because that is the only thing we can deal with right now.  One day our life will end and our journey will be over.  Until then as Coach Fleck would say whether things are going good or bad  “Row The Boat!”

CLICK BELOW TO SEE AN INTERVIEW WITH COACH FLECK

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3W8QejlYrI&feature=player_embedded

A Fathers Love

Jim Redmond was more than a father to Derek Redmond.  He was his best friend and the two of them were inseparable.  Derek was one of the best 400 meter runners in the world!  At the age of 19 he had shattered the British record. Jim knew what Derek was feeling as the 1992 Olympics were about to start in Barcelona.  In the 1988 games Derek had to withdraw from the 400-meter race just 10 minutes before it started because of an Achilles tendon injury.  Over the next year he went through 5 surgeries.   To say that he was determined to make good in the 1992 Olympics would be an understatement.  To win a medal after all of the pain he went through and all of the hard work was the only thing he was thinking of.

Jim had been there for all of the world competitions leading up to the Olympics that Derek competed in!  He was his best friend, counselor, motivator, and loving father.  The stadium was packed with 65,000 fans and Jim had a seat at the top of Olympic Stadium.  This would be the race that would put Derek into the Olympic final heat and Jim was determined to run the race with Derek from his seat.  You see when Derek ran the two of them were so close that it seemed his father was running right next to him!

Earlier that day Jim and Derek had talked.  They talked about ignoring the past failures and heartbreaks and concentrating on the task before them.  They talked about all of the hard work that Derek had put in to prepare for the event.  They talked about everything even the unthinkable.  If anything bad happens, Derek would finish the race no matter what.  Now Jim is sitting in his place high up in the stadium waiting, watching, and anticipating the start of the race.  He is as nervous as if he himself were running and in his mind he is going to be with his son every step of the way!

The top four finishers in each of the semifinal heats qualify for the Olympic final.  The race begins and Derek quickly takes the lead.  Jim is in a zone as if running every step of the way with his son!  Keep it up he urges as Derek reaches the halfway point.  Then without warning the unthinkable happens.  Derek hears a pop in his right hamstring.  He hops on his good leg before falling on the track.  The other runners finish their race and leave Derek laying on the track in pain.  When Jim see’s his son in trouble he races as fast as he can down the bleachers.  He is dodging people and bumping into people along the way.  He keeps moving forward.  Without any credentials to be on the track Jim finally gets to the bottom row of the bleachers and races onto the track.  Security people start chasing him but he won’t be stopped.

The medical crew arrives with a stretcher but Derek tells them that he will not use it.  “I’m going to finish the race”, he said.  Derek pushes himself to his feet and begins the long journey of hobbling to the finish line.  With about 120 meters to go Jim finally reaches him.  “I’m here son and we will finish together”, he tells his son.  Derek uses his fathers shoulder to cry on and to lean on.  As the two of them struggle toward the finish line the 65,000 fans are going crazy!  Just before they reach the finish line Jim lightens his grip and Derek goes through the finish line alone.  Once he crosses the line Jim and Derek embrace again as their tears are felt by thousands at the event and millions watching on TV.

Lean on your Heavenly Father

Someone to lean on

If you look in the  medal winners for the 400 meter run in the 1992 Olympics you won’t find the name of Derek Redmond.  Yet because of his determination and courage and the love of his father, his name will always be associated with what the Olympics are about! Pierre De Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, believed that ‘The important thing in life is not to triumph, but to compete,’ and encouraged everyone to compete against themselves. His sentiment was institutionalised in the Olympic motto which challenges each individual to become the best they can: ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

The Olympic games in London will be here soon.  Athletes from all over the world will be vying for medals.  Some of their names will be on every tongue for a little while.  Whatever the results and the fame that these athletes will attain for the moment their moment will pass.  It has been twenty years since Derek Redmond fell on the track.  Derek Redmond did not win a medal in that Olympics.  Yet, of all of the people that competed, his name is still remembered.  His father Jim responded as our heavenly father does with us.  He was someone with compassion that was there to be leaned on.  He was there to help Derek finish the race.

When we feel the most discouraged, if we look beside us we will see him.  It is our heavenly father wiping away our tears.  He is always there for us to lean on as we finish our race.  Every step of the way he’ll be our strength.  When we feel we can’t go on he will lift us to new heights.  He is there in good times and bad and his love never wavers.  When our race is done he will say to us “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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