One Step at a Time

Although our feet are a little sorer, legs are a little weaker, joints a little squeakier, or A LOT, keep walking—there is a GREAT reason for every step!!

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10


#MeToo…and then some!

It wasn’t an uncle, a coach or a priest. It was my dad.

Prior to fifth grade, physical contact with my dad was normal, as least normal for me. I’d like to think he use to give me a loving hug or an encouraging pat on the back, but I just can’t remember. I do remember being punished. Most of the time the punishment for my error’s in judgement was the belt. Pretty standard corporal punishment for the mid-to-late 1960’s.

My dad was resourceful when the belt wasn’t convenient. He used a hand when the need was urgent and he was very adept at firing a backhand from the driver’s seat to where ever I was seated in the back. Without looking! My cheek would be stinging before I even knew I’d been hit. He was fast AND accurate.

Then there were those times at the dinner table when I’d feel and look only to see the imprint of my dad’s fork on the back of my hand. My dad was a ninja with his hands! If I was messing around at the dinner table, very suddenly, my merriment would be punctured with the five prongs of dad’s eating utensil. Before I could look up at him or utter the sound of pain, he had cut and swiped a piece of meat from his plate and into his mouth without skipping a beat. Ninja!

Again, I could dust the 1960’s off my feelings and attribute my dad’s actions to what was normal, nothing special, and very likely, ‘normal’ in most of homes in my neighborhood or across the Country. But then again, I don’t know what ‘normal’ was in other homes. I just knew my normal.

Possibly the least normal, but certainly his most creative form of teaching me a lesson was the time I was caught playing with matches. Dad walked me to my room with the book of matches in his hand. He pushed me to the bed, I turned to face him and brace for whatever was next. My dad climbed on me and pinned down my arms with his legs, then lit a match and held it close to my wrist. After several lit matches I got the point, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

One day I happened to be with my grandfather (my mom’s dad). I don’t remember why, I just remember being in the car with him. We pulled into the driveway of my grandparents home, he turned off the car, looked at me in the passenger seat and he asked me why I didn’t smile as much as I use to. By this time I was in fifth grade. My second year of Pop Warner Football, listening to coaches admonish and teammates ridicule me Monday through Friday, and Saturday’s spent riding the bench. Although my grandfather encouraged me, came to my practices and games, even letting me practice blocking and tackling him, I wished my dad was the encourager.

My dad’s lack of encouragement wasn’t the thing that wiped the smile from my face, nor was it the normal I knew as discipline for doing something wrong. What took the ready smile from my face was the way in which my dad took advantage of my need for his positive affirmation by sexually abusing me.

Not only did his sexual abuse take the smile from me, it also took any esteem I had for myself, and it skewed what love looked like. Between the shame and anger that I developed and the numbness that I tried to control it with, there was little reason or ability to be the kid that always had a smile for you.

”Nothing,” I replied to my grandfather. He told me that if there was anything wrong that I could always talk to him about it. No I couldn’t, but I think I spent the rest of the day trying to reassure my grandfather that I was ok, keeping a smile on my face as much as possible. I continued that practice in front of him and pretty much anyone I came into contact with.

My parents split when I was in sixth grade. The last straw, after my mom became aware of what my dad was doing and promises that he would never do it again, was one day after school my dad told me to take a bath. At first I just complained because that’s what 12 year old’s do when they are told to get cleaned up. As my reasons for not needing a bath got more creative, it began to dawn on me that I normally bathed or showered at night before bed, and that’s when I realized it was more than a bath he wanted. At this point he was starting to get angry with me and I didn’t want to get hit, so I agreed to take a bath.

I turn the water on in the tub and undressed as modestly as possible. I would have closed the bathroom door but he stood in the doorway watching me. The only protection I could think of was to get into the tub, whether the water was too hot or cold, and close the shower door. My dad walked in the bathroom and sat on the toilet which was next to the tub. He slid one side of the shower doors open and placed his hand in the water as if to check the temperature. I pulled my legs next to my chest in attempt to create distance and tried to talk him out of whatever he had planned to do. He kept trying to reassure me, and although I knew better, I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this.

And then the front door of our two bedroom apartment opened. It was my mom, and from the front door a person could see right through to the tub if the bathroom door was open. For the first time in a long time I had a reason to genuinely smile.

I saw my dad just four times in six years after he and my mom divorced, otherwise I never spoke with him until he called me during my freshman year in college. You see, though I was 18 years old, the State was making him continue to pay child support while I was still in school, and he was hoping he could talk me out of receiving that money. I declined his request with extreme prejudice.

The last time I spoke to my dad was when I was in my mid-thirties. He was walking out of a post office as I approached from the parking lot. I saw him as he walked my way and as he got closer I caught his eye and asked him how he was doing? He stopped, continuing to keep eye contact with me and said, “Fine, sir.” He didn’t know me! I said, “good,” and continued walking to the front door as my dad made his way to his car and drove away.

There was a time, after my parents were trying to repair their marriage and before the time she caught my dad with me in the tub, that we went to church one evening as a family. Unbeknownst to us, it was Communion service this particular evening at the church. Each of us took a portion of the broken wafer that symbolized Christ’s body and the thimble-sized cup of grape juice that represented His blood, in honor and remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. The only family member not to participate was my dad. After church my dad was quiet and seemed tense.

For some reason, I don’t remember, my mom drove us home and my dad was in the passenger seat. Before reaching home, mom pulled into McDonald’s. We ordered at the drive-through window and then turned into the lot to park and eat. As my mom and dad talked I heard him tell her that he was mad that we had taken him to church when Communion was scheduled. My mom tried to explain that she hadn’t planned it, that she didn’t know it was scheduled. At one point I started talking, I don’t remember what I said, though a day later my mom and I talked about it. She told me that she was amazed at what I said and so happy that I spoke up. In short I told my dad that we hadn’t planned it, that we loved him and that Jesus loved him too. I do remember telling him that I didn’t want I’m to go to hell. The Spirit must have been speaking and I’m so glad today they were His words and not mine. Unfortunately my dad didn’t turn his life around, at least not that I know of.

In one way or another, sin is selfish. Before we know it, we become all about sin, and our life and everyone in it gets lost. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex, the sin of selfishness becomes an addiction that overtakes and becomes life to that person, replacing everything and everyone. Sin becomes more important than the person addicted and becomes the center of everything that will ultimately destroy the person and every pure relationship in it.

I found out a few years ago that my dad had died. I don’t know whether or not he recommitted his life to Jesus, but hope he did. The thing I do know is that he gave up his wife, sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren for sin. He walked away from four generations of his family for sin. God, Himself, reminds us of His mercy in Chronicles 7, “if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” And Jesus reminds us of His grace in John 8, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

I turned 60 years old this month and still have trouble with flashbacks, bad dreams, mood swings, depression and other symptoms from the abuse from my dad. During those times I grieve, get it all out and then go on about whatever is in front of me. I don’t try to stuff those feelings any longer and that has helped me enormously.

I also remember that God loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:1). As we are just days away from celebrating Love’s birthday, I’m reminded that The Father brought His Son into the world to provide a gift to us—the opportunity of a relationship with our Father through His Son, Jesus. The opportunity to experience a deeper love from Him, for Him and for others. And the opportunity for everlasting life—to spend eternity with Him, with Jesus, where there will be no bad dreams, no fear, no pain, just unspeakable depths and heights of love.

If you are experiencing any type of physical abuse, tell someone. If you have experienced that abuse but never told anyone, speak to a heath professional, your pastor, anyone that will not tell anyone else, but will help get you pointed toward a more positive way to understand and the tools to deal with life after being abused.

One of the tough things about being abused is trusting others, but please, don’t let that get in the way of telling someone. That’s the first step in regaining trust and the love in life that God intends for us all. In time, you may find that telling your story will help others get though a tough time they’ve experienced. God has an amazing way of converting our pain into a way to bless others and to realize we’re not alone on this journey.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

John 3:16-17

If you haven’t already, ask Jesus into your life right now and start the healing process this very day! It’s as easy as saying, “Jesus, will you come into my life? Will you forgive me of my sins and replace the pain in my heart with your love? Thank you, Father. In Jesus’ name, amen.” It’s that easy. I pray that from this day forward, you’ll never have to be in this alone. Along with that simple prayer, I’ve provided a couple of resources below. If you have or find additional recourses please let me know. I’d love to pass the information on to others.

Until next time, peace & joy,



DOD Helpline:

Ephesians 2:10 — graphics/photo credit: Roger Coles (@rogercoles) via YouVersion Bible App

The Hiemlich Sisters & the Beef Eater

There use to be a Spires on Orangethorpe & Brookhurst in Fullerton. One Friday night after a football game, I went to this Spires with friend & girl friend, Vicki & Cindi. I ordered a roast beef dinner–not sure what they had, but I’ll get to why I remember my meal more than theirs.

So if anyone knows Vicki & Cindi, they talk non-stop, not to me much that night, but with each other (which was normal when they were together)!! I don’t say this to disparage women, but they can talk about every inch of their day, whereas men give a grunt, which can mean “yes” at times or “no” at others, & that’s pretty much it. But Vicki & Cindi where at a whole other level back in high school & I’m sure that hasn’t changed! How cool is that to have such a good friend in your life!!

But on this particular night back in 1973, they took their binge talking & laughing (they did that a lot too) to new heights from the car, through the parking lot & into our booth by the window!! I didn’t mind & was use to it–besides I was hungry & dug into my roast beef!!

At one point during the meal, this is the part where I distinctly remember eating roast beef & not what or if they ate at all, when I became gravely aware that a piece of mash potatoes & beef were lodged in my throat!! I look at the girls & see that they’re totally oblivious to me. “Good,” my pride exclaimed, “You don’t want to freak them out, cause a scene, embarrass yourself!!” I didn’t want to die either, & then I saw my glass of milk. “Drink some milk to wash the food down!” I take a big swig & before I even put the glass back down I realized, “That was a bad idea!”

Now I had mashed potatoes (no salt but lots of butter & pepper), a forgot-to-chew-32-times-slab-of-beef imbedded in my throat AND a mouth full of ice cold milk–NONE of it inching its way down!!

I take a look at Vicki & Cindi, still in their own fun-loving-freshman world, perfect! So I decide to casually lean over my half-eaten-heart-attack-on-a-plate, cover with my napkin & slowly let the milk trickle from my mouth. A quick glance at the girls, still laughing & talking, EXCELLENT! I stay hunkered over my plate & with my non-napkin hand, slip a finger ever so uncomfortably (but quietly) to the back of my mouth and poof, it was out! I left the open napkin on my plate, pushed it aside and downed my milk. “You two ready to go?” And just like that, off we went!!

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs‬ ‭17:17‬

Until next time, peace and joy to you,


Shape a Life

“Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary; Rebuke one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:25‬ ‭

We are born square. Life takes a hammer to our corners and edges. Every strike of the hammer causes pain but with the pain comes a CRASH of knowledge, a SMASH of understanding, a CRUNCH of wisdom.

We don’t know that the goal of the hammer is to knock some sense into us. We just know it hurts. Funny thing though, as the corners become rounded and the edges begin to push into and blend together with the sides, a new shape is forming.

We fight against this shape, “I was such a cute square when I was young.” Our youth battles with the hammer. Youth tries to take the hammer away. It tries to sidestep every coming strike. But there is no shield, no dupe, no softening of the blow. Just the next pummel, the next bash, the next titanic surgical strike to each intended area of reform.

“Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.” Proverbs‬ ‭1:23

Our focus as toddlers was not on shape. But when the hammer was introduced, we began to see things we could never imagine. Our teen eyes just saw the jagged ugliness that the hammer had created. In our early-twenties we just new there was a better way, a way without the hammer. But the further we ran, no matter how fast, in whatever direction, there would be the hammer, striking us before we knew it was there.

I’ve gotten use to the hammer. The blows aren’t aren’t as blunt. The pain is different too. I watched my children. And now my grandchildren. The pain now is for them. The hammer has something for them to learn that I could never teach. But I CAN love them through it.

“Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life.”‭‭ Proverbs‬ ‭4:13

My shape is more versatile now. My shape maneuvers rather than crashes in. I no longer live to fight another day but to be thankful for that day. I’m much rounder now and so is my insight. My tears are no longer for me but for them. I get a taste of the hammer now. A reminder. A calibration. A tap of refinement. A love tap. A tap that may be my last.

When we are young, even when we’re old, we learn something new and something different everyday–that’s if we’re doing it right.

“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.” Proverbs‬ ‭19:20‬

Until next time, peace & joy,

Just Be


Bob (left), the Mighty Indians (center) & Me (right)

I think that I scared Bob’s parents more than they realized that I looked up to them.

The Nadalet’s weren’t perfect, but when their warts reached the light of day, they were nothing out of the ordinary or at least not so bad to me. For instance, the time Mrs. Nadalet complained to me about the men in her family that refused to take care of her Teflon frying pan. I don’t think it was my empathy she was seeking, but rather some kind of calling out in the dark to see if anyone was there.

Mrs. Nadalet was out numbered by testosterone in her home, and though she and her two daughters tried to circle the wagons, their valiant stands were no match for Mr. Nadalet and his three sons.

I first met Bob when we became teammates on one of the Boy’s Club basketball teams. It’s a little ironic that the name has been changed to Boy’s and Girl’s Club–I’m hoping Mrs. Nadalet had something to do with the inclusion of girls. If not, I know she did in spirit!

Mr. Nadalet and Mr. Reinstien coached our team, but put in a lot overtime because of me. If I could dribble the ball, I couldn’t run and dribble. If I took a shot, there was a clanging of the metal backboard that sounded the alarm that I had missed another shot! That clang reverberated from the blacktop basketball courts, through the play ground to the grass field, then to the backstop on the far baseball field which boomeranged the sound right back like a flashing Vegas neon sign that pointed directly at me. Never the sweet, swish sound of the ball reaching nothing but net!

The two coaches worked with me after practice while Bob and Mr. Reinstein’s son, Steve, waited by shooting and scoring at will on the opposite court. The extra work probably got them in trouble with their wife’s (pre-cell phone days!) and disappointment from their own children, all vying for time. It took me a while, even into my own marriage, to understand and then reminded again when I had a son of my own, that time with dad is precious.

Time away, too many days, too many evenings breaks a family down. It’s like driving with a flat tire–you veer to one side and the ride is bumpy and loud. Work is one thing, as is volunteerism, but when there’s no balance dopey, preventable things start to happen. With the Reinstain’s and the Nadalet family, there must have been more balance than not. (BTW Mr & Mrs Nadalet celebrated their 90th birthday’s this past summer–Praise God!)

Although Bob and his family lived up on a hill and I lived at the bottom, the Nadalet’s never made me feel bad that they were on one side of middle class and my single, working mom, brother and me were on the other side. I loved being at their house because each member of the Nadalet family “just was” which meant that I could “just be.”

As Bob and I got older, about our junior and especially senior year in high school, my reputation (a not a so lovable one) may have reached the Nadalet home. I began to hear a slightly different tone, like I had been guilty of scraping some of the Teflon off of Mrs. Nadalet’s frying pan. I felt bad about that and tried (possibly too hard, a-la Eddie Haskle on “Leave It To Beaver”) but the “just be” had left the building! I sincerely wanted them to know that I cared so much about what they thought of me, but I didn’t know how.

A few years after high school, Bob got married. Bob’s older brother and I stood up with the groom. Although I was honored and proud to be part of the wedding, I felt like my involvement was a source of stress for Bob’s parents–whether it was in my head and nothing could have been further from the truth, I felt a little sheepish.

I can’t remember if we rented suits or not, but I do remember buying a new pair of black shoes, and I worked hard to write a loving toast to the bride and groom.

The wedding was beautiful! The reception was festive, but before I had too much fun, I was nervous and wanted to go over the parts of my toast that hadn’t yet been committed memory. I ran out to my car to retrieve my notes and was on my way back when my new shoes failed me. I slipped on the highly polished floor as I was passing the grooms parents. Flat on my back, Mr. And Mrs. Nadalet looked down at me like I had turned out to be the black sheep they feared was true, and in doing so, scraping off way more Teflon than all of her Nadalet men combined!

I looked up at them and said, “I promise, I’m not drunk!” I didn’t want to disappoint them and knew that I had. No promises, no loving words to their son and his bride could restore the Teflon pan that I had now all but destroyed.

Life became busy after that day. I’m not sure that I’ve spoken to Bob’s parents since that day. Even now, almost 50 year’s since I met Bob and his dad, I have to hold back tears at the thought of letting Bob’s parents down. Isn’t it odd that we can hold onto feelings all of our life? Even if the issue was resolved or just something an over-active, or less-than-others mind grinds on you when the thought comes up–feeling less-than does not build relationships, it pulls someone you care about in with one hand but pushes them away with the other.

I choose to think that Mr. and Mrs. Nadalet’s disapproval was because they worried about me. They knew I was capable of better. They cared and that to me shows love. I love them back!

God allows circumstances in our life so that we can learn something on the other side. The “other side” may not be when a circumstance happens, or even a few days after. Sometimes it’s months or years later, depending on how thick headed you are, before the “other side” dawns on you. When we arrive at the “other side” we can learn from the circumstance(s). We learn there’s a better way, a way to pass on, a way to love others. I’m so thankful for the Nadalet’s, and so many others that helped teach me by modeling love.

God allowed Jesus to go through circumstances that were not of His making. (Matthew 16:21) They were our circumstances, our misgivings, our sin. But Jesus sacrificed himself for us and took away every sin. (1 Peter 3:8) By recognizing the sacrifice Jesus made, by thanking Him, asking for His forgiveness, and asking for a new life, a Christ-centered life, a life that loves God and loves others, He is so ready and willing to forgive you! (1 Peter 1:8) Did you know that there’s even a party in heaven for you? (Luke 15:10) Did you know He will take away the guilt and shame, and turn into love for Him and love for others? (Hebrews 2:17) Even what you perceived as other’s being afraid of you is changed to love. (Revelation 21:5)

The old life is a scratched up, crud-clinging fry pan! The new life is a scratch-free Teflon pan where every scratch is turned new again by our Father in heaven. That to me shows love. I love Him back!

Until next time, peace and joy,


“and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬


When Life Gives Us Lemons

I’m amazed at how fast two years can go by and how much happens during that time! We have had 31 birthdays for immediate family members, celebrations of New Year’s Eve to Christmas, and every holiday in between, two family members passed away, provide assistance to my wife’s 93 year old mom, the return of children coming home with their children due to financial pressures, the exodus of children with their children, our moving to a smaller home and the challenge of downsizing the things that we’ve accumulated over the years, and so much more!

The “so much more” includes some health issues that I have dealt with for several years, namely, a back problem. After taking some time off of work to focus on treatment, recovery and strengthening, my back pain was for the most part gone–and that was huge! But no sooner did my back pain leave, that every joint in my body began to hurt so badly that I needed my wife’s help to get out of bed, getting out of a chair, and sometimes rolling out of bed and crawling to the bathroom if my wife wasn’t at home.

Some days were better than others. We were on a string of good days so my wife and I planned to take the hour drive south with three of our granddaughters to visit the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It was a beautiful day but by the time we reached our destination, I was not feeling well. Fortunately the Park has stroller and wheel chair rentals, unfortunately I didn’t fit in the stroller because I just wanted to lay down! Of all the days, up and downs, these past two years, that zoo day was bitter-sweet. I got to spend a beautiful day with my family, but was humbled by pain and being wheeled around by one of my granddaughters or my wife.

Praise God they love me and my wife is SO good natured with me. One of the many reasons I love my wife is that she has an amazing sense of humor and she is so gifted at making lemonade when life gives us lemons.

So the latter are just some of the reasons I haven’t contributed to my blog for the past two years. Oh, and I haven’t mention that I was emotionally burnt out too! Not only did I not feel like writing, but I also needed to break up with my church. I had served until I hit the wall emotionally as well as physically. That’s not my church’s fault necessarily, but it isn’t story for another day.

Although I’m not whole yet, I do want to write. I love it. It’s fun. It’s freeing. But writing also takes a focus that hasn’t returned fully yet. Much of my focus has to be on making a living and loving my wife and family. I don’t know how often I can contribute to this blog, and it’s certainly far less than I had intended, but I will return when God leads me and gives me the strength and the voice to share.

By the way, after almost a year, after baffling several doctors, blood test after blood test not pointing in one disease direction or another, after a myriad of medicines tried and failed, the joint pain just stopped. “WHAT WAS ALL THAT FOR?!?,” I asked myself and God that questions many times. Although I am not sure I why I have experienced pain in my life, I am sure that God is in control and that He loves me.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:5-6‬ ‭

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:6‬ ‭

God created me for a purpose, and part of that purpose includes pain, and the empathy I have gained for others dealing with all types of pain. I don’t always know exactly what to do when someone else is in pain, but the first thing I do is pray for them. Counseling, consoling, or commiserating with someone in pain isn’t always what is desired when they experience it. And each case is different. Many times I didn’t know what I needed or what others could do to help me. I just wanted peace.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
‭‭James‬ ‭5:13-16‬

In the long run, I know that I’m a very blessed man. So many others deal with far tougher circumstances than me. A little over a year ago, a friend lost his 29 year old daughter. Instead of letting grief lead to isolation, my friend and his family celebrated the way Julia celebrated life. When things got tough for Julia she danced.
In Julia’s memory, the family and her friends created a website, The website is dedicated to inspiring hope and joy in the midst of adversity, and to provide resources, support and opportunities for those who continue to dance in the face of grief and hardship.

“A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:4‬

The group’s hope is that Julia’s mantra — “I Keep Dancing” — will penetrate our heart, and encourage us to keep dancing through our own struggles — to emerge stronger. And when life just feels impossible, and we reach that breaking point, their hope is that we feel Julia in our heart, turn on your favorite song, jam out, and dance!

If you need support or would like to support, please visit the site — you’ll be blessed!

Until next time, peace and joy!


A Servant of God

Clyde Ballard


My grandfather, “Grampa,” was always there for me. I don’t think I ever said to him, “I’d like to be just like you when I grow up,” but I wish that I had. I wonder what he would have thought about that, or what his reply might be?

I’d like to think Grampa would have appreciated the complement but encouraged me with a reminder that God makes each child unique, with their own set of gifts–that He designs each child with a life plan specific to those gifts to enable us to live fully in Christ Jesus, to bring hope through Jesus to others and in doing so, glorify God.

Although I don’t know what he would have said, I know what my Grampa modeled for me. I believe he modeled Jesus.

My Grampa had a great yard. He made every leaf its greenest, every flower bloom its brightest and scent its sweetest. But he did something more than just grow everything the way God had intended it to be viewed, but the way God meant it to be shared.

Grampa showed me how to prune and cut and mow and watched and guided with patience as I tried to do what he taught.

He was also at my Pop Warner and Little League games when I warmed the bench. And when the score was high enough, either beyond reach of the other team or out of reach of our own, my coach would put me in. And if I didn’t get to play, Grampa warmed my heart with a pride in me that out shined the pine bench I warmed the last quarter or inning before.

He was as most practices, especially football where I seamed to have the most problems. And I imagine now that he hurt with me when he heard the coach yell at the top of his lungs, “Get with it, Wilber!” Or when my teammates made fun of the way I ran. I was very pigeon-toed when I was young, do there was that. But just as easy pickings was my backside. Wilber’s are blessed (or cursed) with enhanced glutes–we sort of put the “maximus” in gluteus maximus–so when I ran it looked like I was being lifted from the back of my belt loops by some invisible hook in the sky. That invisible hook also prevented me from getting anywhere quickly.

My Grampa would take me to a different park or school yard after or between practices and he’d work on technique with me. He taught me how to point my toes and stretch my legs when I ran. Although I had a lot of work ahead of me, it helped.

He’d also let me practice blocking and tackling him. Grampa wore elastic bandages everyday–he had bad circulation which caused discoloration of his legs and as I found out year’s later, also caused great pain.

On those days we’d practice, Grampa would wrap his legs with an extra two or three bandages, get me set up in the right stance, take a few steps back and encourage me to hit him with all I had. He’d let me have at those tender legs, me in full gear–helmet, shoulder pads, and all the momentum I could muster.

Even at my skill level–very, very low–that had to hurt. And though I was only eight or nine years old, a guy with healthy legs would have been smarting some after one of those sessions, which is why football teams practice with blocking bags and tackling dummies–not 50-something-year-old men with bad legs.

The practice eventually paid off. I made the track team in 8th grade, and as a freshman in high school I started at fullback and defensive end on the sophomore football team. Grampa was at many of those track meets and football games to see the early work pay off, but more certainly the dividends of his prayers.

Grampa died before he got to see me play on the varsity football team as a sophomore, and go on to gain awards and win championships playing football through college.

Though I continued to play and excelled after Grampa died, I missed him on the field and off. I still do and just as intensely, but then, maybe even more now that I’m a Grampa myself. I’d really like to know how he made every leaf its greenest, every flower bloom its brightest and scent its sweetest. Yet he’d probably remind me that I already do, except I do it with the unique gifts God gave me, just the way Grampa had his own specific gifts that enabled him to live fully in Christ Jesus, to bring hope through Jesus to his grandkid’s and in doing so, glorified God.

Peace and joy,

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (ESV)

The 10 and 2 Position

dummyA couple of weeks ago I listened the podcast of a message by Ben Applebee at Watermark OC Church. Watermark OC had a series on Legacy and Ben wrapped up the series with Biological Legacy. I pray you’ll take the opportunity to check out Ben’s message, if not the whole four part Legacy series. Ben’s portion of the series walks us through the biological and spiritual raising up of our kids, at home and at church, to reach the Christ shaped outcome of a discipled life.

In Biological Legacy, Ben mentioned “helicopter parents,” and provided a video illustration, the 2015 Hyundai Genesis commercial, “Dad’s Sixth Sense“, that is hilarious! While the dad in the commercial is able to snatch his son from imminent harm throughout his time-lasped-years growing up, “Helicopter parents” are those parents who have only five senses so they over protect and over save and ultimately under prepare their children to be real adults who are able to navigate our real world.

The commercial illustration actually reminded me of the time my son was just learning to walk. I was sitting on the edge of the bed in our master bedroom and my son was walking to me. Big smile on his face, mirroring the proud, excited smile on mine. As he came within arm’s distance from me he tripped and fell, and I didn’t react fast enough. When I lifted him up from hitting his head on the metal bed frame, him screaming and me hurting along with him, I saw the gash on his forehead that I knew would need stitches–eight to be exact.

I have the very same feelings telling that story today as I had when it happened–heartbreak for his heartbreak, my own heartbreak, and GUILT FOR DAYS! The “what-if’s” still run through my mind, but I have always known that I wouldn’t always be able to catch or wouldn’t be there to catch my son when he fell. That’s one of the toughest aspects of being a parent, even tougher than the things you think you could or should have been able to control (or in my case, catch).

Like our relationship with God The Father, we are not in control. Just the same, though our relationship with God is our choice, He doesn’t control us. We have free will whether we’re in control or give Him the steering wheel. And though parents have their hands at the 10 and 2 position of their children’s steering wheel, the roads are icy, have pot holes, are unpaved, and no matter if we turn into the skid or finesse the wheel to avoid danger, a kid’s going to do what a kid’s going to do even if it means crashing into the guardrail.

Father God shows up (actually He is with us before, during and after we wrap our car around the guardrail) and rescues us, but He doesn’t live our life for us. And though He rescues, there are real life consequences.

If we as parents are consistent (Deuteronomy 6:6-7/Proverbs 22:6) and never afraid to show that we are mere flesh and bones, but lead, parent, then we provide our children a base for “success.” God showed us His flesh and bones through His Son. Jesus modeled His Father’s desires for us, His children, for “success.” Its up to all who know Jesus to model Him so God get’s what He desires, and so do we. Sure, we fail in weakness at times, but if we simply cry, “Abba! Father!,” He is faithful to hear.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8:16-17

Peace and joy,

twitter/instagram @stevedubu1

(Ben Applebee is pastor for The Garage ministry (students, grades 7-12) at Watermark OC Church in Costa Mesa, California. Ben has a young family and is an super positive bundle of joy and energy for Jesus, and is blessed with knowledge and wisdom beyond his years. I wanted to highlight his work in honor of those like Ben who come along side parents each Sunday, Wednesday night, at youth camp, “like a father with his children,” to exhort and encourage each one “to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” A shout out to Mark Jackson (aka that’s @MrMarkJackson to you, Steve) who is Youth Pastor at Pacific Church in Irvine, CA and blogs out of Equipped for Christ; and to Kenny Conley (@kennyconley) the NextGen Pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, TX, who has an amazing resource, Children’s Ministry Online; and last but NOT least, Stan Lake, who has a wonderful and unique ministry for young and old alike through Catching Creation, though I think our youth may connect in more ways with @Stan_Lake than older, squeamish crowds. Each of these men and so many women and men like them across the country bless our children with sound teaching, prayer and love in Jesus Christ. Please remember to keep your own youth pastor in prayer and let them know they are valued.)

Surrounded by Evildoers & Mockers?

joy 11Doesn’t the boy in the photo (not me) look like he’s having the time of his life? Although you may never have ridden your bike as the snow began to fall, I hope there has been a time in your life when you experienced abounding joy! I’m also hoping you’ve had that joy more than once!

One of the times I experienced over-the-top joy was the time I saw my first snow fall. Our family moved from Southern California to McPherson, Kansas when I was in third grade. I attended a two story brick school, with lots of windows for this eight-year-old to daydream through.

Although I sat in a center row, I sat far enough toward the back to keep my eyes on the teacher but mind and peripheral vision out those windows. One day in early December something outside the glass caught my attention. Some white blur moving slightly left to right, but falling! My eyes slashed toward the windows to focus and my head followed to comprehend. What is that?!? “SNOW,” I shouted out as I leaped from my desk chair and bounded to the windows to see my first snow fall, as up close and personal as possible!

“It’s snowing! Look, snow,” I shouted with my nose pressed against the cool window, moving quickly to another pane because my shouts had steamed up the prior.

Just as suddenly as I had realized and broken the silence of study with my discovery of snow fall, I became aware of my lone enthusiasm. I peaked over my shoulder toward the chalk board to see my teacher’s mouth agape. “Was she dumbfounded by the weather as well?” I soon realized that she was reacting to me.

I don’t remember her exact words, but I do remember her tone and the tone of laughter from my classmates as I made my way back to my seat at her direction. One of the comments I do recall, “Haven’t you seen snow before?” I didn’t answer her, at least I knew I shouldn’t do that, but, no, I hadn’t ever seen snow fall.

That was a tough Fall and early Winter. Lots of firsts and no friends to share them with.

In the book, “Life Together”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that “Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies…On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.” As Christians, we too are placed smack dab in the middle of a world full of evildoers and mockers. But Bonhoeffer reminds us of God’s consoling promises to His scattered people, “scattered like seed ‘into all the kingdoms on earth’ (Deuteronomy 28:25). ‘I will…gather them; for I have redeemed them;…and they shall return” (Zechariah 10:8,9).

When will that happen? It has happened in Jesus Christ, who died “that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52), and it will finally occur visibly at the end of time when the angels of God “shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). Until then, God’s people remain scattered, held together solely in Jesus Christ,” His Holy Spirit (The Helper) and His Word (The Word became Flesh).

And according to Bonhoeffer, “God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, the Christian need another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs a brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”

Yes, we are to be disciples (Matthew 28:19) but also instructed to encourage one another and build up (Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11, Hebrews 10:25)., and as Bonhoeffer points out, “God Himself taught us to meet one another as God has met us in Christ. ‘Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God’ (Romans 15:7).” He later adds, “Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us…it remains so for all the future and to all eternity.

“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more everything else between us will recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us.” How amazingly close that is in and through Jesus, so that no one stands at the window watching snow fall alone or any other first!

I pray God’s blessings and joy in Christ and fellowship each day and every day for each and every one of you! “The fellowship of believers,” Bonhoeffer writes, “is woven into the Christmas story, the baptism, the miracles and teaching, the suffering, dying, and rising again of Jesus Christ. It participates in the very events that occurred on this earth for the salvation of the world, and in doing so receives salvation in Jesus Christ.”

Peace and joy,

twitter/instagram: @stevedubu1

Triple Threat

1 baseball crossWhen I was a freshman in high school, I tried out for the JV baseball team (I think it was JV–not sure that we had a freshman and sophomore team–I’m getting old–and the level of play isn’t the relevant part!) I was confident that I would make the team, as I had done pretty well in Little and Pony Leagues. I also thought that I had an ace in the hole. I played football!

“What’s football have to do with baseball?” Well, I thought that because I was good enough as a freshman to start on the sophomore football team, which got me noticed as a prospect for the varsity team, and the varsity football defensive coordinator, Larry MacDuff, was also the head JV baseball coach, then I had an “in!” Sort of an teen’s six degrees of separation theory at work and I had it in the bag, a shoe in, an ace in the hole!

I made the first and second tryouts (I had it in the bag) and then non-league play began, at which the balance of the cuts would be made (a shoe in) and then league play would begin (an ace in the hole). It wouldn’t be long before I was playing catcher for the JV baseball team. I had a dream of walking in the shoes of Gary Carter (varsity football quarterback, baseball catcher, and basketball guard–triple treat!). Carter was a senior my freshman year. He went on to be a Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer! And I was on my way: After football season, I played on the freshman basketball team and now I was on the way to be a triple threat at Sunny Hills HS!

So we have a non-league game (AKA “practice game” back in the day), and I’m not starting at catcher. I wasn’t worried. Coach needs to make it look good, no favoritism, right? So I’m sitting on the bench with another team mate. After a couple of innings the other team is at bat and they start rallying. I mean they are knocking our pitchers off the mound left and right. But I’m cool. Coach will put me in once this other team wears itself out from running the bases so much and finally gets their third out. Once I get in, I’ll knock the ball around myself some and we’ll get back in this and make it a game!

At one point during this other team’s bat to ball crushing rally, something struck me funny. I don’t know what it was but I was giggling about something and suddenly burst out laughing when an umpteenth score just crossed the plate. Then the call from Coach MacDuff rang out: “WILBER!” (Ah, coach needs me in even sooner than expected! Is he out of pitchers? Does he want the current catcher to pitch? Does he have hunch about ME pitching us out of this miserable half-inning!?! I’m game!)

I sprang off the bench and sprinted to Coach MacDuff at the other end of the dugout, “Yes, coach!?!” “I know the score here, but I don’t know the Varsity score,” Coach MacDuff barked. The varsity team was playing on the opposite end of the campus field. “Go find out the score and come back and let me know.” I ran dutifully to the varsity diamond. Found out the score. Ran dutifully back to Coach MacDuff and relayed the score. My expectation to be thanked and put right in didn’t come. Nor did my hope of being a triple threat. The next day when I went to suit up for practice I read on the locker room bulletin board that I had been cut from the team. Coach MacDuff didn’t talk to me or let me plead for another chance. I wasn’t able to get back in his good grace until the following football season, my sophomore year.

“Hell week” for the varsity football team was just that. If you ate before morning work out and it wasn’t eaten early enough, you would eventually lose it at practice. Hell week is held in late-August/early-September. Life gets hot in North Orange County in the latter months of Summer, but that’s not the only reason that its referred to as “hell week.”

We were close to completing the morning “session” and we always ended that workout with “hills.” Off one side of our practice field was a TALL dirt hill (at its foot was the cow and pig pens and various other farm animals for our FFA classmates.) We had to run the hills like laps. Sprint up, sprint across the top 40 yards or so, sprint down, sprint across, sprint back up and so on. If number of hills didn’t get you, the combination of the hills, the heat and the smells from the farm animals was sure to make you sick.

After we ran the hills we were expected to line up in lines and rows, stand at attention and listen to how pathetically slow and out of shape we were, and other colorful thoughts and ways to express the disappointment coaches had in their prospective players. Guys would be quitting, crying, loosing their breakfast on all fours. The thing that Coach MacDuff liked about me, he later confessed, is that I threw up and stayed at attention (eyes forward, chest out, hands clasped behind my back, feet firmly planted.) Coach MacDuff would move on to coach at Fullerton College, then to Stanford U, and later the in the NFL with New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. I love that guy a lot and will throw up for him while standing at attention anytime.

In Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus and His boys came to Capernaum for a little R & R. “…those who collect the temple tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?'” (25) He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying. ” What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” (26) Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. (27) “Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

WOW. When I read Matthew 17:24-27 this morning I heard Coach MacDuff call for me in the sweetest of ways, “Big, Steve! What do you think the varsity score is? Why don’t you take a jog down and get that for us?”

I’ve learned and re-learned and re-learned lessons and continue to be told to go to the varsity field to check out the score! There are a lot of lessons via Jesus in verse’s 24-27, and I’ll probably have to continue re-learning until He say’s, “Let’s call it a game, Steve.”

Looking at one of the first clues that Peter stepped in it, we see in verse 25: “What do you think, SIMON?” Jesus didn’t refer to him at Peter and it went down hill from there. But at least He’s talking to Peter!

If I will stay obedient, keep my eyes, ears, heart and soul open, if I will seek and not assume, if I will practice faith and not obsession, if I will be my Father’s child, servant to my Lord and REMEMBER that Christ Jesus made me a free son of the Father–then I DO have an ace in the hole. Humble confidence in Christ will replace man-pleasing fear. I will love God and will not be kept busy learning a lesson but being the hands and feet that God planned for His child to be. HIS triple-threat!

Earlier in Matthew 17, Peter witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, and saw Him talk with Moses and Elijah, and he heard God’s voice say, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” After experiencing God in such a personal way, why would Peter later say “yes” to paying the temple tax–why would God now have to pay HIMSELF a temple tax?!? Was it Peter’s fear that caused him to loose sight when challenged?

Don’t be afraid, brothers and sisters! We have been saved by the Son of God. As Jesus told Peter, James and John after falling to their faces at the sights and sounds described in Matthew 17:1-6, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” But please don’t loose sight of the goal. We don’t loose sight when we stay in humble confidence. The triple-threat in Christ is to love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind (Matthew 22:37). The latter keeps me in that sweet spot of humble confidence (when I don’t loose sight).

As I encourage myself, I pray for and encourage you. Stay focused and strong. Pains hurt more than usual. Loss is darker than we ever imagined. We just can’t loose that cough at the end of the lousy cold we caught. And there are so many other distractions that cause our coach to call us out and send us on a wild goose chase. But we don’t serve a coach that doesn’t say a word and simply places our name on a bulletin board so that all can see our failure. We serve a God that welcomes us back. Who is ready to run to us when we turn to say, “I’m lost. I need help.” Oh, its remembering the grace and the mercy, and His love for us that makes us want to love Him back. He has a good plan and I’m so thankful for the plan He has for my life and for yours! See you in that plan ASAP!

Peace and joy,

twitter/instagram: @stevedubu1