Friday, September 11, 2020

19 years today

 This is an email I sent to our employees today. 

On this day 19 years ago I was installing a sliding glass door for a lady in Troutman with my buddy Nathan. It was a normal day, crisp clear skies, fall had arrived a bit early that year. I was just trying to earn a living and take care of my wife and my 6 and 3 year old kids. Then, at 08:49 everything changed. I saw it happen live on TV as peered through the new door I was installing. I was just a normal man and 35 years old. 

Because of that, at 37 years old I found myself at the Chaplain Officer Basic Leadership Course and it wouldn't be long after that I'd find myself far from home in the middle of a war. 

I've buried many friends killed in combat who joined after that fateful day

In fact, I am serving here at Purple Heart Homes because of that day, for had that day not happened, I would have gone on putting in sliding glass doors for nice people and caring for my growing family. 

It's funny how one singular event can have so many ripple effects in even just one person's life. 

Tammy and I shared our morning coffee today and she looked at me and said, "Oh my goodness, its 9-11" and then she started to cry as if reliving that day all over again. She was frustrated that for a brief moment that she had forgotten. 

We are in fact forgetful creatures aren't we 

I fear we have a generation now that so easily forgets and has very little connection to the events of 9-11. They have no recollection of the skies that went silent that day. They don't remember the collective pause this country took. They don't remember the good will between citizens in the days and weeks that followed. 

Now, instead we see anger, uproar and unsolvable disputes on social media

What are we to do? 

You probably have some ideas but here are mine

1. Lets not forget, not just that awful day, lets not forget what it felt like to come together in the days that remember that possibility today
2. Let's not forget that the next generation needs to be informed and stories need to be tell them
3. Lets not forget that ultimately Jesus is saving the world and we are not in charge of that, but we get to trust that

Grace and Peace

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The songs of life- Thanks to mom

My home was filled with music and people growing up. Mom loved music and can play an assortment of instruments but her favorites are the lap dulcimer and the hammered dulcimer. I'm not certain of when she took up these pieces, but her talent and ear for music made the learning curve much shorter than most.

Mom also loves people and there was always someone over at our house playing music and enjoying fellowship.

Mom was always having dulcimer parties and with some of her friends played weddings, church events and parties for folks. My favorite was down at my aunt Becky's house just a 1/4 mile from our home. Becky would take the whole month of May to celebrate her birthday and it would culminate with a big party called "The Strawberry Jam". I'm sure there were strawberries there but I was never real sure the origin of the name.

Everyone would gather in my aunt's carport, musicians would arrive with instrument cases and chairs. There was lots of conversation and laughter. And then with some tuning up, the show would begin. No rehearsal, no real warm up, just song after song. Most of them were part of our Irish culture here in Western NC. The songs would be played and then the stories would be told. On and on this would go until folks were full, full of food, music and memories.

And really as best I can tell, it was my mom who kind of pulled it all together.

What a valuable lesson for me watching her build community with others and it has made a lasting impact on me.

Thank you mom for all you did for Steve and myself all these years. You did a fine job raising two rambunctious boys who were prone to mischief.

I am who I am because of your life, and I am grateful.

You modeled and instilled us both with a love for music, except for the part of you passing on your talent....which skipped to my kids!

You also modeled a life of caring for others and you carry on this to today.

So, Happy Mother's Day....I pray its filled with music and people, just like always.

Thanking God for you

Your son

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Light Shines

I was 28 years old and I was blind. I had been this way since birth.

I didn't know I was blind. But I knew something was wrong.
Blindness leads to fumbling in the dark and bumping into things. You don't know when you are in danger, close to a cliff or near a something that can hurt you.

You do a lot of wandering when you are blind. In my blindness I was unable to help my own state, incapable of changing anything.

I tried, believe me I tried. Over and over again I set out to see, but blind people cannot see.

Blindness is simply the inability to perceive light. Light is everywhere, but if you cannot perceive it, you can't see the world or yourself for what it really is.

Then it happened. I'm not sure why it happened. I'm not sure why in respect to the timing that my healing took place. All I do know is that its much like the song, I was blind and then I saw and now I continue to see.

It wasn't because I was special or talented. It wasn't because I did the right things or took the right steps.

It was simply something that was initiated outside of my self by Someone far more powerful than me.

25 years ago today, the Light of Life was shown to me. What have I seen since living in the light?

Best summed up in a few points I suppose:

1. I see Jesus. I see Him as Savior. I see Him as Lord. He is all and I am in Him
2. I see myself. Jesus gave me eyes to see myself as a son of my Father, adopted, an heir, fully loved in light.
3. I see others. I see others made in His image, some walking in light some still trapped in a world without the Light and walking in darkness. Because I was shown the Light, I understand the plight and know that the only path is the perception of this Light. So, I declare the Light with words and deeds, hoping to shine so that some might was done for me.

25 years later.... what do I feel?
Deep gratitude
Immense hope

25 Years later.... what do I know
I am a son
I am in Him
I can see

This is enough

The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it

Monday, February 11, 2019

One year out- Remembering Dale Beatty

I looked down the hallway at Walter Reed Hospital and saw a Veteran in his late 30s being pushed in a wheel chair. At first, it was just a normal sight at Walter Reed to see someone missing legs, but then I noticed a familiar crooked grin and a familiar hat atop his head. The hat read, Purple Heart Homes and the smile meant that it was my friend Dale Beatty. He didn't recognize me in my Army uniform and clean shaven. I looked down at him as we both waited for an elevator and I said sarcastically, "Hey son, what do you know about Purple Heart Homes?"

He looked up at me and said, "I'm the co-founder and we do critical home repair for disabled Veterans!" The excitement in his voice was contagious. I smiled back and said, "I know you Dale"

Then the reunion began as we rode up in the elevator and for the next 2 hours we continued in conversation, Dale, his wife Belinda and me....just reconnecting. As I was leaving that day, Dale gave me a coin from Purple Heart Homes.

He filled me in on his life, his kids, his work and for those that new Dale this was his passion. He surely did love his family.

Dale and John Gallina were wounded in 2004 by an IED blast in Iraq, They came home different. Dale left a good portion of himself quite literally in the sands of Iraq all on the behalf of others.

They came home to our small town Statesville, NC and the new normal began,

The worst day of Dale and John's life became the best day for countless Veterans and communities all over this land. Purple Heart Homes would not exist without that horrible day.

That 2 hour meeting in the hospital led me to join this amazing team at Purple Heart Homes and each day I thank God for that.

February 12th marks the one year anniversary of our loss of Dale. It was a normal Monday morning that came to a screeching halt for Dale's family and for this family we call Purple Heart Homes. I just remember John saying, "We lost Dale".

Death is a crushing thing. It happens every day in every community. But the sting of death is really only felt deeply and profoundly when its close, and this was close.

Dale's passing impacted many beyond our community. Radio stations, social media posts, newspapers across our region and across the land even broadcasted the news far and wide. Our friends John Boy and Billy and Woody and Wilcox led the way in telling Dale's story and in many ways helping us heal a bit.

And why is that? Well, I said this at his funeral and I believe this with all of my being, Dale was well loved because Dale loved well.

There were alot of things that I loved about Dale:

I loved his crooked smile
I loved how he loved old guns and old pickup trucks
I loved our end of the day conversations that drifted from work to life
I loved the way he ragged Parker (Our COO) for leaving work early
I loved watching him play the drums
I loved the way Sophia  (his little girl) bossed him around and that he gave in to every whim she had.
I loved to watch how he made people feel like they were important.
I love the fact that he was messy

On the day he died I went to pick up his Jeep from a local rental car place. He had left it there because he was doing some traveling. I always loved that Jeep, it had awesome stickers on the back and lets face it, Jeeps are just awesome.

I got in and the first thing I noticed was how awful it smelled in there and how messy it was, just like my truck. And in all my hurt and my pain I just started laughing at the complete disorder that I was in the midst of. I said outloud, "Dang Dale, this Jeep is disgusting"

I needed that Jeep ride that day. And his Jeep still sits in the parking lot of Purple Heart Homes waiting on his oldest to get his drivers license. And every time I see it I'm reminded of him,

Oh and that coin he gave me, it still sits on my shelf at home. I've received alot of coins in my time in the Army, from generals and colonels and alot of other bigshots. But no other coin that I have has as much meaning as the one I received that day at Walter Reed.

Its a tangible reminder of what Dale modeled for me.

The Bible says it in a way that is foreign to most in this world. In the book of Philippians Paul implores his readers to, in light of Christ's life of humility, consider others as more important than yourself. And as I reflect on my friend Dale's life through observation of his words and his deeds, he did in fact consider others as more important than himself.

Even though his Jeep was a mess

My prayer daily is that my legacy will somewhat resemble this one day as well.

My identity is sealed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and in His love.... and so was Dale's. In light of all that, I cling a little less tightly to this plane of existence and say these words with supreme confidence:

I will see you again Dale, but not yet....but not yet.

Now, we continue mission

To find out more about the organization that Dale helped found please check out Purple Heart Homes.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Meaningful Memorial Day

Most days I ride my bicycle with a group of friends and there's chatter and joking and all around good fellowship. But some days, I enjoy a solitary ride on roads I seldom ride. This Memorial Day weekend I've been with my family in Boone celebrating my mom's 80th birthday. There's been a lot of laughter, food and this spring for some reason, copious amounts of rain. Its been a green, muddy spring in Western NC. So when the forecast in Watauga County says sun, I try to take advantage of that.

Yesterday that was the case and I headed up the mountain near our family home here in Boone. Riding solo, there is a lot of time to think and I had a lot of names running through my head. Names like Alan, Ben, Steven, Mike, Ben, Marty, Joseph, Aaron, Dusty, LaDavid, Bryan, Jeremiah and Dale. Lots more are there taking up space in my head.

As I rode and looked at the scenery around me I thought of those names, the circumstances of the loss, the funerals and the families who continue to hurt. Riding alone I revisited friendships and conversations, smiles and quirky eccentric stories.

I've been reading a book by Rob Morgan on Psalm 23. This psalm is read at almost every military funeral I've ever officiated or attended. As I road my bike, pushed up steep hills, felt the pain in my legs, remembered my friends, I also remembered that the Lord is my Shepherd. He's keeping watch, aware of every detail. He's leading, He's preparing, He's with me and you in all of life's shadows and valleys. And He has made a dwelling place for those who know and trust Him. Promises that have been backed up by a cross and an empty tomb.

I rode on pondering these things and on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I found a particularly scenic spot to snap a picture or two as you can see from the photos here.

While there I noticed an older gentleman sitting in a camp chair gazing out over the spine of the Blue Ridge mountains. I noticed also that he had a desert tan ball cap on with an American flag, the tell tale sign of a Veteran. He looked over at me, it was just the two of us and greeted me warmly. His name was Jim. It was about a perfect morning and we both agreed we couldn't get much better.

Small talk about bicycles and mountain breezes turned more profound as he shared with me that he comes to that particular place a few times a year to visit with his wife. She passed away a little over 2 years ago and when they were just young kids they used to rent a cabin not far from the overlook. It was her favorite place. Two years ago, Jim spread her ashes over that very spot. They had been married for 31 years.

I felt bad about interrupting his time there, but he continued to talk as if introducing me to her. He told me of his days in the Army 50 years ago and how when he left Korea he cried because he was leaving his buddies behind.

It was a stunning, random, God ordained meeting.

I asked him if I could pray for him and he gratefully accepted. In my prayer I echoed what I had been reminded of in my reading, "The Lord is my Shepherd".  The Lord is your Shepherd...Jim.

After the Amen, we shook hands and I thanked him for his service, for the privilege of meeting him and then I told Jim, "I hope you have a meaningful Memorial Day"

With that, I pedaled off leaving him staring out over the valley....smiling.

May your Memorial Day be filled with meaning this year.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Thanks Dale Beatty: A life well lived

I've been asked by several folks to post the sermon I gave for my friend Dale Beatty at his funeral. It was an honor to speak on his behalf and to speak words of hope from a living Savior. Please understand that words delivered in 15 minutes are inadequate to sum up a life well lived.

I walked through the hallways of Walter Reed almost exactly a year ago o in my Army uniform on a mission to see my one of my soldiers who was being treated for terminal cancer. On my way to his room I saw a nurse pushing a wheel chair with a young man missing two legs and oddly enough on that day wearing a Purple Heart Homes hat. I looked down at him and said “Hey son what do you know about Purple Heart Homes?”. And with that crooked grin Dale Beatty looked up at me and shared with me the 30 second elevator story of Purple Heart Homes. I said I know who you are Dale and he again smiled and “Hey Brad, how are you, so good to see you”
I spent a little time with Dale and Belinda that day and hearing their story first hand, praying and laughing. For those that had the honor of spending any time with Dale, you know that laughter was always included.

We’ve missed that laugh this week. 

Its been missed in the phone calls, the snarky texts he would send. 

Its been missed in the offices of Purple Heart Homes where Dale lit up the lives of the family that he and John have built there. 

That laugh has been missed among his vast network of friends across the country.

Its been missed by his mom and dad and his sister. That laugh has been missed in his home with Belinda, Dustin, Lucas and vibrant little Sophia. Man we just miss him.

We miss him because he was loved.

And the reason Dale was loved is because he loved. He just had a knack for loving everyone who crossed his path, he didn’t differentiate at all. There just are too many stories to tell in these short minutes today, those will be told over the days, months and years to come.

I asked Dale’s friends about a word or a phrase that comes to mind when they thought when they thought of Dale. All of Dale’s Army friends use the word resilient, oh man was he ever that. How could one man ever over come so much? He could have mailed it in after what happened to he and his battle buddy John over in Iraq. He could have just rested, and no one would have ever blamed him. But that dude bounced back and not only got back to walking, he got back in the game for others. Thousands of others all over the country. The relationships that are formed in military service, the commitment to duty and to honor and to each other are transcendent values that span generations.

John gave me poem that he and Dale loved and there’s a stanza in there that speaks volumes.

We have shared our blankets and tents together,
And have marched and fought in all kinds of weather,
    And hungry and full we have been;
Had days of battle and days of rest,
But this memory I cling to and love the best,
    We drank from the same Canteen!

God bless you brothers that served with Dale on the battlefield. God bless you John Gallina for being his battle buddy and for drinking for the same canteen.

One dear friend said, when Dale opened his arms and you entered his space, you felt so special.
Others said He never met a stranger. He lit up rooms.
He was known as the baby whisperer because he was known to be able to calm crying babies while waiting for airplanes.
Another said her memory of Dale was simply…”Roger that” . It meant he understood and was moving out.

Dale was notorious for sending harassing text messages to Parker late at night, just because that is who he was.

He loved music, He loved the drums.

Dale loved his family, Jerry , Celene, and Amber. Celene told me “If I had known how good my kids would have turned out I’d have had more of them!
He loved you Belinda, you Dustin, you Lucas and little Sophia. He talked constantly about you. Oh my how he loved.

And to be honest he’d be mortified if he knew all this fuss was being made about him. He always wanted the fuss to be made about others.
That’s because Dale’s life was lived out of love and love is always on a mission.

Dale’s mission was restoration. He helped bring restoration after hurricanes. He mobilized and deployed to Iraq to help restore a nation in the midst of war.
He got blown up, lost his legs and made his mission to restore himself to being physically functional.

Then something really amazing happened, this community. You in this room and others who couldn’t be here, rallied around Dale and built him a home and brought restoration to his freedom of movement and gave him a place to raise a family. You gave him a home.

And through that you inspired that man and John to set out on a mission of restoration for hundreds of veterans and their families. Not just to restore homes, but dignity and community. And Purple Heart Homes continues this mission of restoration to this very day and it will continue on Monday and hopefully for the next 100 years.

Any time restoration is needed is because something is broken.
This mission of restoration is not new. 

Dale didn’t invent that idea of making broken things new.
No, this idea was fashioned long ago in the heart of God. And his mission: The restoration of a broken world.
Why is this important today? Because today we stand in the shadow of death. We are in the darkest hour, the hardest of days.
It is light that we search for today, light to see the way where there seems to be no way.

We also feel oppressed when death comes. When you hear of the death of someone you love it’s like having the wind knocked out of you. It just feels all so wrong. We pray it will all go away, yet here we are, its real.
We experience darkness, oppression and our hearts break. Its hard to describe a broken heart. Torn apart maybe…Loneliness…maybe, we may not know how to articulate a broken heart, but we know it when it has happened.

So in the darkness, under the heaviness of being oppressed and with broken hearts…we long for something…oh my goodness we need some good news on a day like today.

All the stories that we love, you know the ones that you walk away from deeply moved, that book that you couldn’t put down or that movie that had you sitting there 10 minutes after the credit rolls have a common element.

All of those stories had one of these days in them. It’s the point in the story where the hero seems defeated, where hope is lost. But in all the stories that we love, the stories that we long for, the good guy finds a way back…evil is vanquished, the girl is rescued and the day is saved. Good News!

I sincerely believe that there is good news amid the pain of today. And that good news is the Gospel. Literally…the Gospel means “good news”

At the outset of Jesus' work on the earth. Before a miracle was performed or a storm was stilled…he opened it all up with these words…in a stone synagogue in northern Israel quoting the prophet Isaiah.

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
     Because He has anointed Me
     To preach the gospel to the poor;
     He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
     To proclaim liberty to the captives
     And recovery of sight to the blind,
     To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19      To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
Just like every soldier has a mission to do, this was Jesus' mission concept. He recognized that in this world people were hurting, broken, lost, trapped. And that they needed some Good News.
To proclaim the Gospel! The Good News was his mission for He Himself was the good news.

And this Good News would result in these things
-         Binding the broken hearted
-         Bringing sight to the blind
-         Setting free those who are oppressed

That is what we need in days like this.
To have the bindings cut free, a clear view, and freedom. Restoration
Jesus accomplished his mission here on earth, but it came at a heavy price
And just like we experience the darkness of this day, so too was there darkness in the story of The Gospel. It is that day where the hero looks like he’s not going to make it.
Jesus mission took him up a lonely hill in Jerusalem where he gave all for us all. It was His great love for You and me and Dale that took him up that hill. And waiting for Him there was a cross.
It was through the blood of Christ that the mission of healing broken hearts, opening the eyes of the blind and setting captives free was accomplished.
And then three days later, the very thing that brings all of us here together today, death, was completely, convincingly, utterly, defeated. Paul would later write as he proclaimed the Gospel, “Death where is your sting, grave where is your victory”
Yes the Hero is alive…Jesus conquered what has us hurting so badly.
Death always comes prior to resurrection, but rest assured that resurrection of the body is for real. Christ has shown us the way, for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When all was lost and the hero seemed to have failed, resurrection entered the scene and the one thing that we all need arrived with that resurrection….hope.

Hope is the one thing that will get us through today and into tomorrow. Hope that death is not the end.

You see we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Dale placed his faith in a crucified, resurrected God-man Savior…Jesus.

It was not Dale’s good life that secured this hope and it will not be yours.

What is required is, simple basic faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God and the Savior of the world. His death is sufficient to pay our debt.

Death will visit us all, but through faith in Christ it will be nothing more than a shadow of a cloud passing us over as we move from this life to the next…And then there will be a reunion, not like the boring reunion where the food is bad and conversation worse, but like a reunion after a really long and difficult deployment, but better because the deployments will be done. A reunion with belly ache laughter will greet us, with tears not of sadness but of unending joy. A reunion of love, a reunion of life, a reunion of all and for all! Death will be a memory that fade away forever.

And waiting for us there at the homecoming will be Dale, with his crooked smile and he will run to us on restored legs in a restored body. Restored forever. And we will laugh again!

So, what do we need to know now? Please know these truths.
In our cries God Hears
In our grief God Remembers his promises
In our pain God sees all
And in our lives God knows every single need and is ready with help.

So what are we to do now?
Today: We will honor the fallen
In the days to come: we will care for those that are wounded from the loss of Dale
And finally: We will continue the mission

Its what Dale would want. 


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Faithful friends and a big fake check

If you read this blog you might recall from my last post a cycling accident that put my friend Pressly and I in the hospital for some injuries. We are both on the mend now, although my finger will probably never work like it used to and Pressly's shoulder looks like as he calls it "Quasimodo" we are getting better.

Scars are little reminders of life's
journey I suppose and at my age I have a few of them.

My recovery however this week was spurred on by a remarkable and unsuspected show of great love and friendship.

I took my broken bike to First Flight Bikes this week where our buddy Wes Davidson is the local genius. Please check them out for your next bike, upgrade or repair at

The forks were sheared off, my front wheel is toast and some other minor injuries. Not a total loss, but bikes can be a little pricey to repair. Wes diagnosed the damage and informed me of the price which came as no surprise.

As you might imagine, a 45 minute trip to the hospital in an ambulance and 14 hours of CAT scans, minor surgery and care from nurses and doctors in a level 1 emergency room came with a hefty bill and even though we have good insurance, we don't have alot of extra laying around to repair a broken bike.

I was resigned to wait it our for several months and slowly save along the way with the hopes of getting back on the road by spring.

But, this week changed that plan. I've been riding a bike since I was 5 years old. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood in the 70's revolve around my Schwinn Varsity and the friends whom I joined on micro-adventures all around town. Having a bike brought a kid freedom to move around, to go to the store and get a mountain dew or to visit new roads and see stuff that from a car just doesn't do it justice.

But it was the friends that made it memorable.

That has not changed. I suppose at 52 I still ride with people, because cycling is best enjoyed with others. Over the last 3 years I've come to know so many new friends through cycling. I've also reconnected with old friends from my childhood, the Schwinn Varsity crowd. It is literally something I look forward to each and every week.

And something amazing has grown out of that, a community. Communities are not just groups of people. I suppose the defining characteristic of community is the network of support and communication that comes with it, relationships.

A few years ago, I planned a little ride on a Sunday with a few friends to establish an F3 workout on bkes. F3 stands for Fitness, Fellowship and Faith and seeks to develop male community leadership through planting free small group workouts.

With that what is now called F3 GoatDog cycling was formed, aptly named for a goat and a dog who resided together in a small pasture on one of our routes. Oh, yeah they would chase us as we rode by from their side of the fence. Hec, we even have jersey's. Now that community has grown to a size and depth I never imagined.

So, last night as I got home from a very productive day serving great american veterans at Purple Heart Homes (A blog post will come later about this) I was surprised with a visit.

Not one of my friends, not 2, but a kitchen full of unexpected visitors. People just kept pouring in, to over a dozen. I had no idea and neither did Tammy. Names like ManYanna, Davinchi, Ray Ray, Maytag, Matlock, Sprinkles, BayRoos, Sonny and Cher, Frasier, Gomer and Wolfpup. In this community everyone gets a nickname and they all mean something important.

If I forgot anyone, please remember I'm recovering from a severe concussion. I know way more folks were involved in this than those in my kitchen. Thank you all.

After a few minutes of me being very uncomfortable, it got worse. Cher took the floor and said some really kind words and declared that this wonderful community had come together and raised money to repair my broken bike. Even now as I write these words my emotions well up deep inside. They handed me a big ceremonial check (My first ever that I will frame) that was made out to me. The memo line it says "Heal your wheels". The signature is however greater than the dollar figure and it means so much more.

It simply reads "Your friends"

My friends raised money for me to fix my bike so we can all ride together again.

I'm not sure what I did to deserve such a great gift, not of money but of people.

“Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.” 
― William Shakespeare

I found them, thank you God for the privilege of friendship.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Close Calls

On Friday as I normally do 4 to 5 times a week I gathered with 8 or 9 good friends to ride bikes through our county to get some exercise and experience some fellowship. Somewhere along the way I got tangled up with my long time riding buddy Pressly and we went down. I don't remember any of the events that happened leading up to our wreck or the 12 hours after that. My friend Owen says I have now time traveled, perhaps so. What I do know is that I woke up in a level 1 trauma center at Baptist Hospital holding my wife's hand. I had no idea where I was, or how I had gotten there. As the events of the day were told to me a great wave of fear swept over me. It was a completely new experience for me. The detachment with reality was very unnerving. What I did find out is that I had gone over the handlebars on my bike and my face took the brunt of the fall. My friend Pressly had a separated shoulder and was transported to another hospital more locally. I had lost a lot of blood and there was some real concern that my head trauma could be critical, thus the ride to Winston Salem.

I've had accidents before, many of them. I've wrecked bikes, torn ACL's (2 in the same knee), been hurt on the job, believe me...I've had my share of ER visits. But this one was palpably different. I had never experienced this level of disorientation and the fear that accompanied it. When Tammy told me I was at Baptist Hospital that was significant. In the area that we live if someone has been sent to Baptist, its bad, I've had friends die there and many who were close to death.

Finally after all the tests, I escaped with some bad lacerations to the face, a broken nose and finger and a concussion, Like I've been telling folks, luckily my face broke my fall or it could have been much worse.

So as I'm processing through the time gaps, my continued short term fogginess and healing of some very painful facial injuries, I'm always trying to learn. What have I learned through this.

Well here's my list:

  1. My wife is amazing. I'm not sure how to expand on that, but if you know her, you know. The devotion, the determination, the steadfastness she has shown me is nothing less a proverb to a most valuable wife. 
  2. My children have learned to love well from their mom and they show it. 
  3. My friends are true. From a waiting room filled with people praying for me, to the visits and the calls, I cannot overestimate the power of friendship. 
  4. Nothing in life is predictable. I suppose I'm as guilty as the next for trying to arrange life to suit my wants, needs and desires. But there's nothing like a scary injury that changes ones perspective. 
  5. Close calls should remind us of what is to come. Injury has a funny way of reminding us that we live in the midst of brokenness. While I was in the ER at least 2 gunshot victims were brought along with a couple of stabbings. Man, this world is broken. Just ride in an EMS, Fire or police vehicle for one day. Its all around us and it invades all our lives at one time or another. Its all broken, but what does the Scripture teach....that all will be made new, the old will pass away. The ER screams "This world is broken!" The Scriptures scream, "All will be made new!"
I don't remember much about Christmas 2017. I know my family was here and there was food and some gifts. But I do remember my advent wreath and through the fog of injury I looked at those candles and remembered the unforgettable truth the Christ was born, Christ was Crucified, Christ is risen and Christ will come again. And whether I meet that day on this side or the other it provides context for today, and hope for tomorrow and ultimately when all things are made new. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

We are settlers

You may have seen the Direct TV commercials with the family known as the "settlers". They are a hyperbolic 19th century family stuck in a cul-de-sac neighborhood of the 21st century. With Amish overtones, the term settlers refers to their commitment to stay mired in the backward world of cable television in lieu of the progressive and better world of satellite TV. The commercials are hilarious and creative for sure. And I like them a lot.

But lately I've been reading about people ditching their smartphones and going back to rotary landlines. I have friends that text me when they date their wives saying "I'm going dark", referring to their shutting down the smartphone. It seems as if there's a rumbling of rebellion to the incredible technological advances we have seen and embraced over the last decade. Maybe its all the talk of AI and robots taking over the world, just read the Drudge report for a few days, you'll see it.

I grew up with little to no technology in a small town in NC. We had TV...3 channels on a good day. I was the remote control...."Hey boy, go change the channel".   Most of my days were spent outside, in the woods and playing in creeks and I was blissfully unconnected with the world. Today, I can hear about a bank robbery in Sri Lanka over my twitter feed.

Some days and I'm finding them more frequent I get nostalgic for simpler times. I feel some days that all the gadget stuff that we have that has been designed to make life easier actually makes life more complicated.

I suppose that's why I've found myself ordering books. I take my actual Bible to church too. It has actual paper pages and I write in the margins with an actual pen.

After watching one of the settlers commercials today, I actually thought..."Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to have a simpler existence." What if our days as families were centered around conversation instead of what was the latest thing to come across our Facebook timelines?

What if we got more creative with the way we kept ourselves busy in the lives of others?

What if we were simply content and our 1st world problems vanished?

An EMP device or a crafty computer hacker could make that a realty. What would happen? Well, the settlers would be just fine.

There's a lot to be said about contentment. Not living in a comfort zone mind you, because I believe God calls us out of that every day. But contentment as Paul put it in Philippians is something different!

12 I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment,8  whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. 13 I am able to do all things 9  through the one10  who strengthens me.

Paul tells us he has learned the secret of contentment! What's the secret... Whether I have smart phones or basic cable, whether I have a Food Lion to get food or must hunt for it every day, whether my heat is rocking at 72 or I have to figure out how to shelter my family and build a fire....these things are not the source of my source is Christ Jesus, who never changes and always supplies me the ability to live despite circumstances, when life is easy or when life is hard.

If that is settling, then consider me a settler...I still have my foot stomping! (see the commercial for that reference)

Go live well today

All for now...more to follow

Thursday, October 01, 2015

I am only 50- Assign me the Hill Country

Joshua 14:10 So nowlookthe Lord has preserved my life, just as he promised,these past forty-five years since the Lord spoke these words to Mosesduring which Israel traveled through the wildernessNow lookI am today eighty-five years old. 11 Today I am still as strong as when Moses sent me outI can fight and go about my daily activities with the same energy I had then. 

Half a century ago my mom Sarah struggled through a really long labor in a hospital in West Allis, Wisconsin and my walk on this earth began. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

I must say it out loud, I am 50. There, that wasn't so bad. Its an odd thing to say. Its days like today where men sometimes reflect over their lives, take stock, remember, regret, laugh, smile, cry. Some men I talk to think that its the beginning of the end. 

As I've approached this day I've thought much about being 50. In my mind I've compared myself to my dad and my grandfather when they were 50. Have I measured up to the examples set before me? I suppose these things are not for me to decide. That question will be answered by others. 

I reflect back on what I've seen these last 50 years. My world has changed from one of blissful isolation in a small southern town riding bikes and playing in the woods with my little brother and our neighborhood friends.... to a world that is connected in seconds by fiber optics..... as someone from England or China will be able to read this as soon as I hit the "publish" button.

I think on the places I've been. I've walked and seen the tallest mountains in the world. I've had my feet in the pristine rivers of Alaska. Seen sunsets over the pacific. Enjoyed lightning bugs in my own back yard. 

I've experienced the sad reality of war first hand far from my home. I've been patriotic and disillusioned at times. 

I've buried heroes and I have heroes for friends. 

I've watched my two children grow from toddlers to teenagers. I had the privilege of seeing them both come to faith in the Savior Jesus. They will be change agents!

I've known the love of a good woman and she is more valuable than precious jewels. 

I am 50

I think about Caleb in his statement from the book of Joshua above. Its one of my favorites. "Today I am as strong as when Moses sent me out." At 85 he said this! 

But the coolest part about what Caleb had to say, was his mission request. At 85 no one would have slighted him if he had asked for some bottom land next to the river. At 85 and after the life he lived, surely an easy retirement was in order....relax big guy, enjoy it for a while before you die. 

But Caleb wouldn't have it that way. He said in verse 12 Nowassign me this hill country which the Lord promised me at that time! No doubt you heard at that time that the Anakites live therein largefortified cities. 

Assign me the hill country...where the giants live. 

That's bold. That's audacious. I think I'd like some of that. Caleb despite the number of his years was placing his life in the hands of the God of all years. And He was determined to trust the God who had been unswerving and faithful. It was logical. God has promised...I will follow. 

So today isn't a lament for turning 50, today is a day to say "I'm only 50....Lord, assign me some hill country" 

Save the toughest mission for last. 

I feel as strong as I did 21 years ago when the Lord opened up the Gospel of Jesus to me through the radio in my car. When He rescued me from my pit and set my feet on a solid rock.  He has preserved me all these years. I am ready for the next 50 years and yes I am ready for tomorrow. There is much to do. 

My long rest will come when the Kingdom of God and the King Himself return in full force. 
Until then there are missions to do 
There are people to encourage
There is darkness that needs light
There are the lost that need to be found
There is truth to be declared
There is a faithful God to follow

None of that is done on the porch 

I am only 50- Assign me the hill country

19 years today

 This is an email I sent to our employees today.  On this day 19 years ago I was installing a sliding glass door for a lady in Troutman with...