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I’m sitting in his chair, in his house, around his things, remembering times when we talked about stuff. He was one of the two fathers God blessed me with in my life. My own dad was my best friend and passed away in 2009. My father-in-law, in whose chair I’m sitting in at this moment, was the other. He passed away in 2012.

I learned different things from each man. Dad taught me the value of people, of relationships, of serving others, of loving my family. My father-in-law taught me the importance of conservative values, integrity, and high moral standards. He was a highly disciplined man with high expectations of those around him. He could also be generous.

Both men grew up very poor. Dad was one of nine siblings. His father died when he was just a child. However, dad enjoyed the blessing of a godly mother and wonderful brothers and sisters. ST was one of seven siblings. His father left the family when ST was just a child. However, he enjoyed the blessing of a godly mother and wonderful brothers and sisters! Do you see a pattern?

While both men struggled to make it on their own, growing up poor, putting themselves through college, and establishing a career path, both of them had help. Help from family and friends.

In a world where family and close relationships seem to mean less and less all the time, each of us could do well stopping for a few moments to consider who and how we could help. No matter if you seem to be the one that needs help, you can always find someone else who needs your help.

Dad and my father-in-law spent their lives helping and serving others. They made a difference. I want to do the same! Isn’t it time you help someone?

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

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She sat on the front porch going through an old trunk that I had brought down from the attic. As we opened the trunk I watched her eyes light up with the memories its contents brought back to her. The wedding dress from the ceremony 68 years ago, the swimsuit she had worn in a beauty contest nearly 70 years befIMG_4213ore, and little dresses she had dressed her two daughters in when they were just babies. Each item old and showing its age but still clear in her mind and special in her memory.

We were finally getting her home ready to sell and part of that process was preparing for an estate sale. On this day my mother-in-law was getting her final look at so many of the things that had been precious to her for so long. All of these items that, not too long ago, had seemed so important and now would be sold to str
angers as they wandered through the house looking for a good buy.

Just the day before all the grandkids had walked through the same house trying to decide what they wanted. Something that would hopefully remind them of the wonderful times they had with amazing grandparents. Old tools, dishes, articles of clothing, military mementos all had special meaning to each grandchild who are now adults and have their own homes.

As each of us nears the end of life we face, along with our family, very challenging decisions that can be painful and divisive.   Families must work together to make sure the memories of our loved ones are not damaged by selfishness and petty attitudes about stuff. Stuff, no matter how special it has been during life, is never more important than meaningful and loving relationships among family.

As my mother-in-law continued throughout the day to look through the things that brought back so many special memories I was reminded how blessed I am to have lived life with her. What a gift she and her husband had blessed me with the day I married her daughter nearly 37 years ago.

Our problems always seem to have something to do with our finances, kids, husband or wife, job, or health. Trials, hard times, difficulties, problems, something that distracts us from what needs to be done, or something that totally consumes us.

How do you handle this stuff? How do you deal with the problems in your life that always seem to overwhelm you and keep you from living life in a way that brings fulfillment and meaning? In the midst of everything that seems to drag you down and keep you from being happy, how do you live your life productively?

Think about it. What is robbing your life of meaning? Why? What can you do to change it? Let me encourage you to take some time and consider how things are going and what you need to do differently to live a more meaningful life. You may need to get away for a couple of days, or learn something new. You may need to make some hard decisions and stop some form of destructive behavior in your life. You may need help. Ask for it. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from friends and family. If family is distant and friends are few, then pursue opportunities to put people around you who will help.

Relief may come in the form of service. Much of the time when we are struggling with our own problems, what we need most is to do something for someone else. Volunteer and make a difference someplace. Get your focus off yourself and onto others. It will help.

“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Proverbs 13:4 NIV

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

As a minister I love officiating weddings; especially when I know the couple and have invested in their lives. So to have the opportunity to officiate my daughter’s wedding was a special treat for me. But what if I cried? What if I could not continue with the ceremony? A daddy is supposed to cry at his daughter’s wedding. Right? I had officiated the wedding of my son, Matthew and his beautiful bride, Ali just seven months before…and I cried. But it all worked out to be a perfect day and wedding.

The first time I knew I was in troubDSC_1248le at Emily’s wedding was as I walked my beautiful bride of 36 years down the aisle…and cried, although it was silently and I covered pretty well. Then as the doors opened and I stood there with my precious daughter on my arm facing the crowd of people who were there to express their love to Emily and eat my tacos, I cried. I walked her down the aisle and ever so gently, cried my eyes out. It was such a precious time for her and for our family. I was finally giving her away to a special guy who adores her and is a wonderful husband for life.

Steele’s best man was his dad, Russell who finally asked me that question every father either dreads hearing or has anxiously anticipated, “Who gives this woman in marriage?” “Sherri and I,” I replied. Then I took my place in front of the couple and throughout the service, struggled keeping it together. It was fun and having the opportunity to officiate my kid’s weddings is an incredible experience for me.

I try to keep from developing unreasonable expectations. I think getting through the weddings of my son and daughter without showing any emotion is pretty unreasonable. So, my expectation of crying at my daughter’s wedding went fulfilled…and I survived.

I took my sons, Michael and Matthew, turkey hunting on a Saturday morning. We were up early and sitting in the field at daybreak waiting for the turkeys to come off their roost and eat. We called them in and after a while the first “Tom” showed up. Michael waited patiently for him to get close enough to shoot but this Tom was kind of nervous. He finally turned to leave and Michael took his shot…and missed!

We had done everything right. We had the right gear, gun, and ammunition. But Michael missed the shot. He missed his opportunity! Have you ever missed your opportunity? Have you worked at preparing well, gotten everything in its place, and then missed your shot, your opportunity?

Opportunity in our life is defined by our purpose. You need to discover your purpose. I believe you were created for a purpose. Our responsibility is to identify it.

A friend of mine recently posed these questions:

  • For what are we searching?
  • Why were we created?
  • Do we believe in our potential?

 

My friend encouraged us to answer these questions honestly and with no regard for our pride. He encouraged everyone to do what he or she could with what they had wherever they were. You may feel like you are of no value where you are and doing what you do. But you are of great value to God and have incredible potential. Take intentional steps toward reaching your potential and making a difference in the lives of the people around you. Don’t miss the opportunities before you each day!

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

My purpose in life is to love God. And I have said for years that all of life boils down to relationships, ultimately one’s relationship with Christ. Loving God and loving others means we realize it can be especially difficult to love others when others have not loved us. But if we allow the behavior and shortcomings of others to influence how we choose to live our own lives then we will never truly love others the way God wants. We will “hole up” in our home or in our heart and never see others benefit from enjoying a healthy relationship with us.

What does loving others mean to you? For me, it means giving, being a blessing, serving, sacrificing, and deferring to another so they will benefit. Sometimes this is easy. Other times it is really hard. I get selfish, hurt, or focused elsewhere on stuff and activities that do not keep me on track to make a difference in the lives of others.

Frankly, you will do a better job if you are making a difference in the lives of others. Find an opportunity to build healthy relationships. You can do it. Civic groups, clubs, churches, and other organizations can provide the platform for healthy relationships all of us need in our lives. Go make it happen!

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31

The other day I was looking out the front window of my home and saw the neighbor boy running up the sidewalk, wearing his Superman t-shirt and cape.  He had his hands out in front of him and I am sure he thought he was flying.  I watched as he stumbled, fell and hit the pavement with both knees and hands.  It startled me but for some reason I just kept watching.  He rolled over and sat on the pavement crying and yelling for help.  In just a moment his ever-vigilant dad was kneeling at his side, holding his little hands and checking out his bloodied knees.  And then, all of a sudden, it occurred to me who the real Superman was! 

I turned 60 the other day.  It was painless but it certainly was not missed or forgotten.  Whether it be well-intentioned friends and family, or just the fact that I do not consider myself “old,” my 60th birthday did not go unnoticed.  I genuinely believe that the next 15 to 20 years will be my best.  I am a better husband and father than ever before.  I am slower to speak and more quick to listen.  I even notice glimpses of wisdom every so often.  I enjoy less not more, simple not complicated, easy not hard, and am more easily entertained than ever.  I have always valued people but now find family and friends more important and significant than I did even a few years ago.  I love entertaining movies, good spy novels, wine, sitting on my deck at night, driving my Jeep,  shooting all of my guns, and spending time with my kids.  My life is much better than I deserve.

At 60 I enjoy work in ways I never did before.  Maybe because my job is not work to me.  It brings me great joy and fulfillment.  It is obvious to me and a few others that being a corporate chaplain is what God “wired me up” to be.  I get to talk with people all day, direct them to what and Who can help them, and hopefully make a difference in their life.  And I actually get paid to do it!

Twenty years ago I was 40.  I rode my first “century” bike ride.  I was raising teenagers.  I had only been married 15 years! My dad was still living.  There was no gray in my hair.  In fact, all of my hair was still on my head!  And, it did not hurt to get out of bed every morning.

What about the next 20 years?  Well, I promise to be a better husband and a man Sherri can count on.  I promise to be the absolute best “Pops” whenever my kids decide to give me grandchildren.  I promise to chaplain and make a difference in the lives of people for as long as I stay healthy.  Retirement is not in the plan.  And I promise to love you, whoever you are, and lead you to the only One who can truly make a difference in your life!

What is a critical spirit?  You know the answer to that question if you are frequently on the receiving end of someone’s critical spirit.

The dictionary defines criticism as “an act of criticizing; to find fault; to blame or condemn.”

A critical spirit is an obsessive attitude of criticism and faultfinding that seeks to tear others down.  We’re not talking about what some refer to as “constructive criticism.”  The only criticism that is ever constructive is that which is expressed in love to “build up,” not to tear down.  It is always expressed face-to-face, never behind the back.

If you have a critical spirit, you dwell on the negative and seek out flaws in others.  You complain and are usually upset about something.  You generally have a problem with something and end up whining about it.  You can’t control your speech or temper and you gossip a lot.

What does God say about it?  Take a look at Romans 14:10-13:

“Why do you criticize and pass judgment on others?  Why do you look down on or despise others?  We will all stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of ourselves.  Let’s no longer criticize, blame, and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide to never be a stumbling block, obstacle, or hindrance to anyone.  (Jon’s paraphrase)

How do you get rid of your critical spirit?  First of all you recognize that your critical spirit is a spiritual issue in your life.  Murray Mayfield defines a critical spirit as “a negative attitude that focuses on real or imagined faults with no thought toward a biblical or practical solution.”  Learn right ways to privately and gently confront others when you must.  Recognize that, more often than not, your criticism is sinful.  Get to the place where you can see others the way God sees them…lovingly, with grace and mercy.  After all, that is how He sees you!

Some of the above information is taken from a copyrighted article by Dale A. Robbins.

I heard his voice yesterday. I opened the package from my cousin and it was a cassette tape of his mother’s funeral years ago. In the service my dad spoke for a few minutes and then prayed. It was the first time I had heard his voice since he passed away two years ago.

Seeing what it was, I went and got my wife’s cassette player, took a seat in my recliner, and listened to the tape by myself. I cried. I cried again as I thought about the experience earlier today. I am crying now as I write this. His voice was comforting. His voice took me back to a time in my life when my dad represented stability and security. He was larger than life and in him I could find no fault. He shared with me absolute and unconditional love. For a long time he was the most important person in my life.

I call my wife a couple of times each day. Sometimes I think it bothers her but usually I just want to hear her voice; to know she is there and that all is well. I call my kids, usually for no reason at all, other than to hear their sweet voices and know that they are alright. I call my mom nearly every day just so she will know the comfort of a son’s voice. And after all these years, I wish I could call my dad and hear that comforting voice on the other end of the telephone.

Who do you need to call today? Whose voice is precious to you and represents all that is good in your life? Don’t neglect those voices. Make the call because someday the only way you will hear that voice is on an old cassette tape.