Can I Get a Little Cheese with that Whine?

If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?

In the last week I faced a tough question. Is it possible to face another surgery? The immediate public answer is, ‘of course!’ While Gunner (my Black Lab, Shepherd, Chow mix) and I were actively involved visiting patients at the local hospitals, I met a great many heroes. Lots of them are young children and have faced many more surgeries than me and are facing many more. They have an internal fortitude, often a faith, but each I met had a tenacity that was far and above my own. I tried to count the number I have had. It is somewhere around twenty. After breaking my leg (the left fibula just above the ankle) in October, wearing a cast for weeks, undergoing PT then learning that my bone was still as broken as it was on day one; I was scheduled for surgical repair this past February. Two weeks with a special cast then a regular cast and then a boot and finally… this past Wednesday, April 30th set free! The doc said all looked good and I was free to ambulate!

Freedom lasted about five hours until I tripped in my bathroom and twisted the same foot! It is possible I have torn one of the extensor tendons which run the length of the top of the foot. I will know this coming Thursday if it is torn and if it is, it will require surgery. Of course, as summer approaches, my Harley sits longingly in the garage and my bass boat cries out from storage for release. Those things are going to be put on hold yet again! I have been feeling like each recovery has taken some of the fire from my soul. I was all set to talk myself into a truly blue mood.

Then, news came from a dear friend, younger than me, who has been battling cancer and was hopeful that it was annihilated. The cancer remains, however, in a small tumor. It is not devastating news, but it is not the news we wanted. To be very honest, such news makes my entire first two paragraphs seems totally ego-centric and whiny!

Are they? Do we need to measure our hurts, anxieties, and stresses by considering what others bear? Each of us have been there, just not feeling well, being down in our spirit, aching for something we cannot describe and we long to lay it out before our Heavenly Father. Then we hear of a horrific battle being fought by another and we push all our stuff back into the box where we keep those hurts we don’t share with others. We paint a fake smile on our face and keep on going. Is that what God wants us to do or is it what He expects from us?

I think perhaps we have a true, two-sided coin. When we are facing a challenge, it can be an encouragement to us to see how others have battled and won. We can also put our own in a better perspective and it helps us be grateful for our blessings. Both of those are positive and can help us meet our own challenge with a renewed vigor, a fresh outlook and a deeper faith.

Pushing your own feelings back in the box and painting on a face, with an everything is Okay kind of look is what I call the ‘Sunday morning smile.’ We have all seen it and we have all done it. If you are a churchgoing, worship-gathering kind of person, it happens in those quick passes in the hallway with the ‘good morning’ greetings and ‘how ya’ doing’ questions. It is easier to just smile and say, ‘I’m better than a mosquito in a blood bank’ than to look them in the eye and say, ‘I’m having a tough week and could use some prayer.’

If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?

Peter writes, “Cast all your anxiety on him (God) for he cares for you.” Notice the words… anxiety, your worries and struggles and the adjective ‘all’. Peter does not say, ‘Cast all the care you have that is important enough for God to consider’ or ‘all your care that is greater than everyone else’s care’, he writes all.[i]

Matthew writes, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”[ii]

It appears to be about balance. We need to be encouraged by other’s victories and we need to be mindful we have much for which to be grateful. Gloomy-Gus Christians who can only moan about the burden of life without seeing any positives, feeling any grace or recognizing blessings need to spend some time in introspective prayer and Bible reading. Unbelievers who look toward Christ to bring them from the brink of despair and meet only the Christian so wrapped in their own misery will not find hope in such hopelessness.

Worse, though, are those who feel an obligation to not let anyone know they are struggling. Whether it is pride or their false persona of SUPER CHRISTIAN that keeps them silent, they are in for a rude awakening. For them, a Christian faces every storm and never has a moment of struggle or grief. Anyone who believes a real Christian must not worry and bottles up everything inside, is on a collision course with reality, is going to get hit hard and there is always collateral damage.

I knew such a man. (Spoiler Alert – if you are of delicate sensibilities, you may want to skip this paragraph) He kept up the persona of a great husband and father, community leader, business elite, everything neatly packed in his calf-skin briefcase and his never off-the-rack suits. One day I stood next to him, still in his expensive suit now soaked through with blood. His calf-skin briefcase had fallen open, the contents carried by the wind through the woods where he had walked before sitting at the base of a tree and eating the business end of his shotgun. Not a very pretty picture, is it? No one seemed to have any clue there was a problem brewing beneath his well-protected façade. I have no doubt his family would have gladly accepted a father who told them he was struggling and work with him to find help. It would not have made him less of a great dad. Certainly, the option he chose did not do anything to help his family.       

So, what about this feeling I have that it is getting harder to bounce back from each additional surgery and recovery period? Do I face the possibility of another up-coming surgery with dread and a morose attitude? Do I bottle it up and put on my Sunday morning smile because others truly are much worse off than me? Do I step from the nearest phonebooth[iii] in my tight leotards with my flowing cape and the large C on my chest as SUPER CHRISTIAN who can withstand this, declaring, “HAVE NO FEAR SUPER C IS HERE”?

Perhaps, the best tack may be not worrying about tomorrow because, as Matthew writes, “…tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[iv] There is a good possibility this will be just a bad sprain and I will not even need surgery. If it is a tear, as my mom would have said, be glad the Bible says: ‘It came to pass’ not, it came to stay!

I have an amazing support team! All will be fine. If torn, it is a simple tear and not a life-threatening malady with beau coup complications.

Finally, with every surgery and resulting recovery, God has taught me something about myself and about others. In this too, there shall be a lesson. Will it stink to not be riding my Harley for a while or to have some restrictions on my fishing? Absolutely. I think I can survive.

I should also use this time to be reminded of those facing life-altering medical issues and seek to pray for them, encourage them and be ready to assist should the opportunity present itself.

It is also a great time to count my many blessings and thank my support team for all their awesome love and attention to caring for me even when I am at my most unlovable.


[i] 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

[ii] Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

[iii] Phonebooth a small structure furnished with a payphone and designed for a telephone user’s convenience. (Provided for Millennials and younger!)  

[iv] Matthew 6:34 NIV

YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? What do you do when the bad guys come?

Was there anything about the way the van was driving that might have given away that trouble in the form of either intoxicated/drugged idiots or just plain idiots was heading their way?

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This could be just about any residential street in mid-west North America. Quiet, neat, plenty of places for kids to play. The school bus which is seen every day is a part of life. That was this neighborhood until26th two-days-ago when gun shots erupted and fractured the quiet. Within seconds a van speeds off and a ten-year-old boy is laying on this very road, hit by a bullet because some scum wanted his phone and his shoes… Crazy, right?

Two brothers, 16 and 10 walking down this quiet street and dirt bags who have seen too many bad guy movies or taken too much of their own heroin, try to rob them. The sixteen-year-old tries to shield his brother before the shot and the bullet thankfully hits just the younger boys shoulder, breaking a bone and shattering his shoulder blade.  How quickly does a young man go from “All I Do Is Win” 26awhile smiling over his freshly snagged bass to post-surgical tubing running across his arm? He definitely ‘WON’ again, by surviving this attack. What about you? Could you have won? What did these boys do correctly to help them ‘WIN’? What else, if 26banything, could they have done?

TRAVEL in PAIRS checkmark (Traveling in grapes can be pressing!)

STAY in AREAS YOU KNOW checkmark

TRAVEL in DAYLIGHT checkmark (It was 1:30 in the AFTERNOON!)

Carry a Cellphone to summon help  checkmark(That was a double-edged sword this time)

Stay Calm checkmark (As calm as you can when someone is shooting at you!) Kudos to big brother for trying to shield his younger sibling!

Carry a Firearm check-not (A great idea but even big-brother is still five years too young!)

Avoid Trouble check-not(Sometimes trouble is on you before you know it! If possible – RUN!) And if you must, according to your ideology, have a ‘victim’… Let the only victim be the huge bowl of ice cream that these guys decimate as they celebrate!

Think about you, on a sunny, VERY early Spring-like day, walking along in your own neighborhood with your brother. How could you be Situationally Aware? How far away was the van when first the boys saw it? Was there anything about the way the van was driving that might have given away that trouble in the form of either intoxicated/drugged idiots or just plain idiots was heading their way? If such an early warning would have been possible, the maybe… I mean MAYBE, they might have run to safety.

These questions are not meant to demean or second-guess either of these two young men! As we have already stipulated, THEY ARE HEROES! What we do want you to do is to THINK! Before the situation unfolds, have you looked for an escape route? MOST amateurs are terrible shots at a target and even worse at a moving target… so when your options are 1) Stand Here and Get Shot or 2) Come on feet – don’t fail me now! If you have a chance to run… by all means, go for it!26c

THIS NEIGHBORHOOD NEEDS THE CHILDREN TO BE ABLE TO PLAY SAFELY THIS COMING SUMMER WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT A COUPLE OF 26dDIRTBAGS IN A VAN.

IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ABOUT WHO SHOT THIS BRAVE YOUNG MAN, CALL EITHER THE MASSILLON POLICE DEPARTMENT 330-832-9811 or SCI at 330-956-9561

 

 

Note: All photos from open sources

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What We Don’t See

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Most everyone has seen the sketches that are brain teasers that if you look at it one way it is a beautiful young woman wearing a stole and another way it is a haggard old witch with a crooked nose and wart! I don’t know when you look at the photo on this page whether you can see it or not.  You may see it quite clearly or it may make no sense at all. Much of whether you can read it or not is based on your perspective, on your circumstances. Are you standing too close or too far away? Two people could stand in the same spot, one see it the other not. Why? Well, in this particular picture, the word that hopefully is visible to you is JESUS.

Very often, life is just like that. Sometimes it feels like we are in a place where no matter how hard we try, there are those around us – who have authority over us – that cannot see our intentions. For that matter, they don’t care about our intentions or how much we try. It seems as if their mission in life is to make us miserable every single day that we go to work or school, or wherever. We are beaten down every time we try. We do what they ask and it isn’t good enough. All of a sudden, just the thought of this person or seeing them coming toward you is enough to put knots in our stomach and you know that whatever is about to come out of their mouth, will not be good news for you. You begin to believe that no one sees your plight. No one cares. You are this small bug that every day someone is going to try to squash. Pretty miserable thought, huh?

Change your perspective. I shared with someone just recently in this kind of situation that Joseph, who God had told would be king of his people, ended up thrown in a well, waiting to be killed by his own brothers. When you are down in a well there is only one way to look and that is up!

You may not be in a well today. Maybe you are in a pile so deep that everywhere you turn the world is brown! It is time to change your perspective and ‘look up.’

What keeps us in the well or what keeps us in the stress or the deptression is often an issue of ‘what we don’t see.’ As cops we used to enjoy the line, “it’s not the cops you see that you should be worried about… its the one’s you don’t see!” Well, in this instance, you want to be aware of what you are not seeing.

There is the story in the Bible when Elisha, one of God’s prophets was in a house with a friend and they were surrounded by Syrians ready to storm the house – two Israelites surrounded by the Syrian army ready to take them… They had no where to go! Elisha prayed to God to open the eyes of his friend because he could not understand why the prophet was so calm and unworried. When God opened his eyes to what he had not, previously, been able to see; this friend saw God’s armies, with chariots of fire, surrounding the would-be captors. He needed a better perspective. He needed to see what he hadn’t seen. (2 Kings 6:12-20)

My friend, with whom I shared part of this story, is in that kind of position. I mentioned that he may not have access to anyone here that will help or will listen, or even care for that matter. But, he needs to remember that he has immediate, unfettered access to the King of the Universe, the Creator of all things, the Omnipotent – All seeing God and His Son, Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit residing in his very own heart.

He needs a new persepctive. He needs to look UP. He needs to focus on what he hasn’t been seeing and count on the One who is REALLY in charge… who REALLY DOES care.

It is true that my friend’s circumstances may not change. Joseph’s changed, from the well to Potiphar’s house and luxury then from Potiphar’s house to prison and there he stayed but the Bible says, “But the Lord was with him…” Eventually, God brought him out. He’ll bring you out too; in His way and His time and it will be PERFECT!

In the mean time, in-between time – focus on what we too often don’t see. Focus on JESUS. What can really improve our situation is – what we don’t see.

What if?

Sometimes the best questions come from the most innocent of minds and usually those questions have the most complex, yet obvious, answers. Such was the case earlier today after an interaction with a pseudo-homeless man who had some degree of apparent metal retardation but not severe enough to make him dangerous, at least not in his current state of mind. Rather than a request for money or even food, he reported that he had run away from a half-way house and the local MRDD center had gotten word to him that he must report there before 2pm to avoid being in trouble. An odd introduction, particularly to a retired cop.It was almost 1330 and he would need to walk at least a mile and half to get to the center; the sun was belting out a wonderful June brightness in 90 degree heat, so I acquiesced to a ride; since I was comfortably carrying under the Federal Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act just in case his mood changed. Our interchange during the short ride was pleasant though bordering on the odd (after nearly forty years in some kind of law enforcement related field my definition of ‘odd’ is a bit harder to reach than some.) I did learn that there were a couple of stores along our route into which he was not permitted to go and he hinted that certain authority figures might be looking for him. (Naturally after I dropped him off, within a block or two I saw a local cop and told him of our new friend’s whereabouts)

All of this to share with you a question posed to me by my grandson, age six, later the same day having learned of the adventure in which I had found myself. It became a three-part question but began:

“What if all of the policemen were gone and there were only people (like this man I described) and ‘bad people’?” He then broadened the scope, “What if there were no policemen or no army men to protect us?” And finally, “What if there were no policemen, army men or dads and moms to protect us?”

He came up with his own answer almost immediately. “The ‘bad guys’ would have all the guns and they would do whatever they want to us, especially us little kids.”

What a great segue into the article I have written that, thanks to the great editorial work of Chris Graham, will find itself gracing the cover of the next issue of The Counter Terrorist magazine.My article takes a bit of a different tack on ‘protecting’ the public by police and army personnel as I trust you will read in my article. That is where the complexity of my grandson’s question comes in. It cannot be, in a society such as ours, the responsibility of the police and military to protect us except in the large sense of keeping al Qaeda pinned down somewhere in Afghanistan so they cannot control more than they do. But from an individual standpoint, officers respond to crime after the event so their responsibility must lay in teaching citizens how to avoid crime and to defend themselves against a would-be attacker.

The simplicity of the answer, though, to my grandson’s question, and absolutely correct was he in his analysis of the results should the ‘thin blue line’ be erased. There would be anarchy. Regardless of one’s choice either of the’ big picture protection’ where the police and military keep the bad guys on their side of the street or their responsibility to provide the citizens what they need in order to protect themselves; the result is the same. “The bad guys would have all the guns and they would do whatever they want to us, especially us little kids.”