Dec 19, 2010


Today is my wife's birthday.  I know that many of you may grow weary of my bragging on Heather.  But, frankly, I don't care.  She is an incredible woman and deserves the praise.  This year, I was thinking about her special day and one word came to mind.


- having or showing great intelligence, talent, quality
This is the most familiar definition of brilliant.  It is a person who has amazing intelligence.  They can do unbelievable things with their minds.  Obviously, Heather is brilliant.  She has excelled at every level academically.  And she seems to get better with each challenge.  What she is accomplishing right now is simply insane.  I always kind of knew that Med School was hard.  But I really didn't appreciate just how tough it was.  This year, she has had 23 credit hours each semester.  They have quizzes every week that cover as much material as a normal person's exam.  Their monthly tests are equivalent to a college class' semester exam.  I am usually overwhelmed just seeing HOW MUCH they have to do.  That is before even looking at the actual material - which is just stupid hard.

But she keeps on torching the classes.  She has mostly A's with a few B's.  But she is doing this with three kids and a husband that are demanding of her time and attention.  Except for the few days right before a test, she does not have the luxury of studying for nine hours a day.  She has to make the most of her time.  And once she gets home, you can find her sitting in a chair with her laptop on, her notebook open, and a kid trying to squeeze into her lap as well.  I am constantly amazed at her brain.  Quite simply, she is absolutely brilliant.

- distinguished; illustrious: a brilliant performance by a young pianist
The second meaning of brilliant is having great stature.  It has more to do with reputation and talent than just intelligence.  Again, it completely applies to Heather.  She is loved by professors and students alike.  We will be sitting there at night after the kids are in bed - watching tv while she studies.  Her phone keeps on beeping with texts and emails.  I'll ask what's going on and it will many times be someone needing her advice, her help studying, her comfort.  This is what is going to make her a great doctor.  There are many doctors who are smart - but just terrible.  They don't have the personality or reputation needed.

I watch her with our kids or with other children.  I liken it to watching a superstar athlete hitting their stride.  They just start to do things that people should not be able to do.  With Heather, it is like she morphs when it is time to go into doctor mode.  It isn't just that her brain throws out all the potential diagnoses or medications, approaching it intellectually with her intelligence.  She looks at the person and tries to connect to them.  She meets them where they are.  The goal is to help them get better.  Her heart connects with them.  It really is something to behold.  When Natalie was sick a couple months back, Heather started figuring out how to approach the illness.  She was talking to Nat, coming up with creative stories and explanations and illustrations.  Natalie went from nervous to smiling and ready for treatment.  The nebulizer became a "strawberry flavored cloud maker."  Sitting in the bathroom with steam billowing led to a big story about princesses.  And I've witnessed her do that same kind of thing with other people and kids.  That isn't something that is learned.  It is a gift, a talent, a passion, a mindset.  And it is brilliant.

- shining brightly; sparkling; glittering; lustrous: the brilliant lights of the city
This last meaning is brought to mind when thinking of diamonds and lights.  They shine and sparkle and generate light.  Again, this applies to Heather.  She is sparkling and bright and shining.  She projects the light and love of God.  People are drawn to her.  She just radiates.  I have had the pleasure of watching this over the years.  I see the scores of people whose lives have been changed by Heather's role in their lives.  It is a wonderful thing to experience.

I know the personally I have been won over by these qualities.  The room lights up when she comes in.  My kids cheer when she comes home or gets in the car.  (Seriously - they do.  "MAMA!!!")  She's just one of those people.  I don't know anyone who has anything against her - because she doesn't give anyone a reason to.  She honestly is just trying to bless everyone.  Even her eyes are sparkly.  They are this cool blue color and the pattern looks like a cross section of a strawberry - if it was blue.  I love them. And I love her.  She's brilliant.  And I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

Dec 5, 2010

Know Your Role

I am drawn to a particular kind of movie (and tv show).  It is the one where there is an ordinary guy who must become extraordinary to save those around him.  It could be that he is forced into this position.  It could be that he fights it before ultimately embracing it. But this general theme is laced through my favorite movies.  It is why I like Batman and Iron Man more than other superheroes.  They aren't gifted with any superhuman abilities - with the exception of great wealth.  They decide they have to do something to rectify the evil going on and then make it happen.  But, underneath the suits and weapons, they are just guys fighting to save the people around them.  (Granted, their circle of influence is larger than most people's.)

This is one of the reasons the Harry Potter series resonates so much with me.  It is just an ordinary boy who has to become extraordinary.  Everything he does is to save people.  He becomes a warrior because he has to.  We see this in The Matrix, Braveheart, Burn Notice, Chuck.  I am drawn to those adventure.  I want to see myself in that role.  I guess I always have seen myself there.  I'm just an ordinary guy who sees that people need rescued and wants to lead the charge.  There are actually times where I have trouble disconnecting mentally from a movie because I desperately want to experience that thrill of fighting and defending.

I have always been the one in front.  I gravitate towards leadership positions.  Rarely am I satisfied to sit idly by in a meeting or Sunday School class.  I don't force myself into the limelight - I'm not an attention hog.  It is just the way I'm built.  I'm a leader.  And other people see that and want me to take that place.  I am not going to stage a coup to take over.  But if there is a void of leadership or an opportunity to step up, I will do it.  I had a leadership position in every club I was a member of in high school.  If I was active in a group in college, I usually ended up in an officer role.  When we start attending a church, it is usually just a matter of time before I'm teaching a class.

The problem is that right now, for this period of my life, I am not able to follow my usual pattern.  Due to my responsibilities with the kids, Heather's school schedule, commitments with Defender Ministries, and travel, I am not able to step into leadership.  I actually don't have any opportunities to be that at all.  And it is frustrating.  I'm not used to sitting in a class and having to listen week after week - thinking of how I would teach the lesson.  It has not been my lot in life to just watch things happen and not be an active part of making them happen.

One of our new favorite shows is Blue Bloods.  It is about a family with a long history of law enforcement. The father is police commissioner.  The one brother is a detective; the other is a rookie cop who just switched from law school.  The sister is a district attorney.  There even is a brother who died in the line of duty.  The family is the kind that I was mentioning earlier - ordinary good people wanting to make a difference.  Then there is the grandfather.  He used to be police commissioner.  But he was forced out due to politics and his own age and failing health.  Now he has to sit by and watch the rest of the family make a difference - and he's left cooking for their weekly dinners and offering the occasional piece of wisdom (often unheeded).  You can see the frustration in his face.  He wants to be out there.  His heart is still on the battlefield, but he has been forced to the back.  For the last few weeks, I have felt that way.  It has been very frustrating.

Today, something came to me that really got me thinking.  For the time being, my role really has changed.  I am not supposed to be the front.  I need to support from behind.  That is an uncomfortable place to be for me.  I'm sure some of this is pride and ego.  Some of it is just that it feels unnatural.  But that is the reality of the situation.  Our society loves to promote and embrace the hero, the superstar, the biggest and best.  We don't think about the people behind the scenes making that happen.  I am very guilty of this.  I mean, look at this entire post.  I am unhappy that I am not top banana.  I keep on mistakingly believing this whole thing is about me.  If I really was wanting to see my world changed, it wouldn't matter who is doing the job - just that it is getting done.

Those people on top can't make it without people behind them.  For every Harry Potter, there are dozens of Neville Longbottoms and Luna Lovegoods that also are battling.  Bruce Wayne has Alfred and Lucius Fox.  Tony Stark has Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan.  William Wallace would never have become the hero he was without Uncle Argyle and Hamish.  Those people know their roles and do them well.  The victory is just as much won through their efforts - even though that movies are not usually made about them.

I know there are things I can do in this place.  And I know they will have an impact.  And I wrote a few weeks back, I have started contacting the people on my Facebook friend list.  Mostly, this consists of sending them a message to encourage them.  So far, I have gotten a response from everyone I wrote but one.  Each one of them has said that the message meant so much, that it came when they needed it most. That is important.  I remember when I was running a ministry.  It gets to be lonely and stressful.  You usually only hear from people when they are upset at you.  It meant so much to get a positive note.  I can offer that to people.

Also, the entire Sunday School lesson was about how important it is to pray.  I fail at this so much.  One thing I have now is time.  I certainly could spend time each day praying - for my family, for friends, for Heather's classmates, for ministers and teachers around me.  That is something I can do that fits into my schedule.  Prayer is important.  Even if I can't physically be out there working and fighting, I can at least be praying for people.

It is a mindset - just like my weight loss efforts.  I have to choose to accept my role and embrace it.  Back in the day, Dwayne Johnson the actor was The Rock the wrestler.  He had a statement he used to yell before a match.  "KNOW YOUR ROLE AND SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!!"  It was a pretty arrogant and rude line that took a shot at the jobber entering the ring.  But it brings a level of truth with it as well - at least for me.  If I want to stay miserable, I can keep wishing for something bigger and better.  I can strain against my situation. Or I can accept the secondary role and work as hard as I can to help the people around me.  It still is an ordinary guy trying to change his world - it just isn't leading from the front.  It is helping from behind the scenes.  It isn't about me anyway, right?  Know my role.  Shut my mouth.  Get it done.

Dec 3, 2010

For Your Own Good

This post is technically about 50/50 family and religion.  But for sake of classification, let's go with the brown disc.  And, if I've written about this before, my apologies.  It just struck me again this morning.

Gabe is a funny little dude.  He is VERY opinionated and stubborn - possibly more than either of his siblings.  It is very difficult to get him to do something that he doesn't want to do.  I can threaten him, bribe him, try to force him.  But he gets this little stubborn scowl on his face and just keeps whispering, "NO!"  At least he usually is quiet in his rebellion.  He is a sweet kid, but - like a fudge ripple through vanilla ice cream - there is this ribbon of hard-headedness that runs through his middle.

Today, the fight was over his shoes.  Don't ask me to explain this, but he gets a weird attachment to whatever pair he is wearing.  Years ago, he hated wearing shoes.  Finally, we got him to wear these blue sandals.  When he started to outgrow them, we tried to transition to a Thomas the Train pair of sneakers.  He flipped his lid.  For weeks, he refused to wear them.  He would fight us when we put them on.  And then he would tear them off.  Finally he changed his mind - I don't even remember what made him do it.  Well, when those shoes got too small we bought him a pair of brown sandals.  Same thing happened.  Fight, scream, kick, take off, grudging acceptance.

We are now in a place where these sandals are getting tight.  But, there is the added dimension that winter is rolling into Tallahassee.  Today, the low was 26 when we woke up.  Next week we have lows of 20 and 21 forecast.  It just isn't the smartest thing to wear sandals in that weather - especially since he loves ripping his shoes off the second he's in his car seat.  The truth is he hates shoes and only wears them for the briefest of moments.  A couple weeks ago, we bought him a pair of blue casual shoes - kind of like that skater sneaker design.  Nice shoes.  Not to Gabe.

On his first day of school, I tried to put them on.  It was like trying to put socks on a cat.  He was flailing all over the place.  I finally forced the socks and shoes on him and he ripped them off within a minute.  Anyone who has a two or three year old knows, some wars just aren't worth it.  So he's been wearing his sandals.  Every so often we'll drag the blue shoes out and try them.  "NO!  I want my BROWN shoes!"  Today, though, it just didn't seem responsible to put those sandals on him.  It's stinking cold!  (No rude comments from people in Buffalo or Connecticut.)

We had started preparing him last night by talking about the blue shoes.  "No.  Brown shoes."  I thought we had made some progress before bed, but this morning it was back to the same point.  "NO! Brown shoes."  When I went to get him dressed, I brought out the blue shoes and socks.  He ran and got his brown shoes and started carrying them around.  He went up to all of us, trying to convince us (even the kids) why he should wear brown shoes.  I laid him down to get him changed and dressed.  "BROWN SHOES! BROWN SHOES!"  He's crying now about the shoes.  Deep down, I don't give a rip if he wears the blue shoes.  I just don't want him to be cold.  I have a small thought.  This is only going to get ugly.  What if I can at least get him to wear socks with the brown sandals?

I start putting the socks on and he's flailing around like I'm trying to put a costume on him.  (Oh, yeah, that's the worst thing I can do to him.)  I get one sock on and then really quick jam the brown shoe on.  "LOOK!  Brown shoes WITH socks!  Eh?  Sound good?"  I get the other one on quick.  He's crying.  "Go show Mommy!  She wants to see your shoes."  He wanders over to her, crying about the injustice.  Finally, he realized he sort of won and he was fine.  I even got him to keep his shoes on in the car!  (If he had take the shoes off, the socks would have gone next and I never would have gotten them back on.)  Of course, the same battle was brewing when I went to put his Cars hoodie on instead of his WALL-E jacket.

The ridiculous thing is that it was for his own good.  I didn't want him cold.  I'm not trying to be mean.  I just know better that you need to bundle up when it's that cold outside.  In that moment, it struck me how much like children we are when it comes to God.  He's sitting there, knowing what is best for us.  And we're getting angry over dumb little things - the equivalent to which shoes we want to wear.  The whole time, God is saying, "It's for your own good!"  We just don't care - we want to wear our WALL-E jacket and sandals.

I started thinking about Defender Ministries.  We have been kind of drifting along for almost six years now.  We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are supposed to do this ministry.  We have been given a message.  And we know that God is guiding us into the different realms we address.  But it seems to be kind of stuck in low gear.  For years, we have tried to get things going.  We have tried partnerships, meeting with big shot pastors and speakers, going to to conferences, mailing out stuff.  All the stuff marketing firms tell you to do.  But those things yield surprisingly little results.  We get upset and wonder why.  Why doesn't the money come in?  Why don't we hear anything back from people.  And it seems like God says, "I'm protecting you.  It's for your own good."  But we get upset because we want things to be different.

I do it in my personal life.  Why can't there be more financial security?   We aren't things easier?  Why can't these kids calm down?  I want things done my way and don't think about how God knows best.  Or I don't care.  It isn't until I truly do calm down and hand things over to Him that I gain peace.  I realize that everything is for my own good.  I look at these years in Tallahassee, which have been very hard.  And I wouldn't trade them for the world.  I am a better man, a thinner man, a calmer man, a more trusting and faithful man.  This was for my own good - as bad as I wanted to stay in Orlando.  But if I had stayed there, I would have stayed where I was in so many ways.

Even with Defender, God has been showing us that His plan is truly incredible.  Stuff has happened in the last few months that has blown our minds - and it still is.  We just needed to trust Him and let it happen.  Everything has built to this point.  And now, we are just stunned.  We are praying and saying, "God, you had a plan the whole time!  It all built to this."  And He's nodding, saying, "It was for your own good."  Finally the lesson is sinking in.  Sure, it has taken six years.  Maybe I should be more patient with Gabe...