Saturday, February 17, 2018

Defriend me if you think that it will help

This week we had another school shooting. My heart hurts for those that are feeling loss right now. My heart hurts for our country. My heart hurts hurts for the American people that are so full of hatred right now. My heart just hurts.

The issue seems to me that in these times people don't want to hear anyone else; they want to scream louder. This is true on both sides of the gun control argument. Those who want stricter gun control want to play on emotions. Those that want lesser gun control want to do the same. Here's the reality: BOTH sides want the same thing - a safer America. If we cannot come to the table at least agreeing on that one simple fact, we will never get anywhere. We will continue to debate without end. We will continue to blame instead of resolve. And we will continue to divide rather than unite. This is not political - this is truth.

I've been very silent on this topic for a while but I feel the need to at least get my thoughts out. If you feel the need to defriend me, blame me, call me names or whatever makes you feel better, go ahead. But please know that if and when you are ready to talk, I will be here at the table. So, in light of this, I am going share my opinions. I dare you to read to the end with an open mind. These are my opinions. I am entitled to them just as much as you are entitled to yours.

1. I believe in the 2nd amendment
I have heard recently that the Constitution is a "contract". FALSE. The Constitution is a living document that grants certain rights and privileges to us as Americans. It was carefully written by some vey intelligent men when we fought for our independence. Some will suggest that modern firearms were not around back then and the 2nd amendment was written about muzzle loading guns. If that is the case, does freedom of speech need to be limited to paper and pen? Because Facebook was not around back then either. The ability to reach countless people around the world on a YouTube video could not have been imagined but yet is still protected by the 1st amendment. So no, just because modern firearms were not around in the 1700's is not reason to revoke it now.

2. I possess a lawful License To Carry Firearms
Oh boy...I may be losing some of you here - stick with me - we're friends, right? In my wallet, ready to produce at any time, is a permit that allows me to legally carry a concealed firearm in the state of Pennsylvania. In order to get this permit I had to submit to a thorough background check with my local Sheriff's Office. I waited nearly 30 days for it to be completed and sent to me. That said, I do think that more should have been done. I believe that I should have had to demonstrate a knowledge of firearm safety and skill. This is something that has a lot of room for improvement. I know that some states do have a more in-depth process and I applaud them for that - keep it up!

People will say "but why does anyone need to carry a gun?". The answer is simple. Because bad people carry one. If I make a decision to carry a concealed firearm it is not to cause damage or hurt innocent people. If I do so I do it because we live in a fallen and broken world where there are others that carry a gun desiring to hurt others. If I carry a gun it is because I am willing, when others are ducking for cover, to respond. I do not mean to "shoot wildly" into a crowd. I mean to evaluate the situation and, if safe to do so without further risk to innocents, to respond with the necessary force. I so often pray that I am never in this situation. If I make a decision to concealer a firearm it is not because I seek glory or power. It is because I am willing to protect others around me at any cost.

3. I own a few firearms including an AR-15 in the 5.56/.223 caliber
Uh-oh - some of those left reading are going to be really tempted to leave now, I challenge you not to...
Let's first start with a couple of misconceptions. First - the "AR" in AR-15 does not stand for Assault Rifle. In fact, it stands for Armalite Rifle. Second, the civilian versions that are commonly bought are not automatic weapons. They are semi-auto. That means that when you pull the trigger one and only one bullet will fire, even if you hold the trigger down. Third, the AR-15 is no different than a hunting rifle. Does it look different - maybe even "scary? Sure it does. But the function is the same. You chamber a round, a firing pin strikes said round creating a mini-explosion thus propelling the bullet forward while ejecting the spent brass. The AR-15 is capable of using a standard 30 round magazine. Yes, that's a lot of bullets. But guess what - you can do the same for a .22 rifle or any number of other more common "hunting rifle".

All of that said, do I need an AR-15 to protect my home? Absolutely not. If someone breaks into my house, I am not searching with my AR. If ISIS launches an attack is my AR-15 going to protect me? Maybe a for a short time but I promise that it will not last. So why do I need one? I don't. I do not need an AR-15. I have one because it's fun to shoot at the range. Does anyone need a car capable of driving 100+ MPH? No, they get one because they're fun to drive.

4. Banning guns will not solve the problem
In times like this there are many championing for banning all guns or at least banning the AR-15. I'm sorry but this will not help. We NEED to remember a basic fact that criminals, by definition, do not follow laws. Every single one of these mass shooters already broke laws. We have made drugs illegal yet we are currently facing a massive opioid epidemic in America. We have made drinking and driving illegal yet the CDC reports that every day 28 people die in the United States as a result of a car accident involving an impaired driver. That comes out to more than 10,000 per year. Yet we do not ban the cars...we hold the drive accountable.

We need to treat firearms in the same manner. Let's stop people from buying a legal gun when they have criminal records. Let's follow the laws already in place. Let's make it harder for a bad guy to get a gun YES! Let's do that! I will gladly submit to a background check. I will gladly accept a waiting period before I can take ownership of a gun (PA used to have a 3 day waiting period...). I firmly believe in strict background checks. I firmly believe in doing everything that we can to make it as difficult as possible for a bad guy to buy a gun. However, I also recognize that if they want it, they will get it or they will find another way to carry out their destruction. We've seen that many times. We've seen them use planes, pressure cookers, vans, knives and anything that they can get their hands on.

5. We cannot believe all of the stats online...
By now we have probably all see that Florida was the 18th school shooting this year. The Washington Post did an article recently that showed what is counted in that. Some of the shootings included in that statistic are suicides, training accidents, an elementary student pulling the trigger on a police officer's gun...in fact, the majority of these were after school hours and resulted in no injuries.

That said, the fact that a single school shooting happens is tragic. And yes, we need to do something. First, people that own firearms need to be trained on how to use them so that accidents are not happening. When carrying a concealed firearm, it needs to be secured so that someone cannot accidentally pull the trigger. We ALL need to be responsible. And we need to hold people accountable. And we need to make it difficult for bad people to buy guns.

6. No body wants school shootings
Personally, I am tired of being blamed for the bad people out there. No, I do not "love my guns more than kids". Yes, I can send my "thoughts and prayers" while still being a believer in the 2nd amendment. When did we become so divided that we cannot have a difference of opinion while still caring and praying for others? As I said at the top, both sides want the same thing We all want a safer America, safer schools, safer work places, safer neighborhoods...

The way that we think that this is accomplished is different but the end goal is the same. If we cannot start there, we are truly doomed. I actually wonder how many want to solve this epidemic and how many just want to blame others. Just because some of us believe in the right to own/carry a firearm does not mean that we want mass shootings. It means that we believe in the right to defend ourselves. Just because someone believes that guns are bad and not necessary does not mean that they want more of these shootings either. It means that they believe that less guns will cause less deaths. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Until we come to the same table to talk, we will never get anywhere. And those that desire to carry out heinous crimes will win because we will be too busy blaming one another to actually stop them.

Maybe when we start a real dialogue we will realize that we have more in common than we thought...








Sunday, May 15, 2016

Picking Up the Pieces, 6 months later

"So I continue to cling to hope during this time. Hope because I know of my dad's faith. Hope because I know that this too shall pass; I will start to feel like myself again one day. Hope because dad's suffering will end. Hope because I know he will live on through me." From the positing "Broken and Empty" on November 6, 2015
I wrote that paragraph just over 6 months ago. A few days later a hope that was already deflated was shattered even further. A broken heart turned into a heart completely demolished. I still remember waking up in the very early hours of morning and getting the news that my dad was gone. I knew it was coming. I knew for 2 months that it could happen at anytime. I knew for a year that this was a very real possibility. Still...still it hurt...it hurt like hell. That hope that I was so desperately clinging to become increasingly difficult to find. I felt so lost and alone even though I was in a sea of people pouring out love.

Several people told me "you learn to find a new normal". Thanksgiving came about 2 weeks later along with dad's birthday that same week. As much as I wanted to sit at home alone I knew that I had to fight to move forward. I searched for that new normal. And guess what? Those people were right. The new normal doesn't feel quite right. But I've learned to accept it as reality.

The week that dad passed I remember sitting in my living room realizing that I had a choice. I could flip God off and blame him for all of my pain and loss. I could try to do it on my own; I could find my own way to ease the pain. OR, I could press into the very one that promised us peace and comfort. I knew that I would eventually end up on my knees looking to Heaven for comfort. I figured that I might as well start there and avoid the detour of doing it on my own. So that is what I did. I won't go into details but I will say that I cannot even imagine going through that pain on my own.

I wrote before about how Psalm 23 says that "He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death...". I will say it again - the key word there is through. God doesn't lead us there and say "well, all the best. See you on the other side, kiddo.". He promises to go with us through the valley. And his word says that it's only a shadow. Why? Because his word also says that death has been defeated.
Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh death where is your victory? Oh death where is your sting?
We tend to think of death in terms of loss; so many said "he (my dad) lost his battle with cancer. I call BS on that as I have done every day for the past 6 months. I had the honor of speaking at the gravesite about this very thing. Here is a portion of what I said.
My dad did not lose this fight...my dad held to a faith in the one that has conquered death - Jesus Christ. And he professed that faith even in the end...Because of that my dad won this fight...he is in a place where sickness and death do not exist...
Because of my dad's professed faith his death was a mere shadow thanks for the one the defeated death for all of eternity. I found my first shred of hope in knowing that my dad won the battle and received a new body free of cancer and free of pain. It was in that very truth that I found the courage to do the simplest task of getting out of bed every morning.

It wasn't easy. There were many times that I couldn't keep it together and had to get up from my desk and just walk away; the cold water from the bathroom sink and I were very close many days. But I held onto the hope and comfort of God like my life depended on it. And eventually I managed to find sleep again. I managed to make it through a day without falling apart. Life started to move on.

It's been just over 6 months now since my dad passed away and I would be lying if I said that the pain was not still there; I still hurt and I still miss him deeply. But I have been slowly finding that "new normal" that people told me about 6 months ago. I'm slowly picking up the shattered pieces of my heart and allowing my Heavenly Father to put them back together. I'm starting to see how "God is working [this] thing together for good...". I sometimes can't shake the feeling that "I'm now an orphan". But still I cling to my Father in Heaven that calls me son. And still I move on.
 
 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dad did not LOSE his fight

I think that it's easy to say "dad lost his fight with cancer". But I think that that statement could not be more wrong. Dad fought. He fought hard and courageously. My dad was a strong warrior all the way up until the end. Cancer struck and he punched back every step of the way. I remember days where, despite the pain and frustration, he laughed and joked. Even played a few hands of poker with Ashley and I. He gave me advice on relationships as we sat together in his room. And he was always sure to ask how I was doing and how work was going. Dad never stopped being dad. Dad never stopped fighting.

In the end, yes, dad passed. But again, he did not lose this fight. There is One that came and conquered sickness and death for good, Jesus Christ. And my dad acknowledged and professed that in his heart he trusted in that Savior.  In the midst of my dad's fight, he knew where he was going at the end. My dad did not give up. He simply trusted that this was not the end. 

Dad did not lose his fight because he died. Because he died, he gained a new body free of sickness, free of sadness, and filled with joy and peace. My dad fought with every ounce of strength that he had, and then some. And my dad WON his battle proving that not even a physical death could keep him down. My dad is eternally alive and I take as much rest as I can in knowing that I will be with him again one day. My dad is the victor in this fight. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

hurt

Where to start...I hurt. A lot.

Last week marked one year since I took off of work to take dad to the doctor. One year ago we we hearing the word cancer. One year ago everything was going to be okay. 

This past year has been a whirlwind marked with hope and hope deflated. On September 30th the news became the worst. The treatments were not working. There was nothing else that could be done. 

Over the past 40 days I've watched as dad's health continued to decline. He lost even more weight and became even less communicative. Then, last night dad passed. For 40 days I have been preparing myself. Part of me has known for even longer I think. Still, it hurts. A lot. 

Part of me is joyful. Dad was sure of his faith; he knew where he was going. Dad is in Heaven with a new body. One that is free of cancer forever. Dad is no longer suffering and he never will again. Still, the pain is so real. I can't help but think of the things that dad will miss. He won't see me get married. He won't hold my future children. He won't ever see my name on a book cover. So many more. 

I promised to be real in this blog. I promised to share my true heart in are vulnerability. So, here it is. This sucks. And I don't know how to do this. This past year has beat the crap out of me. I don't know what to do from here. The loss of my dad is a pain like none other. 

But in this time, my feet will learn a new dance of worship. Psalm 23 says that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The key word there is THROUGH. We walk through it. And it is God Himself that walks us through. I struggle right now to see it, but I know that the darkness will break. I see past the darkness and the hurt and I see the hope. Because if I can't, then there's no point in going forward. 

I can't do this Lord, but You can. So I trust. 

"And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus."
-1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, The Message


Friday, November 6, 2015

Broken and empty

Another blog I don't know how to write but yet feel the need to do so anyway. 
The past few weeks have been hard. Really hard. Watching dad suffer sucks. Seeing the amount of pain he is in despite the morphine is painful. If I could, I would gladly take his pain myself to give him comfort in his last few days. Dealing with family drama is unwelcome and unneeded but yet it is coming up. Yet, every day I put on this fake smile and I go about my day. I pretend like everything is okay  
Yet, what many don't realize is that so often the times I get up and walk away from my desk it is because I'm not holding it together anymore. When I go home at night, I sit on the couch and find it so hard to want to do anything. I feel like I haven't my been myself at all the past few weeks. I feel empty and broken inside.
Last week during some quite time I just confessed to The Lord my emptiness. I cried out that I have nothing left to give. Then I was reminded of the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. We tend to focus on the miracle-which is pretty amazing. But I was drawn to the little boy in the story.
This little boy has just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. And Jesus wants to feed 5000 men, plus women and children with this boy's food. Talk about feeling empty and having nothing to give! I feel like that boy. What I have to offer emotionally seems so insignificant. Yet, my reminder was that in Jesus' hands, that emptiness can do so much.
So I continue to cling to hope during this time. Hope because I know of my dad's faith. Hope because I know that this too shall pass; I will start to feel like myself again one day. Hope because dad's suffering will end. Hope because I know he will live on through me.
There's hope but for now, it just sucks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Simply Raw

Long ago I started this blog in an effort to be more real and vulnerable. It was meant to be a place to share the real me. So, in the midst of a very difficult time, I write. I don't know why but tonight just seems to be harder. And I am just tired. So here it is: Simply Raw.

As dad shared the news 2 weeks ago that there were no more treatments my world shattered. The hope we had all been holding to for him to get well was gone. Nothing can ever prepare you for that kind of news. There're no words to describe the knife cutting pain that that news brings. 

The past two weeks are a bit of a blur. I took a couple of days off of work to spend with dad. I was back to work Monday. I haven't told too many people at work about dad's health. But the ones that do know have been incredible. The family that I work for has been incredibly supportive. The guys in my department are so encouraging. My buddy Ms. Dianne that likes to pick on me (all in fun) has been absolutely supportive and asks often. But overall, I go to work and out on this fake smile and pretend like nothing is wrong. I sit down at my desk and just try to focus on work. But overtime the phone rings I have this sinking feeling that it's going to be the call that I am dreading. I look up and see a photo of dad above my desk and sometimes I have to fight back the flood of emotions and tears. 

I'm tired. I don't sleep well. I can't fall asleep easily and I can't stay asleep when I finally do fall asleep. I close my eyes and my mind drifts to what dad is going through. I think of the memories that I have with him. How he taught me to ride a bike and throw a ball. How he taught me how to swim. The times we went camping. The day and weekend trips we took. The movies we saw. How we used to sit and watch Lost together and drink a cold beer. The time he took me out onto the roof of his old house before he moved and we talked about life. I think of how he helped me get my first job so I could buy a gold watch in high school. I think of the college visits and the times he visited with me in West Chester. I think to how proud he is with how I handled leaving my life in Kenya. I think of how he was always there for me when I needed him the most. 

I'm tired. I come home and have no motivation to do anything. The hurt is real and it's deep. I'd give anything to make it go away. I'd give anything for dad to be well. There is so much left that I want him around for. I think of all that he won't see. I think of Star Wars in December. For the first time in nearly 20 years I will see it in theaters without him. I think of my future wedding that he won't be at. I think of how he will never meet my future children. I think of how he will never see if I end up in another country again. I think of how I won't be able to call him for advice or just to catch up. I will never look at photos of his trips again nor will I show him mine. 

I'm tired of pretending. I'm tired of pretending that nothing is wrong when inside my heart is shattered into a million pieces. I'm tired of trying to avoid the subject as often as possible for fear that I won't be able to hold it all together. Speaking of, I'm tired of having to hold it all together when I just want to collapse most of the time. 

I'm tired of not being me. I hate being in crowds. I ran powerpoint at church last Sunday and ran out as fast as I could. I filmed a marriage seminar this past weekend at church and snuck out as soon as it was over. I just didn't feel like talking to anyone. I just want to feel like myself again. The guy that can hang out in a crowd of people and enjoy himself. Instead, All I can do now is look for the nearest except route. 

I can't do this. I don't know how to do this. BUT, as I wrote in my last blog, I continue to cling to any shred of hope that I can find. It all feels so hopeless right now. But I know that there is hope. I know that. But, damn...right now...I'm struggling to find it. I know that the next season is going to continue to be difficult. The Holidays are going to suck this year. There are some really dar and heavy times in the very near future. But I also know that, eventually, I will have a blog to write on overcoming this. A blog that highlights the hope that carried me through. Until then...



Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What is hope?

Where to start? I don't know how to write this. I don't want to write this. Yet I feel that I need to write this. I don't know why, but I just need to.

Last year dad used the word that no one wants to hear: cancer. It was hard to hear that word. But there was hope. One quick out patient surgery and he would be okay. That surgery ended up being far more invasive and took about 16 hours. But there was hope. 

Dad was on the mend. He went on vacation then back for a check up. He hasn't left since. But still, there was hope. Chemotherapy was started and there was hope for a recovery. In time the neck brace he wore came off. He was taken off of the oxygen and he could breath on his own. Complications from the first surgery got better. He got out of bed and could stand for a short time. He even managed a few steps as he learned to use his legs again. Hope was growing. Then things turned again as the cancer spread. But there were more treatments to be done. There was hope. 

This summer saw a long period of Chemotherapy. It was hopeful. He got sick a few times but there was hope. The chemo ended last week and then came the words that no one wanted to hear but we all, in a way, knew were coming. 

The first text was short. “Worst news possible”, followed by a “will call later”. That call came around 3pm last Wednesday. I got up from my desk at work and sat in a corner as hidden as I could be as my dad told me how the cancer was spreading too fast and there was nothing more that could be done; he has about 2 months left to live. My eyes filled with tears. I didn't know what to say. How do you respond to that? All that I could manage to say was “dad, I'm so sorry”. We hung up and I sat there for what felt like hours. Paralyzed and unable to move. My head in my hands and tears hitting the floor. 
Where was the hope? 

I took a few days off of work. I spent a day on my own as I began to process. Then I spent the weekend with dad and at his place cleaning it out. 

Over the past week I've been overwhelmed with the thought of loss. Sitting on the floor of his house looking at photos I realized I will never sit there with him again. I sat in his car and knew I'd never drive with him again. Star Wars comes out in December-a franchise that I've seen all of in the theaters with him. This one I'll see alone as a tradition ends. Then I thought of bigger things. He'll never see me get married. He won't hold the grandchildren I would one day give him. He'll never read the book I want to write…So many experiences that I always imagined him being a part of were immediately gone. Hope seemed shattered. 

Where is the hope?

A friend sent me a text with the verse Romans 15:13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in HOPE.” 

That damned word: hope. Just how do you feel hope when the world around you feels hopeless

But it is there. That hope is an ever present hope. Hope is more than some word that Christians made up to comfort one another. That hope is alive. That hope is precious. That hope is something that cannot be taken away by anyone or any circumstance. But that hope is something that must be sought. 

I've found hope in knowing that I will be with him again one day. I've found hope in knowing that the reason the loss is so great is because of a great relationship with dad; the pain of loss means that there is something beautiful being lost. I've found hope because while he may never hold my future children, the lessons that he has taught me are lessons I will one day teach them. I've found hope in knowing that as long as I live, a piece of him lives on - he's shaped me into the man that I am today. 

I found hope because the alternative sucks.  I don't want to go through these next few months without hope. So I'll keep looking. And I will cling so tightly to every single shred of hope that I can find. I will desperately hold to the Hope of the world, Jesus. The One that has defeated death. And because of that HOPE, I will get through this season. The hope will not make it easy or take away the pain. But it does, and will continue, to make it bearable.