Tuesday, November 23, 2021

"I wanna be like you"

 Been a few years since I used this site but this has been on my mind for a bit and I need to get it out. 

"...Well then my four year old said a four letter word
That started with "s" and I was concerned
So I said son now now where did you learn to talk like that
He said I've been watching you dad, ain't that cool
I'm your buckaroo, I wanna be like you..."

I work on federal government contracts for a living, and as you may imagine, the government is not always the easiest to work with - and it's been worse the past 10 months or so (not a political statement, just a verifiable fact).  The other week my almost 2 year old was in the room with me as I was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, in anger, I let out a "sh*t" under my breath. Without missing a beat, my little guy repeated me. Yeah, yeah, berate my bad parenting later...Let's move on.

It got me thinking though. In a few short years our 2 kids will be going to school. And that scares me. A lot. I am not scared because of gun violence, CRT, gender pronouns or state curriculums. No, what I am scared of is so much greater. I'm scared of the other parents that will also have kids in school with mine. 

I'm scared because our kids listen and they imitate us. It's why our oldest brings me lightsabers and wants to "duel" and it's why he repeated my language. 

Today, what our kids are seeing from us as parents is that it's okay to belittle or berate someone for having different political ideas or opposing thoughts on social issues. We are raising a generation that will think that it is okay to hang flags that say "F--- Trump" or "F---Biden" because we voted the other way. We are raising a generation that is watching us wish actual death to people because we don't like them. 

Our kids are learning that it is normal to humiliate others for their shortcomings instead of offering to help them. Our kids are watching us tear people apart - sometimes vulgarly and violently - people that we've never met solely based on if there is an "R" or a "D" next to their political affiliation. Bullying, threats, and pure hatred is being normalized in our society and in our homes. Not only that, but it is being glorified as we cheer and applaud it day in and day out. This notion of "you're with me or against me" is toxic and it's eroding the foundation of humanity. 

I'm scared because what happens if one of my kids has a different opinion? Will there be a banner hung that says "F--- him"? Will one of my sons have people wishing death on him simply because he is different? You may say that's absurd, but I disagree. Our kids are watching and repeating us...and they will continue to do so. What we normalize now will be intensified in the next generation.  

This is not a Republican/Democrat, rich/poor, black/white issue. This is a humanity issue. And what we are teaching our kids by our actions towards others is the single greatest threat of all. And the remedy is simple: be kind. Spread love, not hate. Listen instead of automatically rejecting someone with a different opinion - you may just learn something. Pause, step back from a situation and look objectively at an issue, not at what <insert favorite news source here> tells you to think. Let's raise our kids to be better than we are today. Because the reality is if we don't, they won't be the same as us. They will be worse than us

"...Then this side of bedtime later that night
Turning on my son's scooby doo nightlight
He crawled out of bed and he got down on his knees
He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands
And spoke to God like he was talking to a friend
And I said son now where'd you learn to pray like that
He said I've been watching you dad, ain't that cool
I'm your buckaroo, I wanna be like you..."
-Rodney Atkins, Watching You

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Words matter - encounter with a kind police officer

Last August my wife and I bought our first home. We bought a nice rancher in a quiet section of Coatesville. The house was empty for a few years before we moved in, and from what we've been told, was not in the best condition. Someone bought the house and did some really nice renovations before we bought it. From the moment we walked in the front door we loved the house! The yard, well, that's a different story.

My wife and I have no clue how to garden, landscape or do just about anything other than cut the grass and rake leaves. Still, we've been trying. We tried to grow some new grass, dug out some ugly bushes and planted a few flowers. But whenever we look at the yard we seem to see what is wrong with the yard. We see the dead patches of grass that we cannot seem to get to grow. We see the weeds and the areas that we never got around to mulching last Spring. We see the flowers that we planted that should have been planted elsewhere. And now, we see the leaves. Everywhere.

The other weekend I was spending some time gathering leaves to mulch with the tractor (because if you have to do yard work, it might as well be fun!). To be honest, I was a bit discouraged. It was early Fall and the ground was already covered by the large trees in the yard. The leaves were already caught in flower beds and I knew already, it's going to be a long battle with them this year.

So, as I was raking and listening to some music in my headphones a black SUV pulls around the bend in the road. It was a local police officer. He waved me over to the his SUV as he stopped at the edge of the driveway. I put down the rake and walked over to him. I was not expecting what he said next. He put the SUV in park, looked at me, looked at the yard and said "you guys have done a great job with this place". I gave him a questioning look and he told me that he often drives by this road and that he remembered this house from when it sat vacant and that it is a 100% better now than before. We chatted for a while as he told me what it used to look like and that he was glad to see a family making it better.

As he left that day I was reminded again of the power of our words; they have so much power! We can make someone's day or we can break them. We can offer a person life or we can kill them with the power of our words. This officer, who had never met me before, chose to offer life. it didn't cost him anything at all other than a few minutes of his time. But those few minutes and those few words changed my outlook on the rest of my day.

I'm sure that most of us have examples of similar experiences; times where someone offered a kind word just when you needed it - life. Sadly, I'm sure that most of us also have experiences where someone's words tore you to pieces - death. Our words are free and are freely given. But the rewards f those words are worth more than gold. I'm reminded more often lately to watch what I say and how I say it. I'm reminded to offer life with my words at all times. To bring joy to others, not destruction.

Monday, July 23, 2018


September 11th, 1993: The day my adoption was finalized. 
Very short background: I'm the little boy in the bright yellow, Ronald McDonald pants in the photo to the right. To answer your obvious question, no, yellow pants were not in style in 1993. They are still not in style nor should they every be. And, while I may not have the best sense of fashion, I do not still wear yellow pants. 
This photo was taken when I was 8 years, 1 month and 4 days old. September 11th, 1993. This was day that my adoption was finalized. This was the day that I was given a new family. Since that day a lot has changed. I have met part of my biological family. And I love them dearly. They mean the world to me and I cannot imagine life without them.
I also have this amazing family that made me part of their own during a time that I was alone. Up until this day, I spent a lot of time in foster homes and with other family members. To say that many of those experiences were unpleasant would be a great understatement. The truth is that many of those times were hell. Pure hell.
People used to tell me that I was special because I was adopted - I was chosen. That truth didn't take away the pain in my heart, but it eased it a little. As I've grown older, I've come to a deeper understanding of the word adoption. Particularly as it says in Ephesians 1.."He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world...In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ..."

During my junior year of college I started struggling. Really struggling. I grew up with so many unanswered questions. What ever happened to my birth parents? Why did they give me up? Why were my father and uncle so abusive? What was my story?
I contacted the adoption agency and requested whatever information that they could give me. A few short weeks later I was mailed a 5 five letter describing the first 8 years of my life. I was mailed evaluations from a psychologist. And I was sent a document that I have never been able to forget. The title of the document simply reads "Raymond's Story". This was the short version of who the courts said that I was. The two people in the photo above read that story along with the psych evals. The story reads something like a bad Lifetime movie. I have probably read that story hundreds of times since then. The story was of a little boy that was troubled, hurt, untrusting, and somewhat of a problem complete with 8 different social disorders including something called intermittent explosive disorder, anxiety, depression and the list goes on. Every time that I read that story, I wonder why in the world my parents read that same story and said "that one. We'll adopt that one". Were they nuts because I don't know that I would have chosen me if I were them. But I am extremely thankful that they chose me.

As I really think about that story, I come back to this verse in Ephesians, "...He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world...In love He predestined us for adoption...". I can't help but relate the two. Here is the very God that created the universe. The very God that is omnipresent; One who sees all. He reads my story too. And still, IN LOVE, He chose. Before the world was created He knew that man would rebel against HIm. And, IN LOVE, He still chose.
I look at my life and often think the same thing as I think about that letter. Why? What could He possibly see in me that He chose me long before I was even a thought? Then I read on in this beautiful letter to the Ephesians..."Even when we were dead, God made us ALIVE". "...you who once were far off have been brought near". "You are no longer strangers but you are fellow citizens...members of the Household of God".
On September 11th, 1993 I was officially made a member of my new family. My names was legally changed and my well being was placed in the hands of my new parents. That could only happen through adoption. Likewise, the transformation that Paul writes about to the Ephesians about can also only happen through adoption as well.
You see, God not only reads our past but He reads the future as well. God, the very artist that created life, sees the end masterpiece where we are one with Him. It is why He can call us His sons and daughters.
My earthly adoption was not free. It came at a cost to my parents. I do not mean simply a financial cost. Sure, that was there, but there was a deep emotional cost as well. I know that I did not make it easy on them. I refused to call them mom and dad for a long time. In fact, I remember telling them that I hated them very often; I wanted to hurt them because I was hurt. I rebelled. I pushed and fought. I kicked and screamed. And they loved. They held on tighter. I ran and they chased. Sound familiar?
Likewise, the process of adoption cost God a great deal. It cost the death of Jesus to cover the price. It meant bringing death into a world that God created for LIFE. It meant that God would feel the pain of rejection as His creation treats Him as I first treated my parents. Yet still...He chose. He loved. He offered life where there was once death. Hope where there was hopelessness. Redemption where there were offenses.
God chose because YOU ARE WORTH THE COST. You always were and always will be worth the cost. It is easy to get wrapped up in our past and feel worthless. But God - the very essence of life and love - sees you as the son and daughter that He created you to be. He sees you as created in the very image of Himself. And He loves.

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


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

"I wanna be like you"

 Been a few years since I used this site but this has been on my mind for a bit and I need to get it out.  "...Well then my four year o...