Happy Mother’s Day! I was listening to a podcast that talked about Anna Jarvis, the founder/creator of Mother’s Day. It made me think of you. First off, I think about you nearly every day. Sometimes it’s only for a brief second, like when I see an elephant or piece of weird art that you’d enjoy. Other times I find myself wondering what life would be like if you hand’t died 11 years ago.
Sometimes I wonder what you know about my life. My understanding (theologically, which never impressed you, nor should it), is that you are with Jesus in paradise. It doesn’t seem like paradise to know that your loved ones have bad days, like I’ve had for, oh, the past few years or so. No, it’s not been easy. But God is gracious and merciful.
I think you’d be pretty happy with how it all turned out. Redemption, for sure. The same kind of redemption I saw in your life when you said yes to Jesus back in the early 90’s. Things are much better now, and I bet you’d get a kick out of Brittany. You’d love her no-nonsense attitude, sunshine, and determination. You’d be impressed by how well she loves my kids, as if they’re her own. You’d be glad to see how happy I am. Who knows — maybe you already know this. Then you must also know that I picked my nose while I was driving yesterday. And you know where I put it. And I’m sorry.
Anyway, like I said earlier, I heard this podcast that referred to a woman named Anna Jarvis. She created the whole Mother’s Day campaign and ended up hating what it turned into. She lived long enough to see what it did for the floral and greeting card industry. She didn’t like the commercialization of it all, referring to the greeting card as “a poor excuse for the letter you were too lazy to write.” Ouch. I shared that at church today and couldn’t help but notice that I may have inadvertently rained on some parades. It got awkward. But you would’ve laughed and laid the thick guilt on me and Paco, with a smile and that laugh, telling us we should produce 10 pages each. I would’ve sarcastically submitted the screenplay from RoadHouse, and you would’ve set it up on the table and we’d laugh about it, strange as we were.
So, here’s my letter. It’s going really well. I’ve said what I wanted to say. Big hugs. Miss you. Love you.
I recently took our 13 year old daughter to her doctor’s appointment. Nothing too medically marvelous, just some X-rays to see how her skeleton looks and a talk with the doctor about how her legs and hips are getting along with each other. Turns out all the bones are happily coexisting, which is good to know.
Lexi is 13, yes, but mentally functions at about a 2 year old level. Down Syndrome combines with the Autism Spectrum in this one, and the combination makes for some interesting… everything. Especially doctor appointments. Especially X-rays. Especially holding still for X-rays.
She and I walked in, arm in arm, and found the path to the waiting room. I could see that it was sparsely populated, a slight relief, given how Lexi has chosen now to test the acoustics of the building using her own unique brand of echolocation. En route to the check-in desk, Lexi sat down. The reasons for her sudden sitting can be varied, but it’s usually because she objects to something. No, it wasn’t the waiting room or the obviously approaching interaction with medical staff. It was the elevators.
She’s suddenly afraid of elevators. Come to think of it, the last time she was in an elevator was for a quick procedure at the hospital a little while back. Seated in a wheelchair for ease of transport, she found herself suddenly wheeled into a little room that had hardly any acoustic value and — much to her chagrin — felt like it was moving. Lexi’s the kid who never wanted to be on my shoulders and doesn’t like to be swung around or tossed in the air. She’s all about the firm ground and keeping a low center of gravity. That’s got to be the issue with the elevator. It’s not like she’s going to tell me flat out. She’s non-verbal. And it’s not like I can explain to her that it’s totally legit, and that elevators hardly ever get stuck, and, even if it did, they’d rescue us… eventually. Plus, if we really wanted to get free, we could just escape through that tiny hatch in the ceiling and… you know what? I get it now. Let’s take the stairs.
But no, she wasn’t budging. Going nowhere near the elevators. I found myself praying that our appointment would be on the main floor because a haunted elevator (the screams, the terror) would be fun for no one. I get to see people look and quickly look away from time to time, but freaked out Lexi is communal stare fodder.
I lifted her up (she hates that) and she walked to a seat in the waiting room as I approached the check in desk. Lexi shouted HI! at a lady in the waiting room. Lady said “Hi, how are you?” to which Lexi responded with the sign for The Wheels on the Bus. It’s her favorite song (Lexi’s). Lady did not know the sign for Wheels on the Bus. Sometimes we translate, but not this time. I was at check in, providing all the necessary paperwork and such, Lexi came up to see what I was doing, setting her chin on the counter where my hands were resting gently. She said HI!to the staff, to which the staff cheerfully replied. I was getting ready to say the whole wheels on the bus thing but was interrupted by Lexi’s pushing a big cup of pens off the counter and onto the desk below. Coffee spilled, barely missing a rack of hanging files. Everyone totally didn’t overreact. It was, in actuality, pretty funny, at least as Lexi laughed so. “Quiet hands,” I said as she walked back to her seat. Oh – a maintenance guy just came in! HI! (Um… Hi!) So… wheels on the bus?
You know the scene, parents: you’re topping off your kid with pop-tarts and pancakes before pushing them out the door to school with (on a good day) combed hair. On the way to the bus he suddenly halts and says “I have to go to the bathroom real bad”, which will make him late… and possibly you, too.
Or maybe it starts even sooner in the morning. Wake up, wake up! Time for school, y’all! They let out an adolescent sound, a long “meh…”, followed by a descriptive symptom and furrowed brow. Sometimes it’s an entire list of symptoms — I have a sore throat AND my stomach hurts AND my left big toe is swollen. Just one symptom is barely enough to stay home. The know that a whole constellation of symptoms has the power to conquer even the strongest willed parent and guarantee a day off school.
That’s you — the strong willed parent — and you now face the impossible question:
Are they really sick?
In that moment, we make rather important decisions. Will we call their bluff? Are they bluffing? Will we send them to school sick? Are we being played? Are we the fools they treat us like? Perhaps.
Perhaps we are.
I’ve come up with a parenting guide to help you make the decision on whether or not your kid can stay home from school. Are they sick or “sick”?
Take away their electronics (I learned this crafty move from Brittany). A sick kid is too sick to be on Insta all day. This can often be the dealbreaker and will save you lots of trouble. Watch out for the divine healing once they get their phone back.
Offer to take them to the doctor. If they say no, CAUTION: it might be fear of shots and they might actually be sick. If they say “sure”, they might be calling your bluff. That’s when you say “if the doctor looks at me and asks why I’m wasting their time, I’ll ask you the same.”
If they’re sitting in front of the toilet and moaning, and you have yet to make the decision, tell them they can go back to bed. If they assume you’re green-light their deception and spring right up like they’re at a Benny Hinn service, off to school they go.
I’ve been doing this long enough to know that kids can be very convincing. I remember putting the ol’ thermometer on the ol’ lightbulb as a kid, a move I got from the movie E.T. At least I think that’s where I saw it. Either way, it worked. I was a young fool but smart enough to shake it down from 108 degrees, lest we end up at the hospital. Today’s kids can’t do that because we’ve replaced our hot incandescent bulbs with cool LED’s, and we’ve finally realized we shouldn’t have breakable glass tubes of mercury in our cupboards. These days, we’re afraid of getting cancelled for sending our kid to school with a sniffle. The world sure has changed.
There’s one last test I like to try before giving in to their triage. It’s called the laugh test.
The laugh test is where you look your “sick” kid in the eyes and say “don’t laugh.” If they laugh, OFF TO SCHOOL. Of course, it could be because their delusional from fever. In that case, you will certainly be cancelled.
I was the “Mystery Reader” in Cam’s class on Thursday, which means I showed up with Britt, a couple packages of cookies, and a book to read to the students. The kids yelled “Cam’s mom and dad are here!” and then immediately started swarming around us in a way that made me wonder if they’d take my wallet.
It was a fun time, no doubt, with a favorite book of mine: The Little Engine that Could. It’s the one with the broken down train full of toys and food for the children on the other side of the mountain. A clown and a bunch of dolls keep flagging engines to get some help. Most of the engines turn them down except for one little blue train engine that saves the day by saying “I think I can, I think I can…”
I’ve read this book to Cam at least 40 times in the last few months. He loves it, and I love reading to him. Written in 1930, the book shows its age, talking about getting peppermints and spinach to the kids, which no kid I know has ever asked for.
I read it to a mostly captive audience, which wasn’t bad considering it was the end of the school day. If anything, it reaffirmed my appreciation for teachers in a big way. Preschoolers aren’t the easiest group to speak to, but still nowhere near as challenging as college students.
At the end of the book, we celebrated that the kids got their toys and lame snacks with a huge cheer, followed by chanting the mantra of the book together (I think I can… I think I can…). It was like a positive thinking seminar for preschool students.
Afterwards, they excitedly showed Britt and I the butterflies that their class has been raising. After that, they were ready for recess, and we were ready to go before they filled up on all the sugar cookies we brought. On the way out, I checked to make sure I still had my wallet.
At the end, we gathered around for a group photo. Cam stood next to me, surrounded by his classmates, and I said “you’re going to remember this for the rest of your life”, which he might. I know I will.
I am writing to tell you that I will be transitioning out of my role as Lead Pastor at Renovation Church. My last Sunday will be June 26, 2022.
The hardest part is what to write next. I suppose it depends on what questions you might ask. If you’re still reading, I’ll use this space to predict your questions. However, if there are more questions to be posed, by all means, askme. You don’t have to ask other people. You definitely don’t have to ask my kids. Ask me — I’m fairly approachable — as long as I’m not super hungry. Perhaps you can bring almonds.
**Why Are You Leaving Renovation?**
That’s a great question. Let me start by telling you why I’m not leaving. I’m not leaving to get away from anything, or because I’m desperate to hit the eject button. It’s certainly not because I don’t like my job or my people. In fact, I love what I get to do, and I love my people. I deeply enjoy what I get to do as a pastor… even in dealing with the hard stuff. I’m not leaving because I found something better (more on that later). I’m not leaving because I have concerns about my faith in Christ, the role of the church, or my theological views. I’m confident and firm as a God fearing, Christ following, Spirit seeking guy. I love Jesus and I love the church — especially Renovation.
Why leave? And why now? In classic pastor/preacher mode, I’m going to give you a three point message. There may or may not be an altar call at the end.
— First, I’ve have had the sense for several years that I’d be transitioning out of this role around the time my daughter Lexi became an adult. As the father of a kid with special needs, many elements of my life and our family orbit around Lexi, which is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. However, her life is about to change, and, with those changes come new opportunities, new service options, and a new chapter for her life and therefore ours. It’s strange to think that my little girl, who, in many ways, will always be a little girl, is going to be old enough to vote, buy cigarettes, and drink in Canada. Don’t worry, she probably won’t do any of those things.
Now that she’s entering adulthood, Lexi needs her dad (me) in a different way now. The “normal path” (college, relationship, career) isn’t gonna happen for her. I will always have the responsibility to care for Lexi through housing, medical care, and financial support. This is a situation for the long haul. Sure, I could keep getting side jobs and generate extra income, but, as it stands now, I won’t ever be able to provide what she truly needs both now and over the span of her life. Planning for Lexi long term has to become priority, at least for a while.
— Second, My job as a father is to make sure that my kids have exactly what they need, especially given what we’ve endured over the last nearly 10 years (more on that later, too). As it turns out, we’ve missed out on quite a bit. I owe it to my two sons to find a way to make the most of these last few years together before they, too, become adults. I’ve got my work cut out for me as a dad, which includes a long list of wonderful experiences that my sons have not had because of our years-long family dynamic. While I would love to keep on keeping on at Renovation as is, the truth is that they need me to be dad in a different way than I’ve been able to be. Pastoral ministry is wonderful but demanding, even at a great church like Renovation. Soon, I will have some freedom to lean into a new job (more on that later) and to make the most of our limited time together in this era of their lives.
Everybody told me that kids grow up so fast. I didn’t believe it when they were spitting up on my shoulder and growing sharp teeth. I believe it now, as my 16 year old son is almost as big as me. It’s a little intimidating. Time is short and moves too fast.
— Third, I had a very unexpected thing happen last year. I met someone (Brittany) and found myself not only in love but ready to roll into something I wasn’t even looking for. Neither of us were. Yet, by God’s grace, we found each other and are on the way to matrimony. In other words, I’m thrilled to tell you that Britt and I are getting married! I don’t know if you’re aware, but I had to file for divorce a few years ago. While I encounter a myriad of bizarre opinions and judgements from people, mostly out of ignorance, I’m grateful that most of the people in my world have been gracious and understanding. Sure, some people just don’t get it. For example, someone from the church recently asked one of my sons “How’s your mom doing?” I’ll assume he doesn’t know that she hasn’t been part of their lives for 2 years, by their choosing. It leads to a number of awkward situations that unfortunately come with the territory of being a pastors kid, especially when the whole thing unfolded before the eyes of the congregation, albeit without much detail being spelled out.
What’s more awkward than getting a divorce while you’re a pastor? Remarrying while you’re a pastor. Why is this awkward? Two reasons: it asks a LOT for a congregation to endure the kind of things that have happened to my family, and divorce probably tops the list. Every Christian knows that Jesus hates divorce (believe me, I’ve heard that one a few times lately). Not every Christian knows that there are fitting reasons to get divorced, sad as they may be.
Now, on to the good news. Let me take a moment to tell you about Brittany.
**What’s The Story With You and Brittany?**
We’re deeply in love and committed to spend the rest of our lives together, our families and households merged into a sprawling, chaotic, and wonderful new era for all of us. I can’t put to words how much I love her, how made for each other we are, and how excited I am about the future. God’s fingerprints of redemption are all over this story of ours. I know the suffering we’ve both experienced that led to so much loss was not God’s design. But here we are, experiencing what Ephesians 3:20-21 talk about (look it up — good stuff).
I know an announcement like this can fire up all kinds of assumptions and rumors. Let me assure you that I’m not being pressured to leave, I’m not being “let go”, and that this isn’t because of a moral failure. As far as I know, most everyone from the congregation to the church staff and the Southern Michigan Conference wants me to stick around, which I appreciate. This is nothing more than strange timing where a multitude of roads converge to a single point. I sense God’s leading in the whole thing.
You might think I’m leaving because I’m getting married. As you could understand, Brittany is afraid that people will think that she took me away. She hasn’t. As I mentioned above, this has been in the works for years, and now it all makes sense.
I should also point out that, while I won’t be in full time ministry, at least for now, I will always be a pastor. I plan on maintaining my ordination with the Free Methodist Church and staying connected to the church at large. I won’t be preaching in a church, but I’ll always have the fire of preaching and teaching in me — a fire that I plan to keep stoked as the Lord continues to guide our lives.
**Will You Still Go To Renovation?**
No. When a pastor leaves a post, it’s customary for them to make way for a new leader, and rightly so.
**What Will Happen At Renovation?**
There are things I don’t know and things I know. What I don’t know is who will take my place. Frankly, that’s not really my business. Renovation is connected to the Free Methodist Church, a network of denominational churches with structures and accountabilities for transitions such as these. In this process, the church board will work in conjunction with the leadership of the Southern Michigan Conference as they select and appoint a new Lead Pastor. I don’t know how long that will take, and I don’t know what the process will look like, though I’ve been part of many transitions like this over the years, and it always seems to work out.
What I do know is that the church belongs to Jesus, and that we can trust that He will guide the people who lead. Renovation is more than its Pastor. Renovation is centered on Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and functions under God the Father. Any church that rises and falls on the status of a particular leader is out of alignment with Jesus. I encourage you to hold on, stay strong, keep building community, and keep reaching the surrounding communities. Our mission to help people find, follow, and be like Jesus is more important than ever. To keep carrying out this work, your church needs you.
**What Are You Going to Do Next?**
That’s a great question. I don’t know. Usually when a Pastor leaves, it’s to go to a different church. I’m not going to another church, at least not yet.
Sometimes when a Pastor leaves, it’s to go to another church-ish job, perhaps a para-church ministry or nonprofit. I’m not doing that, at least not yet.
Occasionally, when a Pastor leaves, it’s to jump into a “secular” job, like insurance or construction. I love how we call certain jobs secular, as if the presence of Jesus is devoid in these vocations. It’s just church talk, and those who grew up in the church know what this terminology means. We’re just differentiating between working in the church vs. outside the church. “Secular” makes it sound like I’d be selling insurance to PAGAN GOAT FARMERS or constructing PENTAGRAMS. I’m not doing that, at least not yet.
**So, You Have NOTHING Lined Up?**
Well, no. Not yet. I’m going to spend 6 months not working, allowing me to rest and regroup after what has been a difficult season of life.
More importantly, not working will allow me to focus on the difficult task of merging families. This will be my most important ministry calling ever.
I might pick up some odd jobs. I’ve always wanted to try substitute teaching, consulting, and writing as my life depended on it. Based on how this post is going, I’m not sure the writing thing is a good plan.
Other than that, Brittany and I will work on some home projects together.
And, for the first time in nearly 30 years, I won’t be worried about how the service on Sunday will go.
**What’s The Plan For Now?**
This coming Sunday (4/24) at Renovation, Superintendent Rhodes will give a Southern Michigan update on next steps. I’ll talk more about this, too.
Until then and after that, I’m gonna keep pastoring (not pestering) Renovation Church. Gonna help my five kids finish the school year strong. Gonna keep preparing for a June wedding ceremony. Gonna do my best to finish well at Renovation. The countdown begins.
Reading through some of your responses, dear FB and InstaFriends, reminds me that I am connected to a group of people with vastly different views on a single event that sweeps the news cycle.
A long time ago, I wrote an article about how social media has made broadcasters out of all of us. At the time, I took the angle of stewardship. Specifically, I suggested that we carefully curate our online presence to represent Jesus well in a broken world. Followers of Jesus can participate in the world while simultaneously being different from the world (John 15:19).
Ask the question: would Jesus slap Chris Rock? Probably not. But that’s not what I want to talk about here. What I want to say is that, no matter the issue, your friends and family will probably disagree with it. And I don’t think it should be this way.
We weren’t meant to know what each other thinks about everything. We weren’t meant to interpret silence on certain issues. We’ve all become broadcasters, and we can’t handle it.
I worked in radio for a while. Broadcasting takes a lot of energy. You have to think about every piece of news. Will we cover it? If we do, what do we say? If we don’t, what are we implying? Listeners would get mad at me about different things, like the time I said that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is an entity created by Montgomery Ward. While that’s true, this particular listener was really mad that I ruined her kid’s Christmas.
There have been a few times where I spoke up about a political issue. People left the church. There have been times where I didn’t say anything about a hot topic. My silence caused people to leave the church. I’m a broadcaster with a label: Pastor. That’s dangerous.
So, I’m not here to speak to the issue. I’m just saying that this is a strange time where everyone has a voice and nobody quite agrees. We used to get along because we had shared interests. Now we look for people of our nearly exact ilk and forsake all other relationships upon discovering they don’t line up. How did we find out they thought differently about something? Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Twitch.
These are the best and worst inventions in recent history. Every positive aspect of the internet is confounded by an unintended negative. Sure, we’re connected, but we’ve lost the bliss of ignorance.
I’m the Lead Pastor at Renovation Church in Portage, Michigan. I’ve been excited about this month of March because I’ve sensed for a while that God was about to stir our church toward spiritual awakening. Our staff team designed a series of prayer & worship nights that would align with what we were doing on Sunday mornings. For me, the image of awakening and renewal kept popping up. I could see people engaged in worship like never before. Experiences of healing and revival continued to flash across my mind whenever I’d pray about it. I saw what it looked like, but not how to get there. In other words, I had a vision of the box but not the contents. Seemed like the best thing to do was create environments where people could engage with Father, Son, and Spirit in extended spaces. I’d call our folks to prayer, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines related to Lent. I could see it. I could feel it. Awakening was around the corner, if we wanted it. I want it. I want you to want it.
And then… BOOM. As it turns out, I keep getting knocked out. First, Lexi got this weird viral thing that put us in the hospital for a long weekend. After that, Britt and I got the same sickness. Then I crashed my Jeep. I continue to wade through related soreness and discomfort, not to mention the fact that my Jeep is done for. These events took me out for a couple of Sundays.
Today, I’m writing from the waiting room at Belle Tire, as I just blew my passenger rear tire on the freeway. I got the spare on and drove below posted speed limits. Now I’m drinking commercial-grade coffee, watching college basketball, and thinking deeply about Spiritual Renewal.
It sure seems more than coincidental that these bad things keep happening to me and my family. In his instructions about Spiritual warfare and the Armor of God, Paul reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
Have you ever heard the phrase “first world problems”? It’s where we complain about our overabundant comfort being temporarily removed. We complain about bad cell phone coverage or spilling mustard on our jeans and blame the devil. Meanwhile, we have sisters and brothers around the world who are hiding from rulers and authorities that insist on killing them because they follow Jesus.
Ya know, maybe Satan didn’t spill mustard on your jeans, and maybe the AT&T tower is down. But it stands to reason that, in the bigger things of life, that the “spiritual forces of evil” would have it out for all of us who follow Christ, no matter our context. In communist China, it’s a death threat. In Southwest Michigan, it’s arrows of sickness, collision, and mechanical issues. We must acknowledge our enemy and remember: he’s going to do whatever it takes to take out a threat to the ways of this dark world.
I may not be in good shape right now, and I acknowledge that I’m battle worn and weary, and that my chest is sore from loosening those lug nuts on the side of the freeway. I say freely that yes, I am kinda frustrated and fed up with a long string of “bad luck” events, and that I can’t help but wonder if it would be safest to just huddle in my house for a few weeks.
I gotta say…
It feels good to be a threat to the kingdom of darkness. It means that whatever God is doing in and through me is BAD NEWS for whatever Satan is up to. I am a target to be acquired, a threat to be disposed of, a problem for the bad guys. Good! It should be that way for all of us who follow Jesus, right?
If you’re reading this, it means that I have the privilege of speaking into your life. I count that as a responsibility. I may not officially be your pastor, but I do care about you and your soul. If my assumptions are true, it would appear that I am meant to shut my mouth and not get involved. Therefore, in an act of obedience to Jesus and defiance of darkness, I will do the opposite.
Listen: Is God trying to stir you awake? Are you spiritually asleep? Are you avoiding Jesus? Are you comfortably numb, thanks to some kind of addiction? Do you know, deep down, that the Holy Spirit is talking to you right now?
My job is to bring the message. Social media keeps you and I connected. As a person in your life, I want to carry this message right into the middle of your spiritual house and ask: are you following Jesus? Have you given Him your all? Are you a fan or a disciple? Are you trying to become more like Jesus? Are you making space for the voice of Truth? Are you willing to put your life down and pick up the cross? Are you more concerned with what Jesus wants than what you want?
Let’s you and I talk. Let’s get real in the comments. You’d be a fool to say “I’m spiritually asleep, and I need prayer.” Here’s the thing: you can’t follow Jesus without doing something the world considers foolish. Scripture says that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it IS the power of God.”
It takes a certain level of vulnerability to sleep in front of someone else. I remember, back in high school, putting shaving cream on one of our sleeping volunteer leaders, Bill, during a youth group trip to the Ichthus music festival. We thought we were hilarious. Bill, a former Marine, woke up and immediately made it clear that he did not think we were hilarious.
Let’s just say that was the last prank of the weekend.
Sometimes it’s embarrassing to admit you were asleep, especially when someone else has to wake you up. Spiritually speaking, it’s Jesus who wakes us up and invites us to a new way of living. If you say “I’m asleep and need to be woken up”, people may think you’re not as spiritually mature as you portrayed. Fear of what they will think keeps us spiritually asleep, sometimes for years and years.
I can’t have people thinking I’m spiritually asleep. It’s embarrassing. This is for them, not me.
Bologna. You’re a follower of Jesus. We aren’t to be motivated by fear of what others think.
Besides — you know what they’ll actually think? They’ll think “I wonder if I’m asleep, too?” It only takes a few people responding to the Holy Spirit to start a movement — an awakening.
“Awake, o sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you the light.” (Ephesians 5:14)
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Where you at?
Would you consider joining me in pursuing a spiritual awakening?
Here’s an okay conversation starter, suitable for family and friends over long car rides or during those quiet moments when everyone’s phone is charging. The question is this: if you could only have only ONE fast food joint stay open while the rest of them close, which one would you choose? Which would you keep open?
The rules can be customized. Include all the possible Fast Food places, or just a few. Keep Chick-Fil-A off the list because it’s the Lord’s chicken. Or, keep it on the list. Include those quasi-fast food places like Qdoba or Five Guys… or don’t.
Though it’s not my favorite, I would keep McDonalds open and let the rest close. Here’s why: the food is sometimes palatable yet always dependable (except for those ice cream machines), and they have pretty good coffee for a fast food joint.
If coffee wasn’t a factor (can you imagine such a hellish world?) I would choose Taco Bell. By the way, do NOT drink coffee from Taco Bell.
Now… tell me where we agree and where we disagree. Let’s remember, too, that disagreements aren’t bad. Different points of view make us unique, and it is possible to disagree and still be friends.
For example, Britt chooses to keep Chick-Fil-A open. I, on the other hand, reluctantly stand by the clown, partly because I tend to eat every day, including Sunday.
How about you? Which FF place would you keep open, and why?
Just a few pics from my crash. There were much worse cars in the lot. Britt and I look at it like this: I’m very fortunate that my injuries weren’t worse. We’re thanking God today.
Friends, every day is a gift. Every relationship you have is with an image bearer of God. Some of these folks hold the highest place of value and priority in life. For me, it’s my Britt and our kids. The idea that they would suddenly be without me is something I don’t like to even consider. Today I’m reminded of how possible it might’ve been.
Thank you, Jesus, that I have a black eye and bumps on my head. And thanks to the people at Jeep who built this thing to withstand a tree and a rollover.
Hug your people. Tell them you love them, again and again. Value your friends. Treat each day as a gift. Treasure every moment. Reach out to a friend randomly and let them know they’re on your mind. Nothing is guaranteed. Life as we know it is not permanent.
A few days ago, I crashed my Jeep into a tree and rolled it on its side after sliding across the most slippery ice in all of Kalamazoo county. I was momentarily knocked out (“moment” could mean seconds or minutes, I’m not sure) and awoke to my headlights illuminating the woods I did not mean to drive into. Confused, I put it in reverse and tried to back out, only realizing then that my vehicle was sitting on its side at 90 degrees, as if in a shady carnival ride, my seatbelt suspending me in my seat. My backpack was up against the passenger window, which was shattered by snowy ground. A wiggly flashlight beam came toward me, a man shouting “are you ok?”, to which I said “Yeah, I’m ok, I just need to get out.” I unlatched my seatbelt and started fighting gravity. The guy opened the driver side door like the hatch on a submarine and I climbed out into the arctic air. Hoisting myself up (the last bit of strength I’d have for days, as it turns out), I jumped to the ground with a thud. Another guy came up to me, offered a bottle of water, and told me I was bleeding. He went back to his truck and brought a handful of napkins and isopropyl alcohol. Dazed, I wiped my head, unsure of where the blood was, like when you ask your kid to wipe his face and he wipes away everything but the spaghetti sauce. A country sheriff car pulled up, its spotlight bright and invasive. I turned around and saw what I just climbed out of. Whoa.
At that point, I just wanted to sit down. So I sat down in the deep snow. When the officer came up to me, I stood, brushed the snow off my bum, and asked if I could sit in his car. I figured he’d let me sit in the front seat, but no — he doesn’t know me. So, I sat in the back of a police cruiser for the first time. True story.
I called Britt on FaceTime and saw my own bloodied and bumped up face in the corner of the screen, a sharp contrast from her beautiful face. I could see the left side of my head that likely hit the roll bar. I began to feel my chest hurt from the seatbelt. My lower back started to really hurt. My arms hurt. But, with her on the phone, I felt ok, warm, at ease. I saw the one I love and was immediately relieved.
From the front seat, the Sheriff asked me what happened. As I told him the story, I looked over at my Jeep, noticing details about the undercarriage and suspension, and it hit me: I should’t be able to see that from here. It really was up on its side. A fireman came up and asked for my name, writing it on a pad with an unreliable pen that he had to keep shaking to make work. The ink was cold and so was I. I asked for a blanket, which he provided, and it fit the stereotype perfectly: wooly and rigid, uncomfortable, like a big flat Brillo pad.
Several people in uniforms asked if I wanted to be checked out at the hospital, to which I said “nah, I’m fine” every time (I tend to be optimistic.) When the Paramedic came and shined her light at me and my bloody head, that particular answer was no longer acceptable. They carefully took my hoodie off and popped on a neck brace. They walked me over to the ambulance and helped me climb into a not very ergonomic bed where they wired me up and strapped me in. We hit the road and headed to Bronson (the hospital, not the Pinchot). For the first time in my, I rode in an ambulance.
We arrived at the hospital and I was wheeled down the hall to my room. I noticed that not all the ceiling tiles are the same color. A few light bulbs were burned out. I could feel my feet hanging over the edge of the stretcher. They counted to three and lifted me over to the hospital bed. My feet hung off the edge of that, too. People gathered ’round me and made me feel very special, asking for my name, shining lights in my eyes, poking at me and pushing down on my stomach as if something was starting to fall out.
They cut my The North Face™ shirt off of me and attached sticky wires to my torso. Another Doctor came at me with an additional round of questions. It was like one nightmare job interview after another, my bare chest and giant feet rudely interrupting by just being there. With the bumps and lacerations on my head, blood work and a CT were ordered. While we waited, I found out my nurse is a traveling nurse who makes good money but changes hospitals every 13 weeks. In this case, she has to drive 90 minutes to work each day — thus, a traveling nurse. I could tell she was new to this particular hospital because we got lost on the way to imaging. All I could see was the ceiling, so I was of no navigational help. I could feel people looking at me as we rolled down the halls, but, as I was flat on my back, I couldn’t see them. It was like a parade that everyone could go to but me.
Moving myself from my hospital bed to the CT shelf was not easy because the pain in my upper body was starting to fire up. A tiny woman helped me get into scanning position, her strength greater than her size, which was a testimony to her professionalism and command of the laws of physics. The CT machine swirled and grunted, pelting me with invisible waves that would soon tell a blurry story. When it was done, I asked the tech what she saw in there, to which she said, “I can’t tell you anything, but the radiologist will.” With a smile, I said “Oh, you can tell me!” and she snapped back “No, I can’t.” I suddenly remembered the rivers of blood that streaked across my face. I was not in top condition to work the system. Our conversation was over.
Back in my ER room, Britt and I talked again on FaceTime. We talked about how Jeeps are replaceable but people are not. I was fortunate. Everyone at the scene said I could’ve been in much worse shape. One Paramedic said “I’ve seen more from a lot less”, and I believed him. For Brittany and I, it was yet another reminder of how precious life is, that every day is a gift, and that you can never take things for granted.
I asked the nurse for something to drink and a pack of Lorna Doone cookies. Hospitals seem to always have those buttery shortbread wonders stashed someplace. She said “well… let me check on that…”, to which I replied “I don’t really need the cookies, but I am pretty thirsty. She didn’t give an answer and quickly left the room. It was then that I became mildly concerned about my status. NPO meant surgery was possible. Surgery meant something was wrong. My appetite for Lorna Doone’s left the room, too.
A solid knock of 7 or 8 pops on my door. I said “Come in!” because what was I supposed to say — “not now, watching SpongeBob?”, even though I was. It was the county Sheriff with my backpack, wallet, and prescription glasses. My prescription sunglasses, which meant my regular specs remained in the crashed Jeep. I thanked him for his help and asked if the Jeep looked totaled. “Oh yeah, front axle’s broken and the steering column is all jacked up.” Better the steering column than my neck, right? I was glad to have my backpack and glasses. I put on my aviator sunglasses, which fixed the blur but created another problem: I looked like a washed up lounge singer.
SpongeBob played dimly on the TV. It was nearly 2am. Still thirsty. Another brief FaceTime call with Britt. So wonderful.
Many minutes later, my attending/supervising Doctor came in. Dr. McCoy. I made a Star Trek reference that she politely acknowledged and brushed aside before giving me the good news: I was all clear. CT showed nothing remarkable. My brain was still there and nothing was bleeding, which meant I could go home. Thanks, Bones! Now how ’bout some Lorna Doone’s? She put her Resident on the hunt. Moments later, he came back with Graham Crackers. Upon opening, they pulverized themselves into a fine sandy pile on my hospital gown, which only made me thirstier. “Can I drink water?” The nurse ran and grabbed two of those styrofoam Hospital travel cups with lids and bendy straws. I forgot about the graham cracker dust and drank from the oasis, grateful that I would soon be released.
I asked the nurse for a Bronson t shirt that I could wear home, as well as my blue hoodie that they took off of me at the scene. My winter coat was, unfortunately, in the back of the Jeep. She said she’d find me something, and she did — scrubs! But there was a catch. These weren’t cotton, they were paper. I donned a paper thin, light blue, short sleeved “shirt” with a “pocket” in the front that would tear on load. My hoodie was elsewhere in the county. My hat was long gone. It didn’t matter. Britt was kind enough to work up an Uber/Lyft, and I was ready to get out of there.
There was one problem: pain. I’ve never been in an accident like this, so I didn’t know to expect that the pain would kick in after the adrenaline slowed down. Oh, did it hurt. Lower back. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t put my new “shirt” on. I was pretty sure I couldn’t walk. They gave me a quick shot of pain meds, let that find its way to the owie, helped me get dressed, and wheeled me out to the waiting room. I sat in the lobby of the ER, nearly 3 am, paper shirt and sunglasses on a bloody face, and blended right in. I hopped in my ride and started heading home. It was still snowy.
Finally home. Britt and I talked again before we both went to sleep, her at her place and me at mine. Being geographically separate is difficult, especially at times like these. She was so helpful from afar, but I still wished I could be with her. I thought again about how precious and fragile life is. We talked about how God was clearly watching over me, and that it would all be ok. We both had to get some sleep before sending our kids out the door to school in a few hours. Goodnight, my love.
The next morning, my left eye began to change colors. My back hurt so much that I didn’t really move. My head and chest hurt so much that I tended to lie motionless on one and, eventually, two heating pads. I asked Nick to buy me another heating pad because so much surface area needed warmth. He brought that and some ice cream. My saintly mother in law came to town (again) and kept things together as only she can. Britt and I talked throughout the day. I missed her. I ate very little, drank only a little more. I kept falling asleep to episodes of MST3K.
The sadness/frustration kicked in when I realized I would miss Cameron’s 5th birthday party. I was supposed to be there, bouncing on the trampoline with him and his pals. I was supposed to help Britt at the party so she wouldn’t have to do it alone. I was supposed to be a dad presence for my boy. Instead, I was confined to my bed, put there by a tree on a winter night. So frustrating.
I am sad that Lexi was sick, which put her int he hospital for 5 days. I was sad that Britt and I got the same sickness, which took us out for 5 days, And now this? Come on.
I am sad that I can’t do ministry, leaving my team to scramble and come up with something again and again. So frustrating.
I am sad that it still hurts to turn my head to the right.
In Philippians, Paul writes “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” At the time, Paul was in much worse shape than me, yet his words help me right now.
Because of Jesus, I can feel miserable and fulfilled, frustrated and joyful, in pain and yet healed. I don’t understand it, but this peace is real.
I’m writing this at my kitchen table at midnight. This is the best I’ve felt in days. I’m told tomorrow might be the worst. I have no idea what to expect, as this is all new to me.
It should be noted that Jesus does not cause injury, sadness, or frustration. However, He did experience all of these and more, which means that my Lord is helping me through His familiar territory.