What happened?

Wednesday morning, my wife called to tell me that our daughter’s friend attempted suicide. “…and she may have been successful.” 

My daughters are friends with both of those girls. They hang out, they sleep over, they text each other. The older girl found the younger with a dog leash wrapped around her throat. 

I’m not sure what happened. I’m not sure what led up to it. All I know for certain is that my youngest child can’t understand. And my oldest is angry. 

Do I believe suicide is unforgivable? No I do not. That call is up to our almighty Heavenly Father. And he decides who is saved, and who is not. 

So, for the person who goes, there’s no problem. Have a nice eternity!

But there are so many people left behind that were touched by your life. In positive ways, no less. And you may never know that. These people love you. You may not know that either, and I am sorry about that. 

And their lives are turned upside down. 

I can’t begin to imagine what her parents are going through. Nor her sister. 

But I see my my teenage daughters cry. And I don’t know how to comfort them. And that hurts me. 
Our society wants to focus on negative things. Our music, our movies, and our everyday talk. 

I had a bad day at work. 

My day was worse!

It’s like we compete for the worst life. And as we focus on how bad our lives are, we lose track of all the blessings. We lose track of the wins. We lose track of the love. 

And we don’t want to lose anymore. 

I know. I’ve been there. And I don’t want to go back. 

But we only want to focus on our own negativity. We don’t want to hear or talk about someone else’s problems. And that’s where we are failing each other. And that’s why so many people think nobody cares. 

And someone chooses to end it all. 

And so many more suffer.

And still, nobody wants to talk about it. 

So it never gets addressed. 

It never really gets addressed. 

I’m done being silent. This has gone on long enough. Yeah, I’m ashamed that it took hitting this close to home before speaking up. That makes it all the more important. 

Please, don’t let another innocent young person take their life. 

Knowing God

15 years ago, my life changed.  In my car, in a Wal-Mart parking lot, God made Himself known to me.  My 3-year-old daughter, slept through the whole thing in the back seat.  But my life changed forever.

It hasn’t been easy along the way. “You will have trouble,” Jesus told his disciples (John 16:33).  I’ve been laid off the times from the tumultuous energy industry. I’ve eaten more beans and cornbread than I care to remember (but my wife makes some amazing beans and cornbread!)  And my car is nothing to brag about.

But in the same breath as the quote above, Jesus also said, “take heart, I have overcome the world.” 

And that’s where knowing Him – not just knowing about Him – can change your life.

I’m here to testify. I do indeed have it all. At this point, joy and peace are some pretty valuable commodities! 

I will be writing here about how I came to know God; how He has healed me; how He has bestowed peace and joy on me. How he answers my prayers, and sometimes the answer is “no.”

Keep tuned.

Adios,

Clay

The World is Exploding 

And we get to watch!

Anyone who comments without reading the whole post … Well, you’ll show your ignorance. 

Ok enough drama, right?  “Save da drama fo yo mama!”  But, seriously. There is a lot amiss.  This is not a sermon for unbelievers.

Nearly 14 years ago, I pledged my life to Christ. There were some immediate changes, but growing up in the U.S.South, with very conservative parents, I had some core beliefs:

  1. If you live in this country, you damn well better be ready to work. 
  2. If you pose any threat to my family, you must die. 
  3. The Russians are the bad guys. 
  4. So are the Liberals. 
  5. So are Atheists
  6. And the French
  7. And Muslims
  8. And Catholics
  9. And gays…
  10. And bigots…
  11. And drugs…
  12. And illegal immigrants…

Let’s face it. Archie Bunker made a whole lot of sense to me. Then, at the age of 21, I dropped out of college and joined the Navy. My charge in life: to destroy the Russian horde as The Gipper commanded. But I also learned how to drink like a sailor. 

Then a Navy Chaplain told me that Jesus didn’t want people like me. I found myself, a professing conservative “Christian”, living in the dark side. A place that I wouldn’t want my body to be found. It was an eye-opening experience. The atheists and gays aren’t that bad. I don’t want to be one, but since Jesus doesn’t want me, I can hang out with them. 

I eventually got back to college and graduated with a degree in computer science. First I moved to the Texas border area where I was the minority because I spoke English. I encountered illegal aliens every day. I learned to speak their language and I ate their food. These people aren’t so bad. They’re just trying to support their families. 

My next stop was Austin, a very liberal spot in Texas. Why, oh why do the liberals take over the most beautiful places? The West Coast, The Texas Hill Country… But they weren’t so bad. Yeah, we disagreed on a lot of points, but for the most part, they actually made sense. I came away with the conclusion that every hardcore  conservative needs a liberal or two to help them see the other side. (And the liberals out there could use a conservative or two to keep the country’s economy on track!)

But Houston was the most eye-opening experience. In Houston, I found a cross-section of the whole world. All of the remaining bad people were here. I worked with Muslims every day. I ride the vanpool with Russians who escaped the collapse of the Soviet Union as fast as they could. There are Catholics in our homeschool group. 

It was in Houston that I found I needed to have The Lord Jesus Christ in my life. 14 years ago. I asked Him to take away everything that stood between us. But there is still a lot of hate in my heart. 

And there are people who cannot work. And there are thousands of homeless. And many of my friends are out of work because of the price of oil. And I was in that situation. 

And who bailed me out? My church. They helped me – not with handouts, but with the expectation that I would get back on my own two feet soon. That one day I would be able to do for others what was done for me. 

Life hasn’t been easy. And there is a lot of hateful rhetoric on the news and in thenSocial Media feeds. I signed off Facebook 7 years ago because of the political rhetoric. (But I also changed my avatar to a Hammer and Sickle in honor of our government. See I’m not perfect!)

Then they established sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants. And they legalized gay marriage. And they legalized marijuana. And they began the Sovietization of our healthcare system. And they outlawed the Confederate Battle Flag. And we went to war against a Muslim army without a country. And another one. 

And still, Jesus works on my heart. 

  • Homosexuality and drug use is a sin, just like my drunkenness which I was born with a penchant for. I needed to learn how to deal with my addictions so I could help others deal with theirs. 
  • Many of my friends were without healthcare before the Affordable Care Act.  Self-employed, but not rich, they needed an option that did not exist. 
  • To my friends with darker skin, the Confederate Battle Flag is the equivalent of a swastika – a religious symbol appropriated and ruined by a hate monger. 
  • My Muslim friends wept with me after 9/11 and the recent attacks in Paris. (Though the French refused to help us after 9/11, we will stand with them in this time of mourning.)
  • Refugees, though a few bad eggs may be in the group, still need a chance to recover from the horror they have been through. 

Am I a liberal? I don’t think so. I still think the Soviets had it wrong. I still think we need to protect our borders from potential enemy combatants sneaking in. I still think hard work is the way to peace. And I still think we need to fight to protect our families. 

But all of this needs to be filtered through the love of our Lord and Savior.  And that is what many of my Christian friends cannot see. 

An Attitude of Gratitude

I’m almost 50.  Almost.  And I’ve learned a lot in the last almost 50 years.  Today’s lesson is on true gratitude.

See, I’ve called BS on this “Attitude of Gratitude” thing for most of my life.  I mean, I tried it and it didn’t work.  I’m still a bitter middle-aged man.  Bitter because “Nothing is working out the way I want it.”  I have craved 20 acres for most of my life, but I’m stuck in a house in the suburbs.  I figured I’d be an executive by now at my job, but I’m still not even a manager.  I figured I’d be jamming with my bass guitar on the weekends, but I pawned it 20 years ago and I’m delivering pizzas on the weekends.

So what the he!! do I have to be grateful for? <There’s one!>

Diddly S—t, right? <you thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?  But SQUAT has five letters, not four!>

Then, about a month ago, people started telling me, “That’s not your job.  Why are you worried about it?”  “Can you do anything about the condition of your roof/driveway/siding/plumbing?  Why are you worried about it?”  “Are you getting fatter ‘cuz you eat four good meals a day?  Why are you complaining about not having the best cuts of beef?”

My wife – my lovely, wise partner in life – told me that I need to stop comparing myself to everyone else.  Most of our friends and neighbors work two jobs.  The only difference between them and me is that they don’t complain about it!

So I adopted an “I don’t give a sh-t about it” attitude.  Honestly, that’s how it translates to those outside of the cross.  And, that’s honestly how it started for me.  But as I began to apply Matthew 6:25-34 in my life, it began to look less like “F—– it all!” and more like the Serenity Prayer.  <again, you thought I was going to say something else.  FORGET has six letters, not four!>

Reinhold Neibuhr wrote: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Twelve-step programs use this to encourage their members to keep moving forward.  I figured out that “I don’t give a d–n” has biblical roots, when properly applied.

And by properly applied, that means giving credit to whom credit is due.

Throughout the Bible, believers are instructed to “Cast their burdens/cares upon the Lord” (Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7 to name a couple).  I think I’ve finally learned how to do this.  “I can’t do anything about this.  Lord, You will take care of this in your time, somehow.  It’s not my job to worry about it.”  By doing this, I’ve accepted the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

And I’m grateful.  Yesterday I considered what to do for my 50th birthday party.  I decided we would just celebrate – the four of us – at my house with zero guests.  We can’t afford to bring anyone.  I was discouraged for a while.  Then I decided to thank God for what I have.  I have a roof over my head and it [still] keeps me dry.  I have cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter.  I have four squares a day.  I have two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife.

And I felt better.

I had cultivated an “Attitude of Gratitude.”

I finally figured it out.

My life isn’t suddenly better, but I’m content with where I am.  I keep striving to improve, but not because I am dissatisfied.  I keep striving to be a better man than what I was yesterday.

And somehow it’s all going to work out.  So I’m no longer bitter.

“Here it is ag…

“Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.”
Matthew 20:16, The Message

For over forty some-odd years, I tried to be first.  Since nothing was ever working out and I was constantly bringing up the rear, I honestly thought that I was doing what Jesus asked.  Truth was, however, that I put myself before anything else in my life.  I was more important than my friends, than my kids, than my wife, than God.  I pretended to sacrifice greatly but only to better my own position.  When things didn’t go well, I would blame God, my wife, my boss, the economy…  It was never my own fault.

That began to change a few years ago when God saw fit to give me a second chance.  He began to steer me in a direction that I never thought possible.  Nor did I ever think I would enjoy this path.  See, i’m going into marketing.  My path here came from cynicism toward computers after many experiences including major dissatisfaction with the largest operating system/software publisher.  But there was also the payroll program I wrote for a garbage company that taught me a degree isn’t necessarily the path to great money.  Garbage truck drivers make a heckuva lot more than I do with a BS and over 20 years experience.

So after writing that payroll program, I began to pursue other avenues.  Since I was having trouble landing computer jobs, I wound up selling cars.  Then I went after jewelry because it paid more.  Then I wound up back in computers – sorta.  My job there was to sell in-house people on using a particular software.  Still sales, but better.

That job went away in 2010 and I found myself taking a contract job on a roll-out.  The lowest of the low for computer folk, particularly with over 20 years of experience.  But that contract led to a longer-term contract with the helpdesk.  And I helped a senior manager from Norway with a problem, so he had me moved to his team in Houston, supporting a particular oilfield software system.  In all honesty, this was a good place for an IT guy to land.

But it got better.  The Customer Service Manager went on maternity leave and they needed someone to cover for her.  They picked me.  I finally got to meet the senior manager to whom I owed the rest of my career and thanked him profusely.  As time went on, I became a jack-of-all-trades for this oilfield software system.  I noticed a gap in awareness within the company – our own people were selling the competition’s service because they didn’t know about ours!

As I began to dig and raise awareness, I gained the attention of the marketing team.  They continue to move me away from support and are giving me a chance to be “pre-sales”.  My job is to make customers drool and internal sales aware.

I had no idea that God had given me this talent.  But it’s working.  And I found it when I stopped putting myself first – when I stopped chasing after the top-dollar job.  I found it when I went back to the bottom.

Thank you Lord, for guiding me as You have.  I don’t know what I’ve done to merit your favor – but I’m glad I did.  Please keep helping me to succeed both financially and spiritually.  Help me to bless others through the blessings you’ve given me.  Amen!

A Man of God?!?!?

In 2002, I dedicated my life to Jesus. I began blogging daily, sometimes multiple times per day. But, in the last few years, life has gotten the best of me. I am working two jobs and have two growing daughters. My wife and I are involved in multiple organizations outside the home. So, I don’t feel like I’m close to God anymore.

Then something happens: someone catches me out of the blue and says, “I know you’re a man of God.”

How can they say that about me? They don’t even know me. In one case on Friday night, it was a person I had net five minutes earlier. In another case, it was a person of a different faith.

I certainly don’t feel like a man of God. I find pleasure in the things of this world, such as video games and pretty ladies. I don’t read the Bible or pray often enough. Yet my manager called me a “Brother in Faith.”

What shines inside of me – bright enough for others to see, but in a wavelength to which my own eyes are blind?

I’m humbled. I feel unworthy to be called a “man of God.” Yet it builds up my spirit. I am encouraged by these words from friends and complete strangers. It pushes me to re-establish my relationship with my Heavenly Father.

So, what’s the point? I have lived a lie for most of my life. 36 of my 48 years were spent saying I believed, but still lived as though He meant nothing to me. But I felt different in 2002 than I did before. And I believe that He truly changed my life. These words of encouragement are designed to restore that which I have tossed aside.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 8:39, ESV

I am free to be the man that God wants me to be. My eyes are very slowly being opened to that fact.

What a Drag it is Getting Old…

Image

I’ll say it.  I really don’t mind.  I was born a little over 48 years ago.  In my lifetime, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  Personal Computers became a routine thing (my first one had 4K of memory…).  Cancer became survivable.  The world map changed radically after the fall of the Soviet Union.  Our consumption of energy has changed.  

In two years, I will hit the big 5-0.

So, I went to the doctor for a wellness check.  Not everything is within spec.  Surprise, surprise!  For the last 30 years, I have abused my body with food, drink and other things that shall not be mentioned.  Somehow I’ve survived it all to this point.  But it sparked something within my pea-brain.  Not only do I want to see my grandkids, maybe I’d like to see my great-grandkids.

I’ve made a commitment to my wife to get myself back into shape.  Doc said that some exercise will get most of those numbers back in line.  Change the diet a little and that will resolve it.  I’m actually doing it!  For the first time in my life, I’m finding a reason to focus and change.

I haven’t eliminated anything but carbs and salt have been radically cut back.  Rather than a breakfast taco every morning, I’m having one or two a week (usually on the same day).  Instead of eating all the pizza I can handle at my weekend job, I’m going home for a quick salad wrap (if only I can get them to stop putting Ranch dressing on it…).

I’ve even begun to exercise.  Monday in the rain when I couldn’t get my tracker app to work.  Tuesday I walked with the kids to the polling place (a mile away from the house).  

The Bible says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  My body looks and feels more like a bar and grill than a temple.  I’m honoring beer and sausages rather than God.  So my change also involves getting back to His Word, which has sadly been neglected over the last five or six years – ever since He, in His grace, saw fit to find me employment.

There’s a change coming in my life.  I don’t want to be the beer-swilling fat pig I was at age 30.  I want to be fit at 90.  So, here goes…

True Friends

This evening was a blessed event.  I mean – you just don’t know when you will feel blessed.  Let me ‘splain.

I was sitting on my lazy butt watching TV.  I heard a lawn mower going and thought to myself, “Self, you need to mow your lawn, too!”  It was about 7:30 pm.  So, I went out and began to mow my lawn.  My neighbor across the street was sweating hard and pushing his mower.  My neighbor two doors down joined us in spewing carbon monoxide and cutting blades of green.

Across the street finished first and borrowed another neighbor’s weed whacker.  I finished second and began to trim using my ancient edger My Ancient Whacker of Weeds I guess he felt sorry for me, and came over to help. My other neighbor saw him and told me, “That’s a good neighbor.”  Then he disappeared.  I was sweeping, and he showed up with his blower – and wouldn’t let me operate it.

Between the three of us, we finished all three lawns.  It was a wonderful, blessed event.  The three of us – all of different faiths, and occasionally irritated at each other – found the deepest meaning of friendship.

These experiences are few and far between.  What was your experience?

My “Dream Job”

I’ve been working on computers since 1979. OK, so some of that time, I’ve been playing. But I’ve spent many hours trying to make programs and scripts run, trying to make networks talk (we’re talking 10BASE2, people!), trying to figure out why DOOM won’t run on my 486SX… yeah – even the play was work.

I’m tired of computers.

So, when the opportunity arose to merge my love for people with my tech experience, I had to bite. It meant nearly a year of proving myself, but now I’m in a position where most of my time is spent dealing with people, not machines. There are days when I spend only an hour on my computer. The rest of the day I’m talking to clients, giving tours of our facility and basically schmoozing the people who decide to spend money on us.

Most importantly, this is a bridge to get out of the technical side of things. I’m at a point where I can oversee the techies. I don’t have to spend my time worried about the details – there are techies that do that.

God has blessed me. He has put me where I needed to be so that people will see me. A rollout (that I didn’t want to accept) led to a job on the helpdesk. One of the folks that called the helpdesk told his boss that they needed me. When I interviewed for that job, I told him where I wanted to be. And I’m here. Praise God for His providence!

Vanpoolin’

I am blogging now, courteous of your friendly neighborhood vanpool. They drive me home from work so I don’t have to attend anger management classes again after 150 minutes in Houston traffic. (Yes, gentle reader, that is two and a half hours.) Having 45 minutes, I began to pray and ask for God’s guidance in my life. He is faithful to answer – all I need to do is listen.

I felt a pull back to blogging. It’s been fourteen months (see yesterday’s entry), and I have felt bad about not blogging. People responded to my blogs before. They are not pretty and they don’t always say what people want to hear. But they resonate with someone. And that is why I feel like God wants me to start again.

So, while vanpooling, I pull out my laptop and type an entry into Notepad. When I have access to the internet, I upload it. Simple as that.

If it’s so simple, do I have an excuse not to?