The Kroc Effect

The Kroc Effect

After finally settling on a title for these posts, I am endeavoring to discover exactly what it means.  To me, to you, to the community…

South Bend Kroc Center

First, a little bit of history about our grand establishment.

San Diego’s Kroc Center was the first to be built with a generous donation from Joan Kroc in 2002.  Since then, these awesome community centers have blossomed in many different communities, from Coeur d’Alene,  Idaho, to Chicago, Illinois, to Memphis, Tennessee.  Each center is started with funds from the Kroc endowment, and then grows to support itself by reaching out to the community.

The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in South Bend recently celebrated its 2nd birthday.  On January 29, 2014 to be exact.  It is currently one of 27 Kroc Centers across the country.  Offering fitness, enrichment, social services, and a myriad of…

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Seeing Jesus in the Everyday

I was recently called upon to visit a member of my church in the hospital. He had suffered a slight stroke and was being admitted for who knew how long.  On the first visit I did the usual “ministerial” things like praying, holding his hand, and reading Psalm 121 which seems to be the “right” Scripture for such occasions. All went well and I felt like I had contributed to bringing him some comfort.

Perhaps now is when I should confess that these types of visits are not easy for me … as if it is my comfort that I should be paying attention to. On numerous occasions I have had an inner desire to quickly flee, or to ask my wife to go instead!  We stopped in again this morning to check on our friend and something happened during this visit.  As I was sitting in the chair I pulled up beside the bed, reading Psalm 103, I happened to glance up from my bible app and realized that my friend was looking at me with a profound clarity in his eyes.  This was amazing because it went against the effects that had caused him to be confused and made his communication hesitant and jumbled. It was as if he was recalling the verses from memory!  I continued reading and the smile on his face grew as the Holy Spirit reminded him of the truth of God’s Word.

The power of God’s Word, hidden in our hearts, can bring calmness and clarity to even the most confusing situations.  When we cannot seem to remember our way through even the simple things of life God’s Word provides a light for us.  That visit this morning ministered to me in a way that has not happened before … and to think …. he used something I don’t feel competent at, or comfortable doing!  Isn’t that the story of the Bible?  God meeting with ordinary individuals at their point of weakness, to reveal His glory.  I think I will stop in tomorrow and see my friend again … who knows what God has in store for us!

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Trusting God … Living by Faith

It is within each of us to choose which direction we will go, and how we will respond to the events of life.  In the last few days I have run into this “wall”.  I call it a wall but really it is a decision point, a ”swinging gate”, and not an impenetrable blockade.  Many of you know that Major Bev and I took our baby girl, Betsy, off to college this past weekend.  It was a bittersweet time for us.  We have planned and encouraged and coached her for such a time as this.  We have prayed for God’s direction and His blessing to bring it about … and yet I find myself struggling with it. 

I am not alone in this type of struggle. Many of you are facing difficult times and choices are in front of you. The issue is about trusting God enough to live by faith.  We believe that God has moved us to this time in all of our lives, equipping us along the way for the next step … but … doubt can creep in, and fear can begin to lead.  How to respond?  How to react?  What is the choice before me?  Do I trust God, or do I take a nap?

Proverbs 3:5, 6 provide a reasonable response, and a great promise.  5Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  6in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”    When difficult or troubling times come the first step in to set ourselves aside and look to what the Lord has done for us throughout our lives. This look back provides the momentum to move forward in faith, trusting that God is still for us.  We can begin to see blessings and this prompts our hearts and minds to praise Him.  When that happens we begin to see His way through and our choices begin to reflect a life focused on Him.

That is where Bev and I stand today.  We will still need to adjust to a new phase of life, dealing with the sadness, but also rejoicing in the promise of tomorrow.

Beloved ones, trust in God, lean on Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to move you forward, through that “swinging gate”.  Trust God and live by faith!

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Time Passages

Over the last 2 months or so I have had the tune from Al Stewart’s, “Time Passages” running through my head. The connection to that song from the late 70’s meant something important to me then, and it means even more to me today. I am quickly coming face to face with the stark reality of my baby girl leaving home, for the first and perhaps final time. She is off to start her sophomore year as a transfer student at a university 3 or so hours from home. I am so proud of the way she is grabbing hold of a bright future. I am also excited about the new experiences she will have and the growing opportunities she will encounter. Her mother and I have raised her to think clearly, choose wisely, and trust in God’s guidance so I do not have the same concerns that some others may have.

As I walk this particular time passage my mind is drawn backwards. I see that little baby girl in her mother’s arms, that little gap toothed girl who loved “waterlemon” and learned that there is “quancicances” to her actions. Fast forward a bit and I laugh out loud thinking about the basketball player who, while driving to the lane, stopped, handed the ball to the referee and said, “I’m sorry but I just traveled”. So many memories, some much time gone by so very quickly.

Fast forward some more and there she is, with a house full of friends, celebrating her 15th birthday with a murder mystery party. So much laughter and fun. As I recall the first spring fling dance my eyes tear up and my heart hurts a little. She is so beautiful, and has such a sparkle in her eyes. As a father the beauty of one’s daughter is a source of both pride and angst. But she was raised to think clearly, choose wisely, and trust God’s guidance so all will be well. And it has been.

So many more memories … volleyball, vacations, tears, and laughter …they seem to speed by on fast forward. Life has a way of moving very quickly sometimes and, while I knew this day was inevitable, I wish I could slow it down just a little bit. But that is impossible. All I can do adjust and embrace these times.

My little girl is grown up now and embarking on a very exciting journey and I am using this time to make as many new memories as I can… just getting ready for the next time passage!

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Hey Dads – some of my life lessons

As Father’s Day approaches I have been thinking about the men who influenced me as a father.  I have been blessed to have a father, a step-father, and a father in law, and each one has contributed to who I am today. Each one has helped me to become the father I am today, and I wanted to honor them by sharing their influence.

As I sit here thinking about my father, Jack Best, I am reminded of his zest for living.  Even though we were separated by divorce I spent a lot of time with him.  Every other weekend and long times in the summer.  Our summers were spent enjoying the out of doors, like the camping trip to Canada, or the ball park in Pontiac.  Dad has an easy smile and a good laugh that draws laughter out of even the saddest situations.  I believe that the fun I find in living comes, in no small way, from his influence in my life. Times change, and situations can produce distance but his joy in living life out loud will always be part of me.  As I father my own children I have found that same easy smile and zest of living.  My children know that fun is a part of life!

Every boy needs to have a steadying influence to provide stability and safety and my step dad, Wayne Smith, provided that for me. He entered my life at the age of 4 and through all the years I was growing up I never felt like he was anything other than dad. He was a solid provider and a firm hand for me.  When I open my tool box and fix something around the house I think of him.  When I see that all the bills are paid and there is some money left over I think of him.  When I feel beat down and less than I hear his voice coaxing me to get up off the ground and move forward. His love for me was not just words, but demonstrated each and every day in practical ways.  From sitting in the stands cheering me on to patiently teaching me how to keep a house in order his love was evident.  As a father I have tried to love my children in that same practical way.

Finally as I think about fathers I think about my father in law, Dave Keeler, who was simply dad to me. I think the most important lesson I have learned from anyone, I learned from him. It is the pure joy of being in love with Jesus. I learned that to love Jesus means to serve others, to be patient with others, to forgive others, and to share your blessings.  Dad was a faithful, obedient, disciplined, and joyful follower of Jesus. As a father I have tried to be like dad, teaching my children about Jesus, openly sharing my love for him, and demonstrating a humble heart.

I am so blessed to have had these men in my life, and I pray that the lessons learned from them are evident in me.

Blessings!

 

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Standing at the Edge

I love to look at pictures of canyons, ravines, crags, and crevices. Something about a camera angle that takes you to the very edge, and allows you to look over is invigorating. The view is often spectacular and breathtaking. I’d prefer the video or picture as opposed to the real thing because I am afraid of heights. There I said it out loud … I AM AFRAID OF HEIGHTS! I edge away uneasily from the glass wall of a 3 story elevator, and I am not real keen on driving over the Mackinaw or Chesapeake bridges. My unease is very “normal” to me and it causes me to shy away from what might be an amazing experience.
Sometimes death is treated the same way … better a picture of that edge than to experience the real thing. When a loved one is approaching the edge of this life fear and unease are a very real part of the experience. Cerebrally, we who call ourselves Christian, know that Jesus is just over that edge. We understand that our eternity is with Him in heaven … but man, that walk to the edge can be an uneasy one.
I am thinking about that today because Dad has taken that walk over the edge. His earthly struggle is over and he is standing with Jesus now, holding hands with Mom. A week or so ago my wife, Bev, and I sat having a quiet lunch with dad. He started to talk about heaven and eternity. I began to feel a sense of unease, wanting to jump up and shout, “Stay away from the edge!” It was as if not talking about it made it less real. As long as we looked everywhere else but down that edge wouldn’t exist. As I was wrestling with this dad looked at me and said, “I am not afraid, I just wonder what the process is going to be”. It was as if he sensed my discomfort and was trying to settle me, and that was just like dad! Here he is, facing the edge for himself, and thinking about others.
I have learned so many things from this man. Things like grace, responsibility, love, courage, quiet manliness, servant attitude, faithful obedience, and a desire to just love Jesus as best you can. I have now learned something new, something that will stick with me forever. Fearlessness! As I watched him approach the edge I saw trust and faith in Jesus, and a heart filled with grace and dignity. Thank you again Dad … I will see you in heaven!

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Love Lessons from Dad

The family gathered this weekend to celebrate dad’s 78th birthday. Three generations of family gathered in honor of our patriarch. The dinner table became a place of entertainment, laughter, memory sharing, and love. I wanted to share my thoughts about the evening and some life lessons revealed about love.

The significance of the event was not just a 78th birthday celebration, but a celebration of a life lived with love. Dad’s birthday will be the last he shares with us here on earth as he is finishing up a battle with lung cancer. With that as the backdrop one might expect a somber, or sad affair … Let me tell you, it was not! We laughed, at times so hard tears filled our eyes. We shared great memories, and were regaled by the youngsters with story after funny story. Sitting back and watching I was struck by the connection we all have. It is a deep and abiding connection forged in the love of Christ and demonstrated by mom and dad, down through children and grand children.

We came to a time of gift giving, and dad had a special gift to give to each of his girls. He gave each one a beautiful necklace with a birthstone representing mom, dad, and each girls particular stone. A gift of love, and a legacy to be reminded of. Next came gifts for dad. It was during this time that tears were shed as practical, as well as personal gifts were given that spoke of the integrity, honor, Christ centered living, and demonstrated impact dad has had on all of us. The best word to describe the gifts would be love.

That love is important because it defines who dad is. He is first and foremost in love with Christ. It is evident as he closes his eyes to pray, and it is evident in quiet conversations about heaven that he has. It also defines who he is in relationship with his children, and grandchildren. The words shared in a card, a note, or in a frame all coalesced around a common idea of how he demonstrated his love for each one of us. In so many practical and thoughtful ways each of us knows that he loves us, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

His love is not confined to just Jesus and his family, but it also extends out to those in community around him. Several gifts focused on contributions made to help free girls trapped in slavery, wells to provide water to villages without hope, and children sponsored in order to provide hope, healing, and most of all love.

As I sit hear trying to imagine a world without dad, I am reminded of the love lessons he has taught us through the years, and the love lessons he is still teaching us today. I want to live as he has lived, a man in love with Jesus, in love with his family, and loving the greater community. I want to demonstrate that love with the words I say, the relationships I build, and a willingness to share blessings with others.

Dad … thank you for the love lessons.

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