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Safe at Home

July 21, 2010

Busch Stadium in St. Louis

Not long ago, doctors at St. John’s Mercy Hospital in St. Louis sent Dale Mueller home, to enjoy what was left of his time with his family.

Though he had set the cigarettes down nearly 50 years ago, it appeared there was no longer anything they could do to stop the advance of the cancer that had begun in his lungs and now spread to his brain.

Dale’s daughter, Stephanie, was talking about this one day while on the phone with Requelle Raley, a colleague of mine here at Thomas Nelson who lost nearly everything she owned in the Nashville flood back in early May.  As the two of them shared their lives (Requelle’s was being rebuilt, as they spoke, by a volunteer construction crew from Texas … Stephanie’s, torn apart by the disease that was stealing her father),  something happened that so often does when we share – the body of Christ was allowed to work.

You see, despite having been a St. Louis Cardinals fan his entire life, Dale had never been to a game.  But, recently, he’d mentioned to Stephanie that it was something he’d like to do.  She, of course, would make sure it happened.  And that she went a dozen steps beyond his expectations to create an experience their family would never forget.  She just wasn’t sure how.

Maybe she could wheel him out onto the field for batting practice? There

Cardinals' All-Star catcher, Yadier Molina

are few things that make a man feel more alive, after all than green grass, baseball chatter and the crack of a bat.  Maybe while he was there, he’d meet his favorite player, Yadier Molina … and, when that was done, they’d stay as long as her dad was able.  Requelle knew another of our fellow colleagues, Dave Schroeder, was from St. Louis.  Maybe, just maybe, he knew someone who could help.

Turns out he did.  And he sat close enough to her, in fact, that she could just about reach him with an outstretched arm.  That someone, was me.

(God is incredible.  Just days earlier, I’d gotten back into the habit of asking, specifically, in my prayers for Him to use me.  And here He was, already, obliging.)

So, I immediately shot an e-mail to a friend and former colleague from my days in Memphis with the Redbirds, Brady Bruhn, to see if he could get the family five tickets for a game in early August.  I e-mailed Melody Yount, who was, during my days as Media Relations Manager in Memphis, my counterpart in St. Louis (thinking she may be able to get the family onto the field during batting practice).  And I told her Dale’s story.  She could find out more about him on his Carepages blog (a hospital-hosted blog that patients’ families use to keep friends and family updated), I told her.   She knew exactly where to go.  She’d been using Carepages herself for nearly a year, having been diagnosed with breast cancer just last September.

(Again … how amazing is God?)

Everyone promised to do the best they could, though there were no guarantees.  There wasn’t, after all, much time.  For the Cardinals to put the necessary wheels into motion, or for Dale.   I let Requelle know.  And we prayed.

A couple of days passed and Requelle got a call.  It was Stephanie.  Her dad had taken a turn for the worst.  Was there any chance – any at all?  – that we could make it happen sooner?  As in … tomorrow?

E-mails flew back and forth between Nashville and St. Louis.

Prayers were sent.  And, via the body of Christ through some amazing people in the Cardinals organization, answered.

Dale Mueller, VIP

Stephanie, her dad and the rest of their family would have five tickets waiting for them to Friday’s game with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Dale would be on the field for batting practice.

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Come Friday afternoon, the temperature in St. Louis was soaring.  But, there Dale was, decked out in red.   Big, strong, young men, with the world in the palms of their hands and their entire lives in front of them, jumped into and out of the batting cage, spraying line drives to every corner of the park and into the seats beyond.  In a wheelchair, just a few feet away, a man,  suddenly old, was beaming, absorbing every moment … but, tiring.

So, someone with the Cardinals took photos of the family together on the field and whisked them away to the locker room, where they’d find air conditioning – and visitors.

Molina,  All-Star pitcher Adam Wainwright and reliever Jason Motte were waiting.  They signed autographs, took more pictures, laughed and talked.

Afterwards and by that point, it’d already been an overwhelming and emotional day.  Enough to excite and exhaust even the healthiest of men.   And that description hadn’t fit Dale for some time.

He wouldn’t last into the late innings.

But today, he wouldn’t have to.

God had his rally cap on and a flurry of early baserunners brought Molina to the plate in the bottom of the very first inning.

It was then, with teammate Randy Winn on 3rd base and two out, that the Dodgers’ Vicente Padilla hurled a fastball towards the plate and the Cardinal catcher.

Bat held high, legs bent deeply at the knee and eyes focused intensely on his target, Molina uncorked his body and offered at the pitch, driving  it into the outfield …

sending both Randy Winn and Dale Mueller … home.


NOTE:  Dale Mueller indeed went home, and into the arms of his savior, nine days later on Sunday afternoon, July 25.   For information and details on arrangements, visit http://www.carepages.com/carepages/STLJourney

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Make no mistake … this is most definitely NOT a “hey, look at what I did” post.  This is a “hey, look at what GOD did” post.  I, and a number of other people, were just willing pawns.  Just amazing, the number of things He orchestrated to make this happen.  Stephanie shared her life with Requelle.   Requelle, who at the moment has no home, wasn’t so wrapped up in herself, that she was unwilling to listen and be used herself for God’s purposes.  I was in town and available. I was able to reach Brady, who is insanely busy, but was available and willing to play a role … and Melody, who may have been the most compassionate person I could have possibly reached in that situation.  The weather was great, Dale and his family were all able to make it to the park, Molina and Wainwright (an outspoken Christian himself) were willing to give of themselves … and, the icing on the cake was the early RBI hit from Molina (who, not coincidentally, homered four innings later and had his biggest day of the season that afternoon) … all equaling a beautiful day for a family that needed one.

Again, I’m humbled and incredibly thankful for being given an opportunity to play a role in all of it.  And, again, it just goes to show what can happen when you are willing to share your life with others and be used for God’s purposes.

Awesome, seeing Him work and this come together last week.   And, I know this is ridiculously lengthy … but, wanted to share.

Praying for another opportunity tomorrow.

Put me in coach. I’m ready to play.

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God is Dead? There’s an App for That

July 11, 2010

You Say God is Dead?  There’s an App for That

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/03/technology/03atheist.html

Sheesh.

Do we need an app that “arms” us for battle with atheists?  That outlines

“Fast Facts, Challenges & Tactics” produced by LifeWay Christian Resources.

specific tactics to use and questions to ask?

I wanna believe that the fine folks who’ve created these apps have done so with the very best of intentions.  But … really?

Heaven forbid any of us have to actually learn or think anymore. Or, whatever happened to relying on the good, ol’ Holy Spirit? Or our lives to prove/reflect the existence of God?

I mean, is debate what we should be engaging in with non-believers?  Does arguing do anything other than create in each party a greater desire to prove their own point?  To “win” … ?  And, do you think a non-believer is going to be brought to the Lord because your handy-dandy iPhone app provided you with a few Fast Facts?  Is that going to move him/her to explore the possibilities? To a belief in and a relationship with the Lord?  I dunno … just seems to cheapen your testimony.  You don’t know your God well enough to convince me with what’s in your heart?  You love your God so much that you rely on an iPhone app as opposed to having learned these truths through study and reflection? Or experience?   If anything, wouldn’t this convince a non-believer even further of his/her point?  That the God we claim to love and give our lives to, that created the universe, hasn’t changed or inspired us enough to even be  able to clearly explain who He is to another person, without the help of our iPhone?

I dunno,  just begs the question – which God is more powerful? The one in your pocket?  Or the one in your HEART?

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Love & War, Part II

July 8, 2010

I wrote last week that I was halfway through Stasi and John Eldredge’s new book,

Genuine, honest, intimate and encouraging. Get it. Read it. And then, read it again.

Love & War: Finding the Marriage You’ve Dreamed Of … and that I, to that point, wasn’t disappointed.  Well …

I finished it last night.  And immediately handed it to my wife.

I’ll be the first to admit that going in, it was highly-likely that I’d enjoy it.  I’ve enjoyed everything Eldredge has done.  (and, in the spirit of full disclosure, yes, I read Captivating, too … good stuff, fellas  … and if you really want to understand your wife’s heart, it’d help you to do the same.  Not saying you have to do it in public.  Just do it.)  But, on the flip-side of that, understand that because everything they’ve done has really spoken to me, I also went in with some pretty lofty expectations.

And?

Well, it may be the most honest book on marriage I’ve read.  No tips, techniques or 7-step formulas.  No guilt.  No shame.   Just truth (though, this is absolutely not another Bible study in disguise).  And encouragement, in the sense that as you read through the different stories and scenarios from John and Stasi’s marriage and others, you feel … normalValidated.  What’s impossible about my marriage is impossible about others.  Those thoughts and fears … the agreements we make with the little voices in our heads about our spouses, our families, our lives and futures … absolutely none of it’s original.   And none of it can break me if I recognize it for what it is and where it’s coming from.

Is marriage is hard? Yep (even when it’s good).  But, it’s hard because we’re broken.  And no book, principle, technique or singular verse of scripture can, on its own, fix that.  And of course, Stasi and John tell you as much.  But they also do an amazing job of casting God’s vision for how incredible and beautiful it can be … how incredible and beautiful it was meant to be.  And how you can have it.

Anyhow, to wrap it up, fellas  –  it’s practical and authentic (you’ll swear they moved in for six months … and bugged the place so they could listen even after they left), without ever being preachy, clinical, condescending or unrealistic.  They “get it”.  And they probably have the marriage you want (you’ll particularly appreciate their take on what should be going on in the bedroom.  Worth buying the book just so your wife can read page 175).  But what they went through to get it – and what they continue to go through to keep it – might surprise you.  It will certainly encourage and inspire you.

This one’s a keeper.

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Love & War

June 30, 2010

A few days ago, I picked up a copy of Stasi and John Eldredge’s new book, Love & War.  I’ve loved all of Eldredge’s work thus far (Wild at Heart is still one of my all-time favorites and spoke to me in a way not many books have, before or since) and had been looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.

Stasi and John Eldredge: "Marriage is fabulously hard."

Just a few chapters in and so far, I haven’t been disappointed.   Most encouraging thus far has been hearing John and Stasi tell the story of the early years of their marriage … and in particular, how difficult they were.   In that way, it hasn’t been all that different than other books I’ve read (aside from it being readable and authentic …  as opposed to cold and clinical, like alot of the books on marriage tend to be.  This one, as does all of Eldredge’s stuff,  reads like it was written by someone who’s actually married – and who understands his partner and relationship –  not by a psychologist).  But what’s encouraging about their struggles, first and foremost, is that, for us, it’s validation.  We’re NORMAL.  We all struggle with the same things.  All of our marriages follow a similar path … go through the same stages of growth and struggle.  And, so many of the thoughts/feelings that we’ve experienced are thoughts/feelings that millions of others have had before us, are having right now and will have 100 years from now.  And John and Stasi articulate that in such a genuine and understandable way.

But, you know what’s even more encouraging than finding out that you’re  normal (which should encourage and empower us to engage in conversations with trusted friends about their relationships, and share ours with them – but that’s another conversation)? The common theme through all of these marriage stories.  That the great marriages, the truly epic love stories, the relationships everyone else is jealous of and wants for themselves, are the ones that have fought like hell for what they have.  That have survived.  That have earned it.  That didn’t shut down, quit,  walk away, call a lawyer.  The ones in which both people decided that, in their marriage, Christ would come first and their spouse second … that committed to letting Christ transform their partner – and stopped trying to do it themselves.  And the ones that decided to trust that their needs would be taken care of by a partner that would put them first, as well (and that takes alot of trust).

Anyhow … there’s obviously a heckuva lot more to it than that (which is

Secret Sauce?: A high-pressure architectural career, braces for six kids and an astro-turf yard to care for ... and yet, Mike and Carol found a recipe for love.

why there’s an entire book on it and not just a blog post from a second-rate hack like me).  But, they’re right.  At times, and particularly early on (the book explains why this is), it’s hard as hell.  Even when there’s love.  But, fellas –  staying in it, fighting through it, doing whatever it takes to grow, is worth it.  Marriage takes alot of work.   But, doesn’t anything great?

When I’m done, I’ll get into it a little further.  But, right now, that’s where we’re at.  Reading about what John and Stasi brought to their own marriage (the expectations, brokenness, needs, hopes, etc.) … about the two times they nearly decided to call it quits … about how/why nearly all of us, at some point, end up in that place … and about love – and the war you’re gonna have to fight at some point to really experience, and/or save it.

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The REAL Iron Man

June 20, 2010

Saw this video a few years ago at Fellowship Memphis and, my God, it just shredded me.  Still does.  An amazing, amazing story and I thought Father’s Day was an absolutely perfect time to share it.

Inspired?

Happy Father’s Day.

Now – say a prayer, call your dad and go be Dick Hoyt for your child(ren).

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Jailhouse Rock

June 19, 2010

A rock ... but not THE rock.

I hope that all of you fathers out there have a wonderful weekend. I’m so very, very, very thankful for mine – both earthly and heavenly. And blessed beyond words to have been given two boys as incredible as Jack and Charlie Jones to be a father TO.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Father, for the opportunity to have experienced a father’s love – both yours and mine.

That said, I thought I’d share this.  Found it earlier today and it really moved me, seeing what Christ – as their new foundation, their ROCK –  has done in the hearts of these men.  Alot of grace, love and forgiveness to be observed and celebrated, watching them with their children on their “Father’s Day”.

Tag:  Malachi Dads, Awana

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Taking Charge

June 17, 2010

Take charge - or he will. Of your days - and your nights.

I wrote some time ago about a young King David.  With Goliath, an army and certain death in front of him – and armed with only a few stones, a sling, a ragtag group of outmanned misfits and, of course, the God of the universe – he attacked.   He didn’t walk cautiously towards his enemy … which, when considering who/what was in front of him, would have been impressive enough, no?  But to think that he RAN to meet them?  Incredible.  How many of us would have stood up to such a challenge at all?  Much less welcomed it?  Without hesitation or fear? I can’t imagine a more perfect example of how, with God at our side, we should approach the obstacles and fears in our own lives.

That said, when I came across this video a while back,  I just had to share it.  Talk about someone who, like David, CHARGED his fears – sword at the ready.  Take two minutes and check this out.   Ya gotta hear what he says towards the end … powerful stuff.

So, fellas … how are you approaching your fears?

Are you on a stepladder in your wife’s closet, changin’ bulbs?

Or – are you strapped to helicopters and power lines, climbing around on a half-million volts, thirty stories off the ground?

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