Thursday, November 17, 2011

Learning At The MS, Part 2: Moth or Cockroach

"Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."           Helen Keller

     Recently I visited one of the ELA classes on our campus.  The teacher and students were in a lively discussion as I slipped into the room.  A student was explaining how she just did not like to take risks and did not want to fail.  The teacher answered, "Then I guess you're a cockroach."  What??

     I sat in a desk at the back of the room and began reading the poem that the students were discussing.  It was "The Lesson of the Moth" by Don Marquis.  The poem was a discussion with a moth on why they fly near light, when there is so much danger near light.  The moth answers in one verse saying, "It is better to be happy for a moment and be burned up with beauty than to live a long time and be bored all the while."

     The classroom discussion then began to be about the comparison of "Are you a moth or a cockroach?"
There is danger in risk, but without risk there is no reward.  Am I content to live on the ground without realizing the beauty above me?
     C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite writers, says, "We are content to play in puddles, like children, while the ocean is beside us."  I want to be aware of opportunities around me.  I do not want to be content.  Jeremiah 46:17 says, " They cried there, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is but a noise. He missed the appointed time."  The word opportunity or appointed in Latin is "ob portu" which was a ship waiting on the tide to head to sea.  I refuse to allow fear to prevent me from missing an appointed time to head out to sea.

     "A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."    William Shredd

      I want to go on a mission trip overseas.  I want to risk danger to see the beauty of the light.  We live in a house that had four children and they are all living their lives.  Where are we supposed to go?  What are we supposed to do?  In the Bible there is a parable about men with talents.  The greatest judgement was to the man who buried his talents to be safe.  I refuse to be safe!  I will be a moth!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Learning At The Middle School, Part 1: Prejudice, Who Me?

I am a principal and one task of my job is to conduct "walk-throughs."  This is spending a short amount of time in a classroom to get a feel of the class, recognize the classroom objectives, and the amount of student engagement through teaching strategies in use.  I recently was in our speech classroom and the students were working with a partner filling out a personal survey.  One of the students did not have a partner so I sat down to use the questions and to be interviewed by her.  An interview directive said, "Name some of your prejudices."  Of course, I said I had none.  The next part of the lesson described that we ALL have feelings of prejudice and the rest of the lesson would help identify these feelings.

A middle school lesson caused me to have several days of self reflection and contemplation.  Prejudice means to "pre-judge."  It is a preformed opinion based on lack of information, insufficient knowledge, or irrational feelings.  On the world wide web, I confess that I am guilty of prejudice.  Let me name a few that I found:      

  • NASCAR fans - I have a mental picture of NASCAR fans in tank/halter tops, a Bud in one hand & the rest of the 6-pack in the other, and loud.  I have never been to a NASCAR event and every part of my image is "pre-judging."  I now know that lack of information drives these feelings.
  • Tattooed Persons - I am getting better at this one, but I have a long way to go.  I now make myself engage in a conversation with a wearer of tattoos.  I think it's because I am still wondering why.  Sadly I am sure this comes from my own culture and upbringing.  Insufficient knowledge causes me to not understand this group.
  • British - It has nothing to do with any past wars or any historical conflicts between nations.  I just feel they are looking down on me.  The most common word sounds so "fancy" and "uppity" when they say it.  It also irritates me that they call us "Yanks."  They also call soccer........ football.  I guess it is somewhat easier when someone from another country speaks an entirely different language, for me, anyway.
  • Drivers of "4 x 4" Trucks - Now I have had 4-wheel drive trucks and have lived in places where it was needed.   I'm talking about the trucks with oversized tires, lifters - that require a ladder for the average person to get inside, especially when they are driving these vehicles on I-35.  I know they get 2 mpg and I just don't get it.  Yes, I have irrational feelings toward them.
  • Canadians - They are so obsessed with hockey and I just don't get it.  Their national symbol is a leaf...........really?!?  All the cold fronts seem to originate from them.  Classic lack of information, because I don't even know anyone from Canada.
If you are a member of any of these groups, please forgive me.  I admit that I have allowed my own lack of knowledge form my opinions.  Maybe I should buy a 4x4 truck, get a tattoo, attend the next NASCAR event, and vacation in Canada & Europe.  Or maybe I just need to become more educated and less judgmental.  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wounded Healers.....(Don't Be That Guy)

Cancer is a terrible disease and like many other illnesses, is not a respecter of gender,age, race, income level, or any personal accomplishments.  This last weekend has only reminded me of how many lives cancer has touched, as I have seen the pink socks, sweatbands, banners, and other ways that the fight against cancer has been publicized.  The positive support and encouragement is overwhelming.

Chris has begun her 6-weeks of radiation.  The rest of this post has been partially written months ago, erased, discussed and then has become one of my thoughts with close friends about the importance of encouragement in the lives of cancer survivors.  But once again I need to say.................

*DISCLAIMER - The following blog is based on some fictitious characterizations of advice & comments from visitors.  Any resemblance to persons, whether living or dead is purely coincidental or you were truly obnoxious and I couldn't get your conversation out of my mind.

While in the middle of my fight with cancer I had many conversations and comments from well intentioned visitors.  I am afraid that many of us need to learn how to be an encouragement during pain and suffering.  Perspective is greatly needed by the person who is suffering but sometimes there are NO answers.  Philip Yancey in "Where is God When It Hurts" writes, "A faith founded on the Great Physician should bring peace, not confusion, at a time of crisis."

These are some of my visitors & maybe you have met some of them also:

  • "Harry Potter Healers" - The conversation would begin with their sincere prayers they have been interceding for me....... and then the magic wand is revealed.  Healing comes through reciting the correct prayer and believing that you are healed.  Oncologist, radiation, and chemotherapy are only complicating God's plan.  If no healing, then not enough faith.  But what about Paul?  Beaten, shipwrecked, beaten more, imprisoned, a physical ailment, sickness..............I guess he didn't have the magic wand either.
  • "Uncle Tony's Tumor Tellers" - Everyone has been touched by illness and cancer is everywhere.  Please don't tell a story that does not encourage.  I was in the middle of my battle, weak from chemo, and getting my scans.  The nurse injecting me with a radioactive isotope said, "You have multiple myeloma.  That is pretty rare.  My father had that and he wasn't supposed to make it six months and he lived for almost two years."  Don't be that guy!  I wanted to hear from those survivors who have ridden the lightning (radiation) and tasted the poison (chemotherapy). Paul says it in this way in I Corinthians 1: 3-4, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble." 
  • "Power Point Pals" - These are the visitors who not only had a systematic lesson, they had complete insight into what God is wanting to teach me.  The lessons are based on the premise that things DO NOT just happen.  Stick with them through their lessons and use self examination to find the "bullet" that is your life.
  • "Happy, Happy, Joy-Joys" - They come bringing flowers, pictures, and enter the room humming.  They clap their hands and talk about stones a-singing and brooks a-babbling.  The more you hurt, the louder they are with their happiness.  The only thing missing are pew pom-poms.
  • "Logic Lovers" - All statements made are in conditional statement form with a hypothesis (if) and a conclusion (then.)  If you have sin, then..............  If you have a bad diet then....................  If you have faith, then................  I want you to know that it sometimes doesn't make sense.  Chris could always tell when I had been beside a child getting chemo.  Cancer in children DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
  • "Funeral Home Friends" - They haven't laughed since 1992 and they know that God loves a serious Christian.  They whisper around you and speak in acronyms.  It's not cancer, it's the C-word.  If you crack a joke, then you must not understand the gravity of your condition.  I promise, if you have cancer, you KNOW how serious it is!!
I have seen encouragers modeled for me and I have learned much from them.  My family has been the best, but here are a few non-family members who have exemplified the skilled art of encouraging:
  • Jeff Clark - my dear friend, always ready to help & man enough to cry with me.
  • Fran Dobbs - our neighbor who knows that some hot soup fixes anything.
  • Ruth Ann Jones, my sister Sharon, & Aunt Va - the Hallmark award, write it on a card so they can read it often.
  • Jason Davis - a new friend that encourages with few words, "Be strong."
  • Don & Betty Boone - sat downstairs during a surgery for 5 hours & said that guests only complicate things but wanted to be there in case they were needed.
  • Lance Shelton & Kathy Clark - they love me like a brother & make me LAUGH!!
  • Rex Jackson - faithful friend, always knows what is needed.
"Rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and weep with those who are weeping." Romans 12:15. Enough said.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Many times I use the phrase "Hold Fast" at the end of my notes or letters.  I usually list II Timothy 1:13 beside this phrase which says:

13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.                         II Timothy 1:13 (New King James)

As sailors traveled to far off countries, they encountered tribes who used the art of tattooing.  Sailors then began to use tattoos to tell their stories, celebrate milestones, and fuel the superstitious beliefs in these body markings.  Many sailors had the phrase "HOLD FAST" tattooed on their knuckles.  This was to remind them to hold tightly to the lines.  Their ability or inability to hold the line would decide the fate of the very life of the sailor or the lives of their shipmates.  The tattoo was usually written to face the sailor so as he was gripping the line he would see the reminder, HOLD FAST.  An interesting fact I learned is that many of the sailors were unable to swim.  Their determination to hold on literally meant life or death.

I love quotations of famous people. I even have several books of only quotes.  This verse I have quoted says to hold fast to the pattern of sound words.   But the sound words I have hung on to during tough times in my life are not the quotes of theologians, presidents, or philosophers.  I remember the wise words of:

  • My grandmother, Ma-Ma.
  • My father, Von Weaver.
  • My mother, G-G.
  • My "other mother", Zora McBride, Gammy.
  • My wife's father & my friend, Danny McBride, PawPaw.
Each of their lives has told me a story. Each of these loved ones has given me sound advice, with a common theme.............."Don't Give Up!"

I hope you enjoy this video - "Hold Fast" by Mercy Me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Don't Hang Up Your Harp, Keep Singing!

My wife, Chris, and I have many things in common. We both love to work outside, play sports, exercise, cook new foods, read and watch the Cooking Network, ..................but we also have differences. Recently I have realized a puzzling difference between us. Chris uses music and her songs to give her strength and express what she believes, not what she is feeling. If I may quote my sister Karen, "I sing because I'm happy!"

One of the first queries I heard Chris ask her surgeon last week was, "Will I be able to play the piano and sing this Sunday?" My brain was filled with many questions but this was not one of them.

In Psalm 137, the Israelites are recorded with the same logical feelings that I have, you sing when you're happy. The harp was used to express joy and happiness. The Israelites had been taken to Babylon into captivity.

Psalm 137:1-4
1 By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song
In a foreign land?

Right now we revisit the foreign land, the world of cancer. I write, plan and speak to others about my feelings. My wife sings. Last Sunday Chris sang a duet with our music minister & dear friend, Rex Jackson. Rex's wife, Cathy, is a breast cancer survivor. Here is the song "Faithful" from Sunday:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Don't Ever Drive The Course Before You Run It!

In April of 2006 I ran in my first marathon.  A marathon is 26.2 miles and was on my bucket list.  I didn't tell many people that I was going to attempt this and Chris and I drove to Oklahoma City for the OKC Memorial Marathon.  I had trained for 4 months, but in the program in which I participated for this first marathon, my longest run was 20 miles.  This training program said that anything after 20 miles only destroyed tissue, so my first time to run 26 miles would be in a race.

We arrived in OKC to attend the Marathon Expo on Saturday.  We picked up my timing chip and race bib and listened to speakers.  The last thing we had planned was to get a map and drive the course.  We wanted to find places for Chris to drive and meet me & I wanted to get an idea of what I was about to do.  As we were getting our map, I heard a race official speaking to a group describing the race, elevation, and the layout of the course.  A runner that I was standing beside asked, "Are you running the marathon tomorrow?"  I replied that it was my first and he said he had run marathons in every state.  He then said, "Don't listen to what they are saying.  The worse thing you can ever do is drive the course and realize exactly what you are going to do."  He saw my puzzled look and he said again, "Don't ever drive the course, you will never run it!"

There are so many times I wanted to know what tomorrow holds.  Worry can consume us.  I am so glad that God does not allow us to "drive" the course.  In a marathon you literally will yourself to run to the next water station, or the next group of encouragers, or to put one foot in front of the other, or finally to reach the finish line & your family.  

Matthew 6:34

The Message (MSG)
 34"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Tomorrow my wife, Chris, will have surgery.  I refuse to "drive the course."  I know we will have some more challenges in the next few weeks and months.  Tonight I will not focus on any of those. I will take one day at a time.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Advisory: This Blog Has Been Rated M, H, T

***Disclaimer*** This new post is rated "M" , "H, & "T".
M = Only should be read by the spiritually mature.
H = The author is hurting & asks not
to be judged.
T = The author will be transparent. (Some might not like what they see.)

One of the things that I feel we fail to do is allow others to truly see us. For the last few months I have been writing in my journal again instead of blogging. I tend to use my blog to be uplifting and encouraging. Today I cannot be a hypocrite. Wikipedia says, "Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, ideals, thoughts, feelings, qualities, or standards that one does not actually have.[1] Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie[1].The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek (hypokrisis), which means "play-acting", "acting out" [3] The word hypocrite is from the Greek (hypokrites).
The Greek actor (hypocrite) would play a role to interpret the proper emotions for the character they were playing.

We are taught many things according to our gender. As a man I should provide for, protect, and cherish my family. When there is a noise outside, I should go investigate and see what it is, even if I am the one most afraid. Tears equal weakness and the "man-mask" should stay intact, unless alone, and then when one is done with the showing of emotion, the mask is to be promptly back in place.
For a Christian the stakes are raised. Pray without wavering, exhibit complete faith in God, trust that "I can do all things through Christ", and "all things work together for good." Both of these commonly misquoted scriptures, Romans 8:28 and Philippians 4:13 should never be quoted without the verses that are to go with them. (Rom. 8:28-29 & Philippians 4:12-13)

My wife, Chris, had a mammogram this past Monday. That evening she called me to tell me that she was on her way home; I though I could detect something different in her voice. Maybe she was stopping to get us supper or going to prepare us some bizarre dessert for which she found the recipe while in the waiting room. It is safe to assume that in my world, surprises involve food. Much to my dismay, when Chris arrived home, she stepped into the bedroom not to tell me about a sweet treat we were going to enjoy, but that the doctor had found a mass on her breast. We needed to make an appointment with a surgeon.

I was caught with my mask not in place. I was not a rock. My world caved in. I walked outside and collapsed on the ground. Alone, I didn't plead with God, but I ranted and wept. My praise through all of my journey as a cancer survivor was that it was me and not my wife or children having to fight the fight. Now I learned that the monster was after my wife.

I was living Psalm 88. Scholar Walter Brueggeman calls this psalm "an embarrassment to conventional faith." He even asks, "What is a psalm like this doing in our Bible?" Maybe he never felt his world collapse or been thrown into the cave or maybe he's stronger than me or maybe he always kept his mask. Mark Buchanan writes, "Psalm 88 gives us language that transposes agony into prayers. Sorrow seeks to render us mute. Psalm 88 gives voice to what is most angry and grief-stricken and frightened inside us."
1 O LORD, God of my salvation,
I have cried out day and night before You.
2 Let my prayer co
me before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry.
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
And my life draws near to the grave.
4 I am counted with those who go down to the pit;
I am like a man who has no strength,
5 Adrift among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And who are cut off from Your hand.

6 You have laid me in
the lowest pit,
In darkness, in the depths.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah
8 You have put away my ac
quaintances far from me;
You have made me an abomination to them;
I am shut up, and I cannot get out;
9 My eye wastes away because of affliction.

LORD, I have called
daily upon You;
I have stretched out my hands to You.
10 Will You work wonders for the dead?
Shall the dead arise and praise You? Selah
11 Shall Your lovingkindness be
declared in the grave?
Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
12 Shall Your wonders be known in the dark?
And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But to You I have cried out, O LORD,
And in the morning my prayer comes before You.
14 LORD, why do You cast off my soul?
Why do You hide Your face from me?
15 I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth;
I suffer Your terrors; I am distraught.
16 Your fierce wrath has gone over me;
Your terrors have c
ut me off.
17 They came around me all day long like water;
They engulfed me altogether.
18 Loved one and friend You have put far from me,
And my acquaintances into darkness.

The journey begins again for our family. Chris is the most incredible person I have ever met. She sings like an angel and is more competitive than any athlete I have ever coached. My wife is the best cook and can make a gourmet meal without a single recipe. Chris is a beautiful servant, as a high school counselor, as she puts her students above herself daily. She is my inspiration as a parent, as she shows unconditional love for our children and grandchildren. Her outward beauty is breath-taking but her inner qualities astound me. I have always been astounded that she chose to marry me (her Dad feels the same.)

Chris and I are often teased how we do almost everything together. We will now change roles on a race we have run before. While the news is grim at the time, we have many things on our side. The tumor is small and Chris is young and in good health. We already have a team of cancer doctors & nurses who are ready to lead us through the next leg of the race. We serve a powerful God, who is our healer!

Chris will have surgery next week. We will go to our oncologist to develop the game plan. Please pray! Pray that I will be strong enough for Chris, but weak enough to trust my Father. Pray for our children! This is not new to them, but it still hurts. Ryan, Amanda, Derick, and our grandsons, Ryland & Rance are in Maryland. Distance is tough. Kati & Callie are in college at UNT in Denton. Our parents and siblings are suffering with us again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Resurrection Provides a Picture of the Perfection

My oldest son, Ryan, who is a chaser of lions on snowy days & pastor of Remedy Church, recently asked me to share exactly what the resurrection of Jesus Christ means to me. This request forced me to once again ask questions and find answers to hope, purpose, passion and meaning.

As the name of my blog suggests, I used to be a marathon runner. This discipline taught me much about life and prepared me for the greatest physical battle that I would ever face. While I sometimes felt weak and weary, marathons strengthened me with visible lessons of the seasons of my life. Several months ago I enjoyed some time with my nephew, Adam (, who recently ran his first marathon. We were like two teenage girls gabbing about dreamy vampires, as we each shared our stories of endurance training and marathon experiences. As we visited, the only time either one of our eyes welled with tears was when we recounted our finishes. Above all the adrenaline-igniting starts and mind-games to keep the focus, the finish is what it's all about. Hearing cheering friends and family. High-fiving strangers. Cramping so severely we walked like Frankenstein, but laughing and smiling almost in spite of the pain. The finish was beautiful. The finish was perfect.

The Bible talks about the finish. Hebrews 12:1-2a says, "Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross" (bold added by me!)

The start of a marathon is easy, just as most of our lives. The start is about jet fly-overs, national anthems, and nervous chatter of strangers. I have begun marathons and run parts of the races with the Blues Brothers, Indian Princesses, Lady Liberty and even barefoot elves. But somewhere along the way in the race, all of these characters seem to disappear. Most of us began life with little problems, pain or trouble. The start is relatively easy.

Somewhere after mile 10, the grind begins. You begin to see runners on the curb and the pain increases in intensity. Questions begin to surface, "Why am I doing this? Is this really worth the pain?" The excitement and laughter, along with The Blues Brothers, Indian Princesses, Lady Liberty, and barefoot elves, are gone. In November of 2008, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. The next few months of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy began the grind. During the pain and depression of the grind, what keeps you running? For a season, it's the crowd or the witnesses. In a marathon, it's the strangers who call out your name, the musicians who sing for you or fellow runners who share their hopes of why they are running. All of this reminds you to keep going. In my world of cancer, the people in my life who cried with me, laughed with me, encouraged me and motivated me reminded me of why I had to keep running. Before reading on, take a moment and listen to Jack's Mannequin, Swim....

In one of my favorite movies, Tombstone, Doc Holliday says, "There is no normal life, Wyatt. There's just life. Ya live it." The grind taught me to enjoy life. The grind reminded me of how precious life is. The grind showed me a glimpse of the finish. Nothing about this life is perfect, but there is joy in living IF you live it. Psalm 90:12 reminds me to "Number my days," to make every day count. The joy is in the journey!

Somewhere at mile 18, a runner realizes that there are 8 miles to go and the mental picture of the finish provides the motivation for each step and stride. So what is it about the finish that makes the race worth running? The finish is cheering family. The finish is friends jumping up and down calling my name. The finish is "no more!" I remember every marathon seeing my wife, Chris, and sometimes my children, during the race and at the finish line. The finishes were always beautiful and memorable. But there was still pain. In Revelation 21:4, John describes heaven as no more pain, tears or sorrow. The finish line is free of the pains that come with the journey. At my finish, my grandmother, Ma-Ma, will laugh with me. My brother (in-law), Don, will shout with me. My cousin Ken, who had been a quadrapalegic, will run with me, and my cancer family members will embrace me. Even if my wife and best friend, Chris, is on this earth years after me, she will arrive in just a few moments. The finish teaches us that time is an earthly measure.

But most importantly, my savior, Jesus Christ will be there at my finish. The power of the resurrection is in Jesus. He is my hope and my healer. This finish will be perfect. This finish will be beautiful. Happy Easter! Jesus lives!