Thursday, May 31, 2012

Personal Connection

This morning in my class I teach in prison I posed the question what is one injustice that bothers/makes you angry about the world? There was a wide range of answers, rants, and well thought out statements. The injustices didn't have much in common one said ignorance, another said bullying, a former rodeo star said the mistreatment of animals. But what each of them did have in common it was personal. There was a personal connection to each injustice they shared. Will who shared about bullying talked about how he was bullied as a child for wearing glasses and coming to school smelling like cigarette smoke. That clearly made a mark on his life and it has become something that he will never forget. All of us have had different experiences that have left indellible marks on us. We have felt hurt, pain, sadness, anger, and rage about injustices that we have felt personally. It is through these feelings that people begin to do something. In my situation I would not have ever given two thoughts to someone in a wheelchair or the care that goes into taking care of someone with those needs. I'm not sure what a normal life is, but I don't know many people who haven't been effected by some sort of roadblock in life. I don't know too many that haven't been affected by something that was unplanned. I have been recently been reading a book called Anonymous Jesus Hidden years. One of the anologies that the book uses that our lives are like icebergs only about 10% are above the water (meaning what people can see). The other 90% is hidden and what we do in our personal lives. A quote from that same chapter says "I feel that trials do not prepare us for what is to come as much as they reveal what we have done with our lives up to this point." How are we dealing with the disapointments, unmet expectations, and just ordinary life situations? Life doesn't go as planned in most of our lives and are prepared not only to deal with it, but use it to glorify God? There is a huge difference from surviving to overcoming. It is so easy to identify the injustices but it is a whole lot more difficult to get overcome it and help others coming behind you on the same path.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


The other day a nurse asked Jill how long Kyle had been in a wheelchair full time. Her answer was "September." I couldn't believe it had been so long. As I reflect on the first 8 or so months since Kyle has been wheelchair bound it has flown by. There have been many adjustments in life. The physical ones were the first ones we realized. The physical work of moving Kyle for the first three months was literally back braking. At night Jill and I would lay in bed just exhausted after talking quite a few pain killers. After getting a new van and learning how to move his weight that pain has subsided some. The getting up every couple of hours a night is still a process of working through and learning how to function with it. The physical side of having a child go into a wheelchair is the first and urgent learning curve. That seems to become a primary focus of life and seems to be seen in every part of life. The emotional and mental part isn't seen so quickly. It has only been in the last couple of weeks that I have seen the emotional and mental toll this has taken. Between lack of sleep, exerting energy on daily living for Kyle, and just the long journey ahead it is daunting. I am not sure how one prepares oneself for something like this. The physical side happens because there is a need and it happens. The mental health is something that can go neglected. We continue to adjust our lives. We got a call last night at 7:45 to come visit some friends. I laughed because Jill and I were both in bed close to falling asleep. We have realized that we go to bed by 8 oclock most nights. I have tried playing softball and I have struggled to stay awake. It has been a struggle to continue keeping up with relationship we have. It is very hard to have conversations with others while most of the free time we have is being with Kyle. (at least have some interesting stories with buying storage units :)). While the lack of energy has played a part in our social life the emotional energy going through the day with Kyle is also a huge factor. One of the things I have realized in the past few months is that not only is Kyle going to take a lot of physical energy but equally he is going to take as much mental energy. That one is tough to get use to. In some ways I feel a shell of a person I was even six months ago, but this is the scenerio and situation God has put us in. Character is built in all of us, this wouldn't have been the way I would have envisioned it to be. It is easy for me to try and escape but in the end Kyle with his dry humor, wit, and observations on life keeps me engaged. Being engaged is so much more work and energy but in the end it is worth it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Life lessons from buying storage units

One of my first desires for a job as a child was being an archeologist. I have always found enjoyment in digging through stuff/dirt and learning about history. I have always found it intriguing to find out about different people, the way they lived life and what was important to them. In some ways I am able to be an archeologist, as I have bought 35 storage units over the last 8 months I have seen indepth into what typical Americans value. I have bought units in city settings (Chicago), in urban settings (Gary) in nicer areas (South Bend, Shereville) in country towns (Wheatfield, New Prairie) and many places in between. As I have seen a lot of different items I have seen some common themes that has really made me think. These concepts are not found in one certain area but are overall themes that can be seen across the board. #1- There is an inner struggle- In almost every unit I have bought I have found a Bible. There have been many that I have found devotionals, and other spiritual deepening books. But in about 75% of the units I have also found porn, and in some some found drug paraphernalia. There is an inner struggle going on in many people's lives. There is the desire and knowledge of what is right but there is also the addiction and draw to the unhealthy. #2- What is most important to us?- It doesn't matter what a storage unit costs to rent, what I always think about is the intentional movement of items from where ever they were into this facility. More than money is the physical labor that many people took in moving this stuff. What people value is a very interesting thought. Sometimes I ask the question of why? Why would someone find this valuable to store. For instance I have probably found close to 100 phone books. Why did someone not throw those out? Why would there be the need to lug this from a living space into a storage unit? Values come in all shapes and forms. Valuables come in the form of guns, household items, jewelry, money, tools, antiques, and collectibles. I have found all of those in units. But we also find a lot of items I would say are just plain trash. The reality is that many of these items I would deem trash were the contents of someone's home. These were nasty couches and mattresses that people slept on. These were dirty toys that the grandkids played with. This was food that needed storing until life got more settled. #3 Memories- One of the things we always say that we would grab from our house if it was on fire is our pictures. There are pictures and memories of some sort in almost every unit I buy. There are plaques, medals, countless pictures, homemade movies, notes, diaries and even human ashes in units. Now it is asked when you find this is to return it to the owner through the storage unit company. So these sometimes get back to the owners. Now I say sometimes because not all the time the owner comes and gets them. Sometimes they don't want them for whatever reason. The most interesting situation was in a unit I found an urn of human remains. Myself and a friend of mine went in together on this unit and we nicknamed these ashes Aunt Betty. It is sad to think that a storage unit is where we could end up when we die, it is even worse to think to think that those ashes could end up in complete strangers hand. After finding Aunt Betty we dropped her off at the storage unit office and she has been sitting there for a couple of months now. Another unit I bought the lady had stopped paying on it and told the storage unit company she would rather have strangers get her antique dishes and other heirlooms than her family. Unbeknownst to me the granddaughter was at the auction sobbing afterwards about this. Family dynamics are always interesting and it this is just another avenue for their true colors to come out. #4- Change of mindset- when I first started buying storage units in September my only thought was I want to make some money. Being a relational person this has become secondary. Many people watch the storage war tv shows and see rivalries . They see the cut throat business aspect, and there are some in the midwest with this attitude,but there have been many that have become good friends. I have met people I would never have met or talked to. I have met struggling business owners, successful entrepueners, auctioneers, and treasure hunters. I have gotten to take people along the journey and spend endless hours talking about life, faith, and God. This is what it is about. When I get old and can't do this anymore I may remember some of the cool treasures I found, I may have the benefit of making some money, but more importantly I am going to remember the people. I am going to remember all of the bonding experiences we had. In the end this work is difficult, strenuous, but it is worth every minute of it. Being worth it has nothing to do with the money. It is about the lessons I have learned and will continue to learn. It is about opportunity, it is about opportunity to be around people that don't hang out in churches. Being a pastor has excluded me from spending time with many different kinds of people in society. Buying storage units has opened up the opportunity to meet, enjoy, and learn from so many others.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


What makes one lonely in life? Is lonliness one of the big issues in life? Is it something we should be even aware of? As I have been thinking through my journey in life, I realize I have been drawn to people who are lonely. I think each of us have certain people we are drawn to for a wide variety of reasons. As I look back on my life I see one common theme is being around a lot of different people who are/were lonely. I have always had a desire to help people. Since I was young I realized that I am pretty worthless doing anything with my hands. So fixing things or building something to help people has never been an option. But yet what could I do? The only thing that I ever could do (and anybody could do it) is spend time and listen to people. Lonliness comes to so many different people in so many different ways. Not having someone who cares what is going on in your life, or having someone to enjoy the big and small moments is something that many people go through. Lonliness finds those who are in the nursing homes, those incarcerated, those single parents who are just trying to survive, those who have special needs, those who are annoying, and the list goes on and on. Spending time sitting and listening to people may feel like the least productive thing to do on a daily basis. There isn't a whole lot of seen productivity from just listening to someone's soul. But the effects are much greater than we realize. That encouagement and interest in one's life can give them the courage or reinforcement they need to make changes or motivate them. I think of all the stories, and various views of life I have experienced because I listened to someone who was lonely. It has changed who I am as a person. It has given me a much bigger view of God. There are probably a lot of different ways I could have spent my time in life, but I thank God that He has given me opportunities to be around people who have encouraged me even in their midst of being lonely.