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Monday, July 27, 2015

The Re-Directed Duck

This weekend my wife and I saw an unusual site as we rode our bikes along Beach Road. Beach Road is a narrow single lined street with houses on one side facing the beach and railroad tracks on the other. There is a large block wall that separates the railroad tracks from our street and it runs the entire two mile stretch. It blocks people from going onto the railroad tracks and the only way out is to head north to the entrance gate. However there is a very small hole in the wall at the very far south end and sometimes animals come into the community through that tiny opening.

As we were riding our bikes we noticed a baby duck on our side of the wall, all by himself heading north. He was obviously lost and unfortunately heading north was only going to get him killed by incoming cars at the entrance gate. I figured he must have come through the hole in the wall at the south end and I guess I felt a certain responsibility to help him out. So I got in front of him on my bike and turned him around so he would head south. He got scared and started running and I have to say I have never seen a duck run so fast. His two tiny legs were scrambling at full speed and it was a pretty funny site to see. I followed him to make sure he made it all the way to the hole in the wall, where he disappeared into the inlet stream that washes out to sea.

I don’t know why that baby duck was all alone and I don’t know why he was on our street heading the wrong way. But I’m glad that I was able to turn him around and get him going on the right path. But doing that got me thinking….There are so many times in my life when I have been on the wrong path and yet looking back on it I can see that God always placed somebody in my life to inspire me, motivate me or lead me down the right path by their own example. Sometimes it was a friend, sometimes a family member, sometimes a pastor or a mentor and I can see now that they were there to re-direct me down the right path, without maybe even knowing they were doing it. I know it’s not possible for me thank everyone who has helped lead me down the right path during my lifetime, but at least if I try to do the same thing for other people (or ducks), I won’t be “ducking” my responsibility!

The Re-Directed Duck

"I must do something" always solves more problems than "Something must be done."
~ Anonymous  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Passion Play

How would you feel if you had a huge passion for something, but weren’t able to do it? I know life isn’t ever supposed to be perfect, but I often find myself asking the question, “Why do bad things have to happen to good people?”

I have a close friend named Danny who is a long standing member of our Halo Baseball Club. We’ve been playing baseball together for years and Danny stands out as one of the most passionate baseball players you’ll ever meet. He is always loud, always enthusiastic, always happy and always positive. You can’t miss him when he’s playing in a game, but then again you can’t miss when he’s not playing in a game either, because even when he’s not playing…he will come to the games and sit in the bleachers and root loudly for every player on both teams.

The last time we played together was last October in Phoenix. It was an incredible moment in our baseball lives because our team won the 55+ MSBL World Championship. Danny was a huge reason for our success, not just because of his outstanding play but because his positive attitude carried all of us through some really tough situations. It seemed like we started every one of our nine games by falling behind, but Danny never acted like it was a problem. His passion and enthusiasm helped us to stay positive and come from behind to win every game. When I got a walk-off hit (with God’s help) to win the final championship game he lifted me in the air and carried me around the infield like I was a feather. But the actual truth was that a car accident a few months earlier was causing him tremendous back pain. We celebrated together for a long time that day, but nine months later he still hasn’t played another baseball game.

At my game last Sunday, there he was in the bleachers cheering loudly for me and everyone else. I couldn’t stop thinking how unfair it was that Danny had to sit in the bleachers while we got to play on the field. Suddenly I had a curious thought…If I was the one injured, would I travel an hour on the freeway to be at every single game just so I could cheer on my friends? I hate to say it, but probably not. Danny is just about the only guy I know who cares enough about the game and his friends to drive that far every Sunday even though he can’t even put on his uniform. Danny is truly one of the “good guys”, which brings me back to my original question…and perhaps an answer. When truly good people face difficult situations, their perseverance and character serve as an inspiration to the rest of us…and I’ve noticed something else…they never lose their passion!
Danny...making a play at Angel Stadium!

And not only that, we glory in tribulation,
knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
and perseverance character; and character, hope.
~ Romans 5: 3-4


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Final Destination

I’ll never forget what she said…or the way she said it. It was more than 20 years ago and we had just started dating when she said to me, “You probably don’t realize it yet…but you are my destiny”. She said it with such serious conviction that all I could do was smile and nod my head. I guess she was right because we’ve been married now for more than 20 years and we’re still madly in love and totally inseparable. But what is the true and deeper meaning of the word destiny? Is it possible that many of the people we meet in our lives are destined to be there for a reason? I think it’s definitely possible.

Last weekend was the 4th of July so my wife and I went for a long bike ride down to Doheny Park. Along the way we passed a crippled, homeless lady who was lying on a tattered old blanket on the hot asphalt parking lot across from the public restrooms. We had seen her before over the past few weeks, but the stark contrast of her dire situation just yards away from hundreds of happy Fourth of July beachgoers was a real shock. There were tons of people surrounded by their friends and family with food cooking and frisbees flying and yet here was this one lonely, disabled person, obviously hungry and absolutely ignored.

My wife suggested we ride back home and put together a care package for her. My wife is so great. She actually took a nice Victoria’s Secret black and white leather bag and filled it with her own clothes, socks, sandals, and bathroom necessities. She then filled a large grocery bag with food and I chipped in a soft blanket and some bottled water. It was hard to carry all that stuff on our bikes but we eventually made it back. But when we got there all of her meager belongings were still lying out in the blazing heat of the parking lot, but the woman was gone. I searched the area and finally found her wheelchair on the back side of the restrooms. Eventually she came out and I took a moment to speak to her and tell her that my wife and I left some “things” for her at her “spot”. She thanked me and seemed to smile a little. So I got braver and asked her for her name. She said, “Hill Jilly”. Our conversation didn’t last long and it was obvious she had some mental health issues, but her smile said it all…somebody cares! I know we didn’t make a lasting change in that poor woman’s life, but on that particular day, we did make a difference.

Yesterday my wife and I went jogging towards Doheny Park again but my wife wasn’t feeling good so she stopped short. She asked me to go on without her and check to see if Hill Jilly was doing okay. As I rounded the building I spotted her sitting on a concrete bench all by herself staring out at the ocean. I didn’t think she would remember me, but when I greeted her with a boisterous, “Hello Hill Jilly. How are ya?”, she lit up with a huge smile. We spoke briefly and I headed back but I couldn’t shake the thought that kept going through my head. Maybe if we realize that everyone we meet is part of our “destiny” then maybe it will help us to reach our final…heavenly…destination!
Hill Jilly's Parking Lot Spot

There's nowhere you can be...that isn't where you're meant to be.
~ John Lennon

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bandit's Bell

My wife and I are lucky because we can watch a great 4th of July fireworks show every year right from our very own front yard. However, this year was the busiest 4th of July weekend we have ever seen at Capo Beach. Thousands of people showed up to enjoy the beach and take in the fireworks show, which was long and loud. Perhaps a little too loud for one tiny little Chihuahua. When I went out to the street to say goodbye to some friends, I found the little guy cowering underneath my truck. It took a while, but I finally coaxed him out and took him back to his home about five houses down. They were so relieved to have him back and so extremely thankful that it reminded me of the time when I lost my dog but found something truly incredible.

I was 14 years old and living in a rural area of San Diego County. It was a really beautiful area, filled with lush green hills, avocado groves, and dozens of fishing ponds. I had a German Shepherd dog named “Bandit” that traveled with me everywhere I went. So every day we hiked the hills, explored the countryside together, and caught fish in the ponds. Since I had no neighbors nearby and was too young to drive into town, Bandit became my constant companion, and I loved him as deeply as any young boy could.

One day my family was preparing to go out of town on vacation.  We were only going to be gone a few days, so our plan was to lock Bandit in the garage and have a friend stop by to care for him. But on the morning we were to leave, I couldn’t find Bandit anywhere. It wasn’t unusual for him to go exploring on his own, but I knew I could always find him because my Dad had had tied a small - but loud - cowbell around his neck. You could hear that cowbell for miles but on this particular morning, as I climbed to the top of the highest hill, I couldn’t hear the cowbell going off. I called Bandit’s name over and over and began frantically searching. I knew we were leaving soon and if we left without locking Bandit in the garage, when night fell he would quickly become coyote bait. (We had already lost two cats and one other dog to the coyotes).

After climbing several hills and calling his name for over two hours, I was about to give up. I was totally distraught and scared that I was going to lose my best friend. It was the first time in my life that I actually thought about praying for help. My parents and I attended a local Church so I knew how to pray, but being young I guess I just never needed God’s help as badly as I needed it that day. As I stood on a dirt road near a reservoir high on top of a hill overlooking Highway 15, I could see for miles. I looked around one last time for Bandit…then I bowed my head and began to pray.

I’m not sure how long I stood there praying, but suddenly I heard the cowbell go off - right behind me! I turned around and sure enough Bandit was sitting right there wagging his tail and looking super happy to see me. I was shocked because I kept thinking…how did that dog walk right up behind me without that cowbell going off? Why didn’t I hear that bell? How is that even possible? I realized at that moment that while I might not have heard Bandit’s Bell going off, God heard mine!

Bandit...when he was a puppy,

The value of prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him.
~ William McGill