Into The Furnace


At times life is just not what we planned. Our own stupidity, or the thoughtless words and actions of others can derail things in the blink of an eye. What was a reasonable situation can become intolerable before people realize what has happened. All it takes is unreasoning anger, fueled by unrestrained emotions. As the old saying goes, things can go from the frying pan into the fire, and from the fire into the furnace for no apparent reason. When that happens, what do you do then?

It seems clear that some people tend to be more prone to emotional plunges than others. What I mean is, there are those individuals who just fall into one mess after another, and their life is punctuated by difficult moments of drama. They don’t look for trouble, it somehow seems to find them. In fact, as you looked at that last statement, someone or some situation probably came to mind. These are the one’s who have issues that come up, but before things get resolved, another problem arises that simply compounds the first. For some, this is an all too familiar way of life.

Over my years of counseling, I have discovered that the issue is not so much about “what” is happening, but it is more about “why” it is happening. The “what” is basically the same for everyone, but the “why” holds a key that unravels it. Everyone loses a job at one point or another, or hates their new job, or gets sick. Everyone gets taken advantage of or has a friend who walks away. Everyone has misunderstandings, or get’s pulled over by the police, or says the wrong thing at the wrong time. That’s just part of life on this planet. However, this does not happen to everyone on a regular basis. If it is happening to you, then it’s time to ask “why”.

Let me give you a beautiful example from my own experience, and that may help you understand what I’m talking about. Seventeen years ago I met my beautiful wife and when we were a few days from being married I decided to sell a trailer. I was planning to use that money for some of our wedding expenses. One day a man showed up to look the trailer over. He seemed reputable, was very likeable, and assured me he would be back on Friday to pick it up and pay for it. We shook hands and he headed out the driveway. As he was about to leave he returned and asked if I would mind him taking the trailer now, since he was already here, and Friday he would stop by to pay me.

I’m sure you’ve already guessed what happened. At my secretary’s great concern I handed over all the paperwork and we parted company.  He was in fact a licensed guide in the Oneonta, NY area. Since my father was a guide I felt he could be trusted. Unfortunately for me he was also a con-man and a thief.  He never returned with the cash. When I called him on it and even drove down to his house, he lied to me in every way possible way. The bottom line was simple. I was and easy mark, I was taken for one thousand dollars, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

The “what” in this situation is very simple. I had been taken advantage of by a liar, a thief and a very slick con-man. However, the “why” in the situation is what’s really important. I really wanted that money for my wedding, and because of the urgency I was gullible enough to believe others were as honest as I was. Because of this I signed my trailer over to someone whose words and character were both worthless. It was a very hard lesson to learn.

Without asking yourself the “why” of something, the “what” will never change. Like it or not, this is the cold, hard truth we all have to face. For instance, I was getting tea at Burger King the other day and there were several young people sitting there, waiting for job interviews. The manager told me she had two shift slots available, and apparently these were the applicants for the jobs. All of them seemed reasonable, but there were distinct differences with two of the four, and I watched the interviews for the human interest value, just to see what would happen.

All of the interviewees arrived on time, and all had filled out their applications, more or less correctly. All could begin work immediately, and none of them had work restrictions. Two of the four were clean-shaven, hair combed, neatly dressed in blue jeans and a casual shirt. They had no visible piercings, tattoos or odd mannerisms. The other two were, shall I say, quite unique in every way. One had short cut purple streaked hair, a scruffy beard, a nose ring, dressed all in black and had black nail polish on every other finger nail. The other young man had a hand and one arm covered with graphic tattoos. His pants were hanging down and his underwear could be seen. He wore a ball cap sideways and written on his t-shirt was the witty saying, “Out Of My Way, I Have No Time For A_ _ Holes Today”. Need I say which two did NOT get the job?

The point here is quite simple. If you never ask the “why” of things in your life, then the “what” in your life will never change. I wonder if those four young men were all thinking they had the job, as they left their interview. Did it dawn on two of them that first impressions are important? Did they consider that how they dressed speaks volumes about how they represent the company? More importantly, did any of them ask “why” they did, or did not, get the job? When things in life just don’t go your way, over and over again, perhaps it’s time to ask “why”. Better yet, maybe it’s time to seek out those who will give you a painfully honest and very truthful answer.

If you are tired of life in the furnace, then answering the “why” of things is one of the keys that can unlock your future. Look in the mirror and really see what others see when they look at you. Check you attitude, your actions, your facial expressions and your appearance. Are they are conducive to the life you think you deserve. Examine your words and your interaction with others.  Are you are building, or sabotaging, the future you want? It may shock you to find out just how far out of step you really are with the place you dream of going. In the final analysis, once you begin to as the “why”, the “what” will take care of itself.

A Needed Storm


It’s 4am and I was awakened from some much-needed sleep, by the approach of a mid-summer storm. I could feel the distant rumble of thunder, and the flashes of lightening in the dark sky drew me out of bed like a magnet. I flung open the windows of my house just in time to catch the sound of a million drops of rain hitting in the distance. A moment later I felt the wet, sweet, cool breeze these storms bring with them. It wondrously drifted through our house, and I filled my lungs with it’s delicate aroma. There is nothing quite like it to break the smothering grip of a sweltering July night.

I mention this because here in the Northeast we had a miserably cold, damp Spring. I came to identify it as a new season, “Sprinter”. That was followed by a direct flip in the weather, and overnight it became sunny, hot and dry. The change came so suddenly that people had little time to make the transition. In mid-May summer just arrived, and that was it. Today is the 17th of July and we have had blisteringly high temperatures in the 90’s for what seems to be weeks on end. Lawns are turning brown, my garden needs to be constantly watered, rivers are at all time lows, wells are running dry and air conditioners are nowhere to be found in local stores.

So, the coming of a rain-filled thunderstorm in the heat of a summer night is a welcomed release. The damp, cool air flowing over the sunbaked land, the sound of rain hitting the roof, splashing on the road and soaking into the dusty soil, means something. It means that a change is in the wind, and with that change comes the promise of days that are a little more balanced, a little easier on both the body and the electric bill. The point is, it takes a well-timed storm, with all it’s potential danger, to bring about the change that is needed at this moment.

Life as we know it is exactly the same way. We can get locked into a routine and begin to forget there is more to living than what we have been living with. We may have become comfortable with what is, and finally surrendered to something that is smothering us like a summer heat wave. And then it happens. A storm blows our way one dark night, and we are awakened from our slumber. We are brought back to reality, even fascinated by the approaching danger. It causes us to fling open the windows of our soul that have been closed for so long, and in the storm of uncertainty, we begin to come alive.

In the moment of an approaching life-storm, let the lightening and rain come. Enjoy the show in the dark of night, because in that storm you will feel a sweet, fresh breeze that clears the air. Every clap of thunder, and tear drop that falls, is setting you free to be yourself once again. These things are good because they are stripping away the fevered-heat of a life that has held you captive. Let the storm rage all around, and do not fear what it brings. With it comes some much-needed change, and when it’s time, it will pass and you will be free.

This is a needed storm so wake up oh sleeper and enjoy what has come your way. Let the rain fall, and the thunder roar in the night season. These have come to bring the fresh breath of moist, cool air that you have been waiting for. This is not the storm of your destruction. No… If you can embrace it, it is just a rugged moment of life-change for personal deliverance. So…why not sit back, fling wide the windows of your heart and enjoy the ride? When it’s over you will be a different person, one who finds new freedom in a landscape washed clean from the heated dusty days of the past. From this place you can find the balanced life you’ve always wanted, and most importantly, become the person you were always supposed to be.

The Wounded Walk

isWhen I was 19 years old I ran my parents marina at Meacham Lake Public Campsite in the Northern Adirondacks. That summer I was chopping wood with a single bit, 2 1/2 pound Collins axe, and being tired, I managed to miss my target. The axe head slammed squarely into the tibia of my right leg, splitting the bone lengthwise and producing a sliver of bone that jutted off to the right, under the skin. I went to Saranac Lake General hospital where they put me back together and spent the next 6 weeks recovering from that mishap. The wound forced me to adjust how I walked until the pain went away. The residual side effect is that my leg bone aches every time the weather changes, and that changes how I walk.

Fast forward 20 years. Now I have 3 wonderful sons, I am a permanently certified k-12 teacher in NY State, and an ordained minister who is living in a very difficult and rapidly disintegrating marriage. One hot July day I decided to clear my head and go fishing on one of my favorite trout streams. In my haste to get out of town, I put on leather sandles and soon discovered what a huge mistake that was. A mile or so up-stream I slipped, and the knuckle of my right big toe gets a compression fracture as the weight of my body wedges it between two slippery boulders in the stream bed. Over time it heals, leaving a calcium knot that hurts with every step I take. Once again, the wound forces me to adjust the way I walk  in order to avoid the pain produced with each step.

Fast forward another 20 years, and I am living in Johnstown, NY. I am married to my beautiful wife Esther, our 5 children are all married and happy, we have 10 grandchildren and we are pastoring the same church. I am retired from teaching, but I am still subbing in a local school system and loving every minute of it. This brings us to my current situation. May 16th I had a motorcycle accident, and yes once again there was trauma to my right leg. Several breaks to the same axe-chopped Tibia, and additional injury to the same compression-fractured toe knuckle. Once again I am in recovery, and dealing with pain. Once again I have to adjust my walk because of the wound I suffered. In fact, I am not just having to adjust my walk, this time I am having to learn how to walk all over again.

The point in all of this is that any wound we receive, especially those that are emotional, always impact us more deeply than we realize. The pain we internalize always forces us to adjust our life-walk in ways that may not be evident at first. We might just feel a dull ache when the emotional weather shifts, and we simply learn to embrace it as a normal part of life, but it is not normal. Other times, the trauma may be so painful, and so overwhelming, that we actually have to learn how to function in life all over again. The thing is, there is no shame or disgrace in being wounded. NO… that comes when we let the wound control us, and permanently allow it to change our walk because it is what we have settled for and chosen in life.

When my motorcycle accident happened, I could have stayed in that roadside ditch, bloodied and broken, and pushed away all who stopped to help. I could have just let traffic pass me by until I bled out and died. What I did do in all that pain and wreckage, was grab hold of everyone present and told them to call an ambulance, call my wife and call my son who lives near by. I got hold of my church members and asked them to pray, and they set up a support team to help me and my wife, when I could not help myself. They cooked meals, cleaned the house, mowed the lawn, weeded the garden, took me to doctors appointments and checked in on me in my broken condition. Only because of them will I have a 100% recovery.

You, my friend, are exactly the same. If wounding has changed your life-walk, it’s time to grab hold of the support system that is around you, and stop living like you are a victim. You are NOT a victim, you are simply wounded and need help to be restored to the full vigor God intended you to have. You must face the fact that there are some things you cannot fix on your own. You must reach out to God, and to those who are traveling the same road, and ask for help. Last of all, you must be patient, seek out and follow the advice of those who really know how to help you recover from your kind of injury.

Because of the physical therapy I am now going through, I know I will walk my trout streams in full strength again. My wife and I will fully do life together again. It is painful right now, but twice a week I still go for therapy. Why? Because the physical therapist knows exactly what I must do in order to get back on my feet, and live my life again. She is helping me do what I cannot do for myself. Without her help, a full recovery would be impossible. Like it or not, it is the same for you. Now is the time to get the help you need. Go find healing for your wounds, and learn to walk your life once again. Once you do, you will eventually get to the point where you can actually run the race that is set before you, and become the winner you were designed to be. Now go find the help you need, because it is time to get up out of that ditch!