It Sucks and It Hurts

(From May 2, 2018)

God is good.

God still heals today.

The enemy is real. He still works his evil schemes throughout the Earth.

Sometimes people get sick. Cancer and other life-ending diseases run rampant across our world.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Terror attacks, heinous shootings, and tragic accidents take the lives of people we know and love.

Sometimes we pray for people with terminal illnesses and they still die.

It sucks and it hurts.

Read More »

Advertisements

So Long Chicago Bears

(From May 2, 2017)

As most of you know, I grew up in the St. Louis area. I consider St. Louis to be my “hometown”, and as such, I root for the St. Louis professional sports teams, albeit some more vigorously than others.

Last year marked the first time since 1994 that St. Louis was without an NFL team, which meant I had to find another team to support and call “my own”. Since Champaign is firmly entrenched in Chicago Bear country, it only made sense that I throw my support to Da Bears.

Da Bears

However…

Read More »

Phase 1 Ends, Phase 2 Begins

12 weeks ago, I began a journey that has been a long-time coming. For all of my life, I have been overweight. I have been told time and again by doctors that I needed to lose weight. Yet, I ignored them because I didn’t want to give up the food that I enjoyed eating.

After a number of life circumstances, not the least of which was a diabetes diagnosis a year ago, I decided it was time to get serious about losing weight. It began at work.

Read More »

Thought Shrapnel Indeed

The title of this blog is Thought Shrapnel. It’s time for a brain dump. There is no rhyme or reason to these thoughts. Some are my random thoughts. Some are from our senior pastor, Happy Leman, who spoke at our Discover class last Thursday. Some are from Illinois women’s basketball coach, Matt Bollant, who spoke at our Men’s breakfast this morning. Some are song lyrics. Some are book quotes. So duck and cover!!! 🙂

You need to learn to laugh at yourself.

Read More »

I’m an Introvert.

Hello. My name is Steve, and I am an introvert.

Those of you who “know” me are probably thinking, “Duh. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out”. And that’s true, I’m the quiet one in the group. I’m the guy making eye contact and trying to listen, but not saying a whole lot. I’m the guy who walks into a crowded room and looks uncomfortable. Actually, I’m probably trying to figure out how to gracefully and tactfully excuse myself. Surely, I need to go use the restroom, or maybe I’ve left something in my car. Or some other lame excuse to rescue myself from “certain doom” in the crowd of people.

I’m also the one who feels guilty because “there is something wrong with me”. I mean, aren’t all good Christians supposed to be outgoing, gregarious, people lovers? That’s not me, so something must be wrong with me? Right?

That’s the message that “the church” has “subtly” communicated over the years, albeit mostly unintentionally and likely obliviously. However, it’s still the message that’s been sent.

And in the midst of that, I’ve wrestled with things like what is God calling me to do? Or how has God gifted me? Or where does God want me to serve? Or even am I good enough to be used by God?

But here’s the deal, all that is a bunch of lies.

You see, the Bible says that God made man (that’s me, you, and everyone else) in His image. That’s in the book of Genesis, chapter 1, verse 26, if you want to check it out for yourself. And yes, there’s the whole sin thing in Genesis 3, but that’s a whole other post by itself. Let’s just say, to keep it simple, that sin messed up God’s original plan. Fortunately, God had a plan B. (Or was it really plan A since God is omniscient? Try to wrap your brain around that one.)

Anyway, long story short, God’s plan was to sacrifice Himself (i.e. Jesus, the cross, Good Friday, Easter, y’know) in order to undo our screw up. And by undo, I mean to make us back to being like Him again. There’s a whole lot of theological stuff that I’m glossing over here. If you want to know more, go download the sermons from my church’s website for 4/22/12 and 4/29/12.

So, what this all means is that even though I am an introvert, I am made in God’s image. And even more than that He loved me enough to sacrifice His own life so I could be in relationship with Him.

My problem is that I have an easier time listening to who others say I am instead of believing who God says I am. Some days are better than others. Today isn’t one of those days. Fortunately, I have this forum where I can ramble, get my thoughts out there, and remind myself of what is Truth. And that’s a good thing.

Thank you God that You made me in Your image. Thank You that You don’t make junk. Thank You that You are loving and patient with me as I wrestle with my unbelief.

How about you? Do you wrestle with being an introvert? Or do you wrestle with seeing yourself as God sees you?

Blog Reboot… Again!!!

Welcome (or welcome back) to Thought Shrapnel!!!

Simply put, this is my electronic brain dump for all the world to see. Sometimes (probably more often than not), you will read stuff about my relationship with God – the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (No, I’m not Catholic – not that there’s anything wrong with being Catholic – but I believe that God is Trinity – 3 persons in One. And I believe that my relationship with God includes how I interact with each of the 3 persons of the Trinity – Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit.)

OK, thanks for indulging my short digression, now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

Where was I… oh yeah, what you’ll find here. God Stuff, check. Besides God Stuff, you’ll occasionally find stuff about me that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with God or spiritual things. For example, I may post pictures and write about my travels (vacation or otherwise). Or maybe I’ll post about baseball, one of my biggest passions. The bottom line is that I may post about almost anything, hence the name Thought Shrapnel – random postings about random topics.

For anyone that has read my posts in the past, you’ll know that I can very easily get into a rut and not post for long periods of time. It’s crazy just how undisciplined I can be about things. I am hoping this time will be different. My goal is to post at least one spiritually relevant entry per week in addition to any nonsense to go along with it.

Thanks for reading. Hang on and enjoy the ride. Comments welcomed and encouraged. Just be nice. 🙂

You Are Missed Becky!!!

This earthly world is little bit dimmer this morning. My friend, Becky, who had been engaged in a losing, but valiant battle with pancreatic cancer, went to be with Her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ last night. She went as she would have wanted it: peacefully, surrounded by all of her family.

It’s sad. Sad because this disease came on suddenly without warning. Sad because she has a loving family and had a lot to live for. Sad because of who she was and what she did with her life.

Yet, in the midst of the sadness and the grief, there is a glimmer of joy. Joy because her suffering is over. Joy because she is now in the presence of her Creator, Lord, and Savior, Jesus.

I met Becky’s husband, Mike, back in the mid 1990s. I was a software engineer working at Frasca International. He was one of our customers, in charge of training at Bell Helicopters in Dallas, TX. I had the opportunity to work with Mike off-and-on over the years on several different helicopter simulators for Bell. A couple of years ago, Mike and Becky moved to the Champaign area so Mike could come work for Frasca. Becky too started working at Frasca as our morning receptionist.

What I remember most about Becky was her cheerful and pleasant demeanor. She was always friendly and always cheerful. She always had a smile on her face and a kind word on her lips for anyone who came up to the front desk. She was quick with a friendly “Good morning.” or a “How is you day going?” She was perfect for that job – as the first thing people see when they walk in the front door at Frasca.

Becky was also very hospitable. This past year, Mike volunteered to host our fantasy baseball draft at their home. I remember that she slaved all morning (ok, maybe Mike helped a little) preparing a veritable feast for us guys. And as people came over, she was very welcoming and inviting. When you entered her home, she made you feel like family.

I also remember that even in the midst of this terrible disease, her faith and her love for her Savior didn’t waver. She came to visit our church (The Vineyard) one Saturday night so that we could pray for her. And even though God chose not to bring physical healing to her that night, He brought emotional freedom to her over some issues that she had been dealing with for years. She found joy in the emotional healing that God DID bring, instead of sorrow over the physical healing that He did not.

One of my last memories of Becky was visiting her at her home earlier this summer. She was still in pretty good shape – weak and in some pain, but still manageable. What struck me most was her attitude. She was not mad or bitter. In fact, she commented that over the last several months, she had been closer to Jesus than she had been in her entire life. She was finding joy and pleasure in the little things in life – a clear blue sky, a cool breeze, the flowers growing in the yard. She talked about her times reading the Bible and praying being fresh, vibrant, invigorating, and peaceful. She was truly inspiring in how she faced death. She saw it as joy and sorrow intermingled – sad that she would be leaving her family that she adored so much, but joy that she would be with her Savior Jesus where all pain and sorrow would be gone. That left an everlasting impression on me.

To Melissa, Meredith, Marc, and Jon:
I extend to you my deepest sympathies on the loss of your mother. May your lasting memories of her be of the good times and not those of the last several weeks. May you draw near to the same Jesus whom your Momma loved so much. May you find in Him the same joy, peace, and comfort that she did in Him so that one day you will be reunited with her.

To my friend Mike:
Words can not express my feelings on the loss of your wife, friend, and soul-mate. My condolences, my sympathies, and I’m sorry just don’t seem adequate enough. I grieve with you. Remember that I am here for you whenever you need it. Don’t forget that. Whether it’s to talk about what you’re feeling and going through, or to hang out and try to get you mind off of things, I’m here for you.

To all of the friends and family of Becky:
May Jesus be your source of comfort, peace, hope, and love as you go through the grieving process. May you be drawn near to Him. May His love overflow in and on you. May He turn your mourning into dancing and your sorrow into joy. May He give you peace.

Good bye, Becky. I know I’ll see you again some day.

Revelation 21:1-5
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling place of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every team from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

25 Things About Me You May Not Know

We had a cookout tonight at our senior pastors’ home for some of our church leaders. I was inspired by the get-to-know-each-other activity that we did tonight. So, in response to that, I present…

25 Things About Me You May Not Know
1. Many people know I am a huge fan of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. However, what you may not know is that my favorite Cardinal player of all-time is shortstop Ozzie Smith, who played for them from 1982-1996. In fact, I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown, NY when Ozzie got inducted in 2002.

2. I have seen the following musical acts in concert (not all at the same time): Duran Duran, Def Leppard, Debbie Gibson, Midnight Oil, Amy Grant, and Paul McCartney.

3. I was put on academic probation at the U of I after my 1st semester junior year. I was kicked out of the U of I after my 2nd semester junior year for not getting my grades up. Yet, I petitioned to get back in and was able to graduation. Oddly enough, I never FAILED a class – I just got more D’s than B’s my junior year.

4. I graduated from graduate school with my MBA with a 4.0 grade point average from all of my graduate level classes. Go figure. Amazing what a few years of maturity will do.

5. One of saddest moments of my life was in December 1999 when I found out my best friend from high school committed suicide. We had lost touch after high school, but he was going to grad school at Northwestern in Chicago. I felt guilty for a long time that I hadn’t done more to keep our friendship going.

6. From 1993 – 1997, I was involved in my church’s worship team – even spending much of this time leading worship during our Sunday morning service.

7. My two favorite Christian musicians are Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman. I have all of their albums (except a greatest hits album or two and some re-releases). I have seen each of them in concert on more than one occasion.

8. As a vocation, I manage software engineers at a company that manufactures flight simulators. On bad days, I pretend I still know how to actually be a software engineer. I hate heights and cramped spaces, and have NEVER flown in a small single or twin engine airplane.

9. Loyalty is very important to me – both giving and receiving it.

10. One of my biggest vices is that I still enjoy watching professional wrestling. My favorite wrestlers of all-time are Sting, the Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

11. I am a huge fan of most things science fiction with regards to TV and movies. Some of my favorite sci-fi TV shows are: Battlestar Galactica (both the original AND the newer), Star Trek (all series), Babylon 5, Firefly, and Doctor Who.

12. When I was in high school, I went to a Doctor Who convention in St. Louis, and was within 10 feet of Colin Baker – the 6th Doctor. The funny thing is that I didn’t recognize him. At the time, he was my least favorite Doctor, and I hadn’t seen too many of his episodes – not to mention that he looked a lot older at the convention than he did in the show.

13. Staying on that theme, my favorite Doctor is the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccleston. I was disappointed when he only did one season.

14. I have an easy time starting books and a hard time finishing them. Right now, I’ve got about a dozen or more books that I’ve started and not finished.

15. As a kid, I collected comic books and baseball cards. I stopped collecting comic books about a year or so after I got married. I still collect baseball cards, but not as intensely as I used to.

16. Sticking with the comic book theme, my favorite comic book was the Uncanny X-Men. Part of the reason I got out of collecting was the it got too expensive. Not only were the individual issues $2+ an issue, but each super hero group had anywhere from 2 to 5 titles and story lines often crossed over these multiple titles.

17. My favorite foods are pizza and homemade chocolate chip cookies. I have little willpower when it comes to these foods.

18. I play both fantasy baseball and fantasy football. I am in 2 baseball leagues and 4 football leagues.

19. I accepted Jesus as my savior on October 10, 1988 around 3pm in the afternoon in my dorm room on the 4th floor of Hopkins Hall in the U of I campus. A friend had shared the gospel with me the night before and I didn’t want to be pressured into praying with him then so I waited until after class the next day when I was by myself.

20. One of the craziest things I did in college was during finals week my first semester sophomore year. I had one last final exam on Saturday morning, but a bunch of my friends were done on Friday morning. So instead of staying back and studying for my Saturday morning final, I joined them on a road trip to Chicago to walk around and enjoy the downtown Chicago Christmas festivity. We got back around 2:00am – enough time to do some last minute studying for my 8:00am final. Needless to say, I didn’t do too well.

21. I feel awkward in social situations because I typically don’t know what to say to people, and I don’t want to look stupid.

22. I am the youngest of four children. My sister, Karen, is 10 years older than me, lives in southern Illinois, has her PhD in nursing, and teaches at St. Louis University. My brother, Ron, is 9 years older than me. I don’t have any contact with him. I haven’t seen him in over 10 years. Last I heard, he was somewhere on the east coast. My brother, Michael (I think that was his name), died as a baby several years before I was born. I don’t know much about him because he wasn’t talked about when I was growing up.

23. I have worked at my current job for over 19 years and have had the opportunity to travel all over the world. Some of the places that I’ve been are:
Miami, Phoenix, New York, Dallas, Cincinnati, Orlando, London (four times), Oxford (twice), Shrewsbury (UK – three times), Toronto (twice), Montreal, Zurich, Copenhagen, Cognac (France), Paris, Tokyo, and Rome.

24. I really don’t like change. I can handle it and deal with it, but I really don’t like it. I’m all about stability, and change often means instability.

25. And lastly, I asked my wife, Sara, what is one thing about me that people may not know. She said (after lots of ummm-ing): that I like country music since I hid it for so long. She’s right. I do kind of like country music. My favorite country artists are: Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood.

So there you have it, 25 things about me that you may not know. I hope it was enlightening for you.