Sitting Shiva… Musty Gun Powder and a Fresh Start

I sat in my dad’s truck for a while today.

I had no reason to be there. I wasn’t looking for anything. I just wanted to be reminded of him so I sat. I breathed in an odor that belonged to him. It smelled like musty gun powder. I smiled. 

Sitting in that truck I knew that I was going to be OK. It’s been 7 days now. The reality is officially one week old and looking back… it feels like a foggy month of Mondays. One day bleeding into another… leaving a red pool at the foot of my bed that I have to step into each and every morning. The moments of sleep have brought comfort and have been appreciated and looked for. Today, however, I started to feel that same feeling… but awake.

I am starting to breathe deep again. I am starting to notice the moments as they pass me by. I am starting to talk to people without wishing that I could just disappear. I have left the house and not counted the seconds until my return. I have walked from my house into the stifling heat and saw things for the first time again. I am starting to heal.

The police sent my dad’s belongings to me. 

My wife sat the brown box on the table. I looked away. “Go ahead and open it.” I said, not wanting to see what I knew was there. It contained the things that he always had on him. The things that had sat locked up in a police locker until now. His keys… his phone… and his wallet.

Later in the day… I opened the wallet.

It smelled just like the inside of his truck. It was fat with memories. A picture of my mom when she was 18 years old is the first thing I saw as it flopped open. It was the first thing that he saw every time he released it. I know that he wanted it that way. Everything was positioned that way. She has been gone ten years now… but she was still the first face that he saw each morning. 

I turned the plastic photo cover in his wallet to expose another dated picture. This one is of a little baby’s first photo. The first photo taken in a hospital after the blood is wiped away. The baby staring back at me is me… many years prior. It was my first photo and one that never left my dad’s side. I was always with him… and now I was face to face with myself.

I speak to me. “I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this. But… who does?” 

No one imagines this day. No one knows how they will act… what they will say… how they will heal. You just hold your breath and go through it… one day at a time. And, that is what I am doing. One day at a time and this is just another day. I feel better today. The tidal wave hasn’t crashed… yet. It still might and I am OK with that. I don’t fear it anymore. In fact… I welcome it now.

It has been a week since my dad died, but he is more alive in me today than ever before. 

I am filled with his memories and stories and life. I am reminded of the lessons and principles that he put to work in my life. I am awed by the man that he was and who he is helping me to become. 

You see, he is still working in my life today. There are principles that he gave me that are still being defined and molded in my mind and family. Obstacles that I’ve never hit before will come and I will be reminded of the lessons that he has given me to overcome them. I know that his lessons will continue to be developing for the rest of my life. I wait in eager expectation to see what my dad will teach me next year with the principles that he planted in my life for nearly the last four decades. I know that there will be many. 

My six year old was walking away from me today and… all of a sudden… he turns around to look at me and his eyes are as big as saucers as he said…

“Dad! We haven’t read the Bible in a lot of days!”

You see, before the news of my dad’s death, we had been on a streak of reading the Bible each day for around 80 straight days.

I smiled. 

“You’re right buddy. We need to get caught up. How about we start again tonight?”

He smiled. 

“Sounds great!” He turned and took off into the next room.

How about we start again tonight?

I am so happy for the last 7 days. I am happy I stopped. I am happy I took time to breathe and cry and remember. I am happy that I turned my phone off and ignored the endless dronings of social media. I am happy I lost my shoes and drew my shades. I am so grateful for this time.

I know that I will have many more sad days and I know that tears will find their way to my cheeks again. I will get angry and frustrated and question why and have trouble sleeping and want to crawl the wall and feel like there is an elephant on my chest and… and… breathe.

I will breathe and I will heal and I will be OK. 

Because of this time that I’ve had for the past seven days… I know that I will be able to start again. I won’t be the same… I will never be the same… but, I know that this is all part of the process and the change that I will go through. I embrace it and am excited about what is next.

I sit in the truck. 

I don’t sit there to look back, but to look ahead. The smell will fade, but these memories will shape me and make me into something more than I was. I am thankful for these moments now. I breathe in deep.

I shut the door and walk away… back to my house. My step is lighter. My heart is open. My mind is clear.

I’m ready. Tomorrow… we start again. Tomorrow… we begin anew. 

Today… we rest and remember. 

Thank you for sitting with me today.

Blessings!

GP 

Sitting Shiva… Tire Swings, Tidal Waves and My Vacant Stare

So, I had to find my shoes today.

Literally. I had no idea where they were. I haven’t really left the house lately and today was the day when I told my wife I’d ride with her to the next city… about 30 miles away. I found the shoes in the corner of my closet and slipped them on… thinking that what I was about to do was really no big deal. I was wrong. 

After loading my family of six into the car I slithered into the passenger seat and felt myself melt. We start driving… one mile away from home and I am ready to return. I don’t want to be in this car and I don’t want to be driving to the next city and I don’t want to be wearing these stupid shoes!

But… I do.

I stare out of the car window at the desert. My dad loved the desert. He hated the heat… but loved the desert. He grew to know its beauty and appreciated it. He would love to hop on his motorcycle and go on long drives through the desert highways. It is one of those highways that I find myself on today and a lump enters my throat.

My ambition is gone. My energy is gone. I sit with my hands folded and my arms weighted down. I stare behind sunglasses into nothingness. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know how to fix me… 

Maybe I’m unfixable or not meant to be fixed. Maybe this is the new me. 

As we drive I tell my wife that I’m not going into the doctor’s office… I tell her I’m staying in the car. I hear a voice come from the backseat. It is my six year old. He says, 

“I am sitting in the car with daddy.” 

I don’t even think… just speak in a flat, unearthed tone.

“OK. But I just want to let you know that I’m not talking to you.”

My wife gasps and I realize what I just said. When my words register in my consciousness I start to laugh.

I really laughed. It felt good. Who am I anymore?

I told my son that I was kidding and that he could talk my ear off if he wanted. He continued to play in the backseat… unaffected by me. And then I thought again…

Who am I anymore?

I mean… I know my name and my job and my position in life. I know my faith and my voice and my past, but who am I?

Death does that?

I am a son… No, I was a son. Now, I’m a father of sons… but I have been that for years. It is hard to stop being that which you have always been when there is nothing there to take its place. 

A Toyota truck loaded with tires sits in the passing lane as we continue down the highway. The tires remind me of days at the park with dad and my favorite attraction… the tire swing. I could play on that thing all day. I remember wanting to be pushed and pulled and spun in every direction. I remember getting so dizzy that I thought I was going to puke. It was sickening and fun at the same time. I remember leaving that park and looking down at my arms and legs. They were marked black from the tire. The rubber had left its mark on me. I didn’t notice it when I was playing… but now could easily differentiate each and every one of those marks.

My life with dad has been like that. Our relationship has been pushed and pulled and spun around in a million different directions. We have had our fights and arguments and hugs and special moments. We have disappointed and forgiven… made mistakes and apologized… loved and loved some more. Our relationship has been like my time on the tire swing. Scary and fun and filled with laughter. But now the ride is over. 

There is no more swing and no more park and no more time for us to share. It has ceased to swing and I have climbed off and now I look down at my life and see the marks that have been placed on me. Marks from our time together… our talks… and from the life that has passed between us. Except these marks won’t wash away, but have become etched into my soul like grooves that lead somewhere… someplace meaningful and everlasting. 

I thought it would be easier. I thought the pain would systematically subside each day until it just simply disappeared. But… it doesn’t. It shows up today worse than yesterday. I can’t stand the unpredictable tides of my life. I just want it to be methodical… like time. The clock ticks each second which leads to each minute that passes the hours. Grief should start like a full hourglass that loses it’s power over you in time. With each tick becoming weaker and weaker. But, instead, it chooses to hide around corners and jump out when you least expect it. It chooses to live in the songs you hear and the things that you see and the silent whispers in the back of your mind. It comes like a mouse one moment and a tidal wave the next. You are never safe.

And so you simply sit and wait for it. 

Then you sit through it. 

Then you wait again. 

On my way back home today I couldn’t wait to get there. I wanted my shoes to disappear into the back of my closet again. I wanted to close the door. I feel safe at home. I know where all the mice hide and the source of the tidal waves there. I know how to control it… I know how to check out… I know how to breath. 

It’s hard to breath when there is a lump in your throat around a crowd of people. It feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest while your body is paralyzed. I have never, ever felt this way before. 

I am present… but I am vacant. My family of 5 whirls around me as I become the sun in their solar system. They all move around me as I simply sit still. I love them. I just don’t have any strength to circle around them right now. But, I guess the sun wasn’t designed to circle.

This is my moment to be the sun. This is my moment to be still. I can’t feel guilty for it or bad about it or wish that I was anything else right now. I have to allow myself to feel this. I have to let the elephant sit.

You see, broken isn’t bad. 

I am not created to be perfect. I am not created to always be happy. I am not created to be flawless. I am created to feel and love and hurt and cry and laugh and rejoice and be paralyzed by grief. It’s OK. God has me in his arms. I am starting to learn things that can never be taught in a book… see things that can never be viewed with an eye… and feel things that I have never felt. And… in that… I trust my Creator is going to get me to the other side. 

A wonderful person shared a song with me yesterday that was so powerful. It was by a group called “Shane and Shane” and the song was called Though You Slay Me. The lyrics were timely and deep and ended like this:

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still all that I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

I know this this too shall pass. I know that my God will restore me. But, I also know that God is changing me through this season. I surrender to His love. I surrender to His hand. I surrender to the One who’s all I need. I surrender to the work that He is doing. 

Thank you for sitting Shiva with me today. It was a hard one, but it’s easier with each of you. 

Blessings!

GP 

Sitting Shiva… Heroes, Folding Flags and a 21 Gun Salute

So, I guess I get a flag.

At least that is what I’ve been told. I hear that is what happens when a “hero” dies.

They use the word “hero” because my dad fought for his country and I am glad that they will honor him in his death. They will send out men with guns and shoot fake bullets into the air. They will salute and they will hand me a flag. And… I know that my dad will be smiling down. He was always very patriotic and was proud to have served his country.

Sometimes, on holidays like Memorial Day, he would sneak away to a cemetery and visit the graves of the vets. He would look at the flags by their graves and bow his head and pray with moving lips before their headstones. He would finish his prayer and look at the name one last time and mouth these words… “Thank You”.

That was who he was. He was very sentimental and traditional and was a man of honor. I understand why he deserves a flagBut, it is not only because of what he did on a far away shore… but for how he lived his life and the example he set for me.

He was a hero in his marriage.

He was in love with my mom since she was 15 years old. When she was only 17 my dad was drafted into the Vietnam War and was shipped across an ocean where he served his country in the 101st Airborne – Artillery Division. However, while he was there fighting, he was given a short leave… a small window to escape the jungle and the turmoil that raged around him to find solace in the arms of the one he loved. The only problem is that she was not yet 18, her mom didn’t like him, and she was still planted firmly in the United States of America.

But… as my dad would often quote from one of his favorite shows… “The A-Team”.

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

The plan was simple. My mom would run away from home days before her 18th birthday with my dad’s brother. They would hop on a plane to Hawaii where my dad would be there waiting. My mom would turn 18 in Hawaii and then… in a Catholic Church in Waikiki… they would tie the knot.

I don’t know how they did it… but they pulled it off. My mom made it to Hawaii… but was chased by her mom (my grandma) and her sister (my aunt). They searched all over Hawaii trying to find her… but never did. Instead, Ms. Janice Elaine Stock became Mrs. Janice E. Hintz and the rest was history.

I couldn’t blame my grandma for wanting to stop it. My dad was fighting a war. Her daughter had just turned 18. Statistically… it would never work. But, somehow it did. My parents were happily married until the day my mom breathed her last breath on earth. And… if you knew my dad… you would know that their marriage lasted long past my mother’s death. People come to me now and make statements like…

“Your father sure loved your mom.”

“Your dad still talks about your mom all the time.”

“I watched some of your home movies with your mom in them.”

I would try to coach him to not talk about my mom so much, but it didn’t matter. My mom was with him and part of him and there was nothing that I was ever going to say that was going to change that. I stopped trying.

I now smile when I think of how deep my dad’s love was for my mom. He had something that was so special that many never have the opportunity to experience today. It was true love. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t always pretty. They had many mountaintop moments and they also shared time in the valley together. There was the moment when my dad was downsized and lost his job and they had to reinvent what life looked like. There was the moment my mom was diagnosed with lymphoma and they had to balance the “good days” with the “bad”. There was the moment they had to say “Goodbye”. My mom from heaven and my dad pressing hard against the earth. But, through it all, I saw a grace and love that I long to emulate in my life.

I saw my hero.

I look back to the moment when his idiot 16 year old son (Yeah… ME) ran away from home and ended up going to Florida from Ohio. I remember getting stranded on a freeway in South Carolina and I remember the long Greyhound Bus ride back to Ohio. I remember getting off a bus… broken and lost with a chip on my shoulder… and I remember who was waiting for me. It was him. In spite of all that I had done. In spite of all the lies and the manipulation and the shame that I had brought upon my family’s name… he stood there waiting for me. Why? To bring me home. I didn’t know it at the time, but when I saw his face as I looked through the bus’s side window…

I saw my hero.

You see, that’s what a hero is. Some believe that a hero is someone who does something for themselves… but that is not a hero. A hero is someone who looks beyond themselves for the sake of another. One who puts the needs of another above their own. One who chooses to sacrifice their wants for the sake of another human being.

My dad did that in the jungles of Vietnam… He did that through the journey of life with my mom… And he did it in a punk kid like myself. He gave of himself for the sake of another. 

I have pictures scattered all over my house. Some are black and white and some are tattered… some are yellowed out and some are crisp as can be. And, as I look at each one of them I realize the similarity that each one of them has. In each of them…

I see my hero.

His name was Al to many of you, but to me… his name is DAD. It always was and it always will be.

He is my hero because of the example he set. He is my hero for the memories he left me. He is my hero because he chose to live his life for something more than just himself… he chose to live for me.

I know that this may sound selfish, but I know that it’s true. When he went to work each day… he did it for his family. When he said yes to the opportunities and no to the temptations that surrounded him each day… he did it for his family. When he looked to the future, he never looked to it solely for himself… he looked for his family.

Now, I look away from the photos and I look in the mirror and I ask what he left behind. I look through the tears to see a mind that has been formed and a soul that has been touched by a hero. I know that many seeds have been planted in my heart over the last 38 years and I know that it is now my job to cultivate the soil of my soul and produce a harvest. To look back and remember the lessons that have been modeled for me… by my hero.

I look forward to receiving a flag and placing it on my mantle for the world to see. I will set it right next to another flag… the flag that my grandfather… my father’s father…  received for being a hero. I will look at both of these flags differently after today. I will see them for what they are… one man’s attempt to honor another. But, I will also see them for what they mean to me. A legacy of heroes passing down the mantle from generation to generation.

With my father’s last breath he passed the baton to me. I am now running the race for my family. I am striving to become a hero. Not for the sake of 21 gun salutes or pats on the back… but for the possibility that my kids will look at a ragged old picture of me one day and honestly say…

I see my hero.

Thanks for Sitting Shiva with me again today.

Blessings,

GP

Sitting Shiva… A Bad Friend, 5 o’clock Shadow and Tears of Change

It is going on two days since I’ve been outside and I don’t plan on breaking that streak. I’ve sat on a couch covered in a blanket looking at pictures. Opening the door today I felt a triple digit Arizona hand slap me across my face as my three beasts busted through the door to relieve themselves. I closed the door and went back to the couch.

My phone is set to “do not disturb”. My shades are drawn. My five o’clock shadow is entering midnight and I am perfectly fine with that.

That’s what is so strange about this time. I have literally pulled the plug on my life and yet I feel a firm foundation beneath my feet. I am not worried about anything. I have a million things that “need” to be done, but I am simply focused on breathing deep and staying present in my grief and memories and this moment. 

There is an incredible peace in my life right now. It is the personification of a Bible verse that I’ve given to many other people. It was the words Jesus said to His friends when their world was falling apart. He said: 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

It is truly a peace that surpasses all human understanding. And, I know that it is a peace that I have because of the many people who have surrounded me to help carry the burden. My amazing wife who was up at 5am making phone calls while I slept. My fabulous church body that is sending their prayers, thoughts and food in my direction. My friends and family who let me know that they are there… yet understand that the greatest gift that they can give me is to simply sit with me in this season… in this “Sitting Shiva”. 

I know that this time will come to an end and I know that I will go back to life… but I don’t think that I can go back to life as it was. I don’t think that we ever can. Not if we are allowing ourselves to be changed through our grief.

I am changing. I know that I am. 

I am viewing life through the rearview mirror and realizing how much I am missing in my life now. I accomplish and I do and I achieve and I win… but in winning, I lose.

I lose relationships because they take time to cultivate. I lose memories because they take planning to be achieved. I lose personal conversations to electronic chatter. I lose friends to accomplishments… moments to memories… and realize that which the world deems important is not important at all in the end. 

Another degree from college will never mourn my death. An award will never be changed by my life. Another victory will never sit with me in silence as I mourn the one I love. But, you will. 

People… this is all that really matters when it is all said and done. You, me, each other, us. And, just not in the good times or the convenient times… but when it is difficult and hard and ugly and takes work. When we don’t want to care about people is when we need to surround ourselves with others because people are really the only thing that matters.

As I flip through picture after picture of my “family” I realize how far away from them that I am. I have cousins that I only know through Facebook feeds. I have uncles and aunts that I don’t even send a Christmas card to. I have childhood friends that I haven’t called in decades. DECADES! Why?

Because I am busy. 

Busy with what? “Trying to change the world” is what I tell myself. It is what I tell others. But, in all reality… the only way that I’m ever going to change the world is by investing in the people that are around me and then, one by one, WE can work to change the world together.

I had two best friends growing up. Neither have I talked to in a long time. One, because our lives went in different directions and the other because I selfishly chose a speaking engagement in Georgia over marrying he and his fiancé. Think about that! One relationship blown because of my sloth and the other because of my selfishness. Embarrassing.

I called one out of the blue the day after my dad died. He had just hung up with his dad ten minutes prior. His dad had told him the news. It was awkward. I just needed him to know… not that my dad was dead, but that I was sorry. I was sorry for the time that had passed and I was sorry for my selfishness and now, in my time of need… I was selfishly asking him to be there for me. Even though I wasn’t there when he needed me… I asked him to be there for me.

I was humbled. 

He told me to stop apologizing. He told me he would be there. He told me that we had to let go of the past. He told me that we needed to pick up where we left off. 

I know I can’t do that though. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to pick up where we left off because that is the path that led us to where we are today. I want to start fresh. I want to begin anew. I want to be a real friend and care when there is nothing coming my way in return. I want to be part of his life. Because, I know that there will come a day when either he or I are going to be going through a box full of photos and I want the tears that we share to be tears of joy from the memories and love that we had for one another and not from the lost years that we missed from selfishness or pride.

And, I know that my dad would want it that way too. 

My other friend texted me out of the blue yesterday. This is my first friend… my next door neighbor for my entire life. We played together every day growing up. High School happened and our lives just began to drift. We drifted back together for a small season in my early 20’s and then quickly parted… never to be reunited again. Fifteen years later… when he heard through the grapevine that my dad had died… he sent me a text.

“Hey. This is… Some of the earliest and best memories of my life involve you. I mourn the loss of your father with you as my brother in Christ.”

I wept. 

I never knew. I didn’t think I mattered. I didn’t think “we” mattered… anymore. But, I was wrong. Over 30 years later and he still cares. I have neglected our friendship for over a decade, but he still cared enough to reach out with love in a season of my pain. That is the kind of friend I want to be.

Storm clouds have surrounded me for the past three days, but these moments have been breaks in the dark clouds… they have been rays of hope peeking through the clouds to shine on me. Encouragement and love has come from people around the globe. Those lives that I have been honored to be part of. Those people that I have had the privilege of encouraging have become my encouragers… and they keep me lifted above the flood waters of grief.

My life will change. 

This pain will pass and these moments will turn into distant memories, but the lessons that I’m learning will live on forever because I am demanding a change in my life because of them. I don’t want to be the same and I don’t have to remain in this same place… and neither do you.

Don’t wait for this. Don’t wait for a death or a sickness or a circumstance beyond your control to cause you to examine the real purpose of your existence. Are you fulfilling the best things in your life? Are you caring for the people that surround you or are you taking them for granted? Are you living for rewards or relationships?

If you allow yourself to invest in the latter… you may find yourself receiving the former. And, the rewards that follow relationships are so much better than anything that follows a dollar sign.

Thank you for sitting with me today.

Be Blessed.

GP 

Sitting Shiva… His Voice, a Picture and 1,000 Question Marks

It comes in waves… my grief… my pain… my tears. It drifts further away when people are around and storms the shore of my life around mid morning and late at night. The television drowns the memories at night, but simply fills me with a dull emptiness during the day. My temptation is to silence the subtle gnawing at my soul, but I know that will only irritate and inflame the wound of grief, so I force myself to sit in it… and and sit through it.

Thank you for sitting with me. 

Yesterday was photo day. An obvious place that anyone who has ever lost someone has found themselves. With the world of computers and home movies, this normally involves sitting in front of a screen and clicking a button or a mouse. However, the photos I sat with yesterday were ascertained long before you needed a plug to view a memory. Black and white… faded… ripped and worn… these were pictures of a different day and age. A day that I wish I knew better.

Pictures of people and homes and memories that were foreign to me. How I wish I could ask the one who recognized this time. “Who is this person? Where are you here? Describe this moment to me.” But I can’t… because he is gone. I look at the boxes of memories that sit before me and realize that I missed that opportunity… that moment will never be.

So, I piece together the photos… the faces… the dates.

I find that the pictures bring more questions than answers. I want to know about a family that I have only heard about. But, it’s not the story I want to hear… but the perspective of the one who took them. 

As I sit in this season, fog lifts from so much of my life. Those things that we deem important… those things that fill us with rage or passion… those things that steal our joy and peace… they are someone else’s battle. They are someone else’s story. They are someone else’s photographs.

And as we fight for another’s photos, our own photographs and memories become faded and ripped and worn. 

I need to sit in the moment more and share my stories with those I love. To dust off the memories and pass them down to my children. To share… to love… to not share someone else’s story, but to share mine… because it is “ours”. 

My dad did that in his own way. As decades past he was one of the first to get a camcorder… and he loved to use it. My dad’s only problem is that he wasn’t very good at using it. He would zoom in too close and everything would get blurry. He would shake the camera as he moved. He would point the camera at a tree and simply look at it for 3-4 minutes. Without sound, his videos would be so boring. (And honestly… with sound, some of them are pretty boring too.) But, what those videos have for me today is something that no dusty picture in a box is ever going to give me.

His Voice. 

He talks about trees and cows across the street. He talks about my mom as he zooms in too close to her face. He talks about the house that he built as he pans back and forth… and back and forth… and back again. He talks about the grass that was cut the day before and the neighbors who haven’t cut their grass for a week. He talks about cars that drive too fast down the street as he zooms in close to get their license plate. He talks about the snow on the ground and the sun in the sky and the pool in the backyard and the bird on the porch and anything else that filled the lens. But, for me I don’t really care what he is saying… I just love to hear his voice. 

It’s funny because often that which we take for granted is the one thing that we will miss the most. My dad drove me crazy telling me the same story over and over again. In one visit, he would tell me the same thing three different times. I would complain to my wife about it… but now I’d trade anything for a fourth time of hearing that same story again.

I want to hear him drone on about politics. 

I want to hear him talk about how hot it is in Arizona. 

I want to hear him talk about Lake Erie perch.

I want to hear him talk about how much he loved my mom. 

I want to hear him say how proud he is of me.

I want to hear… 

It’s funny. I know that I will never physically hear him say those words again, but all I have to do is close my eyes and I can hear them ringing in my ears. Because, he said them so much that they are no longer just memories, but they have etched themselves inside of my soul and have become part of who I am. 

I long to be like that. To not speak words that stop at ears, but that etch themselves in another’s soul. 

Will I do that for everyone? No. But, if just one… it’s worth it. If just my kids… it’s worth it. If just my wife… it’s worth it.

This is just one of many things that my dad has left with me. The desire to have a voice that leaves a mark long after I’m gone.

I have had a vision since the day the medical examiner called me on the phone. It fills my mind every time I close my eyes. It is one that I didn’t create, but came out of nowhere when I heard of my dad’s last ride. It was simple and true and no one can ever take it away from me. The minute I closed my eyes I saw my dad with my mom. They were so happy. His smile was so bright. He was looking down on me with a glint that I hadn’t seen in a long time. And then I heard his voice.

“Don’t worry about me. You’ve got work to do. Now make me proud boy. Make me proud. We will be reunited again, but right now you have work to do.”

I wanted to tell him, “NO! I AM GOING TO BE MAD AND ANGRY AND SAD AND BROKEN AND LOST AND QUESTION GOD AND RUN!” But, I couldn’t.

I couldn’t resist his voice. 

I knew that he was sent to reaffirm what I already knew… what I tell everyone else at every funeral I have ever been to. He was preaching to me. He was on the pulpit and I was in the pew. His voice was true and I knew that I could never escape truth. I simply closed my eyes and told him…

“I never cry… but I will cry for you. I will mourn you. I will be sad and I will miss you deeply. But… I will make you proud and I will use my voice to honor you.”

After that… I cried. 

I still cry. It’s hard. You are good one minute and then it just sneaks up on you. It’s not like a tidal wave for me… it is more like the tide coming in. I feel my emotional waters getting deeper. I feel a shift taking place. I feel a lump in my throat. I feel a sadness in my heart. And then I reach a place where I feel like the water is about to go over my head and then there is a shift. The water changes direction. It starts moving away from my shore. And… I can breathe again. I’m sure grief is different for everyone… but that’s what it is like for me.

So, I sit in the tide pool waiting for the next wave. I know that I won’t drown. I know that it won’t pull me out into dangerous waters. I know that it is something that I must sit through. This is my “Sitting Shiva”. This is our “Sitting Shiva”. Again, thank you so much for sitting with me. 

Through my ranting and my tears and my broken heart… it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. The support and love has been incredible and I want you to know that I wouldn’t be anybody without a “somebody” in my life called “dad”.

He never gave up on my… when everyone else did. May that same spirit be upon you… me… us. Let us never forget the faded memories that we’ve made or the voice that we leave on this earth. Let us never be ashamed to sit and wait… to taste tears… to remember… to open our ears… and listen for that voice.

Thank You!

GP

Sitting Shiva… My Dad Died Yesterday

So my dad died yesterday.

I guess that’s how you do it… right? Like a bandaid that has been left too long and sealed itself to your skin, you pull it off and endure the pain that you know is bringing healing. 

But, the statement isn’t really true. My dad actually died two days ago, but they didn’t tell me until yesterday. A ball dropped by a phone call to a police officer to a memo that sat on someone’s desk was the news that the one who grasped my hand as I took my first steps, hugged me tight when I graduated high school and sat each week to hear me speak in a church that he had been part of since the very beginning. That memo sat from night till morning and never made it to my ears until a “medical examiner” called me to question me about the death of my dad.

“Is this Greg Hintz?”

“Uh. Yeah.”

“By now you are aware of the passing of your father.”

“Uh. What?”

“Uh. Well. Uh. Yeah. It tells me hear that you were notified about…”

“About what?” A heat starts to move up from my chest.

“Sir. I am so sorry to be the one to tell you this. This is not our normal protocol. We want family members to be informed in person and it tells me that you were notified. Again, sir, this is not the way…”

JUST HURRY UP AND TELL ME. I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR PROTOCOL OR YOUR MISTAKES OR YOUR STUPID MEMOS. JUST TELL ME WHAT I ALREADY KNOW BECAUSE OF YOUR BROKEN PROTOCOL!

“Around 9:30pm last night your father passed away…”

His words continued but I was disconnected from them. The heat transformed into a lump in my throat as I tried to swallow the flame.

I was driving…  I pulled over. 

“Sir, if you would like you can call me back. I just have a few questions about your father’s health history. Again, sir, this is not our normal protocol and I am so sorry to have to be the one to tell you this.” 

“Yes.” The words slipped through gritted teeth. “I think that’s a good idea. I will call you back.” 

My thumb pressed the big red button on my phone and I sat in disbelief staring at a mountain made of dirt in the middle of nowhere.

My dad had left yesterday morning on a motorcycle ride that he had been planning for months. He had found someone to go with him and they had left after breakfast that morning. I thought about the last text that I received from him the day before.

The time was 4:48pm and his text was an answer to my “How’s the ride?” text that I had sent him at 4:02pm.

“Heats awful, dumped the bike twice. We just left LV.”

At 5:42pm I read his answer and responded, “What!?!?!?!? Dumped the bike?”

I never received a response… and I never would. 

My dad loved that bike. It brought him so much joy. He would wash it and wax it and would even put off riding it at night because the bugs would get all over it. For him to “dump it”, there had to be something wrong. And… there was. My dad was on his final ride. His ride to glory.

I hurt.

It is so sad and it makes me feel so alone. My mom died around 10 years ago, but I still had dad. He followed me to Arizona. He was part of my life. He was present at the holidays and went to my kids’ baseball and soccer games. He was a 12 minute drive away. He was still here… but now he’s gone.

I don’t have any brothers… no sisters… just me. I jokingly say, “God broke the mold with me.” And he did. But, I sometimes wish there were others who knew how I felt or could understand exactly what I’m going through. 

No one else sat on his lap and ate popcorn out of a big green plastic bowl. No one else played catch in the front yard on Sunday afternoons after watching the Browns get beat. No one else remembers the way that he would look them in the eye and while patting their cheek say, “I’m so proud of you.” No one else can feel that. No one else can relate. And so I’m left in a sea of somebodies searching for the anybody that knows exactly where I am… and they will never exist.

I could easily try to turn back the clock and live in a place of “should have” or “could have”. Why didn’t I tell him not to go? Why wasn’t I more ‘present’ in his decision? Why didn’t I put my foot down? But I can’t stay here.

I was proud of him that he was going. I was glad that he was doing something that he was excited about. I didn’t want him sitting around watching TV all summer so I applauded his desire to  seize life and do something crazy. Life is all we got… they tell me. But I know that this isn’t true. We are a sum total of our experiences… our dreams… our passions… our moments. And my dad had chosen to have some moments… and in his last moment… do something that he was passionate about.

He had a love for history and railroads and that is where he was heading. He talked about a place where the East met the West called Promontory Point where a Golden Spike still stood. He was heading to see that spike but never had the opportunity. Maybe someday I will go and see that spike for him.

Days before his death a good friend had moved. This man led a spiritual group that my dad had been part of since his time in Arizona. I was forwarded an email that my dad sent him. Here is what I read: 

“I wish you two just a wonderful and safe trip on your move to Texas and that God will continue to bless all that you do as you go forward into a new chapter in life. One thing that can be a very positive item in what will be some sadness in your leaving us, God is taking both of you and your amazing Faith in Him and allowing you to shine in another part of the Country now. He truly is presenting you with a Golden Opportunity to carry His Word to others who may be in so dire need of hearing and seeing His love within you both, at least that’s how I kind of look at it.

So, even in some sorrow at your leaving, there can be great, great joy that only we, His people can bring to our fellow human beings that are so desperate for His love.  I believe you two are being given an absolute great chance to live out that which we declare at THE PLACE Church each Sunday, taking the word of Jesus to those of our neighborhood, Country and the World and we ARE making a difference in this world.”

Those last words that my dad shared to his close friends are words that we use each and every week at THE PLACE Church. We reaffirm that God IS using each and every single person in a positive way in their worlds. Those words were planted deep in my dad. I truly believe that he knew that he was making a difference. And, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that he DID make a difference and that he will live forever in my heart and life.

But, not only mine, but also in the lives of his grandkids who he was so very proud of.

My oldest son, Dylan, wrote some special words on Facebook yesterday. He was very close to my dad and  had even went on a cross country road trip with him that will forever be etched into his memory. I will let his words speak for themselves.

“In loving memory of my Grandpa Al,

The definition of grandpa says grandfather but he was more than that to me. He was my friend, my second father, he was someone who was there for me whenever I needed someone to lean on. Now as I have heard what happened I always want him to know that I will be the best I can be for him. He would expect nothing more as he told me from man to man talk that he gave me advice just like my dad did because he said “I am going to tell you EVERYTHING I have told your dad when he was your age.” I listened to every word he had to say at the end of the conversation the thing that stuck to me the most was these 4 words, “I love you kiddo.” I spent every minute that was given to me to be with him all the good times we have made together. The one I will honor the most is when last year 2014 when we did the across the states trip. There is nothing that will make me lose that memory. I love you too Grandpa I hope you are in a happy place now and I will do everything you told me and become the best I can to honor you! God Bless you Grandpa.

Love,
Dylan”

These words bring tears to my eyes. They are so pure and they hurt so much. I don’t hurt for my yesterdays… I don’t hurt for my memories… I hurt for the unknown tomorrows. The Christmases without him lighting a candle in honor of my mom. The many times that he would do the “pop in” at my house for no reason. The outdated clothes that he would wear that I would threaten to throw out when he was away. In fact, I told him that while he was on his trip I was going to go through his closet and clean it out for him. Little did I know that I would be fulfilling that threat and so much more.

Last night Dylan came out of his room and said these words…

“Xander is sobbing.”

Xander is my six year old. He had been fine all day, so we weren’t sure why he was crying. I went into his room and he was curled up in his top bunk filling his pillow with tears. I walked to his bed.

“What’s up buddy?” I said.

He turned his head towards the wall and I crawled up into his bed… lightly touching his arm. 

“What’s wrong buddy? Are you sad?”

“Yeah.” Through big breaths and wet cheeks he spoke.

“Why?”

Then came the word… “Grandpa. I miss grandpa.”

Tears filled my eyes as they do now writing these words. 

“I know buddy. Me too. I miss grandpa too.”

We laid there for some time. Both covered in tears. Both mourning the same man. Both staring at the wall. 

After some time I told him that it was OK to be sad. We could be sad together. He smiled. I made a “fart joke” and he laughed. I laughed too. His tear stained blue eyes softened.

“I brought a photo album home and I have some pictures of me when I was your age and I looked just like you… well, you’re a little better looking, but it’s close.” I smiled.

He smiled back. “Really!? He jumped up. Let’s go see them.”

“Absolutely. There are some pictures of grandpa there too. He even has a mustache and is wearing some ‘shorty shorts’.”

“Cool. Let’s go.”

We spent the next 30 minutes surrounding an old photo album that had baby photos of me. As we flipped each page, Xander was filled with questions. “Who is this? Who is that? Where are you here?” I told each story as I remembered it. His smile returned and I thanked God for the tears.

I have heard it said that tears are words that the heart can’t express. I believe that. I also believe that tears are healing to the soul. As a family we choose to speak unexpressable words and heal together. With wet eyes and a hurting heart, we throw our arms around each other and strengthen one another. 

I have never felt the healing power of family until now. There is no where else that I want to be. My phone rings. My email fills up. My Facebook continues to build ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ and they are all appreciated… they really are. But, the healing that I need can only be found in the circle of my family. They give me something deeper and richer than anything that I could get anywhere else. They don’t need to say a word… just be in my presence. Their souls radiate and strengthen me. Without them, I don’t know where I’d be.

This event will change me… is changing me. I will never be the same. I can only wish that it will make me a better man and a better dad. I hope to appreciate the little things much more after all this. Because, in the whole scheme of things… those little things that we worry about don’t really matter. These dreams and aspirations that I have are very shallow in the oceans of reality… family… and life. 

I don’t remember my dad’s college degrees or his trophies. I don’t think about his salary or the things that he acquired. I remember the times on his knee and the times we embraced. I remember his caring conversations and his cards filled with love. I remember the joy in his eyes when he saw his grandkids and the days when he taught me how to shoot. I remember Cub Scout projects and shadowing him at his job. I remember tough love and his tears the day my mom died. I remember his passion for politics and his loyalty to friends. I remember the love that he had for me…

I know that he loved me. More than life. More than anything else. I know that he loved me. 

And, if he were sitting here right now, I wouldn’t have to say a word for him to know that I loved him too. I would throw my arms around him. I would thank him for never giving up on me. I would honor him… because that is what he would deserve. 

So, with these words I try to heal. It will take time, but I am not in a hurry. I openly embrace the tears and don’t try to swallow them back. I choose to take time to sit and remember and mourn.

I am reminded of the Jewish tradition of “Sitting Shivah”. This is a 7 day period where the mourners fulfill two main purposes. First, it is about honoring the dead. Secondly, it is about helping the mourner deal with their loss. I guess this writing is sort of my way of “Sitting Shivah” and by you being part of it, you are choosing to sit here with me. 

I am so honored to have you on this journey with me. Thank you for sitting with me. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your kind words. I am so glad that I don’t have to sit alone. 

Blessings!

GP

Books I Read in 2014

One goal I had last year was to read more in a balanced fashion. I wanted to expand the number of books and the different kinds of books I read. I wanted nonfiction, fiction, educational and some just for fun. I’m pretty happy with the reading list from this past year. With 32 books completed, 2014 was a good one!

Some books I loved and others I hated. I will read some over and over again and there are others that I will never look at again. That’s the beauty of books.

My highlight this year was Leo Tolstoy. I had never read his books before… but I loved the stories of his that I read. He will definitely make my 2015 list too.

My biggest disappointment was Kerouac’s “Big Sur”. I am a fan of Jack… but this book wasn’t my cup of tea.

Here’s the list… from Jan. to Dec. 2014. Click the book to find it on Amazon and check it out yourself. Keep reading and don’t ever forget this quote:

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by: George Marsden

On Church Leadership by: Mark Driscoll

Big Sur by: Jack Kerouac

As a Man Thinketh by: James Allen

The Man Who Could Do No Wrong by: Charles Blair

Green Hills of Africa by: Ernest Hemingway

Four Blood Moons by: John Hagee

Who’s Holding Your Ladder by: Samuel Chand

The Renegade Pastor by: Nelson Searcy

Visioneering by: Andy Stanley

Take Time for Your Life by: Cheryl Richardson

Quitter by: Jon Acuff

The Secret Life of a Fool by: Andrew Palau

The Starbuck’s Experience by: Joseph Michelli

SEO Blackbook by: R.L. Adams

Think Big and Kick A** by: Donald Trump

How to Make People Like You in 90 Minutes or Less by: Nicholas Boothman

The Chris Farley Show by: Tom Farley Jr.

Heaven is For Real by: Todd Burpo

Generous Justice by: Timothy Keller

Pagan Christianity by: Frank Viola

Tactics by: Gregory Koukl

1984 by: George Orwell

Spiritual Leadership by: J. Oswald Sanders

Animal Farm by: George Orwell

What is Reformed Theology by: R.C.Sproul

Romans 1-7 for You by: Timothy Keller

How Much Land Does a Man Need by: Leo Tolstoy

Where Love is, There God is Also by: Leo Tolstoy

The Hobbit by: J.R.R. Tolkein

Food – a Love Story by: Jim Gaffigan

Fusion – Turning 1st Time Guests into Fully Engaged Members of Your Church by: Nelson Searcy

Don’t give up on reading. Start today and don’t be afraid to put a book down if you aren’t enjoying it. Don’t let a dud stop you from reading this year. There are plenty to pick from!

GP

Ernest P. Worrell and the Holy Ghost

When I hear the word “earnest” I think of Jim Varney going to camp in that classic 90’s comedy.
Eeeewwwwww.

But, when I stumbled across it in the book of Ephesians from the Bible, I had a hunch I was looking at something very important to me. The word appears in the 14th verse in the 1st chapter of a letter written from the Apostle Paul to believers in the city of Ephesus. Here is what I read:

“In whom ye also trusted after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

The Holy Spirit.

He who keeps Christians debating and unbelievers confused.

The Holy Ghost.

Debated. Loved. Feared. 

We all may have our preconceived ideas on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but when we open the Bible… we get a clear picture of His role. When we take all the scriptures that we find, they become a tapestry that weaves together and gives us a clearer picture of what our lives should look like.

Here are a couple nuggets:

Vs. 13: “…after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

This is something that happened AFTER they believed and put their faith in Jesus.

The Holy Spirit “sealed” the new believer.

This word literally meant to “set a seal upon” or “to mark a thing”. (See Strongs #4972) The Greek word is “sphragizo” and is linked to the idea of using a signet ring or other instrument to stamp in order to show ownership.

Interesting Fact: This sealing is said to have sometimes been done in antiquity by the use of religious tattoos.

So, we see that as believers we are “sealed” with the Holy Spirit. However, when we follow that into verse 14 we gain an even greater depth of understanding to what that really means:

“…(The Holy Spirit) which is the earnest of our inheritance…” Ephesians 1:14a

The word “earnest” here is “the downpayment” or “the money pledged until the full payment can be made”. In other words, Jesus tells us that He will be returning and that He is leaving something (or Someone) with us until His return. This understanding brings Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 14:15-18 into a clearer understanding.

He is our downpayment. Jesus is sure to return and He wanted us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit until His return. He tells us in John 14:18 that He won’t leave us as orphans. No matter how alone you may feel today, you are not. Jesus has given you the Holy Spirit.

So, how does this scripture affect our lives? What can we apply to our life today because of it?

1. As a Christian, you are NEVER alone. No matter how you feel, it is important to remind yourself that the Holy Spirit is there. Call on Him to help you in your times of questioning or loneliness or fear.

2. Look at the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5. This is the production of the Spirit’s work in our lives. Measure your life to this list and pray for this “fruit” to be evident in your life.

3. Jesus is coming soon. Revelation 22:7. Don’t forget it. The Holy Spirit is but a deposit for that which is to come.

Be encouraged today and strive to embrace the Holy Spirit and all that He has for you!

Until next time… love God and love others and live your life to the fullest!

GP

Simplicity, a Song and New Life

Simplicity.

Face it… we need it in our lives. I love simple things because they help me focus in and look at what is really important. I find myself continually being tugged in a million different directions and this can cause me to not focus on the deeper things of life. Simplicity allows me to do just that… get deeper.

When I find someone or something that allows a greater simplicity to be cultivated in my spiritual life, I am overwhelmed with joy. I need a simple faith to rise in me each and ever day. Being a spiritual leader, it’s important that we don’t forsake “simple faith” for “weighty issues” that can distract us and even pull us away from Jesus… our “first love”.

Will Reagan Banks House

So, this is my song of simplicity today. There’s not much to it… but there is SO MUCH to it also. Take a listen. Close your eyes. Let the words become your words. Let your heart connect with God. Ask the question… “If I give it all to you, will you make it all new.”

His whisper today is simply this… “Yes”. (2 Cor. 5:17)

“If I give it all to you will You make it all new?”
“If I open up my hands will You fill them again?”

…yes…

——————-
Books by GP Hintz: “Porn Again“, “Facebook Jesus” and “THE BEST: a life manifesto