Never Forget: Recalling 9.11.2001

Like you, I remember that day and the days that followed immediately afterward. It’s an impossible time to forget. The memories are etched in my mind.

At the time, I was the General Manager of the Babe’s Chicken Dinner House in Roanoke, Texas, a role I had been promoted to a little over a year earlier. Traditionally a dinner-only restaurant, we had just begun serving lunch earlier that Spring. We were blessed to have a superb staff, tightly-knit, who loved and cared about one another. We had the best customers in the world. They came from all over the globe. We served everyday people and celebrities. I had met the love of my life. I had begun building a new house. Life was good.

That morning, when the planes hit the Twin Towers, the world changed. Going forward, none of our lives would ever be the same. The normally bustling skies above us were suddenly silent. The streets, typically jammed with traffic, lay still. Overwhelmed with shock, words failed us. Our emotions were a giant, jumbled mess. We didn’t know what to feel or if we could feel at all.

Uncomfortable Numbness overwhelmed us.

A sea of employees, friends & family,  local townsfolk, government officials, the famous and not famous, and ordinary passers-by gathered in front of our store. We huddled in a circle and prayed, standing as one. We sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘America the Beautiful.’ For the longest time, we stood silently, holding hands. We hugged. We cried. We grieved.

Our lives were shattered, but our spirit remained unbroken. Determined to dust ourselves off and go on, we didn’t want hate or fear to rule the remainder of our days. Amid our differences, we stood united, firm in our belief that America was the greatest country on the planet. Land of the free, home of the Brave. We agreed that evil and terror should not win. It would not. It could not. We mourned the lives lost and grieved for the families they had left behind.

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Then, as the days passed, we pressed on. We moved forward. Changed, yet filled with a hope of better days ahead, vowing to never forget the day that broke our hearts but bolstered our spirit.

Never forget. 9.11.2001

Don’t Just Talk the Talk; Walk It.

Men and Women of God: never discount the impact you have on others. You have no idea who you are influencing. My own firsthand experience has repeatedly taught me that this is true. Model godly behavior, so others can learn to do the same. Don’t just talk the talk; walk it. Let Christ shine through the way you live, love, and laugh. Yes, it takes practice. And no, you won’t ever be holier than the holiest of holies. This world desperately needs you (and me) to stand up and show them Jesus, not just through the words we speak, but through the actions we take. How can they know Jesus without us showing them who He is and how He makes our lives different? You may be the only Bible someone reads. As a friend of mine would always say, “Guard your witness closely.”

Romans 10:14-17 The Message (MSG)

But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,

A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
    telling all the good things of God!

But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.

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I Hate Rejection!

I hate rejection. Rejection sucks. Even though I’ve been rejected more than I care to remember in my life, every time it happens it’s like someone rips my heart out of my chest. It’s not that nothing good happens between rejections. Truth be told, a lot of wonderful things happen. I’ve had more successes than failures. Rejections remind you that you’re alive and willing to try new things. It still blows though. Nobody likes to be turned down.

My recent bout with rejection stems from being on an extensive job search for my next career opportunity. It’s funny what your mind tells your inner you when you get rejected. You better have plenty of positive mantras stored up to respond to all the bullshit lies your own brain spits at you. Maybe it’s your ID or your EGO that’s hurt and offended? Or maybe it’s even my SUPER-EGO? How dare they didn’t hire me? What are they thinking? You loser. Nobody likes coming in second. Do they?

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Rejection fosters resilience and nurtures perseverance. Even when I was a kid studying classical piano, I hated coming in second. I strived for first, even though I didn’t always get it. By the time I was a junior in high school I had opportunities to study at Berklee College of Music, Julliard, and Oberlin. At the end of my junior year I had earned honorable mention in an international piano recording competition. Honorable mention? You might as well not have mentioned me at all, I recall thinking. Turned out that the Lord had other plans. I certainly can’t play like I did back then now. But I keep trying. 

Rejection sucks. After I spent some time in radio and tv broadcasting I learned some more about rejection, as if my first Valentine (a girl named Sandy)  turning me down in 2nd grade wasn’t sad enough. I put together audition tapes, only to have someone else get the job, or not even warrant a call-back (that’s when employers used to call instead of reject you via email or text). Those were the days.

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Certainly, as an aspiring writer, I have had my share of rejection. Almost published doesn’t count for much. Getting published in a newsletter or on an online site doesn’t quite compare to writing the Great American Novel. No sir. 

Spending nearly 25 years in the food business, I faced rejection daily. Every shift provided the potential for rejection. What if the food wasn’t perfect tonight? What if somebody had a bad dining experience? What if people didn’t come back? What if nobody shows up to eat tonight? In the restaurant business you earn your stripes every single shift. You’re literally only as good as your last meal served. It doesn’t matter if you served 1000 meals well on Saturday night. When you open the doors Tuesday evening with a loud whimper and resounding thud, the high from Saturday dissipates quickly. You go from hero to hell-hole in a hurry. The experience that went sour dampens previous glory. Keep in mind, for a good chunk of that 25 years, I ran an iconic, world-renowned Texas restaurant. Yet there was never time to rest on our laurels. For every Saturday night that had crowds standing three deep and snaked around the corner, came a Tuesday night marked with tumbleweeds blowing down Oak Street. Who cares if you were featured in Southern Living Magazine last month or that you were named Best of Fort Worth consecutive years running. That was then. This is now. Sick, right?

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I don’ think the team that lost the Super Bowl feels any better than the team that finished last in the league. Do you really think Tiger Woods is happy that he’s improving his game even though he’s no longer winning like he once did? I bet not. As great a player as he may be, Bron-Bron ain’t happy losing to the Golden State Warriors. I promise you that.

But rejection isn’t all bad.

Rejection has a way of making you more determined to succeed. You bounce back up. You get back in the saddle. You press on. Rejection builds your resilience and perseverance.

I’ve spent a good deal of the Spring job-hunting, hoping to find the next big thing God wants me to do. One recent search led to my being selected to the final round of six candidates, out of 400+ vying for the job. Then there were four. Then only two. Everything in the process went well. My interviews sparked chemistry. My assigned project was an immense success. On Sunday morning I was hopeful. But, Tuesday they informed me that they offered the gig to one of the other candidates. Disappointed? Yes. Dejected? Sure.

There are no good feelings about not getting the job. But, I’m not defeated. I’ll brush myself off just like I did when I learned how to ride a bike and pedal forward.

How about you?

Blessings.

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