Pick Up My Bike and Walk Home

I grew up like everyone else; riding bikes, playing in the yard, and committing hours to videos games. First, there was Strikeout for the Atari and then The Legend of Zelda for Nintendo. My interest in video games only grew as I did and some of the most fond memories I have with my father are when we played video games together.

Playing video games was one thing we both enjoyed doing. If I ever got stuck on a part, I could count on my dad to bail me out. We would rent video games from the local movie rental store, play it over the course of a weekend and then return it, to not incur a late fee. Such was life growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Looking back, I now realize, we didn’t have a lot of money. My parents did the best they could to provide for my older sister, two younger brothers, and me. My dad went to school in the evenings to get his heating and air conditioning certification, to give us a better life.

We bounced around a lot. Every 18 months or so we moved houses and weren’t able to gain much stability in one place. We never owned a home, so we were forced to rent and when that would go south, we’d have to move again.

Luckily, we never moved too far away from the previous place so I was able to make some pretty close friends. These friends were my life. We did everything together. We played baseball, played at the park, stayed the night at each others houses and rode bikes together, attempting to make the greatest ramps ever.

One particular night we were out riding bikes and set up a ramp in a rocky alley a couple of house down from mine. My friends and I had found a couple of cinderblocks and an old sheet of plywood. We spent the next hour seeing who could jump their bikes the highest and furthest. It was a ton of fun.

The further and further we landed the more we wanted to attempt longer, faster runs. The adrenaline was intoxicating. On what would be my last approach for the evening, I got as far down the alley as I possibly could and I geared up for what promised to be the farthest jump of the night. As I started to pedal my bike, I began to pump my legs as fast as I could. I began to stand up so that I could propel myself faster and faster down the alley.

As I made contact with the plywood something started to give. All of the sudden, I hear wood cracking and the board began to buckle in the middle. As I jumped, my front tire hit the top cinderblock, followed by my back tire. As I careened through the air, my bike began to tilt forward more than normal and I couldn’t avoid hitting a large rock with my front tire which slammed me into my handlebars and quickly to the ground. I was in excruciating pain. My friends rushed over to pick me up and helped me hobble home. I knew my dad would most definitely be waiting to tell me that I should have been more careful.

Dad wasn’t always the most sympathetic person in the world, but I knew he loved me. I wanted to be like him. I strived in every way to make him proud of me. It was almost as if the only way he could love me is if I earned it. I made good grades in school, because I didn’t want to disappoint my dad.

I spent many hours working on projects around our houses with my dad. We spent time working on Betsy, his blue Chevy pickup I mentioned in an earlier post. I loved being around him. And from what I can remember, he loved being around me, except when it came to my baseball games.

Sports didn’t interest my dad. I think he felt like they were a waste of time. But, I was actually one of the best players on my team. I was a utility player that could play every position on the field. My favorite position though, was shortstop. I loved to dive for the ball, corral it, and throw the ball to first to beat the runner. I remember constantly looking in the stands, hoping to find my dad next to my mom. Baseball just wasn’t his thing. But, I didn’t hold it against him because we always had video games.

That was my life for the first 11 years. It’s all I knew. It seemed normal enough. Nothing out of the ordinary. And then, one day when I got home from school, it all changed. My dad was arrested, taken to jail, and I had no idea when he might be back. It was as if life were being pedaled as fast as I could make it go and then, without warning, the security and everything I knew began to crumble. Life sent me careening through the air, leaving me in a pile of rocks in the middle of the alley. Only this time, my friends were not around to help me home. My dad wasn’t waiting there to be sympathetic, empathetic, or even just to tell me to walk it off. No, life had left me beaten, broken, and alone.

I became angry, pointing blame, and unable to accept the fact that life without my dad in my life was my new normal. No, our life wasn’t perfect before, however, at least it was stable. Now life was, in a sense, suspended in the air looking like it was heading towards a disastrous end.

I looked for support and stability in many people. As I said in My Story, I looked for acceptance and influence in any relationships with guys that were older, to be a part of what seemed to be a family. Gang members, men my mom dated, and even my uncles were men from whom to gain acceptance. I just wanted to be accepted into manhood and know how to navigate it. God kept me from a lot of roads I could have taken because of the influences in my life.

I had to get up off the alley, dust myself off, pick up my life, and trudge home. This journey home took 4 or 5 years. That’s how long it took me to find myself, engulfed in a relationship with Jesus.

It wasn’t easy to accept God as my Heavenly Father. The things I had to look forward to with my dad were just the things that interested him. If this Heavenly Father is anything like my earthly father then I’d rather just do my thing and catch Him when we find a common interest.

Learning that God wasn’t self-centered and that He genuinely wanted to be in my life took a long time to learn. I learned He cares about what I care about and I don’t have to meet some sort of standard to be accepted by Him. God accepts me as I am. Yes, God wants to mold me and shape me to be a better version of myself, however I don’t have to be “good” to be forgiven.

God does lead, correct, and discipline. It is not out of a self-centeredness, but out of a genuine love for us. He desires to draw us near. When we come home, He is sympathetic. He takes us in His arms and bandages our wounds. God tells us it’s going to be ok and that we are not alone. If we need to walk it off, God is right there with us.

When I came to the Heavenly Father, I learned He saw the whole thing; my life careening out of control, the crash, the loneliness, the tears, the brokenness. He wrapped me in His arms and let me know that He was everything I needed and everything I had looked for. Jesus accepted me and gave me confidence in who God created me to be. God is constantly there to build us up and to encourage us along the way.

I have learned to trust that my Heavenly Father loves me no matter what I have done or will do. He loved me before I even existed and nothing I do can change how He feels about me. I will always find acceptance, forgiveness, and identity in God. Because of God, I know what I great Father is.

Sign up to be email friends!


Strength of the Fatherless

I have a ton of insecurities. I may be the most insecure person you will ever meet. There, I said it. I feel a lot better…kind of, unless you think less of me, which then I take it all back. But, I can’t take it back. I hope I don’t disappoint you. What are you thinking of me? Does one conversation change how you feel about me? And so, my mind plays tricks on me and these questions are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are seasons that I feel like I am on top of the world. Everything I am striving for, every conversation I have, and every relationship I am in is catapulting towards bliss. In those moments, I feel so strong, so secure. I feel like I have finally overcome the insecurities that weigh me down. It feels like I’ve gone ten rounds, and come out on top against my biggest opponent, my inner voice.

No I am not schizophrenic, at least that’s what the voice tells me. I’m kidding. My inner voice, thanks to cartoons back in the 80’s I picture an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the opposite, is that part of my conscience that speaks one of two things, life or death. In those seasons, I feel on top of the world, my inner voice is whispering life into my heart and spirit and it is so sustaining. One feels invincible in this season, like he has armor on that nothing can penetrate.

On the flip-side of all of this life-giving strength, there are seasons where it seems as though, because I am not at war, I take my armor off and every little thing that could crush me, does. In these moments, I can’t reign in my thoughts. It seems as though my thoughts are going a million miles a minute and I am repeating every conversation I have had with people over in my head to find out if there is any encouragement that our relationship isn’t on the brink of disaster.

My insecurities push me into a perpetual need to feel others approval. As these seasons get darker and darker, my inner voice, or as Steven Furtick calls it, the Chatterbox, screams darkness as well.

The darkness even over shadows the rays of light to which Alissa, or anyone else, is trying to shine into my heart and spirit. Insecurity is selfish because it takes even the encouraging words and twists them to make you feel less and less human. It is hard to let someone in because it doesn’t feel like they will understand. And if I do let them in, what will they think of me? Will there thoughts be, “Just get over it Sammy. Everybody has these thoughts. Stop wallowing in self-pity and doubt. You are just being too weak.”

Studies show that fatherless people are more apt to be plagued with insecurities than those whom have a father, or father figure in their life. For far too long, fathers have failed to realize the impact they have on the lives of their children. You can also be fatherless and have spent your entire life raised with your dad in the home. If your dad was at home, but not present with you, it’s as if you grew up without him.

I am in no way saying that fatherless people have life any worse than those that grow up with both parents, or that people whom grew up with a father can’t have insecurities. I’m just saying, as a fatherless person, I am more apt to have insecurities. Fathers provide security for their family. This security also leads to him being able to give his kids identity and approval. The confidence in who we are comes from the security, identity, and approval our fathers give us.

Does that give me an excuse to allow my seasons of darkness to control me? Do these studies give me leverage to not overcome and to wallow in self-pity and doubt? What do I do? How do I find strength again?

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, when praying about his weakness and asking God to take it away,

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works

best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about

my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work though me.

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults,

hardships, persecutions, and trouble that I suffer for Christ.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

What a paradox! When I am weak, then I am strong. Our weakness brings meekness. It keeps us humble and in a state of desperation for God to do something better in our lives. Our weakness causes us to depend on God more, because when we feel strong, we tend to lack that need for Him to intervene.

Where this paradox gets me is if God is strong in our weakness, and God’s weakness is stronger than our strength, then my weakness, when submitted to God, is no longer a weakness, but a strength. Let that one soak in. If God is strong in my weakness, my weakness then ultimately becomes my strength.

My weakness isn’t solely found in my insecurities, but stems from my lack of a father in my life. This realization that my weakness is now made strong in Jesus helps me overcome my need for approval, my insecurities. But, I also see how it has made me strong in a couple of other areas of my life.

First, I am more present with my children. My father missed out on the best moments of my life; my wedding, the birth of my children, and graduating college, to name a few. Even when he was still living with us, my dad gave up opportunities to go to my baseball games just because he didn’t want to go. All of these missed opportunities of my father, drive me to want to be there for my kids. I am constantly reassuring them of my love and building on the security, identity, and approval they deserve.

Second, growing up with my mom as the leader of my house, I am sensitive towards other people’s felt needs. I care deeply for those around me and am more nurturing than I would have been had I grown up with my dad. Nurturing wasn’t his strong suit.

As Papa Roach so eloquently put it in their song, “Scars”, from 2004, “My weakness is that I care too much.” HA! Everything reminds me of a song.

I still struggle with insecurities. Most of the time it comes in waves. And the hardest times is when those waves crash into me so rapid, I can’t catch my breath. But, when the waves slow up and I’m able to stand, I have to remind myself of where my security lies (God is my Heavenly Father), where my true identity is found (I’m a child of God), and that God approves of me (He made me). And when I do this, He is made strong.

What about you? What weakness do you have, when submitted to God, you can see how it has become a strength? Leave your story in the comments below or sign up for my email list and let’s chat.

Sign up to be email friends!


Fatherless Father

I spent all of my teenage years fatherless. I do have some memories of moments shared with my dad, but those are few and far between. Vaguely, I can remember some of the times I spent with him learning to fix things around the house, playing video games on Atari and Nintendo, fishing, and going bowling (this was before they had no smoking in public places and you could see a line in the air from the cigarette smoke).

I wish I could say I had all of these grandiose memories and times that I spent learning what it meant to be a man, a father. It was just ripped away from me before we had the chance to get there.

My dad use to be around from time to time, but it wasn’t the same. Now, we don’t even talk. If we do it becomes a blame game about why our relationship is horrible. It’s hard to pick up where we left off. I’m not the same and so it feels like we are two separate people, on two different planets when in fact we are in the same room.

For the last 26 years, it has been hard to be in conversation with people when they talk about how amazing their dad is or tell tales of adventures they have shared. There is a sense of envy, when a friend says they are going to grab lunch with their dad. It hurts deep down when someone tells me that their dad is their best friend.

What’s that like?

What is a father suppose to be in someone’s life?

Here in lies the reason it took me several years, 10 to be exact, to be ready for Alissa and me to have kids. I honestly didn’t know what a father was suppose to be like. What is a father suppose to be? I was a little afraid that since I didn’t have a father present for most of my life, I would mess up as a father myself.

How do you teach a boy to be a man?

How do you treat a girl properly?

What does a dad do for his kids in a way a mom cannot?

To be honest, these are still some of the questions that keep me up at night.

How do I do this fathering thing?

Who can I turn to?

How does the fatherless learn to be a father?

I can’t say that I have learned everything I know on my own, nor that I don’t make mistakes from time to time. I have had some pretty incredible father figures that I have met throughout my life. Seeing how they interact with their kids built confidence that I could do the same. I’ve always known that I’d want to emulate some of those characteristics I see in their relationships.

A wise man isn’t someone who learns only from his own mistakes, but someone who also learns from the mistakes of others.

Ultimately, looking at how God loves us and is our Heavenly Father is the best way for me to learn as I go. There really is no greater example.

So, I’ve jumped into fatherhood with both feet. My son is 5 and my daughter is 2. I’m not perfect. I’m not called to be perfect, just called do the best I can.

I’ve learned to be the father I always wish I had. I try not to take for granted any of the moments I have with both of my kids. Being a dad is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it also the most rewarding. I do my best to put their needs ahead of my own.

I want my kids to learn that I will always be there for them and they can always count on me. My goal is to help them experience life and be adventurous. I want them to see that it is ok for a dad to be soft and kind to them, and to also know I mean business when I correct them. I want to make memories with them that we can talk about for years to come. My kids always know they are not a far away thought from my mind, but that I care deeply for them and would do absolutely anything for them.

I finally understand why God loves me so much and would send Jesus to die for me. Everything that I want for my kids, He wants for me and even more.

How can a fatherless man become an incredible father?

I’m not exactly sure, but I’ll let you know when I get there.

Sign up to be email friends!


This is My Story

Sammy and Ray at home

I come from a broken home.

We had a pretty normal life. I am from a lower-middle class family. We moved often all around the West Tulsa and Sand Springs area. My parents did everything they could to make ends meet.

Looking back, in those moments, life the way we were living it, seemed normal. Nothing out of the ordinary for sure. My dad would take me fishing on occasion or let me help with whatever project he was working on around the house.

I attended, from time to time, a Baptist church in Sand Springs with my aunt. I specifically remember learning about Jesus on a flannel board and then being bored to tears sitting in “big church”. Playing cars and coloring down on the floor beneath the pew was the only way to pass the time. When I finally got to go home, I’d plead with one of my parents to not make me go back.

I occasionally went to Vacation Bible School with my cousin and even got baptized once or twice. Even still, I never fully understood what Christianity was all about.

I was a good kid, excelled in school, and loved life.

Then, something unbelievable happened that turned my world upside down. My dad went to jail.

As an early adolescent, I had a tough time understanding how something like this could happen to our family.

I remember placing blame, not fully understanding the weight of my words on those around me and just being hurt. Words can’t describe the roller coaster of emotions I went through.

In those following months and years, I was pushed into a role that was never meant for a child. There are so many insecurities and identity issues to contend with when you grow up without a father. I left so many opportunities to have amazing experiences on the table because I was too afraid to take the risk. It felt like my responsibility, duty even, was to help raise my brothers and help them navigate life, and to protect them from outside forces.

I looked for acceptance and influence in any relationships with guys that were older, to be a part of what seemed to be a family. I spent about a year hanging out with a couple of teenagers that were a part of a gang on the north side of Tulsa. The acceptance I felt made me want to be a part of this gang. Fortunately, my friends never let me join. Maybe because I was a white boy amidst 20 hispanic boys or they truly knew I didn’t know what I was getting into. All I saw was a family of guys of which I could belong to.

Eventually, mom remarried and we moved nearly an hour away. Most of my teenage years I had a really hard time connecting with my step-dad and step-brothers. Once you become the alpha male of the house, it is very hard to relinquish those reigns. Especially, when you feel you are more fit to lead your siblings than the next guy. I never looked to my step-dad as an actual father figure, but more of a person with whom to coexist.

A teenage life in a blended family. I struggled to figure out how to become a man and find my identity and to fit in this new family. Constantly, I wrestled with protecting and leading my brothers and helping them to become something I had no clue how to become myself, a man.

My parents started going to church because they wanted to “raise us boys right.” I commend them both. It would be hard to handle six boys and raise them to be good men without a community to influence them.

When my parents started going to church, I was 15 yrs old and well capable of taking care of myself and my little brothers. My sister had moved, so I was the oldest of my siblings and step-siblings in the house. I came up with every excuse you can think of to not go to church. I remembered church as this place I’d waste most of my day at for something I didn’t really understand. “Coming down with something” was a regular occurrence…until my parents forced me to go.

I went to this new church my parents had found. I gave my heart to Jesus. It wasn’t an unusual day for the church, just a normal Sunday. For me, however, it was a day that forever change the trajectory of my life. I finally found acceptance. I finally found the love of a father, of which I had never known. Since that day, my life has been on a course to align my hopes and dreams with that of God’s for my life.

The Holy Spirit has helped me break down a lot of the barriers that have kept me from letting people in and has enabled me to become a better version of me everyday. I don’t claim to be perfect or think I will ever reach perfection, but I know that God loves me just the way I am.

Knowing Jesus, fully, has given my life meaning, given me a purpose. I don’t know how I would ever live without Jesus in my life. I am so thankful for the blessings God has given me and the way He always sees me through the difficult times. It’s why I still believe today.

When all seems lost, Jesus is more real to me in those moments then any other.

God has placed some pretty incredible men in my life at just the right time to help me with every aspect of becoming a man, husband, and father. Here is a thank you to Scott Price, Aaron Malusky, Tim Beitzel, Justin Graves, Scott Heckeroth and countless other men whom have and are living their lives as an example for so many young men to emulate. I wouldn’t be who I am without each of you.

Lastly, I am thankful for my Heavenly Father, for showing me a father’s love. Learning that I have to continually lay down my life for my kids has shown me what it means to fully love them.

Sign up to be email friends!