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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Open Letter to some heroes...

*As I write this letter, it is painfully obvious to me that the best years of this current edition my beloved Phillies have come and gone. The greatest 10-12 years of this team's history are coming to a rapid close. The rumors are growing louder and it's obvious that this team will not be together in it's current rendition, for many more weeks. This team means the world to me and most of my regular readers know why. I was going to write this letter by hand and hope that I could somehow get it to the men I wrote it to. But by the time they got it through the various channels, they'd be gone. Social media has shrunk the world and I realized this is the best way to say these important things and have a shot at these guys seeing it. Perhaps too, there are some Phillie fans who will read this and join in the sentiment. So here goes...

                                                                    An Open Letter to
                                    Ryan Howard, Kyle Kendrick, Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins,
                                                         Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels.

“The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things...”
Maybe this is a foolish task. Maybe this letter is an overwrought, and unnecessary gesture in this day and age. But I’m old school, and I believe in telling people that you care about, how much you care about them while you still can.
     It’s sad for me to say, but I realize that by the time I get home to Philly again, and make a trip to Citizens Bank Park, some, or even most of you guys will be gone. Traded away to other teams, wearing someone else’s uniform, carrying the hopes of some new city on your shoulders. So I wanted to say this now, while you’re all still Phillies. Because in my heart you will always be Phillies, and the Phillies...particularly this version we’ve had for the last 12 years or so...mean more to me than just another baseball team. 2008 wasn’t merely a World Series win. Not to me.
     I’m sure that by this stage of your careers, you have come to realize how much people love you and what you represent. You embody the dreams of little boys and the memories of their dads and grandfathers. They dream of being like you one day, or remember when they were a little like you in their past. They love you. The Phillies have had hundreds and hundreds of men come and go through their history, but few will ever be as beloved as you guys, or as endearing. You’ve brought smiles, ignited passion, rejuvenated the city and given us all reasons to walk with our chest out, and with a little more pride in our step.
And, in my case, maybe you saved a life.
     I know none of you guys will ever forget October 29, 2008. You can probably close your eyes and feel the cold of that night, the roar of the crowd, the dazzling brilliance of the fireworks and the flashbulbs popping and the unbelievable feeling of being a champion. No matter where you go, from that night until eternity, you’ll never forget it.
Neither will I.
     I wasn’t in Philadelphia that night. I wasn’t in a warm house watching the game on TV. I wasn’t huddled around a radio in a garage, like I used to do when I was a little boy, growing up about 15 miles from  Veterans Stadium. I was zipped into a couple of sleeping bags, laying down in the front seat of my beat-up Volvo 850, hidden in some brush and overgrowth behind a church in Nashville, TN.  I was homeless.
     Earlier that year I had lost my job. I was a ten year veteran of the mortgage industry and I had done well for myself, and my daughter. I am a single dad and her mom and I split custody. In 2007 I lost my home when the business started to falter. I rented for a year and in May 2008, when the company I worked for folded, I couldn’t renew my lease and I was homeless. Just like that.
     By that October I was a broken man. I was ashamed, embarrassed, defeated, and, worst of all, I was hopeless. I had no idea how I would rebuild my life, and I had nothing to look to and say “This is going well. This will get me back on my feet.”  That’s where I was when you were beating the Rays that cold, nasty Wednesday night in late October, 6 years ago.
     More than anything...I was lonely. I was homesick. No matter where I have gone or will go in this world, Philly is my home, and the Phillies are my team. In the months leading up to that October night, I was as lonely as I’ve ever been. Everyone I loved, and who loved me, with the exception of my daughter, was back there in my hometown, and with each day of defeat, I felt like I was taking another step further from them.
     That’s how it felt for me, that night you became World Champions. I was listening to the game on my car radio. Listening to the roar. Listening to the play by play. Wishing I was there. I was remembering when I was little and dreamed of playing baseball one day. Playing for the Phillies. Playing for my hometown, like you do now.
     When the game was over, I cried like a baby. For a few minutes, maybe a few hours, I wasn’t hopeless. I wasn’t broken or defeated. I wasn’t a homeless loser, sleeping in my car and trying to find work. I was a Philadelphian. And we were winners.
     These past six years as I’ve rebuilt my life, you guys have given me so much to be proud of. So much to hope in. So many reasons to believe. When things were hard, and days were long, I could always find the occasional Sunday night game on the radio when you were playing, and just for a while I’d be home. At Citizen’s Bank Park. Watching my Phillies. I could feel the seats, taste the hot dogs, hear the crack of the bat. I walked with pride.
     These past six years, as you men have written the greatest chapter in Phillies Baseball history, I was working on new chapters of my own life. I went back to school and completed the final two years of my bachelors degree online. In May, 2012 I graduated from Liberty University. I’ve written five books. I started a carpentry business. It was a tough road. Three times over those six years, I found jobs, and then the companies that hired me shut their doors and I was out of work again. But I endured. I stayed with my daughter instead of relocating to a place where I could find work. In the past six years, I have been homeless four and a half of them.
     A month ago, my daughter and I moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, where I have a job opportunity with my alma mater. I am excited. I am hopeful. I have a nice townhouse here, and I have been busy and working and it’s great to feel like a success again. A chapter of my life is closed now. A chapter that brought pain, and sadness, but with those hardships also came amazing lessons, and the thrill of discovering something I love and am good at.
     It’s no mistake, I believe, that my long path was book-ended by this team you play on, and by the best years of your careers. You were there for me –without even knowing me- when I was at my worst. And now, as my life has taken flight again, your time to fly is upon us too.
     I don’t know which of you guys will be staying or which will be gone. Maybe some, maybe none, maybe all. But I wanted to tell you my story while you were all still there together. Still wearing that uniform. Still Phillies.  I wanted you to know about that dreary night, and the dreariness of my life back then, and how you punched a hole in the darkness I was trapped in and gave me hope and pride from 800 miles away. I wanted you to know that what you do is so much more than play baseball. So much more than a game. I know you’ll never forget that season, or winning that championship, or the way this city has loved you. But I hope that now, in addition to those memories, you’ll also remember that on one magnificent night, you were winning more than a World Series. You were keeping a lonely, broken dad, alive, and giving him the hope to fight another day. And he did.
And finally...he won.
Ryan, Chase, Jimmy, Chooch, Cole, Kyle...thank you. Thank you for giving us all your very best. Believe me when I tell you, no matter where you go in this world...’ll always be Phillies.

Sincerely yours,

Craig Daliessio
Lynchburg, Virginia
June 8, 2014

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Calling out Your Name...When God Shakes our World

Before we begin, give this a watch...

Rich Mullins...Calling out your Name

From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever till you see
What time may never know
What time may never know

How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
To run wild with the hope

The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
And I feel thunder in the sky, I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

And I know this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
And I feel thunder in the sky, I see the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name

I was sitting here thinking about the path my life has taken these last 7 years. Thinking about how none of it made any sense at all, until I got here to Lynchburg, found myself in the application process for a job with my alma mater, (something I would never have even dreamed about) and felt the amazing, loving touch of people who have done whatever they could to make our move here work.
I remembered this verse from one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs. I remember hearing this for the first time and being so moved emotionally at the beauty of that intro on the hammered dulcimer. It was so beautiful, in fact, that a few years later, my (ex) wife and I used it as her wedding processional. It was an evening, candlelight wedding and that dulcimer intro –looped so it was of sufficient duration- was stunning.
I remember hearing this song, years before,  in 1993 and hearing that one stanza...

From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever till you see
What time may never know
What time may never know

How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
To run wild with the hope

Those haunting words... “How the Lord takes by it’s corners, this old world, and shakes us forward and shakes us free...” I knew what Rich meant. He wasn’t talking about "the world"...not the globe we sit on. He was talking about our world. Yours and mine. The plans we plan, and the dreams we dream, and the nice tidy way we fit it all into a box of our own making, never realizing that, at times, that box becomes a prison. Our dreams get chained to the wall of life by the urgency of responsibility, the consequence of choices –good and bad- and the daily grind of trying to make it in this world.
We can become very comfortable in the midst of this discomfort, and we find ourselves sacrificing those dreams and visions for the staid, bland existence of merely surviving.
We find ourselves alive...but not really alive.
I look back on the seven years since I lost my beloved home, and the six years of alternately living in my car and I see how God was shaking me forward in order to shake me free. At no point in time did God not know that I was heading to Lynchburg, VA with my daughter. But at no time...until about a month ago...did I  know this.
Another of Mullins’ great songs says “And step by step He leads me. And I will follow Him all of my days.”  Step by step. Most of the time, for most of His children, each step is hard, scary, terrifying in fact, and often painful. But in the Christian life, the destination is’s always something you must be prepared for.  You don’t just wake up one morning and find yourself in the perfect place with the perfect assigned task, having never been forged in the furnace of doubt, fear, failure, resilience, and finally remade into the perfect man or woman for the job. David was being prepared for the throne as he tended sheep. Moses had his desert wandering. Even Jesus spent time in preparation for the most important 42 months of any life ever lived.
I still don’t know the fine points of what God has planned for me but I do know that he has shaken me and my daughter forward. And free.
I see tiny signs that we are beginning to “run wild with the hope...”
In my heart I hear the thunder in the sky, I see the sky is about to rain,
and this dry, desolate prairie in my soul is beginning to Call out His Name.
Don’t fear the shaking forward. We are always being shaken forward toward who and what we were meant to be.
That gives me hope.