Trusting in the Father through suffering is essential. He doesn’t spare me from suffering, but He does sustain me.
My family of origin wasn’t in a covered wagon in the early 1980’s obviously, but the family was a gold rush sized family with four boys in tow. I suppose dad found out about the job through some sort of churches looking for ministers kind of list. Hoxie, Kansas became the new home, but the church failed to inform my parents they only had enough money to pay him for a year. I did accept Jesus as LORD, and my dad baptized me in that little baptistry in the church building. I was ten-years-old.
The nightmares began too, and so did my journey with clinical depression. I didn’t realize my lifelong struggle with depression was beginning because hindsight is 20/20, but as I reflect back on it that’s exactly what was happening. The nightmare was a vivid dream where I was in a NYC prison camp required to build the Statue of Liberty from the waist down, and Lady Liberty was anchored in sand on the island. She was not resting on scaffolding. My crew had to lift her bust while another crew built from the waist down. The nightmare started the second year in Kansas, and along with my bed wetting it made for a terrible time I remember thirty plus years later.
I don’t know why the church “leaders” weren’t forthcoming about their finances, but you don’t bring an entire family, a big family, out to the middle of nowhere to encounter Dust Bowl poverty. Dad spent an entire year looking for work, and he was gone a lot. We weren’t used to that except for the time in Guam when he had to come back to the States to fundraise. That’s not to say there weren’t good memories in Kansas, but you know how the negative overshadows the positive.
There was a little white garage behind the parsonage, and there was a basketball goal mounted to the front side of it, and the dirt/gravel driveway was a good place to play three on three. I remember shooting the rock with Joel and his friends in that driveway. In the winter time snows were huge, and just beyond that basketball hoop was a swing set and grape vines that anchored a very tall snow drift. I don’t know how many inches of snow fell in a given winter, but we needed Napoleon Dynamite snow boots to navigate it, and Jeremy had a precious snow suit that enveloped him from head to toe. His little nose and cheeks were red from the single digit weather that blew in across those Kansas plains.
In warmer weather we went out to the big field behind the swing set to play with our neighbor Russell who punted for the high school football team. He had to have started because I swear that guy could boot it fifty yards. He had an authentic Army tent too where he’d camp out with a friend in the summer. His dad Red owned the Seven-Eleven type of store next door, and we spent countless hours with dad playing Ms. Pac-Man.
At school I was Tom Turkey in the third grade, and I learned to play chess in the fourth. And everybody in Kansas loves to watch The Wizard of Oz. I’m just kidding, but I do own that movie. Come over sometime, and we’ll watch it. I’ve got a great Vizio soundbar. Somewhere Over the Rainbow rocks. I digress.
Those first two sentences in this post are so true. Even in the midst of pain God is not absent. Brokenness is a theme all too familiar to all of us. It does seem it takes ten positives to overcome one negative, and I can only ascertain from that reality that it’s because our good good Father allows Satan and his agenda to drive forth the broken things of this world. Out of all the good that’s happened in the last thirty years I’m still remembering the deceit one church practiced against a minister’s family. But then I pause to remember the eternal good the murder of Jesus produced for all mankind. His resurrection is the reason I type out these words. It’s the reason my parents to this day continue to advance the message of the kingdom, and it’s the reason my brothers, our families and many others do not give up on the church. It looks different, but Jesus continues to be glorified.
It’s sometimes easier to overlook the forest for the trees, but when the trees come crashing down you have to clear them out of the way. That’s easier written than done.
Prayer without a doubt factored into my parents ordeal in Kansas. As devoted followers of Jesus there was never a time we didn’t pray. Storms always come, but when a person is connected to God, even with a mustard seed of faith, he or she can move mountains. God cared for my family of origin during that year, and even though I clearly remember that terrible nightmare to this day hope lives through my clinical depression.
Sometimes we think we aren’t going to survive, but how many times in that mindsight have we seen times of great abundance? I’m not talking about money, though that can be a factor. I’m writing about the wealth that surpasses money in relationships with others. Satan doesn’t want us to forgive those who hurt us. He wants us to seek revenge. I don’t want to count the number of times I’ve done that. The Godfather is my favorite trilogy, but they make for a terrible Bible. Evil is evil no matter how it’s presented. We’ve been desensitized by Satan as he speaks lies through whomever is willing to propagate those false messages. He uses our own families, churches, businesses, schools, governments and nations to push his agenda, but when we stand before the Creator we will be responsible for our own lives. What will we say? None of us is sinless, but He’s called us to live pure and surrendered lives to His perfect love. I’m pretty sure I’ve already sinned this morning, but my love for the Savior compels me to repent time after time, and he forgives me every time because of the blood of Christ. Thank you Jesus.
People will lie about you. They will lie to you. If you really make them mad they’ll murder you. Jesus has never done any of those things to me. He loves me continually every moment of every day through good and bad times. He’s always done that, and he always will. His Holy Spirit empowers me to change my thinking, so that my behavior becomes more Christlike. When that happens I become the aroma of Christ, and others will want to smell more of that aroma. Who I am when bad things happen is who I really am. I don’t have a good track record there, but it’s never too late to be who God is calling you to be.
Jesus unabashedly saved the criminal on the cross in his last moments. May we never forget that incredible salvation story that speaks 2,000 years later. If you’ve got breath in your lungs God can do the impossible. People will write you off because you pissed them off for whatever reason, but our Father in his pure essence is unconditional love. There’s nothing you can do or not do that will change his love for you. Conditional clauses are rampant here. You don’t even have to pull out an attorney’s document to see or experience conditional clauses. Their rooted right under our own roofs. They steal joy day after day because they are rooted in have-to’s. Get-to’s change the whole trajectory. I get to have a relationship with my LORD and Savior Jesus Christ because he initiated it and sustains it. I get to have a deep relationship with my wife Carey because we are united in Christ. I can become a better dad to Chloe because Christ is modeling me into a better dad for her.
The past no longer has to define me because God’s power is greater than any weakness I have. Including depression. I can rejoice even when I grieve with Carey in the chronic pain her dad David’s death causes by the minute. We’re angry that God said no to healing David, but that’s ok because the Father is more than able to take our anger. It’s called love, and he grieves with us because he loves us. I don’t know how that works, and even though we’ve balled our eyes out just about every day since November it doesn’t matter because one day he’ll dry every tear, and death will be no more. Death sucks. Thanks a lot Adam and Eve.
It never fails that when I write about my dear David I cry like a baby. Yesterday was hell on earth for Carey because it was her first Father’s Day without her dad. David if you’re reading this we love you more than you can imagine, and our grief is raw without you, but we know we are in the presence of an Abba Father who is near our tears, and the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Grant us peace and comfort.
Everyone grieves and journeys through storms differently. Some write about it. Some retreat into a proverbial cave. Some put it to poetry and music and others workout. When you walk with others through death and storms don’t place any demands on them. Practice the ministry of presence, and pray God’s presence infuse them with love, comfort and power to move. Adjusting to the absence of someone even if they had been in the hospital for months is the hardest thing any human being goes through. Respond appropriately.
My memoir has always been an interesting project. I guess it mirrors my life. Literally but I mean it mirrors it in the fact that I can’t count the number of times I’ve begun, trashed and begun it again. I’m content now to blog it because I want to tell my story. I’ve wanted to tell it for many years.
Dad found a job in the San Joaquin Valley south of Fresno and north of Visalia in a little town called Dinuba. According to my friend Shiloh Dinuba went down hill, and now it’s a hot spot for drug and gang activity. Growing up there it was a great place to raise a family, and the foothills and fruit farms combined with the beautiful sunshine made for an amazing place to live.
I’ll tell you more about my experience in California in my next post. I hope you all are staying well. Wear a mask when you go out in public. COVID-19 could spike a second time, and it’s essential we protect ourselves and others by wearing masks in public and washing our hands frequently.