#$#$%#$*&%^#@#$%!

cole

Some days you survive; some days you thrive.

I am thankful to my friend Fred Walker for sharing those lines with me.

I say them quite often. And since joining this most horrible of clubs, I have had far too many opportunities to give that same thought to another parent who has lost a child. (Believe me, one opportunity is far too many)

Some days you survive; some daysyou thrive.

I am not sure what kind of day this is going to be.

I have guitar therapy today which is close to the top of my list of favorite things. I am not very good yet, but I see some progress, however slow. One day I am going to achieve a dream of being able to play and sing for Becki.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? This old dog still has plenty of bark, plenty of bite, and some crazy real new dreams and goals.

I see some success coming in this new life of real estate we are embarking on. It’s not happening nearly as fast as I want it too, but another old friend, Mike Price, taught me another important saying: Yard by yard, it’s too hard; inch by inch, it’s a cinch.

Thanks Mike. I get it even if I don’t really like it.

Since I posted about lying yesterday… Today I got a message from a friend that basically said, It’s funny how, so often, those of us who are in difficult situations spend so much effort trying to keep others from feeling uncomfortable by lying and being fine. 

I am not going to lie. I am not looking for your sympathy. I am not playing you for attention. I am not looking to drive up blog traffic, etc.

But in the interests of authenticity, today, I hurt. I was looking for a picture and found one I was not prepared to see. It hit me like a sucker punch. I never saw it coming.

However, I am headed in to the office with my big boy pants on. I have spent the time I needed crying and screaming at God while I was in the shower.

But, today I hurt. The pain is little bit closer to the surface and it feels like just aother survival day; but I am going to strive to thrive!

Whatever your pain, whatever your game, look for the good in your life today. It is there! Cole would expect no less.

So let me end this little self-pity party with some words from King David I hate with all my heart and yet, I understand and appreciate far better than I want.

O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!

No More Lies!

If you thought I had ranted before….

Remember the old childhood ditty? Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Or maybe you remember the awful little song made from Revelation 21:8? Revelation, Revelation, 21:8, 21:8, liars go to hell, liars go to hell, burn, burn, burn–burn, burn, burn….

I can’t stand to be lied to.

By a child.

By an adult.

By a government official.

And yet, we live in a culture fueled by lies.

This could easily–given my politics–turn into a political rant. I personally despise the lying hypocrisy we get from local, state, and federal government.

But, that’s not what this is about.

Lying.

I hate it.

How many lies are we told everyday by popular media and advertising? Buy this brand toothpaste and your sex life is going to be off the charts!

On a blog about grief, life, faith and finding yourself again, I just had to bring up sex. Bet you didn’t think we’d get there, did you?

But it’s true. Everything you can think of buying gets tied to sex. The other day my twelve year old stepson wanted to watch a movie we rented and deleted twenty minutes later. It was awful.

Really awful, and we were right to refuse him permission to watch.

But he kept asking about it. Finally I said “Do you know what adult situations mean in a movie?” His answer? “Yes, I see the commercials about every 15 minutes when I am watching TV.”

It’s funny… But it’s not. A whole generation of kids have been lied to. They think sex is somehow tied to people sitting outside in separate bath tubs!

Woo Hoo! Bring on the fun!

Don’t get me wrong. No prudes here.

But lying is systemic in our culture. We are so accustomed to it we don’t even get offended, bothered, or even all that surprised when we recognize it for what it is.

I guarantee that everybody reading this blog and everybody who will never read it or even know it exists is a liar.

There I said it. Don’t get defensive. Hold off judgment for just a minute, please.

Maybe you haven’t lied to your spouse today or your boss or neighbor or kids. Good for you. The day is not over yet.

But you will lie to somebody. Most likely to yourself if to no one else.

Here’s my all time favorite self delusion/ lie… “Do I look fat in this?” If you have to ask, you have already lied to yourself and are actively looking for somebody to reinforce the lie by lying back at you.

A little bit too close for comfort? It is for me. But we are working on that.

Whoops. That’s a bit of a lie itself considering we hid two boxes of Girl Scout Tagalongs (the best Girl Scout Cookie ever) in our bedroom and devoured one of them in about ten minutes last night–all while calling the cookies medical stress relief. (Hey Sweetie, can we eat the second box tonight? Please?)

It’s ok to laugh now so get it out of your system because here is where the going gets rough…

Can you guess where the most lies are told every week of every year and have been for longer than most of us could ever imagine? (In my not-so-humble opinion)

Can you guess what the lie is?

Would you believe me if I told you we like both to be lied to and want to tell the lie?

The place is church.

The lie is I’m fine.

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Every Sunday somebody asks how are you doing? And sure, I recognize it is more of a greeting than anything truly about wanting real information–but, in the asking, we expect to hear back I’m fine.

This isn’t just a Sunday phenomenon, but we’ll stay there for the purpose of this blog.

Grieving, hurting, or struggling people–for whatever reason, make us uncomfortable–so for our own little world to be ok, we want to know that others are ok. Even when they are not.

So we lie. We lie to protect others. We lie to protect ourselves.

God help us if we have a stigmatized sin problem–it will be the biggest lie of all. Everybody wants to believe the emperor is wearing new clothes even when it is painfully honest he is not. Nobody wants to acknowledge or be open about the 800 pound Gorilla sitting in the room.

We like church to be sterile, clean, and free of the horror infusing so many of our lives–when it should be the twelve step spiritual, mental, and physical support group for the pain or struggle we so often suffer alone.

Quit lying.

Tell the truth.

Stop being so sanctimonious.

Lay off having such great expectations of your fellow traveler.

Welcome those who hurt.

The next day may be your turn to be comforted, helped, and loved…

Please don’t struggle alone. Find that one person or two or three you can share your deepest and darkest heartache and fear with. They will love you for it and through it. And you? You’ll end up loving yourself more.

Jesus said to love your neighbor like yourself. How can you love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself.

No more lies… It’s the right road to take!

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A Little Bit of Gratitude…

I set the hook in the last post for an article that is not quite written.

So I lied. Unintentionally, but only because I stopped to write what follows.

Weird segue here, so bear with me…

I have no idea if I am posting too often.

I question if my blogs are too long.

I wonder if it’s been a bad post when fewer folks read. (Trying to read the stats is like trying to read tea leaves and I have no idea what that is about!)

I have a lot of self doubt from day-to-day whether I can really do the things I am dreaming about.

But there are some things I am confident of…

I am amazed at the feedback I am getting from day to day.

Emails, blog comments, Facebook messages… with just one or two negatives, most are telling me that I am speaking where they wish others would–expressing doubt, asking questions they wish they could ask.

Here’s a response I got last night–not in its entirety but just a couple of excerpts:

“Are you inside my head?? It seems as though you are looking through my eyes and reading my thoughts.”

No ma’am, I am not. But your experiences, though different from mine, are still the results of horrific tragedy–it doesn’t surprise me at all that in our humanity, we are asking the same questions and feeling the same anger and pain. I can’t comprehend exactly what you went through, but neither can you get a full grip on my circumstances. But, we both know heartache and confusion and the over-riding sense that somehow God abandoned us.

“I’m hearing what you are writing loud and clear! You’re doing great. I wish I were as brave!”

Don’t make my head swell. This is not bravery no matter how many people express the same thing. This is necessity. To have a faith that ends in hope, we (at least I) have to wrestle with God. It is rarely comfortable and often painful. Like the story of Jacob, my hip has been wrenched and I may walk with a spiritual limp the rest of my days.

However, in the continued struggle, there is a physical/ spiritual therapy that may make the limp less noticeable.

So, in the interest of brevity–and because I am needed to watch an almost seven year old play in his second biddy basketball game in just a bit, allow me to express my gratitude.

To those who read, thank you.

To those who comment however or wherever, thank you.

In the upside down right side up world I inhabit, much was lost. Much has also been found. (Thank you, Becki)

I never thought I would find a way to get my voice back. By reading and interacting, you have given me that again. It’s a different voice to be sure, but I am filled with gratitude all the same.

May lives be helped and spirits raised.

If feels so good to dream again…

PS. For those who care about such things, in just barely over a month, this blog has attracted over 28,000 hits. In fact, I suspect it will pass the 29,000 mark before the night is through. I am humbled, amazed, and excited!

Really? What Makes You So Special? Inquiring Minds Want to Know!

Ok.

Here’s a bit of a rant.

Based on some of the comments on another post or two, somebody is bound to judge what I am about to say.

But based on another comment or so, I am not alone in the wondering, questioning, and the faith struggle involved.

So if I offend your sensibilities, or if it bugs you that a guy with a great theological education has these kinds of difficulties, then I am ok with that.

And even more so, I am thankful you have not had to wrestle with God in the same way.

I really, really am. Of course I have to tell you the next blog post after this one is going to be about the biggest and most oft told lie in all of Christendom.

Yes, I can be bold and assertive. And yes, I am positive it is true. And yes, yes, again, it is a systemic lie and cultural trait that has to be dealt with for the church to be the authentic body of Christ.

But that’s another day. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the day after. But, it is coming for sure. It will be offensive to some who don’t like to recognize when the emperor has no clothes. It isn’t intended to tear anybody or anything down—yet, it will be written to beg for authenticity in the lives of those who make up the church.

On to today’s rant… (It’s my blog and I can rant if I want to, rant if I want to…)

I had a comment online today. I also had a call from a new friend who is just two months and a few days into the loss of his 17-year-old son. Both expressed a frustration of mine.

I am better than I used to be about it.

If just a little.

There came a time in my grief where I couldn’t get on Facebook without being bitter and angry—both to God and those who were posting.

Here’s the nature of some of what I would read—and still do.

My prayers were answered—I got the job!

God was with us today—we won!

I am so thankful God healed my sore throat!

Yeah?

He did all that for you?

What about the guy who didn’t get the job?

Or what about the team that lost?

I am so glad your sore throat is no longer, but what about the friend who is even now crying out for a miracle from God?

What about the twenty years I prayed for my son to no longer be disabled?

He isn’t anymore. I get that. And as hard as it is to miss him, I am so glad he has been healed in every way.

I know. I know. My faith has to be stronger. I have to believe and trust in God more. But while I always wanted my family to be safe and well, I wasn’t exactly praying for them to make a fast trip to heaven for them to be that way…

So in the reality of life. it’s not always as easy as you might want it to be.

At least not for me and a few of my friends.

Some of us are hurt everyday by the seemingly unanswered prayers that pour from our hearts, minds, and lips—sometimes in an agony that only the Holy Spirit can hear and interpret.

Has anybody else ever wondered why some prayers are answered and others are not? (Please don’t give me the old saw that no answer is an answer—that’s disingenuous at best and insulting at worst!)

I am trying to trust that my lament will end like David’s one day…

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13 NIV)

I Want To Smack Ken And Barbie

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22: 1-2)

Real life Ken and Barbie make me sick.

Seriously.

I am not a violent person. Really I am not.

But truthfully, I’d like to yank Barbie’s hair and punch Ken right smack in the nose.
Hard.
Very hard.

I bet you know a few Ken and Barbie’s too.
Surely you know the type.

They have perfect lives.
They always have it together.
They are always well turned out.
Immaculate.
Never a single hair out of place.
Not even an ounce of excess weight.
They have the the perfect job.
The perfect house.
The perfect children.
The perfect spouse.
And to top it off~the perfect pedigreed dog!

Am I making you gag yet?

Me? I am retching…

That’s why no matter what other name they go by, their true identity is Ken and Barbie.

Color me jealous.
Or envious.
Or maybe just disgusted.

If you are like me, you get a not-so-secret glee when Ken or Barbie finally get splattered when life sends something nasty their way.

If you are like me, you get a certain satisfaction out of knowing their antiperspirant sometimes fails and something or other in their life stinks!

As much as I dislike the Ken and Barbie’s of the world, I think a greater frustration is with the Ken and Barbie’s of the religious world.

I bet you know that type too.

Their faith is perfect.
Nothing in their lives ever causes them to doubt or question or wonder.
Never mind the completely foreign idea of being angry or furious with God.

Job they are not.

For whatever reason, God seems to smile on everything they do.
There is always a smile on their face. He or she is the golden child.

When life shatters around others, they blithely say things like “don’t worry, everything is going to work out fine” because it always does in their little world.

News flash: I don’t live in the same universe much less the same world. Things do not always work out no matter how many times Ken and Barbie say it will.

My life is messy.
Often I create the mess myself.
But sometimes the mess comes to me no matter how hard I seek to avoid it.

And that makes me wonder…. Can there be real and abiding faith without the heartache and pain to test it?

I am beginning to see faith not as a place one has arrived at, but a journey of give and take–a struggle to understand–even an outright fight with God.

If you don’t have faith in there being a God, how can you scream out in pain and frustration without the expectation that He is listening?

Me? I wish for a Genie-in-the-Bottle-God. But since it doesn’t work that way, my faith has to be different. There is no perfect little Ken and Barbie here. Not by a long shot.

Instead, my faith is a constant battle–not to believe, but to trust and be at peace with a God I don’t always if at all understand.

Historically, I am not alone.

In spite of all the outright crazy messiness in the life of King David, God called him a man after his own heart.

Could it be God saw him that way because David was always real and authentic about where he was–especially with God? Could it be that the many psalms of anger, hurt, and frustration were simply expressions of a wrestling, seeking faith?

Like David, I can say, why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)

I believe those are ultimately words of faith.

I am no Ken or Barbie. My faith is imperfect. My struggle with God is real.

I hope that makes me, like David, a man after God’s own heart.

Hey God? Thanks for allowing me to fight with you. I know I am not going to win in the traditional sense of winning.

But I have to hope faith in you will somehow win in the end…

How’s your faith?

Messy, Messy Me!

On July 5, 2009, I took a risk in preaching a sermon called I am a Mess. In this sermon I thought I was being brutally honest about where I was. As I reread that particular sermon, I have come to realize just how naïve I was about my weaknesses, fears, and faith struggles. At the original time, my own reading of a blog called the Internet Monk inspired it. The author was Michael Spencer and the particular article was called When I am Weak.

That sermon began a series I had not planned on called No Perfect People Allowed.

What follows below is the gist of what I said that day. I’ll have something else to say at the end….

No Perfect People Allowed: I Am A Mess!

We need to be a “come as you are church where no perfect people are allowed.”

That statement or idea has resonated with a number of us and maybe because we have had more than one opportunity to answer the frequent criticism that church is full of hypocrites. My normal response is usually to look a person in the eye and say, “You are absolutely right.”

And they are, because a hypocrite says one thing and does another—all Christians fit that category! Even Paul said in Romans 7:18-19, For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 

Those words could easily be my own. I grew up singing about “victory in Jesus” and I have to tell you that most days, I don’t feel very victorious! We talk about new life and the truth is I am a mess. No, I’m not addicted to drugs or alcohol nor have I cheated on my wife. I am not plagued with homosexual urges, but I’m still a mess!

Do you know why I like to wear sweater vests? Because I’ve created this illusion that says when I wear one, I don’t really look all that fat! And yes, there is some pain in that admission.

I hate being fat—and even though I hate it, most of the time I feel absolutely powerless to do anything about it.

The truth is being overweight is not nearly my biggest problem. And since we are being utterly honest here, why do so many Christians turn out to be just like everyone else—divorced, depressed, broken, full of the same pain and shameful secrets, addicted, needy and phony?

Why is it that if you look too close you’ll find a living room full of garbage and stink in our lives? Why is it that some of us are bitter, angry, and just plain mean—all the while living under the guise of being a Christian?

While claiming to be different, most of us aren’t really honest about our own Christianity or even what living for Christ should be like. The Apostle Paul understood firsthand that living for Jesus wasn’t always fun—in 2 Corinthians Paul acknowledges pain in his relationship with the Corinthians who criticized and accused him unjustly. Yes, he had struggles and difficulties of his own.

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10,  Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Did you catch what Paul didn’t say? He didn’t say he was strong when his addictions were cured. He didn’t say he was strong when his personality and character failures were fixed. What he said was “I am strong when I am weak.”

Author and theologian Michael Spencer said it like this: Faith, alive in our weakness, looks like a war. An impossible war, against a far superior adversary: our own sinful, fallen nature. Faith is discontentment with what I am, and satisfaction with all God is for me in Jesus.

Have I cheered you up yet? Life is full of pain and confusion. We are often overwhelmed by our own failures, our own sins. Some of us are still fat, some of us are still depressed, and some of us are still mean.

We need to understand the Christian life is a constant fight. It is a battle. It is a war that will rage until Jesus takes us home. There are no non-wounded soldiers in this army.

Yes, this fight is a bloody mess. I fall down and get up over and over again—and my strength is not me, but the One who lives in me!

My greatest need is not to fool you into thinking everything is okay, because it’s not. To say it is makes me a liar and you an idiot for believing it.

My greatest need is Jesus who loves me in all my imperfections—who sees my weaknesses, who knows my indiscretions, who weeps with me when my behavior and attitudes are destructive to myself and those whom I love. My greatest need is Jesus and so is yours.

This is tough stuff, but I have to say it. I am a mess. So are you. And it is beyond time to be honest about it. We have to quit sugar coating our brokenness and sin and pretending to be something we are not. We have to quit getting all blown away and judgmental by the sins that others experience. Martin Luther once said, “Christ dwells only in sinners.”

Romans 7:24-25a, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I am a mess. You are a mess. Only Jesus makes the difference in our broken, messed up lives.

Instead of sharing some sanctimonious holier-than-thou message, why not share this basic truth: I am a mess. Jesus’ grace is sufficient. The battle rages on. Let’s struggle together.

Yep. Those words are still true. As faith goes, I am an even bigger mess. But I am beginning to believe that the real definition of faith isn’t having it all together, but the struggle and journey.

Is it possible when King David raged at God in the Psalms, his rage was itself an expression of faith, angry and hurting though it might be?

Stay tuned… I have lots more to say about this in a different format I hope.

Thanks for reading.

Les

Here I AM!

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24 NIV)

I am a blessed man in many aspects. I know that. I try my best every day to count my blessings.

I am a victim of violent crime, but I refuse to let being a victim become my identity or somehow over-shadow my many blessings.

What happened to my family on October 10, 2011 has reshaped my life, but it has not ended my life nor is it keeping me from current or future happiness.

It will not.

It will not.

It will not.

I am stronger than the despair that wants to engulf me!

I will fight every day to give my family an existence that lets each of us thrive in spite of the evil that accosted us.

Evil will not win. It may have owned that particular day, but it did not win!

If you are struggling with the results of an evil broken world in your life, you might want to make that your mantra.

Evil will not win!

Years ago, John Waite of The Baby’s sang and here I am, I’m back on my feet again.

I am so learning to sing that song.

I get up every day. I brush my teeth. I put on my clothes. I hit the office ready to do what it takes to sell/ list a house, etc. (Thanks to Ric Caldwell for that particular plan for success—he is a new friend and I am thankful for him.) I do enjoy this new real estate endeavor!

I am back on my feet again—it looks different, it feels different, it is different.

At age 50 (almost 51 but who’s counting?) I feel good. I worry at times about economic realities (who doesn’t these days?), but I refuse to even let that keep me down. In fact, somebody out there is going to pray hard and long enough and an opportunity to do the writing and speaking I want is going to arise. I believe that!

In the meantime, I am thankful for some good friends. Neither bandwidth nor my time or yours will allow me at this point to give detailed explanations of all the special friends in my life.

I could write a book about John, Danny, Cecil, Allen, Dan, John Mark, Brad, Rich, the other Brad, Bill, Patrick, John Alan, Mark, my Dad, my brother Billy, Doug, brother-in-law Mike, Steve, Terry, Mike… Even some new ones like Brandon Scott Thomas.

I know I am leaving some guys out—not on purpose for sure. But these guys have walked with me through the fire. They have been there for me. They are there for me. They are looking even now for ways and avenues to help me have a voice, to life my life, to raise my family, and to somehow be of service to others.

Regardless of their relationship to me, they are friends who have stuck closer than a brother.

In the meantime, I would like to tell about one in particular.

A number of years ago there was an elder who made my life as miserable as it could be. Miserable doesn’t do the situation justice. He was destroying me, stressing my family, and systematically making this preacher’s life a complete and utter wreck.

And I wanted out. I tried to go anywhere. Resume after resume was mailed out. Rejection after rejection came back.

One of those efforts had me talking frequently with a preacher in Arlington, VA. We had a lot in common—he was a great encourager. Like another old friend already listed above he encouraged me to develop my writing—and provided me a blogging platform.

Our friendship grew over long distance with the many repeated tech mistakes I constantly made that he constantly had to fix.

Time passed by. The elder who so stressed me left (I need to share with you sometime the Baptist preacher’s prayer about God taking him out—it was a doozy).

I continued writing and then tragedy struck.

I never thought I would do anything with it again. But my friend quietly went behind the scenes and archived all of my old writings. I can still read—and so can you—all those old sermons I posted, articles I wrote about Cole and the family. And that’s a blessing. (See lesfergusonjr.com/trek)

To my friend Brad Palmore, thank you. Thank you for being there and encouraging me to find my voice. Thank you for not allowing what I had done before to be tossed out and thrown away. Thank you for helping reignite an old as of yet unfulfilled dream to write a powerful book on faith. It’s coming. I know it will and I’ll owe you another measure of gratitude.

Brad is the behind the scenes guy here at Desperately Wanting To Believe Again. He has full admin privileges and will toss a out bad comment in a heartbeat. He fixes things and makes them work. He adds all the bells and whistles. He’s that kind of guy.

If you are looking to find your blogging voice or need some help with a church, business, or non-profit website, he’s the one to see.

In the meantime, here I am, I’m back on my feet again and determined to stand stronger every day.

Thanks to all my old friends and new friends alike for sharing the journey with me.

And to my sweet Becki… I will forever be grateful…

I Don’t Know What Is Next!

I don’t know what’s next in my life. And I guess that’s kind of a funny statement to make since none of us really do.

If we could all be prophets then a lot of unpleasantness might possibly be avoided.

I wish I did, but I just don’t know what is next.

In an earlier blog I mentioned my identity crisis. And while that crisis is multi-faceted, I am still at a loss as to my identity as a preacher or non-preacher or ex-preacher. But before I scare my sweet Becki to death, I really have no desire to work with a local church as a paid preacher. I don’t think I could ever want to do that again.

With no disrespect to any of my preaching family or friends, local preaching is…

Tell you what, before I say anything else, before you read anything else, do us all a big favor. Call, email, tweet, write, iMessage your preacher (and or other church staff members as well) and thank them for putting up with and loving you in and through your craziness.

Yes. Your craziness.

You. Not the person behind you, but you. Nobody gets to say who me? with an innocent look on their face.

In my experience, many preachers know the reality of a disrupted and dysfunctional family life. And has at some point wanted to say “are you serious? You really want me to answer this? Do you know what it means to get a life? Can I please have some pressure free stress free time for me and my family?”

I’ll never forget the time I got a phone call from a church member who was looking for a phone number for somebody else. I was half asleep in my recliner and I reminded them of the brand new church directory hand delivered the day before. His response: “yeah, but it is outside in my truck and I don’t want to go get it, so can you go look it up for me?”

It’s funny now, but aggravating then.

My complaints not withstanding, don’t get me wrong. Some preachers can be complete and utter knuckleheads. (I know there were times I greatly resembled that remark–heck, I resemble that remark and I am not a preacher anymore)

However, in spite of the few bad apples, preachers are some of the the most loving, caring, and honorable people you will ever meet. And they will struggle and strive to serve you till the cows come home. Or not.

Can I get an Amen?

But your preacher, no matter how much he gets paid or how little you think he actually does (which is so much more than you can really imagine), gets tired, weary, discouraged, and sometimes depressed. Take the time to love on him or her as the case may be in your religious tradition.

That’s the part of preaching I cannot commit myself to. I would be living once again with no boundaries trying to care for everyone around me.

But this time, I refuse to put my new family under that same microscope, under that same pressure, and in that same fish bowl house.

Can’t do it.

Won’t do it.

I know all about never saying never, but this is one I doubt I’ll ever have to eat crow over.

But it does leave me with an identity problem of sorts.

I love communicating. One of my old college professors has told me that with this blog I may be doing my best ministry ever. I think it is supposed to be a compliment.

The truth is I want to write. I want to minister to hurting folks. I want to help people be the best they can. I want to see God high and lifted up in my life and the lives of others.

I know I am still wrestling with God–and like Jacob, I may walk (and minister) with a limp the rest of my life. But I can write with a limp and tell the hard, honest truth at the same time.

Faith isn’t supposed to always be easy.

I want to speak where I can and tell the story of redemption, I am beginning to really live. And like I said a minute ago, God and I will probably continue to have our struggles. But even in the struggle, good can be accomplished.

That is where I want to go in my journey back to faith. But to be honest, I don’t think I will ever be satisfied again with a faith that just is. Somehow, someway, God still keeps managing to stretch me.

Those are goals I am praying for.

In the meantime, I am going to do all I can to be the biggest, baddest, most successful real estate agent I can be. Becki and I will continue to walk and work together.

We are a good team!

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I Smelled Cole Today

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I had no real plans to write today but serendipity has raised its head and grabbed my attention.

If I said (and I am saying it) I miss Cole, some of you who have lost a child would get it much more than those who are so blessed to not be a member of this most horrible of clubs/ organizations. (Hug your kids tonight and be thankful!)

I miss Cole. Sometimes it is almost crippling. Some days I cannot bear to look at his framed picture on my dresser. Some days I can tell stories and talk about him with a smile and even a laugh.

I miss Cole and it might just be the worst feeling in the world.

When Cole was 21 he was given a personalized signed Minnesota Vikings Jersey from the great awesome ironman Brett Farve himself. It was a banner day for a kid who might have been a bigger Brett Farve fan than Brett’s momma.

We buried Cole in that jersey along with his his treasured Viking Ball cap.

But prior to Cole’s death, that kings treasure of a football jersey was pinned to the wall of his bedroom, proudly displayed for all who might see. I had a running joke with Cole about it. I always told him it was toilet paper insurance. If we ever ran out we could just take the jersey off the wall to take care of business. So about once a week I would go into Cole’s room after he was in bed and start pretending to take it off the wall.

He would about have a full fledged spasm attack laughing at me and trying to get his mom into the room to stop me at the same time. That would normally end with me in the bed with him aggravating him some, having tickle time, doing belly bops (that’s another story if you beg hard enough I might just have to share) and watching whatever sport was on TV or whatever football movie was in the DVD player.

We watched a lot of football. His two favorite movies were Remember the Titans and Facing the Giants. He knew them word for word.

I miss Cole. I miss those special fun moments when Cole wasn’t in pain. When he could laugh and giggle and tell me I was crazy.

On Sunday’s he always rode with me to church earlier than the rest of the family would go. It was easier for me to load and unload his scooter or wheelchair. I liked to be there early to take care of last minute preparations. Cole liked to ride with me and be there early to greet people as they came in the door. He could be quite the social butterfly. And truthfully, I don’t know if I could have ever been at a church that loved him more.

I wish we could have gotten some different people involved in his life at home besides Paul Buckman, but hindsight is almost always 20/20 as the old cliche goes. And of course, even if we had done a full background check, fingerprints and all, we still would have had no idea what was coming.

None whatsoever.

That sucks, but that’s what it is. (Sorry, Mom, for using the S word, but it most aptly describes the situation)

I am a big coffee drinker although the docs have me cutting back a good bit. Cole had a stainless steel travel mug he liked to take with him on Sunday’s. Sometimes I would scam him out of it and use it myself. I can hear him now… Daaaadddd, my mug.

For whatever reason, that mug has a funny smell about it. I used to think it was because Cole had such a drooling problem all of his life. He had a hard time controlling his saliva although in the last few years of his life he took a daily pill that helped him considerably.

And today, I was running late to a doctor appointment (where I got a clean bill of health–yeah me!). As I was going out the door, Becki handed me a travel mug full of half-caff for the road.

You have probably already guessed. It was Cole’s old mug.

She unwittingly gave me the greatest gift today.

I drove all the way into town with watery eyes while my senses were full of the smell, sound, and feel of my precious boy.

I smelled Cole today.

God, I miss him so.

Be Happy Please! Take My Advice!

A lot of what I have written has been tough for me to write. Based on comments from many, it has been hard to read as well.

I get that, but I can’t apologize for the brutality of the truth we live. There is no amount of sugar coating to be done to make this story more palatable for those who might wish it so.

Believe me, you cannot wish for that any more than me.

In the meantime, I have been on the receiving end of lots of responses thanking me for being authentic about my struggles. I realize it is raw. It is what it is.

But taking a break from stuff that is so hard to write about, I’d like to indulge my guilt and regret as well as encourage you to not have any of your own.

I have lots of regrets. Things I didn’t do. Places I didn’t go. Words I never said. Hugs that went AWOL. (Or as we said in the US Navy, UA–unauthorized absence)

Don’t let that happen to you.

Don’t let that happen to you.

In my best ex-preacher voice said with power, conviction, truth, and authority, let me say it again: DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN TO YOU!

If you need to mend a fence with a spouse, stop reading right now and go do it. Lay it on thick and heavy. Make It real. Learn how to apologize and mean it. Change bad behavior while you still can.

Seriously.

Go do it now!

If you need to go play a game or watch a movie or build a tree house with a kid, what are you waiting for? Stop reading and go do it now.

Really.

Do it now.

I promise your life is way to short to live with these kinds of regrets–and once they are there and written in stone, they are there forever.

Please don’t let that happen to you.

Grieving is doubly hard when you are beating yourself up for failures real or imagined.

I don’t care what Dave Ramsey has to say about it, whip out that credit card and buy a dozen roses or hydrangeas (I originally said begonias but those of you who prefer something else can thank Becki for the hydrangeas instead) or whatever her favorites are.

If he likes Home Depot or Lowe’s, go buy him a gift card and give him two hours by himself to play with all the big boy tools he wants.

You will never go wrong sharing a cup of coffee on the back deck.

I promise.

As far as kids are concerned, ice cream cones are cheap. Better yet, when the ice cream truck comes through the neighborhood make a big deal out of it.

Push a swing. Ride the slide yourself. Be the biggest kid on the playground.

Read a book.

Have a family devotional. Even if it feels weird and strange, do it.

Roast marshmallows. Make s’mores.

Eat cake for breakfast–dare the food police to come–laugh in their face.

The more memories you make, the stronger your defense is toward all the doubt, guilt, and regret that may unfortunately come your way some day.

Do not be the Dad from Harry Chapin’s Cats in the Cradle

And here’s another suggestion. Do something for yourself. Don’t regret what you could have taken time for…

I have always joked that when it came to musical ability, I could play a radio louder and better than most. And sing? Move over Bon Jovi.

For Christmas this year, my Becki gave me a letter that said it was time for me to add a musical instrument to voice and she gave me guitar lessons. Along with the letter she gave me an engraved copper pick that says, “where words fail, music speaks.”

I love it. It is some of the best therapy ever.

Thus far, I am picking up some tabs. I can actually play one chord, beat my guitar, and sing a blues song called Hambone. Everybody here at the house is tired of hearing it, but maybe one day I’ll record a snippet and let you be the judge.

See ya later.

I need to go kiss my wife and take a walk with a couple of kids…

And my pretty red guitar (Party Girl) is calling my name.

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