I’ll Keep You Forever

Writer’s block.

That’s a common enough phrase or concept.

When it comes to this blog, I occasionally experience a few minutes or so in which I don’t know what direction to go in.

More often I experience the fear block.

Like today. Today I am writing here to avoid writing over there… There being one of four projects I need to work on.

I am afraid of my own dreams and desires. Isn’t that a kick in the pants? I am afraid of failure and almost paralyzed by it.

So in my fear, I experienced a little bit of writers block here–and then made the connection between writer’s block and memory block.

This is where it led me…

Sorrow, pain, and grief can sometimes make you have some memory blocks. It is possible to have memory blocks as a sort of protection against the pain. It is possible in your grief and sorrow to only remember certain things–particularly those things that are less painful.

From my long experience as a preacher, death often turns people into saints when the truth is they were normal people with the same flaws and predilections as anybody else. Or worse.

And me? I have some self imposed memory blocks I would really rather stay in place.
It is easier that way.
Less painful.
Less guilt to suffer.

I would much rather remember my son Cole as a happy young man who loved everybody he met–who would tease and aggravate and even turn on his own favorite football team if it meant he could get under your skin.

All those things are true.
Cole was a bundle of laughs and pure fun.
And he didn’t mind telling you so.

But the painful truth? He was just as often angry, mad, and in a level of pain that would have destroyed a lessor mortal.

That made for plenty of difficult days.
Bad days.
Horrible bad days.
Days in which everything got turned upside down and every which way.

Mom and Dad suffered on those days too. So did his brothers.
It was painful to watch.
It was painful if he got his hands on you.
It is painful still to remember and feel guilty about all the many ways this daddy didn’t always handle those episodes with the right patience, grace, and love.

Yes, I would rather have a memory block about Cole’s suffering and my inadequacies as a father.

I am thankful that as time progresses I think I find I am a bit easier on myself.
More understanding.
Less inclined to beat up on me.

In hindsight, I didn’t handle everything just right, but I was doing the best I knew how under difficult circumstances.

With that perspective in place, I am thankful for the good memories.
And grateful the bad are becoming less and less important to dwell on.

So here we are.
One of my favorite rock songs–sung by one of my favorite bands, Journey–is Stone In Love.

I’d like to end this little post by changing up the last couple of lines just a bit…

Oh the memories never fade away,
Golden boy, I’ll keep you forever…

cole

Love,

Dad…

Defiance!

I hurt.
Every day.
Not every minute of every day.
But, I hurt.

Every day.
At night too.

If you didn’t know me or my story, you’d have no idea.
I don’t park in the handicapped spaces.
I don’t limp (at least not physically).
I am not on any medication for pain or depression.
I don’t walk around with a perpetual frown on my face.

Tears are often my companion, but not every day. At least not where others can see them.

Still, I hurt.
Every day.
Not every minute of every day.
But, I hurt.

And yet, I have an amazingly fulfilling marriage. Becki is a wonderful life partner. We work together. We play together. We enjoy life together. (We can actually thrive while canoeing together down the Buffalo River without nary a cross word–not many can say that!)

And together? Together we have four fantastic kids all living under one roof. Each of them is a complete joy all on their own. My oldest and his beautiful wife live in Huntsville, Al and are their own special blessing.

Everything in our lives is not perfect. Not by a long shot. We have our difficulties and struggles–like every family in this country. At the same time, we know joy, laughter, and fun.

Still, I hurt.
Every day.
Not every minute of every day.
But, I hurt.

Some days I can laugh and tell stories about the ones we lost. Other days, a glance at a picture or a foray into the basement (where two footlockers of Cole’s stuff are stored) is enough to open the floodgates of indescribable pain.

Most of the time I try to tell myself it wouldn’t hurt quite so bad if it didn’t involve such a horrific story. If it wasn’t about rape and murder. If it wasn’t about betrayal. If it didn’t feel so much like the complete absence or abandonment of God… Do those things magnify the pain? Do the specifics sometimes feel like a knife twisting in my side? Absolutely!

But who am I kidding?
Only myself.

The truth is quite simple.
Pain is pain.
Loss is loss.
Grief is grief.

The circumstances may not be the same; the backdrops of our hurt may span opposite ends of the spectrum, but the truth is not complicated at all.

Pain is pain.
Loss is loss.
Grief is grief.
And there is no valid reason to compare situations as if there was some kind of reward for hurting more than someone else.

Still, I hurt.
Every day.
Not every minute of every day.
But, I hurt.

Like so many others, I live each day with a pain that is immeasurable.
Yet, we are a determined group for the most part (thank you for allowing me to speak for you). We may (and do) have moments where grief is crippling, but we are determined nonetheless.

Determined to live.
Determined to know joy.
Determined to prosper.
Determined to experience life and share it with others.

Anything less is to curl up and die.

The grim reaper has it easy enough, and because of that, we are determined to give him as little satisfaction as possible.

Although life can be hard and is often exacerbated by the attitudes and actions of those who would presume to judge, in the end, we chose life.

That is our defiant answer!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Happy Memorial Day?

Happy Memorial Day?

A quick perusal of Facebook tells me people are wondering if it is ok to say Happy Memorial Day.

For the first time, I am not so sure anymore.

But for the biggest part of my life it was never a question.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day have always been big deals for me. And mostly synonymous. I love them because I am highly patriotic. Probably too much so for my own good, but nevertheless, I still am.

Military service, in my way of thinking, is something to be proud of. While I stop short of calling for a military draft, I believe everybody ought to have to give something back in service to the country. How that would work in my mind is fairly simple but needs to be a different topic on another day–and mostly not for this format–unless I am begged very hard–and bribed too.

Ed Conner, my grandfather-in-law, who has now gone to be with the Lord, fought in hand-to-hand combat through the islands of the Pacific in WWII.

Bob Brown, my father-in-law, served in the Army as an Officer and Combat Engineer during a tour of duty in Vietnam.

My father, Les Ferguson, Sr. served as a radar operator on the East Coast on Nike Missile installations during a hitch in the US Army.

And me? I am proud of my service as a weapons control computer operator/ technician on the USS Josephus Daniels CG-27 in the US Navy.

393635_10150347981306784_104043557_n

I have never regretted my six year enlistment in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club. I saw lots of different things, experienced some really cool places, people, etc. I am, however, not all that eager to go back to the Middle East again–six months of Operation Desert Shield was enough combat pay/ adrenaline to last a lifetime.

I am thankful for all those who have served before, with, and after me. So many Americans have no idea the sacrifices military and their families endure.

If you want a better way to support those who currently serve, I’d suggest the Wounded Warrior Project.

At any rate, back to the idea of saying Happy Memorial Day…

For what it is worth, Memorial Day has taken on some additional meaning for me. At this stage of my life, grief is an ever present, bittersweet sort of friend. On one hand, I wish he would disappear for ever; on the other hand, I am glad for the constant reminder of what has been lost. I don’t want to forget…

Memorial Day is about remembering so that those we have lost will not be forgotten.
Today, I celebrate Memorial Day a little differently than I have before. I remember those who have fallen, yes, but, I also grieve with and for those who are left to carry the memories of loved ones lost.

My suggestion? Enjoy the time with your family. Barbecue on the grill. Go fishing with the kids. Canoe a river. Celebrate the wonderful life and blessing of being an American.

And as you do, don’t forget the inherent sadness of the day. Don’t forget to grieve with those who know Memorial Day to really be a mourning day. Explain it to your kids. Remind them of the sacrifices made by those who lost their lives–and the sacrifices those left behind still have to make.

Happy Memorial Day? I don’t think so…

God bless all who sit down tonight without the one they love. May they find some sweet memory that brings just a little bit of a smile. They deserve that and more!

PDFLogo copy

 

In The Hands of the Lord

This blog is for all those who know the indescribable pain of losing a child.

This blog is for all those whom I pray will never know the indescribable pain of losing a child.

One of these days I’ll probably lose some readers who just can’t handle the dark stuff we often talk about. If you have to go, I get it. What some of us are dealing with is hard. It is unbelievably dark. It is a depth of pain that ebbs and flows but never quite goes away.

Some days the pain recedes into the distance and I am able to experience great joy. Those days I more than manage to live and thrive. In the ebb and flow, there is life and living, with an occasional twinge or reminder out there on the edges ready to make itself known…

This past weekend was not one of those times. I had to fight my way through an incredible obsession. I was consumed with thoughts of driving to Gulfport and digging my son up out of the grave and bringing him home. the

Like I said, dark thoughts. Terrible thoughts. Thoughts no parent should ever have to think.

And yet we do.
Our number is legion and growing every day.
God help us all.

Please don’t try to tell me God understands (although I am sure He does, but that is hardly comforting given what usually comes next). Yes, He went through the loss of His own son in tragic circumstances, but His son came back to life on the third day.

And the rest of us? We are still waiting…

Time does not heal all wounds. These wounds may scab over, but every time we encounter a newly grieving parent–or hear of another tragedy or heartache, the scab is violently ripped off anew. We would like to grieve with you and we try, but our pain once again becomes all we can see and more than we can bear.

The following song was heard at church this past Sunday as the church honored her high school graduates…

See the hands, see the face,
see the miracle of God’s grace.
Now we come as many have before
to place the child in the hands of the Lord.

A child will come into our lives with open hearts, open eyes.
We surround them with a love outpoured
and place the child in the hands of the Lord.

Through every step, the child will grow and change,
there will be joy, there will be pain.
So now we come to join this day
and vow to teach, to guard and pray,
that when they fail and when they soar,
they are held by the hands of the Lord.

And when our hands must let them go,
by faith our hearts will always know
that whatever life may have in store,
we place the child into the hands of the Lord.

There is comfort in those words.
There is unbelievable agony in those words.

It is comforting to know God holds our children’s future secure.
Until He doesn’t. At least in this world.

I am so glad your children/ our children get a chance to thrive. I pray they continue to do so.

But those of us who have lost a child… we know they are safe in the hands of the Lord and mad at the same time that they are.

And like David of old, we cry, my son, my son…

PDFLogo copy

An Eleanor Rigby Kind of Life

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all belong?
(Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles)

There are so many tragedies just waiting to happen. Most of them do. Every single day there is news of heartbreak and loss. Of families who wait for the one who will never come home again.

If accidents and evil people weren’t enough, there is always a hodgepodge of sickness and human frailty looking to claim another victim.

Heart Disease
Cancer
Diabetes
There are not enough pages to list all the possible and potential life altering, life ending medical conditions.

It’s a crapshoot and all of those things are sickening when they become our reality.

Personally, I am worn out by heartache, worry, and fear. I am so weary of the constant sense of impending doom. Of wondering what’s next…

But, I digress.

In a world of broken hearts, lives, and dreams, I think there is a greater calamity. I didn’t see it for much of my life. I certainly didn’t understand it. And if the truth be told, I didn’t want to…

If it was painful then; it is doubly, triply painful now.
It’s a condition that happens as a result of brokenness.
It is often hidden behind a slick mask of happiness, a false bravado, or a facade of joy.

It is called loneliness.

But even using that word connotes something that, while hurtful and undesirable, is just a situation you have to get used to or worse, find an answer for… (i.e., fix it!)

And the advice often given?
Get out of yourself…
Make a new friend…
Find a new activity…
Blah, Blah, Blah…

All of that is well and good, but it fails to answer the root cause of loneliness–it makes the lonely seem somehow week for being lonely in the first place. It completely misses, disregards, or denies the loneliness of loss, hurt, pain, and the perceived absence of God.

And that my friends is the loneliest place on earth…

Loneliness, the great calamity? Absolutely. You betcha. Yes, sir, don’t say maybe…
And that’s often found within the church–of any denomination or stripe. Can you imagine how lonely the lonely are without even a church family to call on?

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky

This is for all the single people
Thinking that love has left them dry
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
You never know until you try

Well, I’m on my way yes, I’m back to stay
Well, I’m on my way back home, hit it

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
And never take you down or never give you up
You never know until you try
(Lonely People–America)

PDFLogo copy

Alienated

I often feel very alienated. It is almost like I have the plague. And it is visible–you can see the distance happen.

More on that in a moment.

But first, it is obvious some of my experience is fairly common. If you want to make people uncomfortable, suffer unexplainable loss.

  • Face a tragedy outside the imagination of most.
  • Live through horror.
  • Grieve.

Seriously.

We don’t know how to handle the grief, heartache, and pain of those who have suffered or are suffering loss. Add in unspeakable evil, and most are left with their mouths opening and closing like some kind of mechanized Big Mouth Billy Bass singing from a plaque on the wall.

Bass

And I understand.

But here’s where it really hurts. When the funeral is over and all the mourners depart, the real grieving begins.

  • The bed is empty.
  • The chair is empty.
  • There is a hole in the very fabric of life.
  • Add in being a victim of depravity and murder, and the hole is made of harsh jagged edges that are all the harder to mend.

Maybe the best two words we can use to describe how the mourner feels are empty and lonely. The emptiness and loneliness is a bottomless pit of despair especially when it feels as if God has abandoned you.

I was once accused in the aftermath of our tragedy of pushing people away. Sure. If you judged me or tried to fix me, I couldn’t cope with that then or now. But if you will be honest, you’ll also realize that what some might call pushing away could have been the sound of people running the opposite direction.

It is easier to run away than be dragged into all the pain. It’s a lot more comfortable too. And the fact is, we want people to get back to normal so we can be normal.

I experienced that in spades. Earlier readers may remember I was asked three weeks after the funerals “if I was about to get over all this and get back to preaching.” At the sixth month mark, I had to make a decision. “Preach or step down. The church was ready to get back to normal…”

Normal? I understand the church couldn’t be allowed to fall apart. But I never really needed the guilt that came with hearing, “We are losing members and contributions because you aren’t preaching.” I understand we were all in unknown territory. I get that others needed to get on with their lives. But normal? I had no idea then what normal would ever look like.

So here I am. Trying as hard as I can to build a new life. I am so very thankful for my family’s support and love. For friends who stick closer than a brother. For a wife who is as determined as I am to build and thrive and live.

Do I want more? You betcha! I want a speaking and writing ministry. I am working as hard at developing that as I am our real estate careers (My Becki, the Interior Designer, is now a licensed real estate agent and we are marketing our selves as The Home Team).

But the truth is still hard. I often feel like an alien. Like I don’t belong here. Like a fish out of water. In a world of so called normal folks, my life and situation is anything but. And whether you see it, believe it, or not… it sets me apart. It sets me apart in spite of however hard I work to keep it from happening.

At times it feels like I have the plague. Especially around preachers and church folk. I am an unwanted reminder. Because if it could happen to my family, then it could happen to yours… and nobody wants to be reminded of that.

So do me a favor, call me to speak. Ask me to write. That would be great. But more importantly, try to remember that those who grieve still need you to help them pick up the pieces–and that’s a ministry that may take a lifetime to complete.

Chances are, you know somebody who hurts and feels all alone in the process. It is often a very painful world. Find a way to help them know they are not alone.

Words by themselves will not do it, but love converted into action will…

Thanks!

PDFLogo copy

 

 

I Want To Punch Somebody

I guess you might read the title of this blog and think somebody might have anger management issues.

That somebody being me.

Hi, my name is Les and I am angry.

Except, I am really not. I try to be angry at God and sometimes it flares up a little, but mostly? Mostly I am just hurt and frustrated. I constantly hear people giving God credit for all these incredible things they accomplish or acquire.

And I wonder… What are they doing different?

I am trying to write a book. If I could find a way to write for a big hunk of each day, I think it wouldn’t take long. But the reality is that often days/ weeks go by where life too easily gets in the way. That makes me angry at myself…

Anyway, I’m on the third title for this thing and at this point I have settled quite nicely on A Jacob Life.

But the last couple of days, I have felt more like Esau calling out to and begging his father, Isaac with a loud and bitter cry, “Oh my father, what about me? Bless me, too!”

And He has in some incredibly amazing ways. I am thankful for them. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?), is it wrong to want more? Is it wrong to want a new ministry, stability, and peace? Is it wrong to want my children’s pain to be taken away? Is it wrong to want others to be a little more understanding of the difficulties we still face?

Some of those difficulties are people and their attitudes/ judgments about what we did, what I did, or, better yet, didn’t do. Some of those judgmental attitudes are enough to make me go postal… or at least write a blog about wanting to punch somebody.

Here’s an anonymous comment I received the other day:

Hey Les,
A man raped your son multiple times and you did what? File a police report? If you had been a real man and eliminated the piece of trash, guess who’d still be alive today? Quit blaming others and situations. You failed to protect your family. Next time your kids ask for answers on why mommy isn’t around…tell them the truth.

I have to admit that hurt.
Badly.

It made me sick to my stomach.

It also tapped into one of my biggest fears… could I have kept that from happening?

Believe me, I have wanted to kill Paul Buckman. And bring him back to life to kill him again. And again.
And again.
And Again.

But I can’t no matter how badly I night want to.

What he did to my family was horrific.
What we do to each other with our words, attitudes, and judgments is pretty horrible too.

Remember the old childhood ditty? Sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me…

It’s a lie.
They hurt.
Deeply.

And the pain stays with you longer than you might imagine.

“Oh my father, what about me? Bless me, too!”

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Mother’s Day 2013

For years and years, I preached a Mother’s Day sermon. For most of those years, I always read the same little book, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.

During the last couple of years, it got a bit harder to read without choking up.

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

Even before the events of October 10, 2011, we knew Cole’s lifespan was not as long as it once was. The last few years were hard on him and us. Add in the drama and trauma of being victimized by a sexual predator, well, it was very hard in every facet of life.

But, we tried hard to find normalcy even where none was really possible.

At any rate, those last few Mother’s Day sermons were harder than all the earlier ones. I was fairly self-absorbed for many of those years and sort of knew that some people had a hard time on Mother’s Day. As much as I didn’t want to get it, I slowly became aware of the difficulty Mother’s Day presented for some.

At this point in my life, I get it in spades.
Some had bad childhoods.
Some desired to be a Mom.
Some were missing their Mom…

Today I was one of those people looked down upon by the smugly self-righteous. I was planning to go to church. I was going to put a brave face on. And if there was a Mother’s Day sermon, I was going to lean into the pain–experience it, overcome it, and be stronger because of it.

But I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t subject myself or my kids to all the happy faces celebrating good old mom.

Don’t misunderstand.

I wasn’t being selfish by staying home. I am thankful for Moms everywhere. I have been blessed with a great Mom and two Mother-in-laws who each mean the world to me.

I have sisters and sister-in-laws who are great Mom’s as well.

I was married to a great Mom.
I am married to a great Mom.

I am thankful for all of them–and your Mom too.
Today, Casey is missing his Mom in heaven so much. He has said how he wished she could be here several times. It rips me to pieces at every mention of it. In a little while we are going to walk up to the front pasture and let go a Happy Mother’s Day helium balloon to his Mom in heaven. I will chew on my bottom lip the entire time to maintain some semblance of composure. I don’t think there is anything more sucky than a little boy using a balloon to communicate with his mother.

And Becki? She is blessing us in more ways than most could even think of comprehending. Her compassion and love is overwhelming. I don’t know what we did to deserve it. She has cried multiple times today over the pain in little Casey’s heart. She has a mother’s strength and will hold our hands every step of the way.

“God, I am sorry we couldn’t make it to worship this morning… I am angrier with you today than normal, but I believe you understand.”

To all my Moms and the past and present mothers of my children, Happy Mother’s Day.

A Doormat Christianity

Matthew 22:34-40, Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Loving God and loving others. The two greatest commands. The heart and soul of what it means to live a Christian life.

In an old newspaper column somewhere back in time, I once wrote about God’s response when looking at his children and all of the theological drama we have created. In my imagination, I saw Him shaking His head and saying, “No, no, no. That isn’t it all.”

I suspect there are lots of ideas, beliefs, and dogmas that satisfy our human nature but miss entirely the ideal of God.

You might be an arm chair or a classically trained theologian and think me arrogant to even suggest such thing. In return, I think it pretty arrogant to ever imagine even for a minute that we have gotten it all right.

Along the way of developing and defending our doctrinal beliefs, it sometimes feels as if we have lost the main thing. I often tell the sixteen year old in our house, you can be right and still be wrong. If you are right, but mouthy and snotty in the process, all the right doesn’t undo what the attitude got wrong.

The same is true of Christianity. If your doctrine of _________ is exactly what God intended, but you fail to be loving toward your follow man, what good does it do?

You can be right and still be wrong.
Can I get an Amen?

I will probably not make any friends with this post. I suspect some will disagree vehemently. And that’s ok.

I keep being told that one day I will be back in full time ministry. I agree.

I am trying hard to find my voice, to discover my niche, or for lack of a better term, create my own ministry role. But, if you mean being a full time pulpit minister/ preacher/ pastor for a local congregation… I just can’t do that.

One reason is I am a long way from an everyday hey-God-I-can-do-this kind of thing. God and I are still wrestling. I am still limping. And like it or not, most churches wouldn’t handle very well a preacher who openly limps. I am sure there are exceptions, but I wouldn’t know them.

More importantly, another reason is my inability to practice a Doormat Christianity.
Go ahead and ask… you know you want to… What is Doormat Christianity?

As a preacher, my greatest desire was to see the kingdom of God grow. To do that, I strived hard to love God by loving others. In the process, I often allowed myself to become a doormat to those I served.

What about Jesus’ commands to turn the other cheek or to go the extra mile? I fully believe those words at work in our lives would go an awful long way to bringing us peace in our relationships.

Loving God by loving others even when they are unloveable is not the issue. On the other hand, we are often motivated by something less than love in going the extra mile or turning the other cheek.

It’s not a pretty picture, but in my life as a preacher, it was often more about self-preservation. In order to not rock the boat, I welcomed the opportunity to be a doormat to keep my job or provide for my family.

I am kidding right? Not one little bit.

Spiritual abuse? Bring it on.
Power trips? Learn to roll with the punches.
Maintaining the status quo at the cost of your own spiritual growth and creativity? You betcha.

I probably sound bitter. I am. But, I am not content to stay there and so God and I are having to wrestle with that as well.

In the meantime, can I ask a favor? Love your ministers lavishly. Chances are you have no idea what they are sacrificing–sometimes even their own self-esteem. If you like to make jokes at the preacher’s expense about only working one day a week or keeping his moving boxes close to hand or how much money he makes, Stop!

Stop now. He may laugh with you, but it takes a toil.

Eventually he becomes a doormat whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. Even when he can’t or won’t see it for what it is, his spouse sees it and suffers too.

Doormat Christianity is hurtful, destructive, and ultimately damaging to the spirit within.

Loving others means saying this is wrong!

Thanks for reading.
Anything in particular you would like me to address?
How can I help you?

Les Ferguson, Jr.
DWTBA

Judging Fixing Helping Loving

The following was written earlier today for my first speaking opportunity tonight with a small group from Cross View Church…

But before you read, check out a brand new endorsement at http://www.lesfergusonjr.com/endorsements/

When People hurt…

I suspect you know at least some of my story.

  • It is graphic, horrific, shocking, disgusting… well, you can come up with your own words too.
  • It involved abuse, betrayal, drugs, rape, and four bullets–two murders execution style.
  • We will deal with the implications of what culminated on October 10, 2011 for the rest of our lives.

It’s not just the death of a wife, daughter, mother, and sister… It’s not just the death of a son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin.

  • Those things happened. And they are far worse than you can imagine.
  • The hardest part is not exactly dealing with the loss. Don’t get me wrong. The loss is hard. I feel it every day. Yesterday was my birthday. And nobody anywhere could have given me what I really truly wanted… to spend the day with my boy. To laugh and aggravate and tease…

Loss is hard. But living with the aftermath is hardest still.

  • The easiest thing to do would have been to check out… to end the pain.
  • The road forward is difficult. And for me, the ripples just don’t ever seem to end.

We lost emotionally, mentally, spiritually, relationally–those are things you expect.

But what do you do when the loss becomes so much more?

  • When your financial stability goes away?
  • When your health is affected?
  • When your credit is destroyed?
  • When your job and career are lost?
  • When you realize people don’t care as much about you as what you do for them?

Even worse, what do you do when your children are rewired by tragedy and you have no ability to undo the damage?

And finally, what do you do when the very fabric of who you are is ripped away and you have to rediscover, recreate, reinvent a whole new life?

Welcome to my world. I sincerely hope you never have to join it.

As I walk this sometimes lonely path–please don’t get me wrong–I am very happy with my wife, with our family, with the life we are trying to build… But, I am in great need of patience. Because I can’t yet be where I once was, it sometimes feels very lonely outside the success I used to enjoy. I need to learn patience with myself–the rebuilding is not happening overnight. And I need others to be patient with me as I constantly try to keep my footing and find my way.

As much as I would like to believe I am the only person struggling, the truth is there are people in every direction who are hurting, struggling, and maybe even at the point of giving up.

You know people like that. You know people who are afraid to reveal just how much they hurt and struggle.

Chances are, you may be that person too…

What can you do? What can we do to help?

I thought you’d never ask…

Matthew 22:34-40, Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In my past life as a preacher, I always taught this passage in a simplified version: Love God; love others.

Loving God could only really be expressed appropriately by loving others.

How do you do that? Love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. So in any situation, you give, help, recognize, and meet the needs of others before yourself..

But what about when someone is hurting? When life has stuck a blow almost too hard to comprehend? What do you do when the pain is self-inflicted through bad decisions and wrong priorities?

Maybe we should also ask, if somebody is hurting, does it really matter whose fault it is?

No. The answer is no. Pain doesn’t differentiate and neither should we.

So what do you do?

For the most part, we have four choices.

  • Judgment
  • Fixing
  • Loving
  • Helping

The easiest to do is judging. And when we judge, guess what we try to do next? Fix it (because the person in pain obviously is incapable of doing it themselves). Guys, ask yourself how many times you tried to fix a problem for your significant other and judged them in the process?

Judging is easy until we find ourselves in the same place–and discover for ourselves that some things cannot be fixed.

So that leaves us with loving and helping. Loving may not mean anything else but sitting quietly and being available. If you put yourself in the position of loving, then a way to help ease the burden, not fix it, will make itself known.

I sometimes hear people say they aren’t very compassionate… I don’t believe it for a minute. However, if they could tamp down their inclination to judge and fix, they (we) might be surprised at just how compassionate they (we) can be…

I am trying to listen to my own advice… How can I help you?