#261. Darkness

It’s been an interesting month. I’ve had to step away from a few things because of moving to a new home, coping with grief within out family, and the challenges of having children who continue to grow up despite my insistence that they don’t. For certain personality groups, especially creative introverts like myself, these challenges bring about one issue above any other: the thought of the “what if.”

The toughest thought of them all is the darkest, creeping thought that seeks release: just end it right now.

I’ve learned to cover up this thought well. I don’t even see it most days. I don’t usually care about it when it does appear. Yet in those moments when stress is at its highest and problems are difficult to bear, there it is. It’s always been there. It will likely always be there.

Many are saddened by the passing of Robin Williams, especially in the manner that it happened. Some have called him a coward. Others question why. What I do know is this: unless you have that dark, creeping thought come your way, it’s a bit difficult sometimes to understand the processes involved.

Some might see suicide as a sin. Others might even say suicidal thoughts as a sin in religious circles. The harsh reality is this: suicide isn’t a permanent solution to temporary problems. It is seen as the only solution that can grant freedom.

Who doesn’t want that?

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#260. Don’t Walk By the Beer Cans

I hesitated while walking to church the other day. There were several beer cans sitting in the yard of the church my family had attended two years ago and I knew that the simple fact I was walking in front of the church would be enough to cause a potential problem.

I didn’t want to get involved.

I started to walk away, but then hesitated again. I also knew that the appearance of this church’s exterior was extremely meaningful to this congregation - my church home for 13 months. I knew that with everyone inside the building, it was unlikely the cans would be picked up at all.

I sighed heavily. I looked around to see if I’d be seen. Then I quickly snagged the cans and tried to get off the property… except that’s when the car pulled in. A red Nissan leaf. The driver recognized me instantly, slowed down, and gave me the investigative eye.

I continued on my way. The car slowly crunched the gravel behind me, but I didn’t care any more. Something would be said or it wouldn’t be said. Anger would be displayed or it wouldn’t be. There was something more important to do and I realized something I should have known all long: even if you don’t seek, you’re still going to be found.

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#259. A Man Named LeRoy

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When I first met the girl that would one day be my wife, I knew it was meant to last. I’d blown out my knee the first week of soccer practice, bad enough that it took me out of the game for 8 years. As I hobbled around in a leg stabilizer and crutches during orientation, my first inclination was to get sympathy from all the girls on campus, especially since women outnumbered men 8 to 1.

That backfired. So then I decided to have fun with it and started asking girls for drugs. I begged. I pleaded. Most of them gave me a Rock-style eyebrow and hurried away. Not this one girl, though. She smiled and said, “I’ve got plenty in my room. What do you need?”

A month later I met her family. Her mom, my mother-in-law, is definitely the boss in the family. She’s a strong Roman Catholic woman who lets you have enough rope to hang yourself. She and I have gone rounds over the years at times, but hopefully from a point of mutual respect. It has been with me, at least.

Her dad, on the other hand, was one of those quiet men that stay in the background. He’d pat you on the shoulder instead of saying “I love you,” and would kick you in the butt with guilt instead of putting his foot sideways somewhere. 

That first weekend I met her family, one of her brothers told me to get out and help with chores. I was in the middle of a report for film class and had taken up half of the room with my homework. I looked him square in the eye and asked, “Since when do you make guests in your home do chores?” 

Her brother mumbled something and then slammed the door. That’s when I felt a pat on my shoulder. “You do what you need to do,” were my future father-in-law’s first words to me. “We’ll do what we need to do.”

LeRoy passed away yesterday, after my family got a chance to say goodbye and our kids got to see Grandpa one last time. More striking to me, however, are the last words my father-in-law spoke to me.

He patted me on the shoulder. It’s all he ever needed to say.

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#258. You Can Change One World

When I was a teen, music was a large component of my life. I’d jot down different songs and lyrics, played in the local high school band, and worked on teaching myself the piano and the guitar. I can only imagine the annoyance of those who constantly heard me working on the 3 chord masterpiece “The Ballad of Bobcat Jones.”

I don’t remember the lyrics to the song, but I do remember one moment of clarity that really did change my life forever. We were playing at the local nursing home, just doing our usual thing, when a very frail man appeared in the doorway unassisted. He was in full uniform, even with the hat, and he straightened his tie just proudly a bit as he carefully went step over step to come to the front.

Once the nursing staff realized this was going on, they rushed to help him - but he’d have nothing of it. He shrugged off all the helping attempts and came to stand right next to me. We stopped the music and there he gave us a sharp salute. Then he looked me square in the eye and said: “Young man, there’s always hope.”

He was 99 years old, a World War I veteran, and he hadn’t left his room for days. The nursing staff told me later that they couldn’t imagine how hard it would have been to walk through the corridors because he hadn’t walked anywhere in ages. Yet here he was, standing proudly and tall, crisp as the day when he first enrolled in the Army… just with some extra wear and tear is all.

The race of life doesn’t just end. It takes different directions and puts us different places. They’re not always good places either. In the end, however, all things work together for good… if we allow it.

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#257. A Sword In the Plank

"The whole point of Star Trek is that the good guys stop the bad guys," my son told me this morning. "That’s how they save the day."

"How do you know that the bad guys are really bad?" I asked him.

"I just know," he said. "I watch the show and I know that bad guys are bad."

It’s the same way we tend to think about church and life in general sometimes, isn’t it? We see something different and it automatically becomes bad. Someone thinks a different way in the congregation and we tell them that they’ll lose their salvation.

We condemn and we condemn and then we look for Christian leaders who will tell us that we’re doing what we should be doing in faith to justify our actions.

The only problem is that Jesus didn’t come into this world to condemn. He came to save it, right? If we’re truly following the mission that Jesus set forth, whether we believe he is part of a Trinitarian God or not, shouldn’t that be our goal as well?

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