Sunday, October 26, 2014

7 Hour Coffee With Julie

Two years ago my life changed with a simple invitation for coffee. We had talked about getting together for coffee previously, but I never followed through. This woman I met at church was several years younger. She was 38 and I was one week shy of turning 56. I know. This is the part where you roll your eyes and say, "Sure, younger woman. That is just what all men want."

But to me this was a lot of age difference. Do you do what I often do? You doom things as a failure before you even get to the place to find out what is in store. Each time we talked the conversations were so easy. You know that feeling like you have talked for an hour when it seems not even ten minutes have passed? It was that way each time.

I told one person, my little sister Katie,  that I was meeting a young lady at Hugh MacRae Park for coffee. I followed this up with one of my astute questions.  "I don't know if coffee is just coffee or is it something else?" She lightened the mood with a quote from one of our favorite movies, Goodwill Hunting, by Matt Damon.

Great, or maybe we could get together and just eat a bunch of caramels. When you think about it, it's just as arbitrary as drinking coffee. 

I think after that she said, "Just go have coffee." I comforted myself by thinking that coffee was probably just coffee and someone wanting to talk about God with me. There is no way this young, pretty, genuine, warm, woman had an interest in me.

We met at the Park by the pond area. Early in the conversation she told me something from my Facebook Page. She had been snooping and I called her out on it. She smiled and said, "Yes, I did. I wanted to know what your friends said about you." Well, this was more than coffee or eating a bunch of caramels.

Three hours later she asked what time it was and I looked at my watch. It was one o'clock. We both thought that maybe thirty minutes had passed. Coffee led to lunch. It was near five that afternoon when we parted ways. Today it is referred to with a smile as the, "Seven hour coffee."

I had a lot of failed relationships in my past. Some that I walked away from and some that walked away from me. A couple of them hurt deeply. Horace Hilton once told me that rejected love was among the most difficult event one could know in this life. I'm certain that as a minister for decades he saw much of it.

Sometimes in the quiet of night as Julie sleeps soundly, I will look at her and I can't believe that God sent someone into my life that not only loves me when all is well. I have had that many times. She loves me when that dark hole starts pulling at me. She fights for me. She sees more good in me than I ever do. 

And as I whisper my thanks to God. I thank Him also for the broken relationships that I thought I needed so badly. I thank Him for the heartache, as difficult as it was. Because Julie, exceeds all the dreams I ever had in a woman. And that is no small feat.

Happy Anniversary Baby. October 26 means as much to me as April 6 does, maybe even more. I got out of the way and took a chance at coffee. I could not be happier with that decision.


I have become a fan of late of the music of Rascal Flatts. This one sums up this little blog better than I could.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Raw Honesty

 Mark 9:24 "I do believe; help my unbelief."

This is a portion of one of my favorite scriptures. The man is requesting of Jesus to help his son. Imagine that for a moment. You want your faith to be strong but in that moment he is real, vulnerable, desperate, & most importantly, he is brutally honest. In one moment, he says he believes & then quickly contradicts that statement.

One word comes to mind for me when I read this passage. Raw. The man displays raw honesty to Jesus. Did he get criticized for a lack of faith?  Is there anything in the scriptures to show Jesus was even mildly disappointed in him? No, and Jesus delivered his son.

I believe that being honest with God, even if we are weak, angry, disillusioned- take your pick is what he desires of us. Besides, can any of us fool God? Can we hide where he can't see?

Anger has been such a part of my life for so long that while I have made strides there are times when I go back to what I know.Last week, our lives were interrupted with a Sunday, 3:31 a.m. phone call telling us Sydny, our beloved little black, chihuahua mix, had passed away after what was deemed a successful surgery. My wife, Julie, and I cried, we prayed, we sought answers, we grieved.  We still are grieving.

I had prayed so diligently over that little guy. I even anointed his little head with oil. Many others joined us in prayers. I spent a significant amount of money trying to ensure he would be with us a few more years. Just that morning he was chasing the annoying neighbor's cat off the porch. It was so hard to accept how quickly he went. We blamed ourselves. What if I would have taken him to the vet the first sign of him throwing up? Julie, was doing a side job for a friend. She blamed herself for not coming home sooner. In the end I believe there were other things going on with him that were not so evident at the time. In short, there was nothing we could have done.

It was around Day 3 that I became angry. I was angry at God for not hearing me. My wife needed me to console her. I tried but the problem is for so many years when pain comes I crawl inside of my pain and in my anger I shut the world out. It pains me to say this is who I am. As long as life is moving forward with the normal ups and downs I am pretty good. I keep my faith, my hope, but when I hurt deeply I revert back to what I know. 

It is not as if the anger fixes anything but it seems to pull me through. Lashing out at God both in loud and silent ways. The silent way was to forget morning devotion. Forget praying because my faith was spent. 

It has been both a blessing and a curse that I met Jesus on a dark road one night. He showed up unannounced & spoke. The blessing in that is that regardless of how far I ran away from him at times, I knew him to be real. There was no escaping what transpired that September night, in 1976. The curse is my life with him that began with such a powerful, supernatural moment, is I know there to be no limit to his power. So, I want him to use it more frequently.

One thing I am certain about in all this is that God is not angry at me because I was mad with him. I believe he would rather hear our raw honesty above all else. Now, he certainly wants me to break this behavior pattern and I do as well. But so far I have not been able to live the Casting Crowns song, Praise You in the Storm. 

"Praise You In This Storm"

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away 

Pain will surely come again to me. You can't protect yourself from it. I know because I have tried. I have a dug a grave for three dogs in my life and each time I feel like a part of me went down that hole with them. This was the first one in almost twenty years. My choice would be to never do it again. I made that decision when I buried Pete, my black lab mix, on Christmas Eve night, in 1994.

My hope one day in this walk is that when pain & heartache come that the first thing I will do is to praise him in the midst of it. I will press into him. I surely have a long way to go as evident by the last week.

Many of you have referenced the Rainbow Bridge, of our beloved pets crossing over. I sure hope that is the case. I can't be certain but I want to believe that Pete & Sydny are playing together, and I will see them again, this time forever.