Silver Linings

There is no way around it. Life can be damn hard and the only way you can get through it sometimes is to sludge through the blood, guts, and crap all the while keeping your eyes open for the silver linings and trusting that God will use the hard stuff for a greater purpose.

I turned down all of the scholarships offered to me to run track and cross country in college in order to focus on my studies. At the time I didn’t think I could juggle the intense college athlete schedule and maintain the grades necessary to get into a business school. Not running meant that I would need a high paying summer job to offset the costs of not taking a scholarship. The best paying summer job in my home town at the time was working at the beef slaughter house. They hired local teens in the summer. I helped fund my education by working in the slaughter house the first two summers of college. My summer vacation was no vacation at all but it kept me motivated on my studies as I knew this job would be the alternative if I failed at college.

Man, I have so much respect for the people who work at the beef slaughter house because that job is hard….Really hard…Inconceivably hard. It was so physically demanding that there were times after my shift’s completion that I would sit at a lunch table in the cafeteria attempting to salvage whatever energy was left in me to complete the “arduous” walk to my car.  I earned every cent of overtime pay in every second on the job. It was tough to see a finish line but I would count down the days, no, I actually remember counting down the hours I had left in the summer until I could go to college and live the “easy life.”  I couldn’t wait for those summers to get over. I would rise at 5 am and by 6am start the incredibly physically exhausting job of throwing 50 pound pieces of meat every three seconds for eight hours. Then I’d go home, change out of my blood soaked clothes, clean up and take a nap until 5pm when I would eat some dinner and wait for my silver lining.

In the midst of literally trudging through blood, guts, and crap I struck up a friendship with a man who owned a bass pond. Not just any bass pound, a bass pond with eight pound bass. An eight pound bass in Colorado is the fish of a lifetime. At this pond it was common to catch 75 fish in a day. This new friend knew I liked fishing and I think he could see a little bit of himself in me as I was on the processing floor working my tail off everyday. One day early in my first summer he invited me and some friends out to his pond to fish. IT.WAS.INCREDIBLE. I thanked him profusely and when we left and he said I was welcome to come out any time. For those who don’t know me, I have tendency to overdo things. I fished that pond every single night with my friends for those two summers. That bass pond was my silver lining.

It is with this current situation in life that I again find myself up to my waist in blood, guts, and crap. While Jonathan’s tumor biopsy results were inconclusive they were able to get enough of the tumor tissue to ascertain that it is more than likely neuroblastoma.
Cancer. Breathe Danny.
There are two types of neuroblastoma. A non-aggressive one that resolves on its own and an invasive one that attempts to infest every living tissue in the body. The oncologist thinks Jonathan has the “good cancer” because of his energy and overall cheerful disposition. If it were the “bad cancer” he would be in constant pain as the beast leached itself into every crevice, organ and bone in his body. This week Jonathan will have an MIBG scan which will help to determine if the tumor is indeed made up of neuroblastoma cells and if those cells have invaded any other places in his body.  Holy cow am I really discussing and praying for good cancer?

At times like this one wants to place blame. I blame my pastor and myself.  A couple of years ago he preached about giving yourself and your children up to God. At the end of the sermon he implored the congregation to give up everything to God. However; he did advise that anyone who genuinely wished to do this better be certain because God may listen and change your life for his purpose. I was like a bass in that pond.  I gave EVERYTHING up to God. I started praying nightly for God to use us for his purpose. Now here I am watching my son fight for his life and EVERYTHING is in God’s hands. There is nothing we can do. This is entirely in God’s hands.

Mark 9:14-27 tells a story of a man taking his possessed son to the disciples and the disciples not being able to drive the demon out. A commotion ensued and Jesus asks what is going on. The boy’s dad tells Jesus about his son’s miserable existence and tells them that the disciples were unable to cast the demon out.   In my mind I see this man on his knees holding his son with his hands together begging for Jesus’s mercy. He pleads, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). It is at this point in the story that I feel Jesus offers a scoffing retort in “If I can?  Everything is possible for him who believes.” The next verse is my life. The dad says “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Jesus then heals the boy thus casting out the dad’s doubt.

Well Jesus, here we are in the blood, guts and crap. We still love you, use us for your purpose. I know your will is different than mine and I am so appreciative of the 10 months I have gotten to spend with Jonathan. I know I will never understand your will or why you allow evil things to happen, but I know you will use it all for good.  I know Jonathan is your son and I know my love for him pales when compared to your love for him, but please don’t take him from us. I too, am on my knees begging for you to take pity on us, pleading for a miracle. Please heal Jonathan and help us to rise from the blood, guts, and crap. May the silver lining here be that our story offers hope for others, may you use it for a greater purpose. I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.

Where Feet May Fail

Jonathan was diagnosed with a tumor.
It was inadvertently discovered during a CT scan of his heart…Gauging from the response of the medical team it appears to be serious

Jonathan’s Facebook Page

When I was seven I was playing on a tire swing in the neighbor’s garage. The rope was attached to the ceiling.  My friend and I were taking turns pushing each other when his 15 year old brother walked in and decided it would be more exciting if he pushed us. Eager to impress, I went first. He pushed with the ferocity of a teenage boy. About four pushes in, the rope detached from the ceiling while I was easily four feet in the air. I violently crashed with my back landing flat against the cement floor. As pain shot through me I realized I couldn’t breathe. I crawled, sprawled and strained across the dusty floor trying to get one, just one breath. I thought surely I must be dying. My friend’s brother said “get up you baby. You just got the wind knocked out of you.”

Jonathan was diagnosed with a tumor.

It was inadvertently discovered during a CT scan of his heart. He had been having some symptoms that with his heart’s unique anatomy could indicate the presence of collateral vessels or an obstruction in his pulmonary arteries. The cardiologist was unable to fully visualize his pulmonary arteries and the extent of the collateral vessels present on the echocardiogram so he ordered the CT scan.  His heart is just fine. Well as fine as the heart of a kid with a single ventricle can be. While looking at the scan, the radiologist spotted a mass she was “deeply concerned about.” Another sedation and MRI later we were informed of the presence of  an acorn sized tumor. Gauging from the response of the medical team it appears to be serious. We still need a biopsy to determine if it is malignant or benign but but we are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. If the C word does come out the doctors may have certain limitations to which type of treatments they can use due to his heart. The  good news here is they found it early.

When the diagnosis came in yesterday there I was again, 34 years later crawling around on the musty floor trying to catch my breath. I couldn’t breathe!  I ask, “Why us God? Why Him? Why won’t you intervene?” I think back to Joseph fleeing Bethlehem to save baby Jesus’s life. I think “man if God wouldn’t intervene to save Jesus’s life why is He going to waste time on us?” In my pit of misery I yell out, “I just want to take a damn vacation! I cannot carry this burden one step further.” I bemoan that everyone says “God is good.” I say, “meh, sometimes.”  In the rawness of the diagnosis, my mind, as it often does, jumped to the worst case scenario. That mindset, the Devil’s mindset, leads me to tell a friend that  “when I get to heaven I am going to punch Jesus right in the face.” I proceed to tell my wife that “I have no more fight.” I had a temper tantrum Josiah and Elijah would be ashamed of and they have some real doozies!

Yet this morning on the heels of my wife essentially telling me to “get up you baby, you just got the wind knocked out of you” God has given me the strength to rise. On my mind is the song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Joel Houston / Matt Crocker / Salomon Lighthelm

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Thank you for being a good God. I am sorry for my actions yesterday.  I need you. My wife needs you. My boys need you. My dear son, Jonathan, needs a miracle.

We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know what or how the process will unfold. We know that God can heal. We believe God will heal.  It is with this my friends that we humbly ask you for more. What we are asking is completely unfair. You all have given so much with your time, money, effort, meals, and prayers. We know that we can never repay you. We also know that there is nothing we can do or say to let you know how much we appreciate it. We know that without your prayers we would not have gotten this far. So, now more than ever we need prayers for healing, for strength, for faith.

“You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.” -Isaiah 38:16-17

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Sovereign

One year ago today I was told that Jonathan did not have a left ventricle in his heart.  After the diagnosis friends, family, and pastors in attempt to ease our grief and justify our unfortunate set of circumstances said “God is Sovereign.” I thought to myself, I have no idea what in the hell you are talking about. Thanks for nothing! I have never understood sovereignty. It seemed like an easy excuse people fell back on when they had nothing else to say to explain the pain of someone else’s life situation.  Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Sovereign as:

1 a : one possessing or held to possess supreme political power or sovereignty

b : one that exercises supreme authority within a limited sphere

c : an acknowledged leader

When we started this process we toured the cardiac and maternal fetal medicine units at Children’s Hospital. Our “tour guide” was Carey, one of the nurse coordinators for fetal cardiology and the Single Ventricle Program.  We walked past the doors to the surgical unit. Outside of these doors is a waiting room with a number of sitting areas. This room is centrally located and thus you have to walk by it several times a day if you have a child in the CICU (cardiac intensive care unit).

On our maiden voyage past this waiting room with our guide, I noticed a family sitting up front in the three seats closest to the door of the surgical unit. In passing, I made eye contact with the man rubbing his wife’s back in a reassuring manner.  My eye contact seemed to catch him off-guard. His appearance caught me off-guard.   To say the couple looked exhausted is an understatement. The man wore a ball hat, a tshirt and clearly had not seen a razor in awhile. His bloodshot, glassy eyes matched his body’s slumped posture. He looked underweight, weak, and pale. The wife didn’t appear to be faring much better. She wore no makeup and sweatpants. Her hair was messy and it looked like she hadn’t showered any time recently.  I could tell that at one point in life this couple had their crap together and that they were probably a very good looking, put-together couple. What in the hell outside of a heroin addiction could ever cause someone to look like this?  I wondered what type of a path they must have taken to look this bad. I assured myself as I put my own hand on Christina’s back that we would not look that way. “Our path will be easier” I reassured myself.

On the fourth day after Jonathan’s birth he went under the knife. After we handed him off to the anesthesiologist, Christina went back to the home we had rented. She was too tired and sore from Jonathan’s birth to sit around the hospital for the 8 hours Jonathan’s first surgery would take.  In a surgery of this magnitude a nurse comes out every couple of hours to update the family as to how the procedure is going. I found myself sitting in the waiting room in those very same seats closest to the operating room door. Maybe it was my subconscious telling me this is where I was supposed to sit from my first impression of seeing that family three months earlier. Maybe it was the fear of missing an update, thinking the nurse wouldn’t see me in the other clearly visible 22 chairs. Maybe it was me wanting to be as physically close as possible to my son, whose chest was cracked wide open on the other side of those doors.

As I sat by myself I noticed that whenever anyone would walk by, they would quickly look down at the floor and scurry past, trying to avoid eye contact. This seemed to be the unspoken protocol. Why? Because every family in the CICU had quite literally been in my seat and seeing someone in the seat was a distinct reminder that they all had a beloved child in a life or death situation. No one likes to talk about it but many of these situations end in death.  When you’re there, you hear the alarms and see the frantic rush of the staff in those attempts to keep another family’s journey from ending in death.  Looking at the floor and scurrying past the waiting area was simply a way to get through it. Those chairs were scarred with painful memories and the underlying fear of landing back in them again. To not acknowledge the person in those chairs was a coping mechanism, to think that perhaps by playing dumb to those chairs you could go about your day and forget the vulnerability, stress, and peril associated with the fight for life sitting in those chairs represented.

Following Jonathan’s first surgery, days turned to weeks which quickly turned to months. Jonathan battled intestinal infections, seizures caused by a series of strokes, blood transfusions, difficulties feeding among other things. Our other boys struggled through this time too. They dealt with many new faces of various people who babysat them, they were often cooped up with not much room to play. For the boys the stress of the situation triggered behavioral outbursts, difficulty sleeping and even new onset of seizures.  Christina struggled mentally, emotionally and physically. I am a proud man. It pains me to admit that I was not man enough to take this on. I thought I was prepared. I was so greatly mistaken. My body failed as a result of the stress. I battled a shingles outbreak and the physical pain was only offset by the emotional pain I felt from not being able to hold or touch my children or wife for three weeks.  I also suffered an ocular stroke in my eye which left me partially blind in that eye. The doctor said this was something the elderly and chronically ill diabetics suffered from. The underlying cause baffled the doctors who could only point to stress as the culprit.

Four long months filled with 911 calls, ambulance rides, ER visits, hospital readmissions, constant doctor appointments, and five family relocations later there Christina and I sat in those same chairs waiting for our nurse to update us on Jonathan’s second open heart surgery. I make eye contact with a guy and his pregnant wife touring through with Carey.  I think “they’re just a couple of kids, why are they here going through this?” I ponder the question of God’s sovereignty.  It dawns on me that this kid hasn’t learned the unspoken rule of looking at the floor. I rub my wife’s back in a reassuring manner and realize that I am wearing a ball hat and tshirt, and haven’t seen a razor in awhile. My eyes are bloodshot and glassy. My posture is slumped. I am underweight, weak, and pale. My wife wears no makeup and sweatpants. Her hair is messy and looks like she hasn’t showered any time recently. I look at the kid and I can guess what he might be thinking, “what in the hell outside of a heroin addiction could ever cause someone to look like that? What path have they taken to look this bad.” I see him mentally assure himself that they will not look this way. Their path will be easier. I say a quick prayer, God let their path be easier than ours, they are just kids.

Mere days later Christina and I find out Jonathan is being released from the CICU. He has fought like a champion and we are on the backside of his recovery. We decide to celebrate. We are on cloud nine and are going for a long overdue and much needed dinner together. We walk out of the CICU smiling and holding hands. Once the CICU doors open we see yet another family sitting in the all too familiar waiting room chairs. The husband is bleary eyed and the wife clutches a blanket she’s wrapped around her shoulders. I notice the surgeon kneeling in front of them. Immediately we follow protocol and shift our eyes quickly to the floor and scurry past trying not to intrude on the sacred space.  As we walk by we  hear the surgeon say the risk for bleeding out is too great and there is nothing more he can do. We hear the moan and sob that can only come from a parent faced with losing their child.

Life is hard and we went through hell but one year after the diagnosis that changed life as we knew it, I get to go home and hold my son tonight. Tomorrow that could change, but I finally understand;  God is Sovereign.

Lines

Lines are a huge part of my life. Let me explain.

In snowboarding you can sit at the top of the mountain on a powder day and pick your line of descent. You carefully determine where you can gain speed, where you need to maintain speed and where you can launch off of stuff, hucking your body into the brisk mountain air with no regard. When you get to the bottom of the mountain you can turn around while you’re waiting in line for the next chair and see every second of your line carved into the mountain as if were a hot knife in butter. Picking the wrong line can ruin a ride, day, or life.

At work I am constantly working in between the legal lines to keep my loans in compliance while doing the best job I can for my clients while keeping the bank’s best interest in mind at all times. Some loan officers blur these lines in pursuit of attaining their annual goals. This ultimately causes damage to the bank, the client, and ultimately the loan officer as they are almost always fired when they are found out.  Blurring the lines can ruin a career.

A line I am comfortable with is toeing the line of a race start. Gently stepping up and inching your racing flats to the start line and placing them as close to the line’s edge in order to gain that extra millimeter advantage. Oh the exhilaration of waiting on the gun to sound, knowing your hard work and dedication is about to payoff on the race course, is a feeling unlike any other. You know that the pain is coming. You also know that if you go just one percent further into that pain zone, you ultimately will beat 99% of your competitors. Stepping to that line without following your training plan always leads to an unsatisfactory race day.

Then there is my favorite line of all. My fishing line. When I fly fish I am in constant pursuit of the perfect angle of my line. I am continuously taking care of the mends in the line while it is on the water. All the while worrying about the clarity of my line as I try to gently set it down on the water’s surface. I always know where my line is. Not knowing and controlling every possible thing about your line can lead to you spooking a fishing hole and thus scaring any potential fish from biting for an undetermined amount of time.

The common theme is respect the line. Just about every teacher, friend, friend’s mom, girlfriend’s dad, and probably every relative told me that I was always two steps over the line. My stories, my jokes, my actions have always been over the line. I took pride in it and it fed itself. The more over the line the greater my stories became. Everyone thought I was an adventurous daredevil, a rebel, or dare I say an idiot?

Well as it turns out I am none of the above. I am a very, wait for it, calculated planner.  When I was younger I planned my life. In my mind’s eye I pictured myself standing on the line looking forward, never back. The line ahead of me trails off into the horizon. There are bends. There are ups and downs and there is a glowing finish. It is a vision that I have had most of my life. Maybe I saw it on a Hallmark card, a cartoon, or some power point presentation. Either way, it really got stuck in my head.  The line is very smooth because it is very calculated. Watch, I would graduate high school, leave Fort Morgan and graduate college, move to the city, get a job, then  get my MBA while moving up the corporate ladder all the while enjoying life, making very calculated investments. I would push one to two steps off the line constantly weighing the risks and rewards of straying from my predetermined course. Sure there would be ups and downs but if I stayed close to the line things would ultimately be fine. It sounds ridiculous but I planned every single step of my life. Work and travel, then settle down and get married at 35. I would have kids, work until 55-60 when I would take an early retirement and retire with my wife to the mountains while my kids finished high school. Silly right? It gets so much worse. I had my death and my funeral planned. No joke! Always living today while preparing for tomorrow. Constantly weighing the risks and rewards. I literally thought if I just keep my head down and mind my own business nothing bad can happen. All of it calculated and connected by my predetermined decisions. My path. My life. My line.

Our family’s current ordeal has caused me to doubt past decisions, doubt my reality, doubt myself and doubt my future. The “what if” game is a trap. It leads you into a very deep, dark place.  The “woe is me” game is even worse. At the end up the day when you are finished playing you just feel worse and nothing has changed. This leads a person nowhere and nothing good comes of it. When I finished playing these games, I looked down and I could not find my line. It is gone. I am off course. Who the hell is manning the ship and how am I going to make that funeral if there is no line to follow? Come on people. Back to the common theme, respect the line!

You realize I am the epitome of a fool. All of those years of planning could never prepare me for what God has planned for me. I was never going to be allowed to follow my own path. The fact that I called it my path should tell you what type of an idiot I was. I was never on my path. I was on God’s path all along. What the heck was I thinking? My line trumps God’s plan? Think about how silly that sounds.

All throughout the Bible it reads of proof of my ignorance.

  • Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 ESV

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5  ESV

  • The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 ESV

  • For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11New International Version (NIV)

  • Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. When wickedness comes, contempt comes also, and with dishonor comes disgrace. The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice. … Proverbs 18:1-24  ESV

So what does all this mean? Some may think it means you can throw caution to the wind and release yourself of cares, responsibilities, and consequences because if it is meant to be then it will happen by God’s will. That is a very tricky slope and it could end you up on the wrong end of any line. Maybe a prison photo line.  Maybe the bankruptcy line. You get it. Listen, I cannot tell you how to live your life. I cannot tell you how to make decisions. I will tell you what I am going to do. I will trust in the Lord in making my decisions going forward. This is a concept my wife is completely familiar with as she employed this tactic most of her life. She has been praying on decisions most of her life. No only praying but not acting until she receives a response. God does not necessarily answer when we ask the first time. This is especially though for me. What if I am told I can never get that cabin? Why would I decide this is my new course of action? History, the Bible, tells us my forging ahead with my line was wrong as:

  • I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8  ESV

  • If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5 ESV

  • For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

  • And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21 ESV

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

As I watch my brave son who had more than 20 lines connected to him to keep him alive, make gradual progress and get line after line removed I am reminded to respect the line. I will adhere to my running, fishing, snowboarding, and working lines because those are necessary to be successful at my job and my hobbies. I am going to disregard my line. It was foolish. Here is a thought, maybe God allowed this to happen to get me off of the line and onto his line.  I won’t know until the funeral. I hope God does not have that planned in my near future.


Blasphemous Rumors

My favorite band growing up was Depeche Mode. They were a 1980’s electro-sync pop group that had various songs that for one reason or the other spoke to me in my teen/college years as the angst of my “misunderstood” youth raged with the passion of a thousand suns as the mounting pressures to perform on the track or in my chemistry class seemed to pull at every fiber of my being. One particular tune that resonated with me was “Blasphemous Rumors.” Oh this song….its chorus has been forever ingrained into mind. It is a slow depressing song with a catchy chorus that whines:

“I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors but I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor and when I die, I expect to find him laughing.”

I have thought about this song a lot recently as maybe God is laughing at my situation. Don’t be so quick to judge me on my blasphemy. Would you blame me if I turned on my faith? Maybe you might turn too. Life is very hard; case in point my life the past few months. Let’s rewind:
• 12/30/2016- I am sitting in my office reflecting on the year. I literally say out loud, man 2016 has been the best year of my life. No more than 15 minutes later I receive a phone call from my brother in law Chris telling me that there has been an incident. The result of this incident will require my 14 year old special needs son to live temporarily with his grandparents in Golden. The humility of not being able to take care of your son is devastating.
• 1/6/2017- I receive a late night phone call from my parents. The second I see it, I know what has happened. My grandfather, the man I have aspired to be like, has passed away.
• 3/2/2017- A clear genetic screening has been completed! Now we leisurely attend the ultrasound in a anxiety free state. This is the day we meet our little boy. Mid way through I see a change in the tech’s demeanor. She asks Christina to turn sideways. I ask if everything is alright. She tries to poker face me and says “she is doing routine work”. I am a banker I read people for living. I know something is wrong. The tech leaves and Christina asks if I am alright. I tell her I am nervous. She says it will be ok. It wont, I know something is wrong. The doctor walks in. This cant be good. Oh God don’t let her sit on the table. She sits on the table. Oh God don’t let her touch Christina’s leg. She touches Christina’s leg. I know it is bad. I can feel the blood rush out of me. My head drops. I go numb.
• 4/26/2017- Christina calls me and says Josiah’s cold has taken a turn and that he is in the ER with a 105.3 degree fever. I rush over and they think he has a UTI. They run some tests and send us home with medicine. Thank God. That could have been worse. The following day Christina’s phone rings at 6 am. That cannot be good. Mrs. Frasier We need to run follow up tests. Josiah has already been admitted to Children’s please bring him down immediately. Thus starts a four day battle of Josiah and the doctors fighting for his life against a kidney/bladder infection going septic. The doctors eventually tell us that everything is going to be ok and that there is a less than one percent chance that Josiah will need surgery.
• 5/21/2017- I am in the garage reflecting on our situation when Christina screams “Danny were going to the ER. I run into the house and see a gaping cut across Eli’s head. Eli, not to be out done by his brothers, takes a header on the entertainment center. The cut requires 7 stitches. Eli was a champ but I swear I could hear the needle piercing his skin as he sat in my lap for stitches.
• 5/25/2017- We go to the doctor and have some awful tests run on Josiah. We find out later that Friday afternoon that Josiah’s kidney/bladder infection is caused by a stuctural/functional issue and will require surgery. Furthermore, he has a 5% chance of losing said kidney.

Thud. That is the sound of my head hitting the mat. Hearing Josiah’s news was a death shot to my frontal lobe. The woe is me mentality has officially taken over. Internally, I don’t want to get up off of the mat. One too many punches. Why get up to get knocked down again? It is just too damn hard. Seriously, has anyone ever heard of a family having this much happen in 5 months? We have to put two of our babies under the knife within 60 days of each other. No one would be able to get up off the floor. I cannot rise. My faith is gone. I think back to Depeche Mode…. “God is laughing”!

Clearly after Josiah’s news I took a pretty hard tailspin. Shortly after in my car, I recall a recent conversation I had with a friend. I audibly scream out to God at the top of my lungs. “God if this is what being a Christian is all about, I don’t want to be a Christian.” I boldly state that “I am not going to church anymore. Look at what good it has done me!” I say “the more I get to know God the harder my life gets. I am not praying anymore as it only causes more pain. Why would I waste time getting to know someone who just laughs at my circumstances?”

That night I tell my wife, who has a bachelor degree in Pastoral Ministry, that I am done with God. She takes this opportunity to clarify that this is not being caused by God. She reminds me of a sermon we heard where the devil leaves people alone who are not a threat. Hence the reason you sometimes see sinners or the unsaved living charmed lives. She reiterates that there is evil in the world and we are currently being attacked. I argue that Old Testament God was mean as hell. She argues that Jesus released us of God’s Old Testament Wrath. She quotes: 1 Peter 5:8-9* commands us to

“Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack. But you must resist the devil and stay strong in your faith.”

I know evil exists in this world. Over the past 6 months I have looked it in the eyes. I felt its breath on my skin. It had been swirling around me for months anticipating, waiting, lurking for me to relent to the darkness’s constant pressure. At that lonely moment in my car on the way home, I weakly conceded to the notion that God had betrayed me. As soon as the words left my mouth I felt the serpent that had been slinking around my feet coldly slither up my body and coil itself tightly around my neck as its head reared up and hissed its orchestrated vileness about God’s betrayal into my ear.

I have not resisted the devil. I have not remained strong in my faith. I know it and I am not proud of it. I hear Christina’s words and internally I come to, my eyes gradually open and I lift my head up off of the mat but the pain of my life’s circumstances are just to much for me to overcome and rise at this time.

It is now Sunday morning. Christina asks me if I am getting out of bed. I say I am not going to Church. I instantly see the pain in her eyes. Not only am I betraying God. I am betraying her. I am betraying my vows. I love her so much, the betrayal in her eyes makes me physically rise and get ready for church. Internally, I crawl to all fours but I am not ready to get up yet.

At church a miracle happens. Pastor Brady (@pastorbrady) preaches about a verse that I have been thinking about posting into this very Blog for over three weeks. In the wake of Josiah’s news and my internal fall from grace I completely forgot about it. Brady reminded me to

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:10-17* NIV).

Clear as day, the sermon was God speaking to me. Simply put a miracle. I think back to Depeche Mode. God is not laughing at me. It is the devil. Externally, I audibly beg for forgiveness. Internally, I rise up off the mat and dust myself off. I am now standing in an attack position, because I have my armor. I have my belt. I have my breastplate. I have my shield. I have my helmet. The battle is just beginning but I am ready. No more laughing, Devil.

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The Calm and The Storm

I have intentionally been an absent voice during this entire process. I have not shared anything because I do not want to hurt you. It doesn’t take a psychology degree or ESP to see the pain in your eyes when I tell you about Jonathan’s plight. It tears me apart to see my friends, family, clients, hell even complete strangers hurt. This is not your burden to bear and I feel that the less I say the less likely I am to hurt you, which in turn means I don’t hurt myself.

One fall I took a fishing trip to Alaska. I was fishing in a seaside port town called Whittier. My friend and I were in a rocky cove with completely serene waters. So serene, one could peer down from the 30 foot cliff and see schools of salmon making their 10 to 15 minute laps in the pristine cove. When the salmon would enter the cove fellow fishermen would start calling out as to alert the neighboring fishermen that the Salmon were headed their way.

Until this moment, I had never seen or been a part of a team fishing experience. This was exhilarating. One after the other like dominoes collapsing on each other the fisherman would call “They are coming.” My friend and I followed suit and screamed at the top of our lungs and laughed when the school swam by. Our exhilaration caused us to miss the fish as we had inaccurate casts from being atop our 30 foot cliff. To get a more accurate cast on the salmon’s next lap, I climbed down the rocks to the waterline and precariously hung out at the 20 foot deep waters edge. I figured with the water being as calm as a lake, what is the worst that can happen? I fall in? Who goes fishing in Alaska and doesn’t expect to get a little wet? I continued to fish from my perch.

As time past the alerts from fellow fishermen, even my friend, became fewer and more spread out as everyone was packing up and heading home. I couldn’t blame them. The fishing was pretty slow but I didn’t fly to Alaska to get skunked. An hour or so later, I heard a very distressed man scream inaudibly at me. For the life of me I could not make out what he was saying. Soon after, another man came over and began screaming and motioning toward the sea. This was followed by my friend joining the couple and motioning for me to come up. I decided to climb back up the cliff and see what the commotion was all about. Maybe they want me to see a whale.

The serenity of the sea had recently been replaced by a “noise.” By the time I carefully scaled up the wet cliff that “noise” had turned into a roar. The previously serene cove had turned into a swirling, tumultuous ocean that had engulfed my precarious perch. I, being from Colorado and having limited ocean fishing experience, was completely ignorant as to how fast, violent, and unannounced the high tide coming in could be. Ten minutes later my perch was under 10 feet of debris filled water that was viciously crashing into the cliffs I had just scaled.

I have dreamt about that cove many times in my life. Sometimes in my dream I do not make it back to the top of the cliff. Instead, I fall into God’s washing machine at high tide. My life is currently at the waters edge and the tide has come in. This tide is a combination of raw panic, angst, anger, and fear of what is to come physically, financially, and emotionally. I cannot internalize this anymore I need to share. I needed my fellow fishermen’s help on that nearly fateful day in Alaska and today God called down to me playing at the waters edge to again warn me of my ignorance. God advised me that internalizing Jonathan’s plight will only make certain that I never escape the tumultuous sea. I cannot overcome this on my own. I know that I am going to have to share my experiences. More over, I know that I am going to have to lean hard into God. Harder than I ever have. I know that I have slipped into the sea. I will soon be drowning in my own emotions. But alas there is hope:

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8 23-27)
I am truly sorry if my future posts ruin your day, hopefully they can become a bright spot.