THE DAY THAT FLIPPED OUR WORLD

(Written July 2, 2016)

October 7, 2002

Tomorrow was the day! Our annual family trip from Lake Hawkins to The State Fair of Texas. Chelsey, my 29 year old daughter, and Zoë, her 6 1/2 year old daughter were spending the night so we could get an “early start.” We have made this trip virtually every year since Wendy and I were married in ’72. I pictured our day. Wendy and Chelsey, now best friends as well as mother and daughter, walking through the fair, side by side, seeing opportunities for crafts, or cooking, or creativity in general, laughing, sharing the sights, sounds, smells of that wonderful place. Zoë and I in our own world, me seeing the things that she found interesting, through her eyes, showing her things that I found interesting (fair food, new inventions, midway games, rides, fair food, inventions(all those wonderful toys)).

Chelsey was a single mom, who succumbed to the temptations of moving into an independent life in her early twenties, had gotten pregnant, dumped by the dude, and had returned wholeheartedly to the faith she had strayed from, finding strength and purpose from her creator. She returned to college, discovered a passion for the American Sign Language and the deaf culture, and became an interpreter for the deaf. She also, after her work day, would pick up Zoë at our house, go home and make phone calls for my chimney sweep/window cleaning business, as my office manager, dispatcher. (In other words, she planned my days.) She always planned two days off during the week in October for us to go to the fair.

My tendency is to get pushy about the leaving time associated with the “early start”, so, I actually prayed that night, “LORD, help me to realize that the time with family is more important than the arrival time. Help me to stay calm in the morning, no matter how late we leave.”

October 8, 2002

The big day! Up at 7:00, everybody already starting to rouse. It takes me about three minutes to get ready, we had packed the night before, so I quietly began to load the car. It was incredibly amazing how calm I was. Not once did I tell anyone to hurry, or even mention the time.

We were actually in the car, pulling out of the driveway by 8:00.

Wendy was driving, I was navigating, Zoë strapped into her booster seat in the middle of the back seat, and Chelsey behind Wendy by the door.

I love this Christian talk radio station in Tyler, and we always listened to it as we drove.

Chelsey preferred the other one that played contemporary Christian music.

This day, my station was playing contemporary Christian music.

As we neared Terrell, Tx, Chelsey made the statement, “I am so glad your station is playing music today. I love this song! I’ve never heard it before.”

I called the station, spoke with the announcer and found out the name of the song.

Chelsey beamed.

“Pull into this station, Wendy. They have Krispy Kreme donuts and good coffee!”

Zoë and Chelsey waited in the car while Wendy and I went in to grab a few donuts. All the favorites.

When we got back to the car, Chelsey saw one I had gotten for myself (I didn’t think anyone else would want one) and asked if there were any more. I told her where they were, and watched her beautiful self as she strolled into the store, moved through the store, paid and got back in the car.

Back on the highway, music playing, coffee and donuts, on our way to the fair. Can it get any better than this?

Zoë had finished her donuts, was feeling kinda sleepy.

Zoë: Mommy?

Chelsey: Yes, Baby?

Zoë: I love you.

Chelsey: I love you too, Baby.

Zoë: You’re my best girl.

Chelsey: You’re my best girl, too.

Wendy: Oh my God!

I looked up. A two ton truck carrying construction supplies on the eastbound side of the highway had turned across the median and was barreling toward us.

Wendy had quickly moved from the center lane, to the right lane, to the shoulder, trying to get out of his way.

Crash! Impact into the side of our Suburban pushed us into the grass, and we began to spin around. A mini van behind us swerved onto the grass to try to avoid the collision, and hit us in the rear after we had spun one complete revolution, making us turn backwards, still moving, go down a hill, through a small gully, and up the other side, still facing backwards. Then we stopped.

Airbags had deployed in the front seat, coffee was everywhere, but I was totally okay.

My first thought: Well, I guess we won’t be going to the fair.

As I turned to look back at Wendy, then Chelsey and Zoë, Zoë was still strapped in, crying, and there was a gaping hole in the side of the car where Chelsey had been.

“Where’s Chelsey?” I yelled, jumping from the car, running back to find her.

I found her. Lying on the ground at the point of impact, clothes shredded, huge gash in the thigh of her left leg. No blood.

Her face. Peaceful.

I knelt beside her body, wordlessly letting God be there.

A woman’s voice behind me, a hand gently stroking my back, “Jesus loves you.”

I never saw her.

I walked back toward the car, picking up things I recognized from our car along the way.

Wendy was standing outside the car, talking on her phone to her mom, crying.

“Chelsey’s gone,” I said.

“I know.”

Two men were standing to the side, one was holding Zoë. Her skin had a bluish tint.

(Wendy told me, later, that those two men were standing by the car as I jumped out. “Give me the baby,” one said, and somehow, Wendy unstrapped Zoë and handed her to the men)

The helicopter arrived to take Zoë to Children’s Hospital in Dallas.

I turned to Wendy, “How are we going to get there?”

“We’ll take you.” Two ambulance drivers were standing there. They took us.

When we got to the hospital, we were met by the Chaplain to take us where we needed to go. He did not say a word. Imagine what I was imagining, but afraid to vocalize.

My cousin, Glenn was there, to meet us.

“Zoë is okay,” He said, and showed us where she was.

The doctor was checking her over, touched her right shoulder and she winced, and he knew, rupture of the spleen and kidney.

In September of the previous year, we had started attending Hollybrook Baptist Church near Hawkins. We immediately joined a Sunday School class, even before we joined the church so we could get to know some folks. Debbie Havens, who had lost a grown son at a young age to cancer, had recently joined the same class and mentioned to us that there were several people in that class whose children had preceded them in death.

I remember later that day, Wendy saying, “I’m not sure I want to be in that class.”

We did, though, and Chelsey and Zoë also joined the church.

Chelsey saw a guy signing during the songs one day, went up to talk to him after, and found out that he had lost his hearing and he, Wally, and his wife, Billie had been asking God to bring an interpreter to the church so he could “hear” the sermons.

Chelsey became that interpreter, as well as the substitute pianist on occasion.

Those days, Chelsey would be playing the piano, would slide out when the preacher began to speak and sign for Wally, then slide back onto the bench to play.

There was always a supernatural glow around her when she was doing this.

So, the first people there, other than my cousin, Glenn, were Cramer and Debbie Havens, and Jim and Vicki Shaw, who had lost a son in a car wreck.

Both members of that Sunday School class.

Zoë was checked into a room. The doctor decided that surgery was not needed, but she needed to stay in bed and be observed for several days.

Zoë for the first day showed little to no emotion, stoic, not even crying.

That day, Wendy, having lost the numbness of shock, turned to me in Zoë’s hospital room while Zoë was asleep. “Randy, I don’t think I can do this.”

The next day, they had to take a blood test, and in the process, Zoë lost it, became almost hysterical. Then she started responding to us, and others.

One conversation I had with Zoë.

Zoë: Hey, Pappy. I really liked that helicopter ride!

Me: What?! How is that possible? You are scared of heights, right?

Zoë : Yes.

Me: And you hate loud noises, right?

Zoë: Yes.

Me: Then how is it possible that you liked that helicopter ride? It was high, and it was loud.

Zoë: I know. But just turn it around, just turn it around.

I laughed. She laughed.

We felt the presence of God through that time. Physically felt him. An unexpected peace. The people who needed to be there for comfort being there. A sense of being able to live in the moment. A sense of being thankful. A deep, real sense of sorrow, with a strength that was not ours.

Our lives took a different path, not one we planned. Everything changed. We became Zoë’s grandparents / parents. We became friends with people twenty years younger, who had kids in Zoe’s generation. We had to stop being indulgent grandparents to become responsible parents. Zoë told me one time that she and her mommy would pray at night, “and Mommy would always say, ‘and God, please send us a husband for me, and a father for Zoë.”

Chelsey found her “husband’s” arms on October 8, 2002.

I became Zoë’s father.

Everything changed.

That day.

The weird, unhurried calm while loading the car.

The music that Chelsey loved filling her head on her last day here.

The last words between Chelsey and her daughter.

The sudden appearance of the woman with words of truth, “Jesus loves you.”

The two men suddenly outside the car.

The ambulance ride.

The friends who were there, who knew what we felt.

The peace of Zoë’s helicopter ride.

On and on and on.

But God never changed. He was there all the time.

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DOOM PREDICTIONS

DOOM PREDICTIONS

A few days ago, I saw an interview on TV.

The one being interviewed said that she has decided to not bring children into this world because destruction is imminent.

The interviewer tried to ask her how she will spread this message to the world, and she didn’t seem to have an answer.

She just seemed so sad.

So hopeless.

So filled with despair.

The interviewer saw this, too.

“I think you should have kids…” he said.

“There is not enough time,” she responded bleakly.

I remember when I was a freshman in college.

I read “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich.

I believed what he said.

Overpopulation was imminent.

The world couldn’t hold the vast increase of people that was coming.

Starvation, poverty, was a certainty.

No family should ever have more than two kids.

That was 1970.

Remember Al Gore?

The documentary that warned us of global warming and worldwide flooding of the coastlines and islands because of the melting of the polar ice caps?

By the year 2000?

It seems to be a common thread from the left side of the political aisle.

“Tragedy is looming…we have to do something…now…there is no time to waste!”

“Elect me…I will fix it!”

” Trust me. I will tell you what is an emergency, and what is not an emergency. Just trust me. The government will keep you safe. Trust me. We will take care of you. Trust me.”

But…it may cost you everything you have.

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 direct your paths.

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JUSTIFYING THE ENDS

In a primitive culture long ago, people believed that “honesty is the best policy,” that ” a man’s word was his bond.”

In that primitive civilization, truthfulness was considered a high virtue, one that many aspired to maintain.

A handshake was considered a viable contract to honor one’s word of promise.

As centuries passed,the enlightened ones soon came to see that sometimes you could accomplish much more good for the people if you didn’t tell them the truth, but told them what they wanted to hear.

These enlightened ones learned that if they repeated a lie often enough, the more primitive ones would soon begin to accept the lie as truth.

These enlightened ones knew best what the less enlightened needed, and the end result was much more important than the means to arrive at that result.

So, the ones who most skillfully used deception and dishonesty became the highly esteemed leaders of the culture.

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CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN

CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James 1:17 NIV

Every once in a while, you read a scripture that you have read a thousand times, and a part of it stands out, for some reason.

You look at it, and you can’t see any reason, so you kinda figuratively walk away.

But it keeps drawing you back.

There must be something there that I’m not seeing.

What are the good and perfect gifts?

And why does the scripture tie them to the creator of lights?

What is light anyway?

The result of something dark, lightless, becoming overwhelmed with intense, terrifying, transforming heat.

When God stepped into His creation, when it was still shrouded in darkness, He let there be light.

Everything changed.

When God raises His creation to Life, He overwhelms the darkness that resides there with an intense, transforming heat.

Those good and perfect gifts.

Those trials that we are told to count as joy, that are designed to change us into what we were created to become.

The trials that burn as light.

AND EVERYTHING CHANGES!

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TOUGH LOVE

One Year Ago

I wrote this three years ago to a real person.

When I shared it as a generic letter, to maybe help someone struggling with some difficult temptations, I had a lot of feedback. Some positive. A lot negative.

I removed the post.

Have you ever had this strong, unyielding feeling that you didn’t respond to a situation properly?
The feeling wouldn’t go away.
Someone pointed out to me last week that I like to argue.
Sometimes I do.
Today, I didn’t feel like making an effort, so I deleted the post.
I looked up the original letter…and read it…again…slowly.

If you will do the same thing, read it slowly, think about my motives and intentions, then, maybe, hit me again with your comments.

I believe this was more important than I realized.

THE LETTER:
I hope you will read this. I am not writing to condemn you or judge you; I only want to share with you what I have learned in my 36 years of letting Jesus be my LORD. (There were 26 years before that life began, but I had no wisdom in myself, literally, none.)
My struggles against my own flesh are not nearly as hard as they used to be, but they do still rise up, virtually every day, and I only win the struggles when I yield myself to the one who made me. Now the attacks of the enemy are way harder to resist, and I am so grateful that my Lord is a forgiving one. But even those attacks can be overcome by the word of my testimony, and by fixing my eyes on Him, not on my own strength ( or in my case, weakness.)
It is my understanding that you have given yourself to the pursuit of the gay lifestyle, and my heart breaks for you, not because of the specific choice but because you are choosing a way of the natural self instead of a way of the spirit of God, tying yourself to the chains of the world and its ways instead of soaring above on “wings of eagles.” Believe me, I understand the pull on a young man. I am not so old that I can’t remember what it is to feel desire and how impossible it is to resist, especially if someone is convincing you that it is your right. I have seen Christians justify theft, lies, fornication, divorce, adultery, drunkenness, abortion, drug use, laziness, disobedience, homosexuality, PRIDE,… all in the name of “my right to choose” what I want to do. The first 26 years of my life were exactly like that, and I considered myself good!
Here is what I have learned. No matter how strong the desire, and no matter how satisfying the fulfillment of the desire, the satisfaction leaves, the desire returns, and a deep darkness inside of us grows, the light that was there dims.
We were created for joy. We were created to display the awesome glory of God. I heard a man say this week that “God displays His Glory most in us, when we are most satisfied in Him!” The reason drugs, alcohol, thrills, sex, and power are so addictive is because they counterfeit joy, and we become resigned to the idea that they are the only avenues to attaining a measure of joy.
But joy can indeed be found when one truly seeks satisfaction in Him only. When He smiles, you get JOY!
My friend, I am coming to you as a brother In Christ, because I believe you are. God can even use the natural desires you have in you to display His glory to the people you are drawn to, in a way I could never reach them. Choices you make will have consequences, and if you think pursuing a course that tells God “I want this no matter what” will give you happiness, I’m afraid you will be most severely disappointed. I know I am an old man to you, but I have really felt JOY, and know what it is like both ways, my way and HIS WAY. “In His light, we see light!”

Always in His grip,
Your friend,
Randy

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“IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT WATER IS LIKE, DON’T ASK A FISH.”

“IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT WATER IS LIKE, DON’T ASK A FISH.”

I heard this today.

Think about that.

Ironically, when I was 9, I had two goldfish, Laelius and Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius was by far the most outspoken.

Me: Hey, can you tell me what water is like?

MA(Marcus Aurelius): What? What is water?

Me: This. Explain this.

I showed him a glass of water, sloshed it around a bit, poured a little bit out.

Laelius just looked at Marcus, shook his head and rolled his eyes. Then he swam to the other side of the bowl.

MA: We don’t have that here.

I laughed out loud. I thought he was kidding.

Me: You’re kidding, right?…You know you’re swimming in it.

I poured the glass of water into the fishbowl.

MA : This isn’t water…this is God…he just ate your water. He feeds us, he holds us. He does everything for us. This is the whole world.

I didn’t really know what to say.

I was only 9.

I remember when my whole world was all I knew.
It was everything.

And then, this voice came in from outside my world and introduced me to the REAL ONE.

I never saw the world the same again.

And now, I can talk about it to anyone who will listen.

And, I will.

file:///dayone-renderable-code-block:/7F43231E-BBA5-4F18-9DA4-AE5B4AEE0C7F

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PRECONCEIVED IDEAS

Wendy and I went to a marriage weekend with Zoë and Evan this weekend.

They are just barely through their first year.

But we are never past the point of needing to be reminded of things that we have dealt with and then grown past. Because these little foxes have a way of creeping back into the vineyard, and spoiling the vines.

One thing that was discussed was the problem of having expectations of what this marriage would be like according to our premarriage experiences.

My mind took off.

Later in the day, I asked Wendy, “Do you remember when I started helping you cook dinner? I know I didn’t at first, in the early days, but I honestly can’t remember when that changed.”

She couldn’t either.

When I was a kid (I was really self-absorbed) dinner was on the table when we heard the call, “Supper is ready!” That’s just how it was. We didn’t go into the kitchen, pick up a plate, spoon portions onto our plate, get a glass, pour milk, carry it to the table, sit down and eat.

We came to the table, sat down, and, after Dad prayed, ate.

I don’t even remember ever getting seconds. Or even asking for seconds.

Maybe that is why I was such a glutton at family reunions.

But, I never questioned the system.

Mom cooked dinner.

Dad cooked breakfast.

And when I asked Dad to cook my eggs a certain way, and to cook me two extra pieces of bacon for my traditional bacon sandwich school lunch, he always did. I don’t have any memory of how he handled my two brothers’ and my sister’s breakfast.

I told you, I was self-absorbed.

So, I probably carried that expectation into the marriage.

We never discussed it! I don’t remember when it changed, but, looking back, I guess I rolled with it.

I do remember one time, in the very early days with Wendy, asking what we were having for dinner.

She told me.

“Uhmmm, I’m not sure I like that,” I said.

Without hesitation or even looking my way, she said, “Well, that’s what we are having.”

I learned a very valuable lesson that day.

Turns out she is a very good cook.

Also turns out, I am not a bad sous chef.

Although, neither of us can remember when that happened.

There was the time I tried to cook dinner for her on Mother’s Day one year.

But…that is another story.

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