A Creational-Approach to Missions

Has the church been doing missions “wrong” for almost two-thousand years? No, but I believe that we can deepen our passion for missions by going back and asking “Why did God make man?” This also relates-directly to the greatest philosophical and theological question of all time, “Why am I here?

As I have worked on my message for the Sunday morning service during the 2017 CNA Spring Conference, I have been drawn to ponder more deeply what the foundation of that message should be. I believe that this must be rooted in what God has revealed about Himself in His Word, the Bible. Lest you think that I have finally lost my mind, bare with me and it should all start making sense.

Creation…
The first four words of the Bible are “In the beginning, God…” Our Creator-God pre-existed all of creation, so He decreed the “beginning“. The first two chapters of Genesis are the story of creation, what God did, and how He did it. As great as the cosmos is, they weren’t God’s ultimate-acts of creation. God simply spoke the cosmos into being, ex nihilo, out of nothing, but when He was ready to create man, He attended to that project personally.

Scientists love to talk about the “big-bang“, as if all matter coalesced into one place and exploded. Where did THAT matter come from? Matter isn’t self-generating. I also believe in a “big-bang“, a God-ordained “big-bang“, because when God said “let there be light“, and the nuclear-fires of a gazillion stars lit as one, releasing an enormous burst of light and energy, that WAS an unimaginably BIG BANG.

We pick up the story of man’s creation from Genesis 1:
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31)

What jumps out at you in Genesis 1?

From Genesis 1:
Man is created in God’s image.

That “image” is both male and female. We are neither one a “greater-image-bearer‘ than the other.

God gave two commands, “be fruitful and multiply“, and “subdue and rule over the earth“. God gave us the reasons for our existence from the very beginning, our “why’s“.

God created mankind to co-create more bearers of His image, and to continue His work in the world.

7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:7, 15-25)

What jumps out at you in Genesis 2?

From Genesis 2:
God got His hands dirty, because He hand-formed the man from the dust of the ground.

God performed the first “artificial-respiration“. God didn’t “snap His fingers” to bring His creature to life, He breathed His OWN breathe into the man.

There was only one restriction; do not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Man needed companionship.

God performed the first “anesthesia” and the first “surgery“, making God the first Doctor.

The “companion” God created was NOT another man; it was a woman, the perfect-complement to the man. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Naked and not ashamed“: Adam and Eve had perfect-fellowship with God, just as God intended.

Why did God make man?
We often have trouble separating our “needs” from our “wants“, but God doesn’t have that problem. People have lived for thousands of years, and still do, in “improvised-shelters“, “shelters” that do what “shelters” are intended to do, “shelter” them from the elements. “Shelter” is a basic “need“, and yet, particularly here in the US, most of us aren’t content with “basic-shelter“. WE WANT MORE! We WANT homes with all the “amenities“, even when we could get by with much less. That is only one example of how we have inflated our “needs” into often-overblown WANTS.

Does God “need” anything? God has been totally self-sufficient and self-sustaining for all eternity. To put it more succinctly, God didn’t “need” to make man. The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit ARE the PERFECT-FAMILY. There is no tension, strife or discord within the Trinity. As God told Moses from the burning-bush, He is the great I AM. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

What if God “wanted” something He didn’t have? What if God wanted a larger family, a “forever-family“? One of the few things God CAN’T do is procreate or replicate Himself. There always have been three persons in the Godhead, and there will always be three persons in the Godhead, because God is unchangeable.

If we want a larger family, we have two options, procreation and adoption. Many couples don’t have the option of procreation for a variety of reasons, one being endometriosis. Endometriosis runs in my first wife’s family, and even though Connie didn’t have that problem, our oldest daughter does, and has had since she was about thirteen. After trying for several years, she and her husband adopted a baby boy. She got pregnant shortly thereafter. They have two boys, and a “blended-family“, including ethnically-blended, because the boy they adopted is black, and she and her husband are white. I am button-popping proud of them as parents, and of both boys as my grandsons. A couple in my church has three children naturally, and they adopted three siblings. The youngest, a boy, is autistic.

For God to have a larger family, His ONLYoption” was “adoption“, which is why the theme of “adoption” comes up frequently in the New Testament. That, my friends, I believe, is why God created mankind, so He could have the larger family He desires.

What happened?
We have seen God’s plan to create and adopt a larger family, but something got in the way.

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall crush your head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:1-15)

Something happened, and it wasn’t good. Satan attempted to usurp God’s place to build his OWNfamily“. While it appears that Satan succeeded in the short-run, God wasn’t having any part of it.

Did this turn of events catch God off-guard? If it did, God isn’t God. The reality is that God knew this was going to happen before He even began creation. God’s “plan of redemption” was NOT some “Plan-B“, and the rest of the Old Testament is the unfolding-story leading up the coming of the promised “the seed of the woman“.

Redemption…
4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters). 6 Because you are sons (and daughters), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son (or daughter); and if a son (or daughter), then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Notice that glorious word “ADOPTION“. “Adoption” means that we are part of God’s “forever-family“, furthermore, we can call Him “daddy (Abba)“, and we have become “heirs” of God’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ was that long-promised “seed of the woman” who “crushed the serpent’s head” at Calvary, so that we could become part of God’s “forever-family“.

Why am I here?
For most of us, it is quite easy for us to determine “why” we are doing what we are doing at a particular moment in time, but when we get to the overarching question of “Why am I here?”, we are stumped. We don’t have a clue, UNLESS we have developed a Biblical view of our meaning in life.

About 350 years ago, a group of Bible scholars and theologians met in Westminster Abbey to scour the Scriptures for the most important doctrines of our faith. They summarized those doctrines in short, concise statements, in what became the Westminster Confession of Faith. Many churches and denominations still subscribe to that Confession, including my home church, Cypress Ridge Pres. I also subscribe to that Confession.

From that Confession of Faith, they set out to formulate teaching-tools so that those great doctrines could be taught to the masses. They produced two Catechisms, a Larger, more detailed Catechism, and a Shorter, or more simplified Catechism, which is suitable for even young children.

The very first question they asked was “Why am I here?” Thus, question and answer one is:
Q – What is the chief end of man?

A – Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

If you are thinking that this question sounds suspiciously like “Why am I here?”, you are right, because the Bible should inform our understanding of “why” we are here, the “meaning of life“. If it doesn’t, we are looking for “meaning” in all the wrong places.

Why am I here? To be part of God’s “forever-family“.

Family rules…
For a family to function smoothly, there have to be rules, rules about how the children are to interact with their parents, and rules for now the children are to interact with each other. God’s family is no different; hence God gave us the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments tell us how we are to interact with God. The other six commandments tell us how we are to interact with one another.

20 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who [e]stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

By the time Jesus came to earth, the number of rules and regulations in the Torah had blossomed to over six-hundred, covering virtually every aspect of life. If the Pharisees thought that God hadn’t been “detailed-enough“, they added even more rules and regulations. They were always trying to pick a fight with Jesus, but they ALWAYS lost. Not surprisingly, they kept trying, because He made them look like the idiots they were. Anything to save-face…

34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

We will now focus on that second Great Commandment:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself…

We can certainly think of many ways we can show love for our neighbor, and all of them are valid, however, what is our neighbor’s GREATESTneed“? Think about that “need” for a few moments before we go on.

God gave me a “love-project” for over three years, a sickly, injury-prone neighbor. She needed MANY things, many of which I was able to help her with, but since she thought that she had gotten her “ticket punched” when she was a young girl, she thought that she “had it made“, and had no interest in the things of the Lord. Her lifestyle reflects that belief. She ONLY goes to church when she thinks it will be “advantageous” to her. She has a great “need“, even though she thinks she doesn’t.

There are MANY like her in this world, for whom God may only be a “useful-accessory“, it at all. We see them everywhere we turn.

Every person belongs to one of two families, either God’s family, or Satan’s family. There is NOmiddle-ground“. They are also going to either Heaven, or Hell. Again, there is NOmiddle-ground“.

What is MANKIND’S GREATEST “NEED”?

Mankind’s greatest “need” is to be restored to a right-relationship with God, and to become part of God’s “forever-family“. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ IS the GOOD NEWS that we can be restored to a right-relationship with God, and join His “forever-family

God has given US the awesome-privilege of being part of His “adoption-agency“, so doesn’t it make sense for us to share the Good News of the Gospel so that others can become part of His “forever-family“, and participate in His ultimate-plan for mankind? I sure think so.

That, my friends, is how we can “love our neighbor” in the very-best-way possible.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Tough Times…

I’ve had them, you’ve had them, even the Apostle Paul had them, and some of you may even be going through tough-times right now. Maybe you are going through financial-difficulties such that there is “too much month at the end of the money“, health issues for which there is no “cure“, relationship issues, or are in a spiritual-slump, and while it may be hard to imagine anything “good” coming from them, we aren’t abandoned in our struggles. Paul reminds us that “we are not alone“.

The Apostle Paul was certainly no stranger to pain, suffering and tough times, and as he wrote the letter to the Romans, he knew that more sufferings were ahead of him. He had been beaten many times, imprisoned, and stoned and left for dead. While the exact date of this letter is unknown, we do know that Paul hadn’t been to Rome yet, but that there was already a vibrant church there. He wrote Romans 8 out of those experiences, combined with the assurances he had received from the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 also contains some of the most “difficult” verses in the whole Bible because they are counter-intuitive to us and our experiences. With that in mind, I want to look at verses 18-27. I have covered Romans 8:28-39 in a previous post entitled “Good?” which was posted in August, 2015. I invite you to read and study that post as a “follow-up” to this treatise.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Paul kicks-off this section by comparing the significance of his sufferings with the glory that awaits him after his journey is over. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. As much as Paul had already suffered, and as many sufferings were still on the horizon, they paled in comparison to the glories of Heaven.

While it is not “wrong” to ask, “When will this all end?“, or, “When will I get some relief?“, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, your spirit should be buoyed by the fact that your suffering will end when you take your last breath, and when you wake up in Heaven, you will have the perfect health and have the perfect body which you may have even been denied at your birth. Yes, I am looking forward to seeing perfectly with two good eyes, hearing perfectly and not having my body riddled with arthritis, the true glory will be seeing my blessed Savior face-to-face and having perfect fellowship with God and with His people.

Paul then reminds us that we are not alone in yearning for when all things will be made right, for when all things will be made new. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

When God created mankind, He gave us custodial-responsibility over all of His creation. When Adam and Eve fell, God placed a curse on the rest of His creation as well. However, rather than being good custodians of God’s creation, mankind has exploited and raped God’s creation in our endless greed for MORE, MORE, MORE. While I don’t know how much of “climate change” is man-made and how much of it is really climate-cycling, I do remember the days when coal-fired power-plants belched acrid black smoke twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week, and when diesel trucks left a plume of acrid black smoke in their wake. I don’t miss those days, but at that, we should be doing a much-better job of tending God’s creation. Yes, even creation eagerly-waits that time when all things will be made right, and all things will be made new.

23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. While some false religions are looking forward to the time when our spirits are “liberated” from our bodily-shell, Christians are looking forward to our bodily-resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was more than merely Him coming back to life; it serves as the iron-clad assurance of our own bodily-resurrection. To be “humanmeans to have a “human-body“, and that is what God created us to be for all eternity.

Our Victory in Christ
26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Have you ever thought that you NEED to pray, and may even have urgent things to pray for, but really couldn’t put your thoughts into a coherent-prayer? Have you ever tried to pray, but all you did was sputter and stammer? Did you ever stop and remind yourself that the Holy Spirit knows what is on your mind and is praying with and for you? Maybe you have read these words before, but their significance still hasn’t sunk-in yet, if so, read them again and let them sink-in to the depths of your heart. 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We have an intercessor Who knows how to make our petitions known to God the Father even better than we ever could. The Holy Spirit never sputters or stammers. Take comfort in that glorious-reality!

From Isaiah 40:
Eight centuries before Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, God addressed His exiled-people through the prophet Isaiah. As they struggled to endure the hardships of their exile, they asked “Has God abandoned us?”, a question we may be tempted to ask when we are struggling with tough times. God’s answer to them, and to us, should give us comfort and assurance that we are NOT abandoned.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.

29 He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.

30 Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly,

31 Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:27-31)

God, through Isaiah, asks: 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? As they yearned for their homeland, they may have wondered whether God had abandoned them, or God was “on vacation” and had forgotten their plight. Do we ever have those thoughts?

Notice God’s answer to their immediate-question: 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. God tells them, AND us, that He NEVERtakes a vacation” or even “goes to sleep“. God is ALWAYS on “high-alert“.

In the aftermath of 9-11, many people wondered where God was on that fateful day, and even more recently, where God was during the Pulse Nightclub massacre, but God has assured us that NOTHINGescapes His notice“.

In the midst of our tough-times, we may ask “WHY?” many times, but God reminds us that we may never understand His reasons for our struggles. His understanding is inscrutable. There are many times in my life when I have asked “WHY?“, only to be met with deafening-silence, and it would only be many years later before I finally caught a glimpse of “why” those things happened.

Have you ever wondered, as you struggled through tough-times, how you were able to keep putting one foot in front if the other? Tough-times wear us down and wear us out, but God concludes His message with one of the most amazing promises in all of Scripture.

29 He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. 30 Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, 31 Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Some of you may have read “Footprints In The Sand” before, and I can’t think of any more fitting way to close this treatise.

Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, You would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. “Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

If you are going through tough-times, or know someone who is, my prayer is that your spirit will be buoyed by these precious promises from Romans 8 and Isaiah 40. I need to be reminded of them too, because my life isn’t exactly “smooth” right now either.

Sola Deo Gloria!
Steve

Why Am I Here?

That isn’t a rhetorical question, because it gets to heart of why I am still alive and taking up space on this planet. I could say that I am here because I have a mission to accomplish, but that would only be a partial-answer. The reality is that I should have been dead over forty years ago, but obviously I am not dead yet. I am not here because I want to be here, although I certainly do want to be here. The crux of the answer lies in Who controls my life and my “fate“.

There have been enough twists and turns, and ups and downs in my life to make a cork-screw look like an eight-lane super-highway. It is those twists and turns, and ups and downs which have brought me to where I am now, and as I look back on the last forty-plus years, had my life been the super-highway I envisioned, my life would have been very different than it is and my current mission could never have come about. So, sit back and relax while I lead you through my journey through hell.

 

1975 – I was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and we had just had an ice-storm which left a sheet of black-ice in patches on the turnpike. It was snowing as a buddy and I headed south from Fort Sill towards Wichita Falls, Texas, in my Dodge pickup to see some of his family when we hit one of those patches of black-ice. It was dark, so we couldn’t see the ice until we hit it, and had it only been my driving-skill controlling that truck, we would have either been in a ditch or in the median. I still remember the rear-end of the truck fish-tailing at least forty-five degrees each way before straightening up…just as we hit a patch of dry road. Someone else was in control.

 

1978 – I had met the love of my life, and we got married on April 15th, income-tax day, with the expectation of “happily-ever-after“. Our marriage didn’t stay “happily-ever-after” for long because I was no “Prince charming“. My parent’s marriage was at best dysfunctional so I didn’t see a good marriage modeled as I was growing up.

 

Mid-1997 – I badly-needed a break, a mini-vacation, because I was working six days a week, averaging 55-60 hours a week, and the stresses both at work and at home were piling-up. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that our marriage was falling apart at the seams. I found out by “quirk of fate” (If you believe that, I have some real estate for sale, including some land that is under-water 13 months out of the year and a bridge that leads to nowhere.) about Oak Lake Trails, a nudist resort in northern Oklahoma and decided that would be the perfect get-away. I was NOT a nudist (Unlikely Nudist), but I wanted to try it anyway. It did turn out the be the perfect get-away, and I enjoyed two delightful weekends there. I still wasn’t “hooked“, but that experience planted the seed which would mature many years later. Yes, we lived in rural Oklahoma, not central Florida.

During this time-frame, I also received four death-threats, one from a man who I owed $25 to, and who was caught with explosives in his vehicle, and the other three were from a brother-in-law who thought that the best way to take care of our family-problems was to “eliminate” me. Another brother-in-law offered to pay for the divorce if my wife would divorce me.

 

October 1997 – I lost my job due to “management-streamlining“, even though I still haven’t figured out how they became more “efficient” when it took three people, who didn’t know what they were doing, to do my job. I was also forced to move out of our home and in with my parents. I took whatever day-work I could because I had no other income. I was doing some work for a friend on that fateful day when my wife decided to end it all, thus giving me an air-tight alibi that there was no way I could have been at my family’s home that afternoon. When I got back to my parent’s home later that evening, they gave me the horrific-news that my wife had committed suicide that afternoon. My plans for our twentieth wedding-anniversary went down the tubes along with any hopes for “happily-ever-after“. I was devastated.

 

1998 – I met my second wife online early in 1998, and after somewhat of a “whirlwind-romance“, we got married in August 1998. She was living in Phoenix and I was living in Oklahoma City, so after we got married in Phoenix, I moved her to Oklahoma City, where my dad and I had remodeled a mobile home for us to live in.

 

December 1999 – My wife and I flew to Florida for Christmas, and while we were in Florida, I had the opportunity to stroll on Boynton Beach – in shorts and T-shirt. We had left snow and freezing-cold weather behind and were enjoying semi-tropical weather – in December. I asked her whether she would be interested in moving to Florida, and a split-second later, she asked me when we were moving. Before we got on the plane to fly back home, she had TWO job-offers, one with a firm reporting-date. Who arranged THAT???

 

February 2000 – We arrived in Florida on Valentine’s Day, and within a few days, we were able to rent an apartment close to where my wife was going to be working – that we could rent by the month. This was important because we planned to buy our own place as soon as possible, and we didn’t want to be tied-up with a lease. I won’t bore you with the details, but less than ninety-days after we arrived in Florida, we were able to move into our brand-new, custom-built double-wide mobile home on our own piece of land. Okay, maybe a couple of details: The land had JUST gone on the market, and there was already a well and septic-tank on it, which saved us a LOT of money.

 

Fall 2006 – My wife and I decided that we did not want to retire in Florida, strange as that may seem, but with rapidly-rising property-taxes and sky-rocketing property-insurance, particularly on mobile homes, even with two incomes, it wasn’t going to be long before we couldn’t afford to live in Florida, so we decided to move to either South Carolina or North Carolina. I grew up around Greenville, South Carolina, so we started looking in that area. Unfortunately the places we really liked weren’t all that accessable, particularly in winter, and jobs, even for her, were few and far between. We finally found a home we both liked in Mount Holly, North Carolina. That area had the advantage of being close enough to Charlotte that working in Charlotte was both reasonable and practical, AND, she was able to get a job-transfer to a facility in Charlotte.

The home we found to buy had been foreclosed, so it had been repainted inside and had new carpet. It was also out in the country but in a small neighborhood. We celebrated Thanksgiving in our new home.

There was just one fly in the ointment. We still owned the home in Florida also, and that was when real-estate values were starting to go downhill very quickly. We still owed almost as much as that property was worth in the depressed market, so finding a buyer was a crap-shoot.

Another problem quickly reared its ugly head, lack of a job for me. Even though I had a lot of facilities maintance experience, I didn’t have the credentials or experience that industrial plants were looking for. I was offered one job, but when left that plant with a serious headache, I said “No thanks“. They sprayed a LOT of chemicals but didn’t have very good ventilation or exhaust in the plant. That only left one option, for me to go back to Florida where I could go back to my old job, and I could be there to more actively try to sell that home.

 

Easter 2007 – Sometime between 3am and 5am I had an eye-stroke. I had gotten up at about 3am to use the restroom and everything was fine, but when I woke up at about 5am needing to use the restroom, my right eye was blind. That nixed my plans to go to the Easter sunrise service at my church. The next day, I called an eye doctor I had seen before and was able to get right in. I had had an eye stroke, and the chances of regaining my eyesight were slim to none. He also told me to go to an emergency room ASAP, which I did that evening. I was admitted to the stroke unit of Monroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala early the next morning, and spent four days there being checked out before I got discharged, on Friday the 13th.

My wife didn’t come down from North Carolina to be with me, and she didn’t even send me a card. She filed for divorce six weeks later. In the divorce decree, she demanded and got a quit-claim deed to the property in North Carolina so that she was the sole-owner. She also dumped the Florida property on me, along with several thousand dollars worth of credit-card debt – for things that SHE kept. I also had to let my vehicle go back to the bank because I couldn’t afford to pay for it either. The home in Florida also got foreclosed, so I didn’t even have my own home to live in. Thankfully my parents had moved to Florida by then so at least I had a place to stay, and I was able to find a cheap vehicle to buy. That seemingly ill-fated move had cost me everything including my health. I had become a liability to her, so she dumped me.

 

The ink was barely dry on the divorce decree when I met my third wife. We dated for several months before getting married in the spring of 2008. I also bought a fifth-wheel travel trailier for us to live in, which I am still living in as we speak. That marriage lasted less than three years before she decided that she didn’t need me either. When I lost my job, I became a liability to her too. Ironically, she had promised that she would NEVER dump me like my second wife had. Sure, and I have a bridge for sale…a bridge to nowhere.

 

September 2010 – My dad started getting sick in early 2010, and by September, he was getting to be too much of a handful for mom to care for by herself, so I moved back in with them. When regular blood-work didn’t show any problems, his doctor referred him to a neurologist. That doctor ordered more blood-work and a spinal-tap. Those tests revealed that he had advanced-stage Lyme disease and tertiary-syphilis. Those diseases were destroying his brain. We had him admitted to Hospice on the 29th of September.

Dad wasn’t getting markedly-worse, but he also wasn’t getting any better, so right after Thanksgiving, we had him transferred to a nursing home, where he spent the rest of his days. Dad died on October 1st, 2013. I had been up to see him less than a month before he died.

 

August 2011 – I was on my way home from a month-long vacation when I was involved in an accident which should have been my last. I was two-hours south of St. Louis when a young lady clipped the right-rear door of my vehicle, sending me into a 270-degree spin at 65 miles-per-hour. My vehicle and I landed rear-end-first in a 25-foot deep ditch. I walked away without a scratch even though my vehicle was very much the worse for wear. I was seriously-shaken, but otherwise okay. My “guardian-angel” deserves “hazardous-duty-pay” for keeping me safe that day.

 

October 2012 – I met my fourth wife online, and after a whirlwind romance, we got married December 6th, 2012. A few days later, I moved down here. Less than six weeks after we got married, she also flew the coop, and moved in with another man. Thus began some of the darkest days of my life, second only to losing my first wife. I have chronicled a lot of what I went through in earlier posts on this blog.

 

Why has God allowed any of these events to happen in my life? Were they part of His plan? Hindsight may be 20-20, but that doesn’t make any of these events any less painful. Had none of these events taken place, yes, I might still be happily-married to my first wife, but this blog would have never come about, and I would not have been in a situation where starting a ministry at Cypress Cove became possible.

I have been asking God WHY He allowed my wife to commit suicide over eighteen years ago, and as strange as it may seem, I am now beginning to understand. As horrific as that event was, it was “necessary” in order that I could get to where I am now. What other horrific-event happened almost two-thousand years ago which was for our “good“?

 

Many years ago, another man went through many hardships, which culminated in him being in a position to save his family from certain-starvation. That man was Joseph. He was sold by his jealous brothers to slave-traders and wound up in Egypt. After spending some time in prison, because God was watching over him, he rose to being second-in-command over all of Egypt. God used him to save both the nation of Egypt and His chosen people from starvation during a seven-year famine. When he finally revealed his identity to his brothers, he told them something that may help us gain a better perspective on the hardships in our lives.
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. 4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:3-8)

Two things ought to jump out at you. In verse 5, Joseph said “God sent me before you to preserve life.“, and in verse 8, he said “So now it was not you who sent me here, but God;“. God had a plan, and Joseph was a vital-part of that plan.

The Apostle Paul also went through many hardships, and he left us with another piece of divine-wisdom. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Neither Joseph nor Paul ever said that the events themselves were good, but that God can and does cause good to come from these events. God never lets people off of the hook for the evil events they perpetrate in our lives even if He does cause “good” to come as a result of those events. Joseph’s brothers will still be held accountable for selling him into Egypt even though the “good” that came out of that event was the salvation of their families.

The Jewish religious-leaders, the Roman government and the Roman soldiers will still be held accountable for crucifying Jesus even though the “good” that came out of that events was our salvation. Likewise for Paul, all those who opposed him and caused all of his hardships will beheld accountable for their actions even though the “good” that came out of those actions was the spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman empire and his many Epistles.

My wives and everyone else involved will be held accountable for their actions, even though you are reading some of the “good” and the ministry at Cypress Cove is part of that “good“. Yes, I will also beheld accountable for all of my sinful actions as well. One day God will settle ALL scores, and only those who are trusting in the shed-blood and finished-work of Jesus Christ won’t be condemned to eternity in Hell.

God has a plan for each of our lives, and sometimes we have to go through difficult situations in order for that plan to come to fruition. I am not here by “quirk-of-fate” or by “chance“. I am here because God brought me here, and if someone had told me along the way that I would be where I am now, I would have serious questioned their sanity. Maybe it is time for me to say what Jesus said on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

In Christ,
Steve

Frustrations…

Warning: Murphy’s Law on the rampage!

I wish that I could say that I am always cool, calm and collected, but I am not, and the week before Father’s Day was one of those weeks. Does that mean that everything that could go wrong did? No, but my frustration-meter got pegged early in the week, and even though several things did go right, my frustration-meter didn’t get completely reset. By Saturday, my frustration-meter was primed to shoot through the roof, and it did – HARD.

If you are not familiar with Murphy’s Law, it says “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time“.

Frustration:
: a feeling of anger or annoyance caused by being unable to do something : the state of being frustrated

: something that causes feelings of anger and annoyance : something that frustrates someone

: the act of preventing the success of something : the act of frustrating something

Orlando…
Driving in the Orlando area is a nightmare any time, and particularly during “rush-hour”. The problem is that “rush-hour” is almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Yes, there are “lighter” times, but eight o’clock AM isn’t one of them. Most of the motorists are pretty good, but it only takes a couple of speed-demons to make driving a real nail-biter.

Tuesday…
I had a urology appointment scheduled for 9 AM, and where I have to go isn’t exactly “just around the corner“. It is 37 miles of driving on the two busiest highways in Orlando, I-4 and the 408 cross-town turnpike. It would help matters if I-4 was eight lanes in each direction, but it isn’t. Most of the time, it is four lanes with periodic exit and entrance lanes. It is an hour drive on a good day, so I allow an hour and a half just in case.

I got there at about 8:30, and by the time I walked into the building and went upstairs, it was about 8:40. That facility now has electronic check-in KIOSKS, so I went to check in. I was told I didn’t have an appointment. I had a text-message appointment-confirmation, so I went to the desk, where I was told that my urologist had called in sick. There were two clerks, and both had a computer and a phone, but they hadn’t bothered to call the urologist’s patients. WHY???

I was told that I could come in the next day at 3:20 PM. I had gotten up early to get ready and make it on time, all to have both my time and my money (fuel) wasted because two clerks couldn’t be bothered to call that urologist’s patients. Who do the clerks think they work for?

By the time I got back home, I was mentally-shot for the day.

Frustration #1…
Do your job!

Frustration #2…
You don’t have the right to squander someone else’s time and resources!

Wednesday…
I had planned to do my laundry Wednesday, but instead, I had to drive back into Orlando for my urology appointment. Traffic isn’t “quite” as bad that time of day as it is early in the morning, but that is a matter of degrees.

On the up side, I got a MUCH better parking spot that late in the afternoon. I was also my urologist’s last patient of the day, so she was not in a hurry to get it done and over with. She had plenty of time to review my records and for us to talk some things over. She also did her usual thorough “well-male” exam. After I got done with her, I stopped by the lab for bloodwork and to pee in a cup. Because it was late in the day, I got right in and right out of the lab.

Background…
I am a Veteran, which means that I am prior-military. When I was in the service, being late was NOT an option. Oversleeping your alarm-clock was no excuse for being late to work.

Saturday…
A group of us were planning to get together and have a picnic in one of the state parks. There was just one “minor” problem. It was Father’s Day weekend, and it seemed like half of Florida was intent on going to that same park. The park is north of Orlando and I live southwest of Orlando. I had looked at a map and planned what I figured was the most direct route. That morning, I got up in plenty of time to get ready so I could make it to the park when we planned to meet. I loaded my stuff in my vehicle and headed out. I also programmed my GPS to take me to the park. Shortly after I headed north on I-4, I heard my GPS say “Take exit…“, but I was in the wrong lane to exit and I hadn’t planned to go that way. A couple of minutes later, I realized that I had forgotten something vital to my planned activities, the backpack with my bathing-suit and towel. SO, I had to turn around and go back home to get the rest of my stuff.

Frustration #3…
I really hadn’t planned the BEST route, so I missed the exit.

Frustration #4…
I forgot something and had to turn around to go back and get it.

Frustration #5…
All of the above meant that I was running late, something I hate to do.

When I headed out the second time, my frustration-meter was already in the red-zone. I should have stayed home that time, but I didn’t, because when I commit to doing something, I will do everything I can to keep my commitment. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of the rest of the day. I did make it to the park we had planned to meet at, but it was full. By the time the organizer moved the picnic to another park, even farther north of Orlando, my frustration-meter was through the roof and my vehicle was almost out of fuel. To make matters worse, communications was almost nonexistent because I had no cell-phone service in that area. That was even more unfamiliar territory, so I fueled my vehicle and went back home to cool off. Had everything gone as planned, I would have still had enough fuel in my vehicle to drive for another couple of days.

Frustrations had been building rapidly all week. I had bought stuff for the picnic that I had no use for at home. I had to buy fuel for my vehicle that I shouldn’t have had to buy that soon. Yes, I am still human, and when things don’t go as planned, regardless of whose “fault” it is, I get frustrated.

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time”.

Steve

Tears In A Bottle

You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
Psalm 56:8

Do you ever feel like you are insignificant? Do you ever feel like you don’t “matter” to anyone? If you do, you are in good company, because, inspite of everyone wanting to know your business, nobody really seems to care. “Self” has become more important than service, and caring has gone the way of political integrity.

David was the “runt“, the “baby“, of his family, and while his older brothers were off fighting King Saul’s battles, he was sent out into the wilderness to tend sheep. When Samuel, the Prophet, came to David’s family to anoint a new king, David was inconspicuously-absent, still out tending sheep. After Samuel passed over all of the older brothers, David’s father finally admitted that he did have a younger son, who was out tending sheep.

One would have thought that David’s “fortunes” would have changed after He slew Goliath, but that made him a national hero, and a threat to King Saul’s throne. So, David spent the next several years on the run, fearing for his life. There were several times when he was only one step ahead of Saul’s army. Even after Saul died and David became King of Israel, he still wasn’t out of the woods, because his own son, Absalom, thought that he could do a better job.

David never lost his faith in God, and in spite of his horrible “fortunes“, he knew that God never abandoned him. Many of the Psalms came from his pen, including this marvelous verse;

You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?

David knew that nothing escaped God’s attention, and yes, God even paid attention to his tears, his times of pain and his times of sorrow. Is there anything that we can learn from David?

You matter to God…
We all go through times of difficulty, and even when we feel all alone, God is paying attention.

Have you cried tears that never made it to the surface? God caught those too.

Have you pasted a smile on your face while hiding a broken heart? God saw your broken heart.

Have you, when you said “I’m okay“, really meant “You wouldn’t understand“? God understands.

Have you lost a loved-one to death? God caught those tears too, including the ones that never made it out of the well.

Has someone you loved left you without you really ever knowing why? God saw your heartbreak.

Is physical pain a constant, or nearly-constant companion? God feels your pain. God is both your Creator and the Great Physician.

Have you watched someone you care deeply about suffer through horrible physical ailments, but were helpless to do anything about? God was there too.

Talk to God…
Something else that we can learn from David is that he talked to God all the time. No matter what was going on in David’s life, he told God about it. The Psalms are full of conversations David had with God, and many of them are laments, so even if all you can do is complain about how bad things are, God wants you to tell Him about them.

We forget that God never gets “too busy” and nothing that we need to say is “too minor” for His attention. If He knows how many hairs are on your head, and when one of them falls out, He is NOT “too busy” to attend to your needs. God is also NOT offended when we ask Him “WHY?“.

Do YOU need to cry?
Crying doesn’t really come naturally to most of us men, but that is because we have been taught to NOT cry. Jesus was a man, the “manliest” of men, and He cried, several times. You have permission to cry, and don’t forget that God has a bottle for your tears with your name on it. Pour out your heart to Him, and while you are at it, thank Him for caring so much about you. David did that too!

In Christ,
Steve

There Is A Balm In Gilead

A recent post by Rebekah Hope (rebekahhopes.wordpress.com) brought this great old hymn to mind, because not only do we need physical healing in this life, we also need spiritual healing. Jesus is the Great Physician, but how often do we go to Him with our deepest hurts?

There Is A Balm In Gilead

Refrain
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

God cares…
God cares about your broken marriage.

God cares about your grief over a loved-one who was struck down by cancer.

God care about your dysfunctional relationships.

God care about your friend who is suffering from chronic illness.

God cares about all of your hard questions, including those that start with “WHY?”.

God cares about your anxieties and insecurities.

God cares about your physical ailments.

God cares about your addictions and struggles with persistent sin.

Answers…
God doesn’t always give us the answers that we want, but He WILL give us the strength to carry on.

God doesn’t always heal our broken relationships, but He will give us the strength to work through our own emotional and psychological hurts and aches.

God won’t take our grief away, but He will wrap arms of love around us as we work through our grief.

God doesn’t always heal our physical ailments, or those of our loved-ones, but He will help us deal with them in a manner that makes us better people and trust Him more deeply.

God won’t take away your anxieties and insecurities, but He may send people into your path who can help you with your anxieties and insecurities. He may also give you the courage to own and face your anxieties and insecurities.

God may not take away your friend’s chronic illness, but He may send you to help that person get through those times of illness.

God may NOT Take away your addictions or release you from your persistent sins, but He will give you arms of love to flee to as you realize that those things are bigger than you are.

The Balm of Gilead…
Yes, there IS a Balm in Gilead, and that Balm is the blood of Christ. Some of our wounds ARE deep. Some of our struggles are over our heads, and we ARE powerless to release ourselves from sin, but none of those things are beyond the power of God through the blood of Christ. That is what GRACE is all about. God is able to do what we are powerless to do, to heal our sin-sick souls.

May you come to the Great Physician for His healing Balm of Gilead.

Steve

The Faces of Suicide

Have you ever known anyone who committed suicide? Were you close to them? Were they your best friend, your lover, your spouse? How did they end their life? Were there any clues beforehand?

For those of us whose lives have been affected by suicide, our lives will never be the same. That moment when we either found them dead, or when we were informed of their death, is etched indelibly in our minds and hearts. For those who found someone who had committed suicide, that scene is seared into their memory, and may come back to haunt them over and over again.

This is not about the “Why?” of suicide, because the whole story is known only to God, and I believe that He still shakes His head when someone ends their life this way. It is about those of us who have been left behind, the survivors. Why do we sometimes include graphic descriptions of how our friend or loved-one ended their life? Because it matters. Suicide isn’t clinical. Suicide isn’t pretty. It is ugly. It is horrible. It is horrific, and those who found that scene will never be the same. We will never be the same.

Hanging…dead…
We all knew him, or knew of him. He was a well-know and popular comedian and actor, but he had battled depression for much of his adult life. Word of his suicide stunned us, as word of the death of Robin Williams spread like wild-fire throughout the media. We all wondered how someone so popular, so successful, could ever take his own life, but he did. He had it all, but all he had didn’t make his life worth living.

If there has been any good to come of Robin Williams’ death, it has been to put a very public face on suicide, and to get us thinking and talking about this very important problem.

Hanging…dead…
She was the wife of a pastor, but something went terribly wrong. Her husband came home from work to find her hanging in their garage, dead. Why? Were the stresses of being a pastor’s wife too much for her to handle? What caused her to snap? He was out of the ministry for several years because of it.

I didn’t know her, and I have only met him once. He appeared to be a loving, caring man when I met him. By the time I met him, he had remarried and was back in the ministry.

Suffocated…dead…
Searchers found him about half a mile up the trail from the parking lot and trail-head. He was buck-naked and had a plastic bag over his head. His clothes were neatly-folded and laying on his backpack a few feet away. His car was in the parking lot, abandoned. He had left a trail of clues, including a suicide note, which meant that it wasn’t a “spur-of-the-moment” thing. He was in his mid-twenties…

Being in search and rescue has its rewards, but that wasn’t one of them. I was in that parking lot coordinating communications during the entire operation.

Good cop…rough times…
In the early morning hours of December 2008 my friend John sat beneath the peaceful canopy of a redwood grove. He removed his off duty Glock handgun, leveled it against his temple and pulled the trigger. In an instant everything would change.

Two beautiful young daughters would never again experience their father’s love. His parents would face the insurmountable pain of losing a child. Urgent calls would reach shocked siblings, friends and coworkers. John’s girlfriend, a welcome light after his difficult divorce, would become consumed by grief.

For me the first news of trouble was a predawn phone call from a trusted friend. The ringing of the phone roused me awake. Then my friend’s voice, in cryptic tones, said, “John is missing.” As a police chief I’d grown accustomed to late night and early morning calls. They were usually bad news.

Friends and authorities began searching for John. Later that morning, troubling news came that he never showed up for work. And then I got the fateful call from the county Sheriff. “He’s dead. A hiker found him in the woods. Self inflicted gun shot wound. I’m sorry. You guys were buddies, weren’t you?” I remember holding the phone receiver in disbelief. No one close to me had ever committed suicide. “Yeah, we were buddies,” I told the Sheriff.

John and I began our police careers together. We used to be roommates. We went through training together. Bought motorcycles together. Got married, had kids. Back then we were young, ambitious and the world was our oyster.

John was strong, intelligent and proud. A rock to many. Someone you could count on and turn to for advice. He was the last person I ever thought would take his life. But despair can strike down the strongest among us. (Exerpted from The Nightmare of Suicide- Six Things You Need to Know by John Patrick Weiss) http://www.johnpatrickweiss.com/the-nightmare-of-suicide-six-things-you-need-to-know

My wife, my lover, my best friend…
We had been married for 19 1/2 years, and yes, we had had our share of hard-times, but we had survived all of them until… She was a wonderful wife and mother. Only God knows what caused her to commit that final act of desperation, to take her own life in a horrific manner. All I know is that it wasn’t a “spur-of-the-moment” act. It was planned, and for how long, only God knows. She had asked me where the weapon was kept a few weeks before. It was for protection and self-defense, but… She committed suicide the day after our oldest daughter got her driver’s license. She was forty-five…

A few months before her death, she had told me that another woman would be putting her feet under our dining-room table. All I could think of was divorce, and we had never talked about getting divorced. I disposed of that table almost immediately after her death.

Is there a common thread?
They all died too young! Even though they made their “escape” before things got worse, they weren’t around for things to get better. Even though I can attest to the fact that sometimes things get worse, WAY WORSE, before they get better, the sun WILL come out another day, and eventually things will start looking up.

I believe that suicide is a final act of desperation, what the person believes is their only way out of whatever situation or emotional trauma they are in. We had marital and family problems, and my wife believed that it was her “fault” that our marriage and family were falling apart. She also had some medical problems which she refused to get taken care of. I believe that she honestly thought that her death would make things “better” for the rest of us, but her death only made matters worse.

I have been there, at least a couple of times, when things were so desperate, when I was so down, that I thought that I, and everyone around me, would be better off with me out of the way. The first time was just a few months before my wife committed suicide. I was under immense pressure from all sides, and if I had taken my own life that night, my wife would probably still be alive, but my gut-feeling was that I could “pull it out“. It would be many months before I saw the first rays of sunshine, but I still had many months of hell to go through before things started looking up. I did “pull it out“, but at what cost? My own children still have nothing to do with me.

There was a period of time in 2013 when I felt like I was totally-disconnected from anyone who might have actually cared about me. It was after my wife left me, again, after coming home for only two weeks. I felt like an abandoned-dog, a stray, a lost-soul. I was sick as a dog, and on the verge of having to reschedule a surgical procedure, because everyone I knew was “too busy” to be there for me. Didn’t I “matter” to anyone? I asked God “why?“, “Why?“, “WHY?” for a solid hour, but the silence was deafening. If I didn’t matter to God, and if I didn’t matter to anyone else, what was I doing here? Why was I even here? Would anyone even notice if I simply disappeared? Maybe I was just too stubborn, too bull-headed to give up, and I didn’t.

Reason, sanity and purpose started emerging, but my purpose for being here wasn’t for myself. Rather, it was for someone else who was alone, “stranded“, and in need of way more care and compassion than I could ever imagine. She needed “someone“, and that “someone” became me. Her other friends certainly haven’t “stepped up to the plate“, because they are all “too busy“. That is a story for another day, and I know one of the local hospitals far better than I would really like to, because she spent about a month during 2014 in that hospital. I was there to spend time with her every day she was in the hospital, and I have been able to fill in details of things that happened while she was too sedated to remember. Even though I have spent hundreds of hours caring for her, at all hours of the day and night, I couldn’t have left her to fend for herself, because I know what it is like to be alone. She also battles depression…

Who is next?
No one knows who is next, but there will be a “next“. Another family will have their hearts broken by suicide. Another lover will lose his or her beloved to suicide. While it would be nice if a person started “telegraphing” their intention to commit suicide months in advance, that rarely if ever happens. Most will be “ordinary” people who are going through extraordinarily hard-times, but very few will ever ask for help, because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that no one cares.

Some will be Veterans who have seen the horrors of war, maybe are badly-mangled themselves, and whose country has abandoned them, because they are “disposable“. He may even be homeless, having even been abandoned by his own family. There is no such thing as a “disposable” person. A country that is unwilling to commit all the necessary resources to care for its veterans has no business sending them to war.

HELP!!!
Yes, you CAN help them, even if they never ask for help. I believe that, at their core, people who commit suicide are feeling alone and abandoned, maybe even betrayed. Their world either is, or already has come crashing down around them. What difference could a caring-friend make? It could be HUGE! Caring about them and what they are going through may be life-changing, for the better. Help them make their life worth living. If you are “too busy” to care, you are TOO BUSY! What is a life worth?

God bless!
Steve