Decisions. Decisions.

 

alright, guys. I’m always painfully honest with you….so here it goes.

by the time it was all said and done, we raised over $60,000.00! God is good!

I am 100% conflicted about the Princess Half this year. And I really don’t know that I want to do it again.  Part of me does want to; and part of me doesn’t. It’s such a huge commitment.

Here are the thoughts rolling around in my head. They’re random and in no particular order.

Year 1 was a challenge I wanted to prove to myself. It was a thrill. And I loved celebrating my 4-0 this way! Truly loved it.

Year 2 was a motivator because we were running for something SO much bigger than ourselves.  Team Freedom absolutely, positively BLEW ME AWAY! We raised over $60,000 for Abolition International. And coincidentally, part of that money went to a home in Atlanta! Yes, Atlanta….where, oh btw, we added to our JOY family in December. I never knew Atlanta was one of the homes until Natalie was here at our Princess Pasta Party. Providence? I think so.

I started to love running; I’ve fallen out of love.

We had 134 people run last year. ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY FOUR people! How many would it be this year?  Would we pass 200?

Could we raise $100,000? And target 2 specific homes?

Would women be willing to pay $10 to help cover the cost of the Princess Pasta Party? Or could we get a sponsor?

Would a few of the women be part of a Princess Pasta Party committee? and help plan the event? Decorate? It required many hours and was disproportionate to mine & Mary’s workload. It was an exorbinant amount of work, y’all! But I also like things a certain way. So I’m picky, too. Would y’all be willing to work for an OCD visionary? : ) (just being honest! feel Dave & Bill’s pain!)

Would someone be in charge of correspondence? I can’t personally respond to the hundreds of (legitimate) questions from Team members. I want to serve. There’s isn’t enough of me to serve well. Last year, I recruited my daughter Abbey to help me return email. Child labor. And we’re running against this! haha! KIDDING.

I’ve had a number of folks tell me they want to “get healthy and have been inspired by my/our running the last 2 years.” (their words). Lord, really? Talk about using the UNQUALIFIED. I am NOT a runner. I am a fake runner. How in the world did God ever decide to use me to inspire running? Y’all seriously don’t know how laughable this is!  But, I will say each time I get an email or someone talks to me personally, it makes me cry.

I was so touched by all the women who responded to this event last year. Team Freedom happened so organically through a random tweet between Natalie and me. I’ve never seen such dedication, determination and heart.

I’ve received no less that 50 emails/FB comments/tweets since last year’s event telling me they’re starting to train for next year. No pressure, guys! : )

Will my friend Kellie be able to run with me? I don’t want to do it without her. She’s been by my side the last 2 years. And this doesn’t excuse you – Becca (Josh, she needs the weekend off). Molly (you’ll need to check on your knee. AND schedule a tour around this date). Alissa (nice excuse being pregnant this past year. You are NOT exempt this year if we do this. So NO more babies. 3 in 10 months is plenty!) Jayar? Krispy?

I will hate giving up every Saturday in November, December, January & part of February for long runs.

I will love how I feel after I run every Saturday in November, December, January & part of February for long runs.

I have an opportunity to go to Bangladesh in February. I’ll get home 1 week before the run. Of course, the trip is human trafficking related. Of course. Just like the Lord.

Can I just be a coach?

Am I just being lazy?

Is it fair to make Dave & Bill go one more round with me?  They’ve been so supportive and generous with the show as a platform for this cause.

I’ve permanently damaged 3 of my toenails on my left foot. It ain’t pretty. It will require pedicures for the rest of my life. Oh wait. Maybe that’s not so bad.

It’s hotter ‘n poodunkus and I know I really won’t start running until October.

I need motivation.

a few of TEAM FREEDOM at the finish line!

Bottom line: It’s a lot of work physically, mentally, and emotionally. For me, anyway. (Not talking to you experienced runners, who I really don’t like right now. hahaha!)

Of course, the physical, mental and emotional requirements pale in comparison to what innocent victims endure.

For some reason it feels like I’m “cheating” if I’m not running. Organizing a non-physical fundraiser is the easy way out.

More than anything, I don’t wanna let you down! But I know I won’t like you very much while I’m training. (Only half kidding here!) I know anything worthwhile in life requires a tremendous amount of passion and hard work. It requires you to dig your heels in and commit. There’s nothing in me that wants to do this right now, except for the feeling of what I should do.

So….there’s really no point to this post, other than letting y’all know what I’m thinking and to start the conversation. I’d love to hear back from you. Are y’all wanting to run? Are you willing to raise $350 to help free women? rehabilitate them from the sex industry?

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

Vapor.

 

Psalm 39:4 …

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.”

Our lives are only a vapor. Literally a puff of air.

How will that change how you live today?

Who do you need to say “I love you” to?

Who do you need to go visit?

Who do you need to call?

Who do you need to forgive?

Who’s forgiveness do you need to ask for?

Who do you need to extend grace to?

Let go of the trivial stuff that doesn’t matter.

Make decisions that have ever-lasting impact.

Judge less on who people are, but see who they can become in Christ.

And remember ….. I’m journey with you! I don’t have any of this down yet! But striving to be more mindful.  Let’s live today with this verse in view.

Chris August has a new song on his new CD The Upside of Down called “A Little More Jesus.” (coming out in …. you guessed it! …. August!)  There’s a line in the song…. “I could use a little bit more of Jesus and a little bit less of me.” Truth!

Love you!
carmen

Jealousy.

 

I’ve been parked on this scripture today. As believers, we need to be FOR one another. Sometimes we act as if our ministry/gifting/talent/artistry is the only one God can {and does} use. This is nothing but insecurity and pride. Let’s lose the competitiveness. Let’s be each others cheerleaders! And if you’re jealous of someone or some thing – either them personally or something they have that you do not – pray for that person or thing. Ask God to help you get honest with yourself. And with Him. Confess it, surrender it, and make peace with it.

That’s what I’m doing today.

James 3:14

 

Chris.

 

Yesterday on the show I asked you to pray of my friend Chris. Pete & I have been friends with Chris & Kellie for almost 16 years. I was pregnant with Abbey when Pete came home from church one night after a meeting and said he’d just met a woman named Kellie. He told me she was super cool, and he thought we’d click. Well, obviously he knew how to pick ‘em because Kellie and I have been best friends ever since.  Without sounding cliche’, our friendship truly has endured the test of time.  I could write on this for days, but suffice it to say, God is good. And He has blessed us with the gift of each other. We often say we’re more sisters than we are friends. Kellie has seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and the really ugly in me. And she’s loved me anyway. Her husband, Chris, is the same way.  He loves unconditionally and is a friend to so many.

Pete & Chris. Windy Gap. December 2010

Here’s why I want you to pray.

The backstory:

Part 1. Kellie’s best friend from high school, Kym, battled breast cancer for years. Kym lost her battle to cancer a few years ago. Chris & Kellie were at Kym’s memorial service – standing and singing a hymn – when Chis passed out from the pain he’d been experiencing for several days. After the memorial, Chris went to see a doctor, only to learn he had cancer. It was a gist tumor. Clearly this was a one, two punch for Kel. Chris had surgery, incorporated some holistic treatment, and had been cancer free for the past two years. As recently as last September his scans were clean. Kellie had actually come by the station that day, and I remember cheering through teary eyes that we were another year, cancer-free.

Part 2. Chris’ older brother, Jimmy was diagnosed with melanoma about a year ago. Chris & Kellie were traveling back and forth to Atlanta caring for Jimmy. They made the decision to move to Roswell to care full time for Jimmy, and moved up there right before Easter of this year. I was jealous when they texted me telling me they were headed to Passion’s Good Friday services! Chris and Kellie had only been in Atlanta for a couple of months when Jimmy lost his battle at the end of May. Pete and I went up for the service. Chris memorialized his older brother in the sweetest, most honoring, and heart-felt way, leaving not a dry eye in the sanctuary.

Still fairly fresh in the grieving process of Kym, Kellie was now comforting her husband who was grieving his “bro,” Chris’ affectionate name for Jimmy.  Both victims of this horrible, evil disease called cancer.

Now for Part 3.

Three weeks after they buried Jimmy, Chris started to experience stomach pain. He went in for testing. His cancer was back. Another one, two punch.

I was driving home the Friday after Tropical Storm Debby. My phone rang and it was Kellie. I could barely understand her. She had just hung up with the Dr. after getting the news. As it turned out, they’d written Chris’ number down wrong, so the Dr. got ahold of Kel at work since they couldn’t reach Chris. She was pulling into the house to tell him. I was speechless. I played the tape in my head of what was happening in those moments. Of course, it would be a blow, but knowing Chris, he would be strong and face it head on. The Dr. wanted to see Chris right away that afternoon. After the visit, we learned he had 2 sizable lesions/tumors and many smaller ones on his liver and small intestines area.

Can I just pause right here and say how angry I was? Because I was!  And still am a little bit. But I know God is good. And I know He is in control. And I know He has good plans for us. And I know He is our Healer. And I know He can heal Chris.

Chris is one of the best men I know. He loves Kellie, his daughters, Hope and Caroline, and his family with his whole heart. Chris is the type of guy every woman would want as a husband, and every guy would want as a friend. His faith is unwavering, and he will give God the glory in every circumstance.  Even cancer. I (half) teased him the other day that he was the perfect candidate to be walking through this because he would be the one God could use to demonstrate to the world how you walk through a cancer diagnosis with FAITH, GRACE, and inexplicable PEACE. Naturally, I asked him to please stop being so perfect! Of course, he is flawed just like the rest of us, but there is a quiet strength Chris possesses that is very much seen and felt to all of those who get to call him family or friend. He’s been a YoungLife leader for years, and has pointed countless young people to Jesus. He’s so caring and so selfless. The other thing you need to know about Chris is that he is the picture of health! He’s an iron man! I can’t name all of the sporting events he’s participated in, but trust me, he’s done it all. Running millions of miles, cycling even more…all the while, coaching others to do the same. He eats as healthy as anybody I’ve ever seen (almost annoyingly so!) haha! I love you, Chris!! …and has a blog dedicated to all these things. 10:10 Wellness. He coached me, Kel and a few other of our girlfriends when I ran my first half marathon for my 40th. We definitely had the hottest coach! See pic below.

my 1st half marathon on my 40th! Chris coached us through it! Fawn, Alissa, me, Chris, Kel, Marci

We can already see God’s blessings in all of this. Just the weekend of the diagnosis, plans were already in place for Hope and her husband, Kip, to move from New York City to Tallahassee for Kip to start law school in the Fall. Chris and Kellie’s youngest, Caroline (Hope’s sister) is a student at FSU. It’s comforting to C & K  that Hope & Caroline are now together in the same town. One sidenote here: Chris, Kip and Hope are all Gators! But clearly Providence had a part in Kip choosing FSU.  On this same weekend, we (TMC) were scheduled to fly to Atlanta for the 1st ever Summer Cruise. (I mean, what are the chances? and that we’re even in ATL now?!) So 48 hours after Kellie called me, I was able to walk through her front door and be with my best friend. Of course she and I were crying, but eventually Chris said, “no more tears.” We went to Chipotle for dinner and then on to Passion City Church. Matt Maher led worship that evening because Louie, Shelley & Chris (Tomlin) were in Australia.  Matt led with the song he penned, “Your Grace is Enough.”  With both hands out stretched to the Lord, Chris sang, “your grace is enough for me.”

He believes it. And He lives it.

And I’m gonna believe it with him.

My partner, Dave, reminded me of the parable the other day about the persistent widow (Luke Chapter 18) who kept asking and asking and asking the judge for justice and help in the dispute with her enemy. She kept on praying, never giving up. Finally the judge granted her request just so she’d shut up! : ) I immediately thought, “I can do that! I got that down! I can be the persistent widow!” I will keep asking and asking and asking, always praying and never giving up! …. and I have been! Everyday. Throughout the day. Never ceasing.

As my extended family, will you join me in being persistent?  I know people get cancer diagnoses every day. But this one is so close to home. So personal. So please pray for Chris. For his complete healing. And pray for Kellie. My heart is broken in a million pieces for her. She’s been through so much. And I love her with all my heart. Pray also for Hope and Caroline. And for Chris’ sister, Cynthia.

I have a new level of empathy for those who are affected by cancer. Those directly battling it, or those whose loved ones are battling it. Praise the Lord our God is greater……

Chris has been blogging. I will be re-posting some of his blogs. Follow him here.

 

Forgiveness.

 

I’m not gonna go into all of the details here (gonna make you watch the video!)  But the short story is: Matthew (West) called us a few months back and told us his 1st single off his new record was called “Fogiveness” and that it was written for one of our listeners, Renee Napier. Naturally, we began a covert operation to surprise Renee with the song, and WITH Matthew!!

bill, carmen, matthew, renee, dave

This was hands down one of my Top 5 career moments.  Oh, and if you think you can’t forgive somebody, welp…Renee is proof positive you can. I love when she said: “choosing not to forgive is like you drinking the poison, expecting the other person to die.”

STOP what you are doing and watch this RIGHT NOW!

Matthew West – Forgiveness: Mother Forgives Drunk Driver Who Killed Her Daughter from matthew-west on GodTube.

LIVE from the Brown Stone Theater.

 

Welp, by now you’ve heard that Tropical Storm Debby rained on the Florida portion of our Summer Cruise parade. But we didn’t let her have the last word! We decided to have a LIVE streaming acoustic concert with Dara at the Brown Stone Theater. You’ve never heard of it? Neither had we! But it’s a cool new venue that just opened up in Tampa. Ha!

Dara Maclean

In keeping with the theme of Tropical Storm Debby, we invited 3 “Debbies” to be center stage with front row seats. We quickly turned my house into a studio, AND a place of worship. Thanks to Hammy, the evening was captured on film, and you can see the recording here. I do want to make note that the “curtain” hanging over my real curtain is the backdrop Abbey & Becca made for the Princess Pasta back in February. Yes! February.

If you have some extra time, please give yourself the gift of hearing Dara’s heart. And not to mention, you’ll hear how crazy talented she is too! She’s got soul all the way down to her big toe!! We love Kirk too!

Enjoy.

article. part 2

 

Yesterday I posted an article I received last May from one of my dad’s friends, Bob. Providentially, mine and Bob’s lives intersected after the tornadoes in Alabama last year.

I’ve debated back and forth whether to post the article. I actually debated even last night whether to take it down or not, after I posted it. The description of my dad is so raw. So real. So honest…

Which takes me back to the afternoon that I read the article for the first time.

I was sitting in my office at the station late this afternoon. As I read Bob’s words, my mind could see vividly the images he was describing. I’d seen the same scenes many times myself. And I had received the same phone calls, driven the same routes. It was all too familiar. As I looked over the pages, there it all was … in black and white … all of my dad’s sin. All of the filth. All of the darkness … printed there in black and white. Documented.

Still crying, I gathered my things – including the article – got in my car, to drive the hour commute home. I replayed many tapes that afternoon. One of my dad almost literally running us off the road when he got kicked out of one rehab center and I was driving him to another. He wanted to stop for beer, and I wouldn’t exit off the highway. When we passed the next exit, he literally grabbed the wheel and forced me to take the exit. Spinning at the base of the ramp, I gave in and drove him to the convenience store. At 16 years old, I didn’t know what else to do. And wrecking didn’t feel like it was worth withholding a 6 pack from him.

The next minute I started laughing hysterically remembering the story of the false teeth and my dad calling K.L. to see if he “had an extra pair laying around.” Sad. But funny!! Perhaps I get my resourcefulness from him?

My PaPa Brown had a huge barn. He tore it down, and built a newer barn on another section of his property. My dad had an RV trailer they moved onto the old slab of the torn down barn. To this day, I still remember walking up to the RV and hearing my dad sing “My home’s on Perry’s slab” to the tune of the group Alabama’s “my home’s in Alabama….” He was drunk.

I don’t have a ton of memories. And most of the ones I do have are not good ones. But one of the last ones I have is when we lived in Mobile. My dad had moved down to Mobile because he wanted to be closer to me and Haley (his first and only grandchild). I didn’t know of his plans to move south until the phone rang one afternoon, and it was my dad on the other line. “I’m here. I decided to move today. I’m at the K.” I laughed at first because the name of the convenience store was “Circle K.” He asked where my townhouse was and if he could stop by. I told him he wasn’t welcome if he’d been drinking; that he wasn’t allowed to be around my daughter in that condition. So a few minutes later, he was at my front door, everything that he owned loaded in his car.

I invited him in. It was the first time he’d seen Haley. He cried.

He found an apartment and stayed in Mobile for a while. He quickly learned our routine and knew we got home around 1:30. I was enrolled at the University of South Alabama. Haley went to Mom’s Morning Out at our church while I was in class. We like to come home and take naps. I tried my best to get him to come around 4 p.m., but he’d usually give us til about 2:30 or 3. For several months, he would come over in the afternoon, warm up my morning’s cold leftover coffee, and play with Haley in the floor. The days he didn’t show up, I knew he was drinking. I can honestly say he never once showed up drunk; he honored my wishes to not be around Haley having been drinking.

One afternoon, Haley was sick. Her prescription was ready, but she was sound asleep in her crib. My dad knocked on the door to visit. I was conflicted. I really needed to get Haley’s prescription, and she was sleeping so peacefully, but could I really trust him to stay with her?  He was sober, and I knew I could ask him to sit with her for 15 minutes while I ran to the pharmacy. I gave him 20 minutes worth of instructions, and 30 minutes worth of warnings. I literally could’ve been there and back twice by the time I was done telling him everything I needed to say. Against my better judgement, I left to get Haley’s medicine. I literally was hyperventilating with fear that I’d just made the worst decision of my life. I raced back home, imagination going crazy. I ran in the house, in full panic, expecting something horrible. And there my dad sat, at the kitchen table drinking the nasty warmed up old coffee. Haley was still sound asleep in her bed. The expression on my face said it all. “You didn’t trust me, did you?” he asked. “no, I didn’t.” I said. I don’t remember exactly what was said after that but it was a cross between, “I’ve given you every right not to trust me. But I’m grateful you did.”

Eventually my dad moved back to NE Alabama. We were in Mobile a little while longer, and then we moved to Tampa in June of 1994. It was in November that I got the phone call that he had passed away in jail. As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t remember much about his funeral. It’s crazy, really, because I have a great memory. An excellent memory! But I don’t really remember that day. I just remember feeling the finality of everything, and that it would never be the way it was supposed to be.

Reading Bob’s article brought all of this back to the surface for me. Time has a way of dulling things. Seeing Bob’s words and description of my dad in black and white made it all real again. Through tears, and with these tapes playing in my head, I told God how much it hurt.

And that’s when I heard God speak these words to my heart:

“You know, Carmen, you have an article too.”

For a few moments on I-75, God gave me a birds eye view, and I could see a glimpse of my dad’s life from His perspective. A glimpse of my life.

Looking down, I could see my dad’s article. I could see my article. All there, printed out for God to see. Nothing hidden. All out in the open.

And then I felt God say, “but because of the cross, laid over your articles, I don’t see them.” I truly had this vision in my head of the cross literally laid over our documented, filthy and guilty articles. But because of Jesus, God looks down and our articles are covered.

It was a moment. A healing moment. And for the first time in 40 years, I saw my dad as clean. I saw him whole. Healthy. Sober.

So on this Father’s Day, I can say with the sincerest of hearts, that I do look forward to seeing my dad in Heaven one day. Clear-eyes, and made new. I look forward to hugging him. And letting him know I forgive him.

 

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. -Psalm 51:7

 

article. part 1

 

Tomorrow is Father’s Day.

The last few days I’ve thought a lot about an article I received last May after our Giftcards for Alabama outreach that helped a tornado-torn community near my hometown of Jacksonville. I’ve actually debated for a month or so on whether or not to share this article on my blog. The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt my family. But God has redeemed and healed a deep wound in my heart, that I really can’t not share. This is only part 1, though.

There are a thousand “only God” details I could share with you that happened this time last year, but just know for sure that through a series of well-orchestrated, providential events, Bob found me online as he was searching to hear the interview we’d done with his pastor. Bob had no idea the morning show page he was searching for would lead to me, Carmen, daughter of Ken. Bob reached out to me, and we exchanged several emails. I cried as I read each one. (for whatever reason, I don’t remember much of my dad’s funeral services; I’m blank on that day except for riding in the car with my aunt. I also remember not feeling anything.)  Eventually Bob sent me this article (I’m sharing a portion of it) he had written about my dad. I was sitting at my desk late one day, when I opened Bob’s email and read the following. Years worth of hurt, regret, pain, dysfunction, and anguish made it’s way to the surface that afternoon. Alone, I bawled my eyes out, grieving what I never had, grieving what would never be, grieving what I didn’t in November 1994.

Bob nailed my father. He captured him perfectly in this article.

Tomorrow, I will share part 2. And the “moment” God healed this broken daughter’s heart.

Meet my dad….

Ken

The Jacksonville High School Golden Eagles 1964 football season didn’t make the record books. Ken, a loud mouth freshman, was a running back. He’d run back and forth, on and off the field with an ice water bucket, ammonia capsules, and off-­the-­cuff, off color jokes.

Ken truly brought an extra flare of entertainment to the game. Ken was Dennis the Men­ace, Don Rickles and Rich Little all in one.

His impersonation of one of our beloved coaches nick-named “Rat” left us in the locker room hyperventilating from laughter before the game while our dwindling number of fans wondered how we could lose so many games with so much talent!

Hate Ken or love him, there was no way to get rid of him! I was one of the ones who loved him.

Graduating or simply turning sixteen and dropping out of school changes everything. Life gets much more complicated. The foot loose, fancy free days of runnin’ with like-minded high school buddies, locker room jokes, and competing for the girls’ attention is gone forever.

When I heard Ken enlisted and headed for Vietnam, I knew the troops over there were in for some entertainment. And they didn’t even have to wait for Bob Hope or Red Foxx! Unlike some of our buddies, Ken made it back, but like so many, not without deep personal, emotional damage and baggage. He married and became the dad of two children. He even became a preacher, a real zealot for God. The Baptist Church definitely had a spark plug!

That was until….

Ken was so outgoing that he could sell anything: Rocket Burgers, Jesus Christ, or furniture. The furniture store was his headquarters during the week. After hours, doors closed and locked, out would come the bottle, in would come the drink and out would come the demons.

Alcohol put Ken’s conscience to sleep. The Baptist Church lost him. The devil got him. He lost his family, his dignity, his self respect. Years later, a meager, monthly US Government disability check would become his enabler.

It was 30 years after our care free high school days I found Ken held up in an old dilapidated, wrecked, mobile home, electricity disconnected for non-­payment; a God awful stench from a toilet seldom flushed. A fat, fluffy smelly puppy he named, Bear, after his hero Bear Bryant, the legen­dary football coach.

Bear, the dog never went outside. Ken’s trailer was like stepping into one of hell’s garbage dumpsters: dog poop and urine, old molded cottage cheese cartons, empty beer cans strewn all over the floor; ashes and cigarette butts accumulated everywhere, and there sitting in the middle of it all, layin’ back in an old worn out, caved in, faded, unraveled, fabric arm chair, propped up against a rotten, roach infested wall under a rusty, crooked, Alabama Crimson Tide plaque, unkempt, drunk out of his mind, still crackin’ jokes was our old high school buddy, Ken.

His face was wrinkled way beyond his years. His skin was like weathered, sun baked pork rind; nicotine stained hands trembling, one holding a cigarette butt he’d gotten off the floor and relit. His hair was gray, thin and receding. The noticeable scar on his forehead was the reminder of one of the nights he took a beating. His drunken, smart mouth called for blows and another drunk beat him in the head with a pool cue and left him in an alley for dead.

I walked on in. My heart broke. I told Ken that I loved him and offered to help him clean up his place. He mumbled some smart remark about Bear Bryant and fell asleep. I put out his relit cigarette butt, took Bear outside and began some straightening and cleaning, a task impossible to finish in one day or month for that matter. I made a dent in it, however, let Bear back in, went home, threw my smelly clothes into the washer, took a shower and returned the next day to check on Ken.

I took him to meet his appointment with the doctor, health department, probation officer and anywhere else he felt he needed to go. Any where other than the beer store, that is. One day with Ken became two, then another and another. Two weeks later, Ken’s sister called, amazed Ken had been sober for so long. I was so idealistic to believe after all these years the nightmare could miraculously end and Ken could be a sober new man overnight.

One day I missed seeing him. A week went by. I stopped by his trailer to check on him and there he was the same as before. His check had come in and when you’re an addict, and you’ve got money, you have no trouble getting a ride. Some of Ken’s friends would come by to check on him only at the beginning of the month. Sounds like love with a hook, doesn’t it?

Ken was like an owl, a nocturnal creature of the night. He loved to find and stay in touch with old friends and make new enemies! Each night, drunk, he’d get a bad case of what we call “black cord fever,” getting on the phone sharing jokes and keeping the social network going. He gave no consideration to who might be sleeping.

My wife, Patti and I were awakened from a deep sleep one night, the phone blaring like a fire alarm! “uhhhh…..hello?”

“Hey Bob…” his tongue thick, Ken remarked, “me and Coach Bryant are over here talking about “the great Bob, Golden Eagle linebacker turned songwriter and just wanted to call and say I love ya!”

“Bullxxxx! NO! You don’t, Ken! You love that bottle!” Don’t you ever call here again!”

I slammed the phone down, and stayed wide awake, spending the rest of the night cussin’ Ken!

I thought to myself, “The nerve! Why did I ever give that hopeless, inconsiderate jerk my phone number? He’s nothing but a nuisance. Patti, I’m sorry.”

The next day was Wednesday, the day my friend Mac and I would work out. Mac was an old college football teammate who had become a college professor at Jacksonville State University. We’d warm up for our workout by jogging around the track above the gymnasium in the Pete Matthews Coliseum.

It was summer camp time and junior high kids from all over the county were waiting for their counselors to arrive at 9 AM to get things started. Most of the kids were crowded near the front door, excited and energetic.

However, there was a loner … a precious, little girl, no taller than 4’5″ at the end of the gym trying her best to throw the large basketball through the hoop. Never mind if anyone was watching. She’d hold the ball in both hands, stoop as low and she could and with all the energy she could muster, push upward, the ball falling way short of the 10′ hoop. With amazing tenacity and determination she’d run for the ball, move back in front of the hoop and try again and again. As Mac and I would jog by, we’d cheer her on. “Hey, try it again! You can do it!” we’d shout as we’d run by.

She began looking over her shoulder for us to come by again. As soon as she’d see us again each time getting closer and closer.

“You can do it! Try it one more time!” Mac and I would shout.

Then, to our amazement the ball swooshed through the net! We began to clap, dance and cheer!

“We knew you’d make it! Way to go! You’re awesome!”

About half a lap later, I felt a deep conviction within my heart. God spoke: “Bob, you gave up on Ken. I didn’t. Go tell him he can make it. Try one more time!”

“Mac,” I said, “see ya next Wednesday, I’ve got somewhere I’ve got to go.”

Ken lived in the subculture of alcoholics. I found him in a run-­down apartment of one of the likely crowd.

“Ken, I gave up on you. God didn’t! Let’s try it one more time!”

He smiled, totally un­offended, but drunk as usual.

A few years later, Ken was serving weekends in the Oxford City Jail for a DUI conviction. The jail was really his home base. He was a stray during the week, sleeping in corners, under trees, back seat of old clunkers, an occasional night on the ragged sofas of friends from the subculture who were way beyond being embarrassed by him.

At the jail, he could shower, wash his clothes and eat regularly so when the judge ordered him to do weekends in jail, it realy was throwing brer rabbitt into the briar patch!

After Ken had suffered a stroke, his speech was impossible to understand, especially when he was drinking. One Saturday afternoon he called me from the jail. I could understand him so I knew he was sober.

All he said was, “Bob, I love Jesus and I love you!

“I love you too, Ken.” was my predictable response.

“Listen to me! he said, “I love Jesus and I love you!”

And then, without further conversation, he hung up the phone. An hour later, while washing his clothes, Ken had a massive heart attack and died.

His sister called and asked if I would share at Ken’s funeral.

“Of course,” I replied, trying to hide my immediate since of dread.

How do you eulogize someone whose life appears to have been so tragic? What comfort can there possibly be for the grown children who had been so embarrassed and hurt, the ex-­wives who may dare to show up?
What about the subculture of addicts who were sure to come? Do you tell them it’s ok to continue to live a drunken, destructive, wasted life and continue to hurt the people who love them? And if you read from the Good Book, in good conscience, can you ignore passages like Galatians 5:19 where we’re told drunks will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

Saturday afternoon, 2:30 PM, K.L. Brown’s Funeral Home Chapel was an overflow crowd, standing room only. In the parking lot were new slick, polished Cadillacs next to rusted out, barely runnin’ clunkers with worn out, jumper cables layin’ in the floor where the back seat use to be!

From dignitaries to derelicts, Ken’s life deeply touched this community. Everyone loved him, even those who had hated him! And I had the honor of sharing publicly my own love for this colorful character and in particular, his last phone call from the jail! Somehow I suspect he knew, with that call, he was giving me “fodder” for his own funeral!

The night before, while praying, contemplating, and preparing, I felt God remind me that He didn’t check in with me when He created the Universe, and He doesn’t check in with me as to who is in Heaven or not. I’m not here to judge another’s soul. I’m here simply to be available to God’s Spirit that He might bring comfort and hope to those who remain. Only His Spirit can do that! I am nothing. He is everything!

There’s so much bad in the best of us. And so much good in the worst of us! It behooves all of us not to judge.

God put His love in my heart for ragamuffins and outcasts. One of them was named Ken, and I was honored to hare a part of life’s journey with him.

As the funeral service got under way, I shared with the congregation that I knew Ken loved
me!

“He told me enough times over the phone in the middle of the night!” I said jokingly.

Many in the audience laughed and I realized during Ken’s “black cord fever” spells, he’d been calling them too!

After the chapel service, I rode with K.L. in his hearse carrying Ken’s remains to the cemetery to continue the service at the graveside.

K.L began to laugh and told me of one eventful late night Ken had called him.

“K.L., you got any false teeth at the funeral home?” he blurted out.

K.L., half asleep, replied, “WHAT?!?!”

“Yea, I got drunk and lost my teeth. You don’t bury them perfectly good teeth do ya? Do you have some extras?”

“Yes, Ken, I do bury them. And no, I don’t have any extras.”

“Shame on you, K.L. but thanks anyway! And Roll Tide.”

I was alone driving home following Ken’s funeral service, reflecting on his life, the trail of broken relationships, the heartbreak. And the loved ones who, admit it or not, are probably relieved he’s gone.

I was grieving, realizing there’s so many more like him around us and the nightmare is escalating. Who among us, young and old alike, has not been outrageously violated by this demon called “addiction”?

life.

 

It’s my last morning on the beach. Everybody has gone home. My girlfriends back to Nashville. My family back to basketball practice and jobs.

I went for a run yesterday afternoon on the beach. As I was jogging (running would be an exaggeration!) along the shoreline, I glanced out at the ocean as far as my eye could see….and then I’d glance back down as a few waves here and there would run up over my feet. Half laughing/half shaking my head, I said, “God, you really did tell the ocean to stop right here.”

Think about that for a minute. The God of the universe not only told the water where to stop, but He’s also the author of every single heavenly light in the sky, too. The sun. The sunset. The stars.

And yet He knows every single thing about us.

Reflecting over the many conversations I’d had with my girlfriends the last few days….all being at different stages and places in life…one common theme prevailed: He truly does work it all for our good. He can be trusted. He is merciful. He gives good and perfect gifts.  And He knows exactly how it’s all gonna work out.

I am grateful my friends have chosen wiser and have done/and are doing things the right way. I am grateful for the influence they are over my daughters!  I will confess at times, I have regret. I wish there was a do-over button I could push. I wish I had known better. I wish, I wish, I wish….

BUT….on the beach yesterday, I was reminded that every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord. I think sometimes we get the good part. But we don’t necessarily get the perfect part. Beth Moore says it this way: “His perfect gifts are perfecting us.” I needed (and still need) a lot of perfecting!! With age comes wisdom, and I can look back over my life and see how even in the middle of the hardest and darkest times – some of my own doing. some not – He was still there. Beth Moore says this about her own life. I can identify.

I can look at my life in retrospect and see how several of those things morphed into gifts. I am convinced that desperation became a gift to me because if saved me from a life of medicroity. Gray wasn’t an option for someone as self-destructive as I was. Looming disappointment from some key people in my life also turned into a gift. I couldn’t get anybody to mend or tend to my tattered soul the way I craved. A lifetime of snuggling up to folks with scissor-hands scars you, but those scars become a road map that leads straight to Jesus. There He becomes the uncontested love of your life and the unexpected fountainhead of cleaner affection for others. Every gap in your life makes room for the Lover of your soul. God uses time to unwrap presents that appear as curses. 

Gratefully, God has been merciful on my memory. He truly has turned ashes to beauty. He sees me very differently than how the enemy of my soul wants me to see myself. God did not come to condemn us. He came to give us life. And that we live it fully.

One of the good and perfect gifts God has given me is to allow me to do life with you. Tears fill my eyes each time I think about what an absolute privilege it is I get to do this journey with so many of you.  I almost can’t stand it! I love our community so much. I love the honesty and realness we share. I love that our eye is on the prize …. Heaven awaits! We may crossover bruised, battered, blistered, and broken. BUT…we will cross the finish line!

I have to pack up now, but I want to leave you with this….no matter what you’ve done, or where you are in life, or how you view yourself, you are NOT too far gone from God’s saving power. He loves you, He wants you, and you – yes, YOU! – are His most prized possession. Listen to Him. Choose to believe Him. Accept Him. Let His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness wash over you. Accept His good and perfect gift….Jesus.

flush it!

 

20 lbs down. 15 to go!

I’m happy to report that I’ve officially lost 20 lbs! Right around Christmas, I got on the scales and realized I weighed the most I’ve ever weighed WITHOUT being pregnant. Ewwwww!  The sad part is I put this 20 lbs on in the last 2 years while training for half marathons. How crazy is that?  I basically gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted because “I was training for a half marathon.”  Wow. I wish I had a nickel every time I said that before stuffing my face with another slice of pizza or red velvet cupcake.

I’m now back at the size I was when I wanted to lose only 15 lbs.  I’m so grateful I’m back at the starting line, but  really ready to go the extra distance to be where I want to be…once and for all. And get this stupid monkey off my back! I always said after I had Haley … “if I could just get back into my bathing suit.” After Abbey … “if I could just get back in my jeans.” If I’d had a third, it would’ve been … “if i could just get back in my moo-moo.”  True.

This is how motivated I am right now: The other night I was in a hotel. They had left a cookies & cream candy bar on my pillow. First of all, I hate white chocolate. It’s way too waxy & sugary for me. BUT…having had no sugar in a long long time, I was seriously considering it.  I opened the wrapper and even stared at it, contemplating whether to break off a corner and reward my 20 lbs with a small bite. As I broke off the corner – and arguing with myself in my head the whole time – I found myself continuing to break the candy bar into a million little pieces. I then glanced around the room and thought, “what can I do with this candy bar to ensure that I don’t eat it?” There was no battery acid anywhere, so I walked into the bathroom and flushed it down the toilet. I flushed in 3 segments, fearing I might back up the toilet. Can you see me now calling maintenance for a clogged commode? Maintenance guy: “tummy upset?” me: “nope. just flushing candy bars.”

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done with food to ensure you wouldn’t eat it? I will share your answers on the show next week!

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