Goodbye Jackson

A week ago all was normal in our household. Then one morning Jackson the dog didn’t want to get out of his kennel. This is very unusual because the morning routine begins by going outside, coming in for the morning snacks, then going back out again. It’s been this way for a long time. But not that day. Eventually he came out and wandered around outside. He came in and laid in his bed – without a snack. I figured something was wrong and maybe he just needed some time to let it pass.

Throughout the day Jackson was more lethargic than usual, never eating. So the next morning when he wouldn’t come out of his kennel I took him to the vet. He has been there for a few days now. He’s not going to come home.

We had theories at first about what he might have eaten outside that caused the issues he was facing. He did eat a lot of buds and leaves off of a hibiscus bush. Was that the culprit? I theorized he may have eaten off of the oleander in the back yard, but the vet said it would have likely killed him quickly – and the bitter taste does not encourage eating. So I don’t think that was it. Significant liver damage is the ultimate reason. The cause? I don’t know. Maybe it’s been coming for a while and just now showed up … or the hibiscus was the last straw. It doesn’t matter. Our hearts are broken to say goodbye to our furry friend.

You can read about the day we suddenly and without preparation decided we wanted to bring him home HERE. That was in March of 2009. Kind of unusual, the way we came across him. He won us over quickly. Here’s a picture of Maggy and Jackson before we got back in the car with him.

I don’t think I ever told anyone this. And if it’s too weird for you, I understand. We found Jackson on March 21, 2009. On May 21, 2009 we were mourning the loss of our son one year ago that day. I know perhaps it’s not theologically sound, but I have always believed that maybe John Robert asked the Lord to lead us to such a puppy as Jackson. It was all so sudden and unexpected … but I do think one of Jackson’s purposes in life was to bring some comfort and healing to our broken hearts. From day one he was so mild mannered, loving, and sweet natured. Whenever we reached to pet him, he always winced down, as if someone had hurt him in the past. Maybe we were a comfort and healing to his broken heart as well.

Today it’s our tears that fall. He has been at the vet’s now for three days on an IV drip with no real improvement and some signs that his liver is not functioning. When we arrived at the vet this afternoon, his breathing was ragged and the fluid in his system causing each labored breath to rattle. To keep him alive would be to prolong his suffering and actually let him live long enough to increase it. We won’t do that to our sweet puppy. For eight years he has trusted us to take care of him and we have done pretty well. We will fulfill our duty to him and send him into the next world. Yes, I do believe that God gave us pets to enjoy in this world, so why not the next?.

I have shared that graphic with others who have lost their pets, so I suppose it is fitting to share it here for us. We are grateful (and amazed) at so many people who were praying for Jackson, and thus for us. Thank you.

We have developed patterns of life that relate to Jackson being in our house. We come by the house a few times each day to let him out.  We board him when we go on trips. We have a schedule of feeding him. At night when it’s time to go to bed it is my duty to get him to come and get in his kennel. For the past few months he hasn’t wanted to get out of his bed in the den to come…I’ve had to pick him up and get him out of the bed. I have though he was just wanting me to pet him a little before heading to bed, but now I wonder if this illness wasn’t coming on. We’ll never know. But usually he’ll follow me down the hall and get in his kennel for the night. He’ll use his nose and paws to arrange the blanket the way he wants it to be (come to think of it, he hasn’t done that as much lately either).  And tomorrow we’ll start over. Except not this time.

This afternoon with the compassionate help of his veterinarian (who is as pained as we are I think)… we will send him to sleep for one last time in this life. It will be painless and he won’t be hungry or hurting any longer (he hasn’t eaten in four days).  I trust the Lord that He knows what to do with these ones we love so much.

Rest well, Jackson. You came along at just the right time in our life to bring us comfort and unconditional love. May you receive the same.

Thanks for reading, JD.






Be A World Changer in One Minute

So often I look at the dreadful status of the world around me and sigh and wish that I could change things in a significant way. This moves me to join with organizations that are making a difference either through participation or through contribution. That is not a brag… I’m far away from being able to brag about myself in this matter.

I wonder how often we fail to make a difference in the world because we’re always looking at some IMMENSE problem that demands a GIANT solution? What if we could change the world in one minute or less in a simple way?

I don’t know if she knew this was going to happen but Ashley C. Ford (Twitter @iSmashFizzle) did just that back in December. One area that touched her heart was the unpaid lunch debts at the schools around her. So she just made a suggestion in a tweet:

A cool thing you can do today is try to find out which of your local schools have kids with overdue lunch accounts and pay them off. (LINK)

Depending on your experience with Twitter, you may know that thousands of tweets float by in the universe every hour and you won’t see the vast majority of them. But sometimes they catch your eye.

At the time Ashley had  66,000 followers.  Enough of them saw and retweeted so that this simple suggestion began to grow wings.  By now that tweet has been retweeted more than 13,000 times.  Every time it is catching someone’s eyes. 

Lindsey Bell noted that Kristina Arwood, a resident from Evansville, Indiana, helped raise $20,000 to pay off lunch debts in her area. She told CBS News, “It really hit home for me. . . . I grew up on free and reduced-price lunches, but even that 40 cents was hard to get together with four kids. There were times I wouldn’t eat because I didn’t have money and didn’t want to be labeled as the poor kid.” (LINK)

The Today Show ran with the story and you can read some of the amazing results of this tweet HERE.

What touches your heart? What is it that catches your breath when you hear about it? 

I’ve been blessed to know a number of these influencers. One person I’ve never met in real life but who has had a great influence in my world is Mike Ellis. He’s one of those who doesn’t let anything keep him from reaching out and helping others. Another world changer is Aaron Reddin who was inspired to love the homeless people of Little Rock. His world changing idea was to buy a van and stock it with stuff the homeless need and take it to them. This has grown as others have gotten on board. Or Mike Baumgartner who refurbished an RV and turned it into a kitchen and goes where disaster strikes to make food for victims and helpers…and this has also evolved.  Quincy Gardner has gathered around him an army of helpers who come to the aid of people truly in need. 

Stack of Cards from Love in the Mail Group!

I once had an idea that if I could get 100 people to agree to send 1 card with 1 dollar to 1 person per week that we could change the lives of 52 people per year. So I started a group on Facebook called Love in the Mail. We’ve sent cards and dollars to over 100 people now. We still don’t have 100 participants, hovering around 70. But to me that’s a simple plan, a simple idea, that makes a big difference. Let me know if you want to join in!

The one thing all of these people have in common in the beginning is that they had an idea of a way to help someone and they just put it out there. There is, in most people, a heart of compassion that needs an outlet. 

So what idea have you had that might change the world in one minute? Why not just tweet it out or share it on Facebook or call a friend and ask if they want to join in? I have a little project right now that I’m about to ask some friends to join in and help. Maybe I can help change someone’s world in one minute. 

I’ll be watching for your world-changing idea!

You should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you – Jesus, Matthew 7:12

Thanks for reading. JD

The Sequatchie Valley

This article is from my files. It is an article from the Gospel Advocate dated September 4, 1980 by Guy N. Woods. I hope you’ll enjoy it as a warm reflection as we approach Mother’s Day.  JD



The Sequatchie Valley by Guy N. Woods

Recently it was my honored and happy privilege as it has been for more than thirty years to preach in a week-end meeting for the Mt. Airy congregation in Tennessee’s lovely, inspiring and breath-taking Sequatchie Valley. There towering mountains rise to meet the sky. At night the stars appear to nestle in their craggy heights, and the moon, along its pathway of gold, seems to pause in wonder as it moves over their airy peaks. For this magnificent valley, the majestic mountains which overshadow it and the sturdy and stalwart saints who live there I entertain the highest appreciation. Its most distinguished inhabitant, long since gone to be with the Lord whom he so well served, Theophilus Brown Larimore, once said that the Indian word “Sequatchie” most likely meant “land of many waters,” but added that were an angel from heaven to stand on some towering peak among the mountains which surrounded it, and see it as Moses saw the promised land the angel might call it “Paradise”!


On this most recent trip through the good offices of a dear friend, Tom Mosley, I saw the house where brother Larimore lived and the creek he crossed when the evening shadows gathered and this pitiful little boy wearily returned to his mother from the fields in which he had toiled all the day long, in an effort to provide food so desperately needed by his mother and sisters. When only ten years old he hired out to plow for $4 per month and so weak and frail was he that often the plow handles were covered with blood from his nose and, weak and dizzy from its loss, he reeled and staggered between the plow handles like a drunk man.

It was always dark when his day’s work was over and along his path were deep shadows from the tall mountains nearby and he was often afraid. His mother, knowing this, and also afraid, nevertheless always came to meet him in the ravine’s darkest spot and, when she heard his footsteps would softly say, “Is that you, my son?” When the little lad heard her words which were to him as sweet as the words of an angel, his fears were gone and he joyfully and gladly accompanied her home no longer timid or afraid. Long years after when he had become the brotherhood’s most loved and dedicated preacher, possessed of an eloquence unequalled by the ablest speakers of his day, he was to recall this incident, recite its details and say, “I sometimes wonder if, when I come to cross the valley of death, I shall hear my mother’s voice on the other side as she waits for me to come. I know she will be there, if she can.” Is it any wonder that in his later years, tears always appeared in his eyes when he mentioned his mother? 

Thank God for our dear sweet mothers! 

On This Day

I know not everyone has this feature on their Facebook account, but I do. It’s called ‘On this Day‘ or ‘Memories‘. It ferrets out posts from the same day in years gone by. It’s pretty amazing when we consider how long most of us have been on the Facebook. Posts going back ten years or so pop up in my feed under that feature and they have been fun and mostly enjoyable. Old pictures and events brought to mind that I haven’t thought about in a long time … every day. 

But now it’s May. It is a month we expected to have a totally different set of memories than we do. So when ‘On This Day‘ pops up I begin to sift through the posts. I pass the day that darkened our lives forever and see posts just prior. Days I regard now as carefree and joy filled. Days of expectation and pride. We said goodbye to a lot of that when we said goodbye to John Robert. In May of 2008. On that day.

As I read those posts that pre-date THAT day I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell younger John what was about to happen. (i.e. James Rubart’s The Five Times I Met Myself). But that’s not the way things work, is it?

On May 21st we will once again pass through the day that John Robert died. The memories are a bit more vivid, the pain a little more acute. But as those pictures begin to surface I do detect a shift in my feelings about them. If this had happened seven or eight years ago, it would have crushed me. But it will be nine years this time. And some of those pictures are starting to make me smile. 

Spending time with other bereaved parents at The Compassionate Friends meetings, I understood it would happen one day. The time would come when memories would bring some smiles along with the tears. The tears will never run dry, but the smiles can come alongside. Especially in those initial years, the jagged pain of fresh grief kept the smiles away.  But now they seem more natural. 

So I thank God for the gentle ways He brings healing gradually … honoring our humanity, acknowledging our pain at being separated, helping to carry us through the darkest of days. Our eyes have adjusted so that we can see more of the light of life, at least until we revisit him in our hearts.

Thanks for reading, JD.

The Meaning of Failure

This is an article from my files. It is undated and likely more than twenty years old. But the encouragement that it contains is timeless. I wanted to share it with you. Thanks for reading, JD.


Unfortunately, most of us equate our performance and our personhood. It is a terrible mistake that sets people up for unhappiness, depression, and even suicide. 

Some women aren’t stunning, and some men aren’t good-looking. Only a tiny percentage of students graduate with 4.0 averages. Not everybody who applies gets into graduate school or professional school, and some who get in either can’t take the pace or decide it’s not worth it. Some people can never break into the career they want. You may never be the top salesperson in your company. You may not make top level management. You may have no musical talent.

Some people get married and are unable to make their marriages work. Some people break the law, get caught, and spend time in prison. some unmarried women get pregnant. The list can go on and on indefinitely. All of us fail at some things, and some failures (e.g., relationship failures and moral failures) are worse than others (e.g., being a success in your own business or mastering the piano or golf). 

But no failure means that you are worthless as a person, that your life is without meaning, or that you are unimportant in the eyes of God. Some people I know would never have risen from the ashes of a failure like King David’s adultery or Simon Peter’s three denials. They would have told themselves that they were worthless failures as people, that their lives could never again be valuable, and that God would never give them another chance.

To fail at something means simply that, well, you have failed at something. It most assuredly does not mean you are useless, insignificant, and meaningless as a person. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart form the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30).

Your failures don’t mean that God has given up on you either. God is determined and persistent in his quest for your salvation. He is the shepherd who searches the open country until he finds one stray sheep from his fold (Luke 15:3-7). He is the woman who sweeps her house until she finds a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). He is the father who keeps his eye on the horizon, looking for the outline of his prodigal son starting toward home (Luke 15:11-32).

Our God is in the forgiving and renewing business. Don’t ever doubt that. And don’t ever let Satan convince you that your Father would give up on you – no matter what you have done or how far from him you have strayed.


Crash and Burn God

You see it all around you. Good men and women who are finding themselves in a downward spiral they can’t seem to stop. Incredibly bad choices that have worse consequences pile up to create nightmarishly painful troubles. Once it starts, it’s so hard to stop. Often friends and family feel helpless and heartbroken, but that’s not enough to stop the runaway train.  It’s a crash and burn that scorches everyone near enough to be hurt by it.

The awkwardness of the aftermath is felt by all. Exposure and shame have demolished relationships and destroyed trust. There are no innocent bystanders because none of us are innocent, but often there is a lot of finger pointing and blame. Crash and burn.

Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Not only is a mess made by incredibly poor choices, we have help in making it happen. An accuser, who never lets us forget the guilt that resides in our conscience. His work is not to wound, but to destroy.

Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.- 1 Peter 5:8 (CEB)

I’m thankful that we have a Crash and Burn God. There are many witnesses to this truth. Shall we ask Adam as he sweats over his garden? Ask faithful Abraham who thought it best to lie about the identity of his wife. Perhaps inquire of adulterous murderer King David as he weeps through his penitent Psalm. Why not consult with Peter, moments after his curses and denials. The prodigal in the pig-pen can remind us how life can go when we are willingly blind to our own actions. These are not people who committed “little sins” of misjudgments and mistakes. They were people who made a wreck of their faith.

It was supposed to be a three-hour-tour (a three hour tour), but the inane crew and hapless passengers ended up on a desert island. I’m not sure how they survived a week, much less 98 episodes of Gilligan’s Island. In the regular show the stranded cast never was rescued. That’s true of some people who crash and burn in life, but it doesn’t have to be.

There are no simple answers to complex life situations, but here are few things that seem to be clear to me.

*Rescue. Whether they come in the form of recovery groups like AA or Celebrate Recovery – if we’ve learned anything by now it’s that we can’t do it by ourselves. Don’t turn away the rescue missions.

*Time. Time may not heal all wounds, but it can take the jagged edge off of the pain we feel now. And it will take time (maybe a LOT of time) for those we’ve hurt to begin to be able to give us a chance again.

*Self. Everyone may have their own set of expectations for us, but we have to take care of ourselves for a time. That’s not to ignore the consequences of our actions but it is to say that if we do not heal and get centered again in life, nothing else much matters.

*Responsibility. It just never fails when someone falls into a pit in their life they begin to look around and point fingers. True, maybe someone did hurt us or push us in the wrong direction. Maybe we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in if they had not done so. Ultimately, there is no healing until we take responsibility for what WE did.

*Faith. This probably should be first instead of last. Since God has always in the business of rescuing those who have crashed and burned, I am pretty sure he can rescue any of us. Everything about our lives might not go back to what they used to be, but the promise of eternal life and the hope of heaven remain.

But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. – 1 John 1:9 (CEB)

For those of us who can see this crash and burn playing out in someone else’s life, we have a very heavy burden of forgiving. And after forgiving we have to figure out what boundaries we have to set in place to keep ourselves healthy. But graceless unforgiveness is not really an option for the Christian.

You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him. – Booker T. Washington

Questions for Contemplation

*What are some simple steps I can take when I’ve crashed and burned? It’s obvious it’s going to take a long time to move beyond this. What small step can I take today?

*Being realistic with myself, how am I going to keep from crashing and burning again? Perfection is something for life on the other side. Just for now, I want to keep from falling into the spiral again. What barriers need to exist to keep that from happening?

*What might I see in God’s character / attitude toward the fallen if I read my Bible once again?

*While I desire for others to forgive me, who do I need to forgive on an ongoing basis?

*How will I demonstrate to others ‘this time’ that I’m serious about making real changes? In what ways do I need to lower my expectations that they will believe me without some significant long-term changes?

Thanks for reading, JD.