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.

What Do Homeless Dogs Eat?

This story was in the most recent DRY BONES DENVER newsletter. jd

Ten-year-old Noah has been coming to Dry Bones’ Thursday night meal with his dad, Michael, for almost a year now.

When Noah first came to the meal, he was bothered that there were so many young people that were living on the streets. His soft heart was clearly moved and he committed to get his homework done early from that day on in order to be a part of the Thursday night meal. While Michael wandered through the meal making sure that all the trash was collected, Noah was particularly drawn to each person who had a dog ( a lot of our friends have dogs as companions on the streets).

One night, Noah went home and asked his mom if she would assign a few more chores to him and let him make a little more in allowance. Wondering what was wrong with her son, she asked, “Wy?

” He then told her about his experience on Thursday nights. He was so happy that the young people got to eat really good food, but he could hardly stand to see all of the dogs not eating. He wondered, “What do homeless dogs eat?” He decided that he would buy dog food on his own and bring it every Thursday night to pass out to dog owners.

And that is exactly what Noah has been doing for nearly a year now. He comes with Michael every Thursday night with small, individually prepared bags of dog food.

While it’s easy for some of us to question whether or not a young person who is living on the streets should have a dog, Noah, with his ten-year-old view of our world, focuses on the need. He blesses the kids by caring for what they care for the most in this world. Noah’s dream is to become a veterinarian some day. We think he will make an excellent one.

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Consider finding out more about the Dry Bones Denver ministry. They can use your support.

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Books dealing with homelessness:

Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America

The Dead End Kids of St. Louis: Homeless Boys and the People Who Tried to Save Them

My 30 Days Under the Overpass: Not Your Ordinary Devotional

The Berenstain Bears Help the Homeless

Cheryl’s Heart

Stand By Me from voices around the world

This video was sent to me by Cheryl. It is quite inspirational and has a great message. It reminds me of Cheryl.

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Evan Carter

Ten months ago Cheryl said goodbye to her exceptional son Evan, who was 21. Even was born on November 9 1987, and died July 28 2008. I’m not sure I remember the first communication I had from Cheryl, but I have no doubt it had to do with writing about the loss of John Robert.

Though Cheryl and I have never met, our families are walking the same difficult path. There really is nothing anyone can do to stop the pain. But there is a different kind of communication with those who walk this same path. The comparing of notes lets us know we’re not behaving strangely – but in concert with others who have felt this particular pain. When we talk about our struggle, we know that the one who has been through it understands on the deepest level.

So, somehow, there is an unwelcome kindred spirit that binds together these broken hearts. It is unwelcome because we would have done anything to keep from experiencing this, including giving our own lives. It is unwelcome because it is a representative of the grief that has come to live in our hearts, and promises never to leave. Still, I believe in some mysterious way God uses that connection to heal.

I’m so thankful  for the many expressions of sympathy and grace that have come from our friends and family. It always helps to lift the spirits. I do not envy your struggle to try to find some word or some phrase that does not sound too small in the face of this giant called grief. When those words fall short (as they must), we are not offended … but we are blessed to know you care.

However, it is perhaps the look in the eye of a parent who has lost a child that creates a different bond. Even over the internet, in words typed on a keyboard, something travels through from heart to heart. I’m so glad to hear from Cheryl from time to time. From reading about her son, I look forward to meeting that young man in some eternal place. He was a winner.

If you like, you can visit Cheryl’s touching memorial site HERE. You will have to enter his first name Evan, Last name Carter. There are two listed under that name, his is the first one. Have your speakers turned on, there’s a blessing in song awaiting you there as well. Why don’t you leave a note? Cheryl is also on FaceBook.

Thanks, Cheryl, for giving me permission to share that site. God bless you, friend. You’ve never taken a step out of His presence.

Thanks for reading,

John

Days

broken_heart

We went to The Compassionate Friends meeting Thursday night, as is our monthly habit. Sitting at our table is another couple whose son was taken from them just a few days before we said goodbye to John Robert.  Also at our table a lady who lost her son a year and a half ago. No matter where you look in that room there is a parent who has lost a child. The good thing about that meeting is hearing from those who have walked this journey without their child for decades.

But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy meeting. If anything, it’s a bit rough on the heart. For a few hours you can’t be distracted by your work, a new internet site, a phone call, dinner out on the town, walking around the mall. No, all of the distractions are gone and there, like a spectre in the dark, grief awaits.

Days ought to all be the same, but they’re not. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Maggy will have one less card to enjoy, one less hug and kiss. As sweet and meaningful as the rest of the Mother’s Day wishes are, the heart cannot avoid the one that is absent.

But you know we’ve experienced several special days without John Robert now. A whole year of them. Our common observation is that the anticipation of them was worse than the actual day. This afternoon my mind has been ruminating over that dreadful day when we learned that we had lost him forever. The calls that were made, the people who came by … I’m sure my memories are very foggy about that time. so what do we do on the anniversary of THAT DAY? Maggy’s idea is to spend it with family and to visit John Robert’s grave. So that’s what we’re going to do.

I really do try not to talk about our loss all the time. It is the subtext of our lives and it is hard not to mention it sometimes. This is especially true in preaching – for in that room are a lot of people who love us dearly, but they also have a list of hurts and struggles to consider. They do not need to hear about mine all the time.

I’m assured of two things at this point in the journey:

*We will never be without grief. This unwelcome guest has taken up residence in our hearts and isn’t going to go away. The pain caused by it’s presence, I’m told, will diminish … but not go away. To this point, that has been our experience.

*Moving on with life does not mean forgetting. It does mean embracing life and appreciating the joys and blessings. We are not ashamed to laugh or enjoy something. At first that felt so wrong – as if we were dishonoring John Robert by laughter or joy. Part of learning to live again is not letting our grief steal our lives away from us. If nothing else John Robert would not want that to happen.

Thanks for reading … and praying for us … as we face some difficult days. Surrounded by a beautiful church family, our own families, and friends who care … I have confidence that God is using many people to bring help and healing to our hearts.

John

Convergence

It all started with a desperate phone call from a hotel room. He was drunk and barely conscious. A Gulf War veteran running away from his demons, forced into a corner, and unsure of what to do. I choose to believe that it was God’s mercy that led him to remember his childhood association with a Church of Christ. So from a bed of shame and humility he pulled the phonebook out of the drawer of his nightstand and called the church. He talked to David Kilbern on the phone. David went to Scott’s room and thus began a rocky relationship that was to overcome broken trust, forgotten promises, and a bond that went beyond brotherhood.

Over the next year and a half Scott was in and out of rehab facilities. He would at times be out of touch … and then would come the phone call that was so reminiscent of that first one. There were times when it seemed there was no way to help this broken man who had lost everything he owned in Katrina. He was overseas at the time. Scott saw things that only veterans understand while at war. He came home to nothing. For a while he thought alcohol was his only friend. Even when we thought he was doing well, he wasn’t. A few times we tried to give up on him, but our love for this lost soul overcame our frustration at his failures.

Finally Scott admitted his own weakness and entered himself into the VA’s residential program for substance abuse and post traumatic stress disorder. Eight weeks later Scott is sober. He has created an optimistic world for himself, rather than the dark spiral downward that used to characterize his thinking. His weakness has not been removed. It never will be. He has, however, the tools to handle the darkness within. Part of that is his trust in the grace of God. Scott has told me that one thing he learned by being a part of Central was that God loved him deeply and that he could trust God’s grace.

Last night there was a celebration at the VA for Scott and his four classmates that have completed their courses. There were many tears between the classmates and the doctors who taught the classes. I am so proud of Scott’s progress and the man he has become. A few of us went over to celebrate with Scott and to take him to a Mexican restaurant of his choosing for supper. Scott is moving on to a re-entry program that will equip him to use what he now knows in civilian life. Offer a prayer for him when you get a chance. He is well on his way to many celebrations of success.

Scott and David

Convergence. Along with the joy and happiness of Scott’s celebration came another phone call. Another friend who was losing his battle with alcohol was falling into familiar desperation. Phone calls to local rehab facilities brought reports of full beds and long waiting lists. I called an old friend who has been down this path and he told me about a place about an hour away that he had a lot of respect for. So while I was driving to celebrate with one friend who has overcome alcohol, another friend who is overcome by alcohol was being taken to a rehab facility. Pray for his success in defeating this wretched enemy. When I talk with these men who have lost so many years to the bottle, I know that most of these battles are not going to be won.

We need more Christian residential facilities for people escaping substance abuse. There are so many people who need help and there are so few facilities available to offer them the help they need. This is a growing problem. Jesus is the only answer. For every one that is rescued, many more are falling by the minute.

Kilberns, Dobbs, Ingram Celebrating with Scott

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 On a different subject, I’d like to congratulate the Television Meterologists for creating hurricane hysteria by exalting TD 10 into a near-hurricane. Communities are going on red alert. The Governor of Louisiana has declared a state of emergency!!! Evacuations in Jackson County, Mississippi are considered! The USM Coast classes are cancelled tomorrow! Biloxi opens storm shelters! On the other hand, casinos are staying open. Dr. Jeff Masters predicts that this storm, if it even develops further, will only offer 50 mph winds. Not that I want to be out in it … but this can be found in a summer thunderstorm. I do appreciate that we shouldn’t take any threat lightly, but this is overkill. Jim Cantore must be disappointed in Pensacola.

Tornadoes can occur in this type weather, of course, and we should be praying for the folks in Eustus, FL who suffered several losses of homes last night.

In another case of the media making news, the fact that Giuliani answered his wife’s call during a speech to the NRA is being reported everywhere. I love it. This guy is on wife #3 … he finally figured out what his priorities need to be. I suppose with the immorality portrayed in the media and celebrity lifestyles these days this is beyond the comprehension of many. I have instructed Mrs. Dobbs not to call me during a sermon, though.

        Star Simpson

Star Simpson figured out today that wearing a fake bomb in an airport is not really considered art. I would suggest that she consider some other kind of art. Star’s kind of art is a scary kind that makes people dive under tables and run for cover. Kind of like her hair. Did I say that out loud?

Don’t tase me bro! Student Andrew Meyer got a shocking conclusion to his questioning of John Kerry! It might have hurt a bit, but he has now ascended into YouTube fame. Too bad there’s no fortune to go along with it. I wonder if that should become our new catch phrase… Don’t Tase me Bro!

I better go before I get into trouble.

Oh, this week’s CENTRAL BULLETIN is now posted.

Thanks for reading!

John