Search

The Bible, The Spirit, & Diet Mountain Dew

Faith, Life, Humor

Tag

life

The Age of Adaline

Exactly one year ago today and at about this exact moment, 1:42pm, I was hanging a picture in our Living Room when it happened.  Life as we knew it thrown upside down…  Baxter was gone…  R~ had witnessed the entire thing play out in front of her 9 year old eyes…  I’d go on, but I’ve already captured that story once before and to be honest… its just too painful.

So for today… Happier thoughts…  The following is a republishing of a Facebook note from early last summer.

B-waxy…  I miss you bud!…


It’s been just over 4 LONG, GRUELING, & PAINFUL months since Baxter died. If we’re new friends or if we’re old friends & you just happened to have no internet access in the month of February, I wrote a lot about Baxter back then. You can catch up by starting with Part 1 and continuing on from there if you like.  It’s raw & its uncensored & it didn’t quite go the way I thought it would when I started writing, but… such is life… Raw, uncensored, & rarely going the way you thought it would. Nonetheless, I recovered some pieces of me in the process & I quickened my resolve to fight for my family’s hearts in the wake of tragedy.

So how’s that working out you ask? Well, I doubt they’ll be making a Disney movie about it… We have all dealt with the loss of Baxter in our own ways. But I think common for all of us is that everything has just felt magnified… Every emotion… Every reaction… Every social interaction… Every high… Every low… Just way too intense… Much weightier than it should be… And that’s made it hard on those around us I think. People tend to like easy… People tend to like uncomplicated… And we have all been anything but easy & uncomplicated lately.

Part of me wants to apologize for that… for all of us… But then I realize that no apology is necessary. What is necessary is recognition & gratitude… Recognition for those that don’t shy away from the uneasy or the complicated. And we are eternally grateful for them in this moment of darkness we’ve had to endure. You folks that encouraged & kept checking in & persevered through walls of insecurity… You’re the heroes here and I can’t thank you enough!


They were born on April 1st, 2016… April Fools’ Day… I started my current job back on an April Fools’ Day a few years back… Since God made man in his own image, I don’t feel bad at all that I tend to have a very dry & somewhat off sense of humor. Clearly he does…

They were born a litter of four… Clove, Cedar, Cashmere, & Cressida… All girls… Did I mention that sense of humor yet? Anyway… here’s all the cuteness…

addie-littermates
R~ nearly came out of her skin when she found out they were finally born. She’d been counting down since the day she found out Belle & Dickens were… um… expecting… Sidebar: That whole birds & bees discussion became unavoidable as a result… But I digress…

After they were born, it became all about pictures… And once we had the initial pictures, she wanted to see their faces after their eyes were open. And after that… the Name Game started. Literally from mid-April until the day we picked her up, every other conversation with R~ was about the name. She researched & googled & polled complete strangers.. And LISTS… She made lists… Many lists of potential names… And the final week before we were to pick her up, you’d have thought she was a momma bird in the nesting phase… She took inventory of everything we had saved from Baxter, but some things wouldn’t do for a girl… So we had to go shopping… multiple times, before we got everything on the list… Finally though, the day came!..

We didn’t have the first pick of the litter with Baxter. The litter back then was down to just two boys. And Baxter chose us, so it wasn’t all that difficult. But now we had four to choose from & they were all perfect in their own way. We thought we had it sort of figured out based on the pictures, but that pretty much went out the window once we got there.

So we played… & we played… & we played with them for about an hour… and we weren’t making much progress. They’d just been to the vet the prior week for their initial shots and they found out one of them had an umbilical hernia. It was really hard to tell which one because they moved so fast & looked so similar, but I was convinced that was NOT THE ONE we wanted.

I could imagine this scenario where that puppy could develop a complication & ultimately wouldn’t make it. We had a family friend with a similar story about a kitten that didn’t survive and I WOULD NOT expose my family to that… Nope… Not on my guard…
Of course, then I realized that the one we were finally zeroing in on was, you guessed it, the one with the umbilical hernia. Somewhere deep inside, that little voice spoke up… “This dog needs healing…” Well okay, yeah… That’s sort of obvious… “Your family needs healing…” BUSTED… I was completely undone…


There would be no inside jokes with the naming of this one… Named Adaline, because of the movie that my wife fell in love with this breed of dog… Middle name Harper, because we rock like that at creating names that flow well… A by-product of having a run-on First & Middle name myself…

And she is a much different dog from Baxter. Smarter because she is female… at least that’s what my family tells me… So house breaking has been a breeze… Hardly an accident to even count. But she’s also smart enough to figure out that if she whines in her crate long enough at night, we’ll eventually cave & take her out… That sleeping through the night thing is still a work in progress. But regardless of the differences, she’s all ours…


EPILOGUE

R~ & I had a chance to do some hiking & rock climbing over Memorial Day Weekend. She LOVED it!… Like she’d found some piece of herself out there or something… That type of LOVED it!…

BUT IT WAS ALMOST ERASED BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED… Catawba Falls is a neat attraction that draws lots of people from nearby Asheville. And many bring their dogs & make a day out of it. In fact, we had multiple conversations about how Addie would not have liked this hike. Too strenuous for a little puppy & we’d have had to carry her the whole way.

R~ spent most of the hike leading me by 10-15 feet… so much in her happy place. About 20 minutes into the hike, we approached a blind corner in the trail. And next thing I know, two fairly large dogs are bounding around the corner, chasing each other off leash. In a FLASH, R~ was behind me & shaking like a leaf. The dogs ran right by us like we didn’t even exist. Their owners appearing around the corner in the next instance. Just two dogs having a romp… nothing more…

R~ was frozen for a few moments, no doubt re-living the entire experience from the day Baxter died. For a moment there, I wasn’t sure but what our day wasn’t over at that point. But we talked about it for a good bit the rest of the way up the trail. Still reminding her… “Its not your fault”. She shook off the cloud over her much faster than I expected and was back in pure delight by the time the rock climbing started.

In truth, part of me wishes that four months + constant affirmation + new puppy = healed R~. But shortcuts in healing rarely work to the advantage of the wounded. So we persevere and continue the fight because that’s what we do for the ones we love.

Advertisements

Who is Negan?

Just in case you’re among the 30% of Americans that are not completely caught up with The Walking Dead… You may want to skip this entry & come back to it.  But if you’re at least through Season 6, I’ll try to tip toe delicately here without giving away any Season 7 spoilers…

And with that out of the way… “Who is Negan?” was a big theme for much of Season 6…  In short, Negan is the BIGGEST of BIG BADS that Rick Grimes’ merry band of survivors has ever faced in the Zombie Apocalypse.  He’s possibly the best villain captured on film since Darth Vader… And that’s saying something for me because Star Wars is near & dear to my heart.

I suppose for the 1% of you that may not be Walking Dead fans, I should back up & give you some context here.  Negan is a 100% Grade “A” NARCISSIST… He is the leader of an extremely violent group of survivors known ironically as The Saviors. And by leader, I really mean brutal dictator.  The guy takes other men’s wives, makes them his own, & flaunts it back in the former husband’s faces.  And those are the people within his own group!  He forces people to kneel to him as a show of submission.  He walks around with a bat covered in barbed wire name Lucille and uses it to intimidate & if necessary, prove a point… or perhaps just reinforce one.  “She’s a vampire bat… And she is thirsty…” he proclaims shortly after bashing in the skull of one unfortunate soul.

But what makes Negan such a great villain is that he’s SO CHARISMATIC.  At times, he can seem downright charming, but do not be fooled because he is also a MASTER MANIPULATOR…  He’ll flash you that winning smile to draw you in today… and then feed you straight to the wolves tomorrow…  if it serves his purposes…

So add all that up and combine it with the one final characteristic…  He’s COMPLETELY convinced that he’s right in doing the things he does.  And from a certain perspective, maybe he is…  He has managed to “save” a large number of people  from likely death and in doing so, has grown the largest group of survivors we’ve yet to encounter in the universe of The Walking Dead.  If you were on your last legs when he found you, you really might think of him as a savior…


While Negan makes for a compelling villain on the big screen, he & his kind can make life quite hellish for others in real life.  It’s been almost 10 years since I ran into my own personal Negan…  And just like Rick Grimes’ group, I was totally unprepared for it. But the similarities go even deeper than that…  Like Rick, I too made some very wrong assumptions about Negan…  Like assuming that adults can agree to disagree without resorting to cheap power plays.  Like assuming people in positions of authority & leadership are worthy of those positions.  And just like on the show, Negan was completely convinced he was right & justified in the way he dealt with me & many others.  He played the manipulation game as well as anyone I’ve ever encountered & as a result, he had a huge “following”, most of whom weren’t even aware of the evil happening right under their noses.

And that brings us to the crux of this blog post… Sooner or later in life, we ALL run into a Negan.  In my case, I didn’t recognize the signs at the time and I paid a price for it.  If I can accomplish anything here, its that I could spare someone else the same pain & suffering.


I’ve just finished reading a great book by Donald Miller called Scary Close and it parallels nicely with this particular topic.  Its all about relationships… healthy ones & otherwise…  In the middle of the book, Don identifies Five Categories of Manipulation and as it relates to this post these are all excellent tools to help recognize when you may have a Negan operating in your midst…

  1. The Scorekeeper… “A Scorekeeper makes life feel like a contest, only there’s no way to win.  Scorekeepers are in control of the scoreboard and frame it any way they want, but always in such a way that they’re winning.”
  2. The Judge… “A Judge strongly believes in right and wrong, which is great, but they also believe they are the ones who decide right and wrong and lord it over others to maintain authority and power.  Right and wrong are less a moral code than they are a collar and leash they attach to others so they can lead them around”
  3. The False Hero… “The False Hero manipulates by leading people to believe they have something better to offer than they do…  You might be dealing with a False Hero when the future they’re describing seems too good to be true.”
  4. The Fearmonger… “Fearmongers rule by making people suffer the consequences of insubordination.  The mantra of the Fearmonger is: If you don’t submit to me I’ll make your life a living hell.  Fearmongers manipulate by making people believe they are strong.  They are never willing to be vulnerable for fear of being perceived as weak.”
  5. The Flopper… “A Flopper is somebody who overdramatizes their victimhood in order to gain sympathy and attention.  Floppers assume the role of victim whenever they can.  This is a powerful and destructive form of manipulation.  In order to be a victim, a person needs an oppressor.”  Hang around a Flopper long enough & that will inevitably become you.

If you start paying closer attention to those you interact with, you’ll find subtle hints of all 5 Types in just about everyone… including YOU!… But with a Negan, there is nothing subtle about it.  Negans are some blend of all 5 Types, but almost always lean most heavily on Fearmongering, Judging, & Scorekeeping as their “go to” forms of manipulation.  If I’d picked up on even one of these traits, I could’ve saved myself and my family a lot of heartache.

So identifying that you’re dealing with a Negan is one thing…  But even if you get that far, you may feel that you can help them see the light…  Help them overcome their tendencies & transform into a healthier version of themselves…  Don offers us some sound advice about dealing with this type of person…

“The harshest people I’ve met over the years have had two things in common:  they don’t fully trust anybody, and they view relationships as a means to an end.”

“You will never have a healthy relationship with a deceptive or manipulative person.”

The reality is… You can’t fix Negan…  And its not your responsibility to do so…  A good friend of mine shared this advice with me a few years ago & its stuck with me ever since…

“We must at all times remember it is not our job to institute change in another’s life, but to be the bringer of good news. Conviction and change is the role of the Holy Spirit. Failure of change is not a lack of the gospel or a condemnation of us, but the indication of the heart of another not yet ready for the movement into abundant transformation.”

So if you can’t help Negan see the error of his ways, what can you do?  In some cases, you may feel a sense of obligation to confront Negan & his manipulations head on…  If you do, you better apply some of the lessons Rick Grimes group had to learn the hard way…  You will need allies… And LOTS OF THEM!…  You’ll also need to recognize that the cost of doing so will almost always be more than you could have ever anticipated…


I hope this somehow helps you & yours…  And if you’re looking for some new reading material, I highly recommend Don’s book.

And for what its worth… the fate of Negan on the show remains unknown.  In the comics the show is based on though, Negan’s ego eventually gets the best of him… And while it took quite a few years to play out, the same was true for my Negan as well…  #karma

That Damn Wardrobe…

Once upon a time…  We lived in the most magical place…  And it was called Community…

No… I’m not talking about the same thing our friend Webster describes.  That is a pale imitation of what I’m talking about…

And I’m also not talking about that TV show starring Joel McHale… Although that Community was great in a totally different way…

I’m talking about something totally  OTHER here… It’s really hard to define, so let me just give you some examples…

Community is BACK DECK time…  It looks a little different in each season…  Currently, we’re deep into Fire-pit Season for instance…  But some common threads never change…  Relaxing with your closest friends… Unwinding about your week with people that know your heart & your soul…  Losing track of time & finding the kids passed out in the playroom…

Community is having a medical emergency that sidelines one of you in the hospital for a few weeks and your kids think it’s the greatest thing in the world… Because from their point of view, it just looks like endless sleepovers with their besties…

Community is crashing your friends house at 10pm… in your PJ’s…  Because you were both bored & couldn’t sleep…

Community is knowing each other deeply & being known deeply… And choosing to overlook the faults & flaws and love each other anyway…

Community is having mentors that so easily seem to guide you along the most difficult paths of life. Community is having younger people that you have earned the privilege to mentor yourself, even though you doubt your own worthiness to do so.

Community is encouraging each other as we run this race… Be it about work or parenting or dreams or faith…  It’s equal parts building each other up YET ALSO KNOWING that “fixing” isn’t always the priority, but instead simply sitting in the struggle together is what is needed…

Once upon a time lasted about 4 years for us the first time…  3 years the second time…  And life has been almost intolerable outside of those periods ever since…


I was recently sharing some of these thoughts with a new friend & he said… “It was like you were living in Narnia…  and now you’re not…”

Holy Cow Batman!…  That guy just crushed it and barely even knows me!  I mean, honestly… That’s about the most accurate description of how life felt both at the time & ever since.  Life in Deep Community felt like about the closest thing to Eden we get to enjoy on this side of the divide.

And all the moments in between and since, feels JUST LIKE the Penvensie children did trapped here in the “real world”.  Having had a taste of Narnia, the children were unable to accept life “as we know it” here.


Once Upon a Time… Or Narnia as it should be known… Fell apart both times for multiple reasons.  Someone moves… something tragic occurs or nearly occurs…  And The Ring is broken… No wait, that’s Tolkien, not C.S. Lewis… Anyway, things happen an POOF… Narnia is gone.

And I have been so angry about that at some level…  On some level, I’ve cursed at that Wardrobe for ever letting me in… And I’ve cursed at that Wardrobe for kicking me out… And I’ve cursed at that Wardrobe for not letting me back in…  I’m not proud about any of that… Just being honest…

Being in Narnia felt as right as anything has ever felt right in my entire life.  It was life as close to as it was meant to be as we’ll ever experience here on Earth.


So where dear reader does that leave us?…  Well…  I’m a far better person for ever having been to Narnia…  That needs to be recognized.  Also, it has left me with a deep longing that has been positive in two ways…  1)  I have a much greater appreciation of the times I do get with my friends from Narnia.  Its not much time these days, but when we can make it happen, we drink it in deeply.  2)  I’m resolved to fight for it.  While so many circumstances have shifted since our time in Narnia, I know what is at stake.  We are not meant to run this race alone.  In fact, we are opposed in so many ways, its nearly impossible to do so alone.  And so we fight to find our fellow Narnians here in this world.


Just one more thing…  Narnia wasn’t meant to be the final destination…  Perhaps that is why it has proved to be so elusive over the years…

At the end of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Reepicheep leaves Narnia & enters Aslan’s Country…

dawn-treader-reepicheep-sails-to-aslans-country

You see, there is a place even better than Narnia…  And The King is far too kind to allow us to settle for anything less…

Baxter’s Story Part 7 – Beauty From Ashes

The following is the final post in Baxter’s Story…  If you’ve been following the story, you know that these were initially presented as a series of Facebook Notes back in January & February of this year.  If you haven’t been following and want to catch up, here’s a link to Part 1


I’ve held off writing this final entry for Baxter’s Story, probably because I was so hoping to be able to put a nice pretty bow on this story. We Christians like to do that sort of thing… put Happy Bows on sad stories. I think its because we don’t like to embrace suffering as part of the Christian experience. Way back in 2010, we took a small group of college kids to Passion 2010 in Atlanta and in one of the breakout sessions, Francis Chan forever changed my perspective on this… He started with the book of Matthew in the New Testament, quoting scripture from each book of the New Testament on Holy Suffering… He made it all the way to 1Timothy before he admitted that there was in fact a book of the New Testament with no mention of suffering. And then he goes on to quote NINE instances in 2Timothy that referenced Holy Suffering. Its all there… just google Suffering and New Testament if you’d like to see for yourself.

Yet somehow, it doesn’t get a lot of play from most pulpits… or in your typical Sunday School or small group… You can find a handful of books on it in your local Christian bookstore, but they’re largely overshadowed by much shinier, happier books like Your Best Life Now… I believe it is this lack of transparency in the Christian experience that turns off so many that choose not to believe. Western Christianity sells the shiny & happy BIGTIME… diminishes the much harder topics… and the end result is a perceived experience that does NOT match at all with the trials we face daily on this side of Eden. People either can’t buy into it at face value or they give it a try for awhile & when the results don’t line up with the promised prosperity, they move on… We’d reach far more people for Christ if we were just honest about things… The truth is… SALVATION IS HERE!… But it must also be “worked out with fear & trembling” (Philippians 2:12)… And it is not always shiny & happy… It is in fact, quite messy and humbling…


SIX DAYS after “R” witnessed Baxter’s brutal death at the hands of two pit bulls, the above picture was captured by my brother-in-law… R & his pit bull Bo… That picture gets me through A LOT these days… Its a LOUD reminder of what God is capable of… You see God built the universe in 6 days… And he healed some deep wounds in R’s heart in that same amount of time… #BeautyFromAshes

That is not to say that things for R are perfect. She waffles between periods of being her vibrant self, followed by periods of deep sadness. She passes the location where his crate used to be… SADNESS… We walk by the pet food aisle in the grocery store… SADNESS… She still won’t sleep in her room alone… BUT… She is not terrified by the images from that day… She is not afraid of dogs or animals in general… She is still R and for that, I am grateful..

There have been SO MANY acts of kindness that have come out of this tragedy. Flowers… Cards… Gifts… Some for all of us… Some just for R… So sweet… and SO NECESSARY!… Every one has been precious…

Likewise, the breeders have been so awesome… Even though they have more expensive bloodlines than the one Baxter came from, they’ve guaranteed us first pick of whatever litters they have this Spring…

Response to these stories I’ve written has also been overwhelming… My hope in sharing all of this has been to move people… get you to consider the things that have happened in your own lives and re-consider them in a new light. Some of you responded publicly… Some of you have responded privately… Some of you haven’t responded at all, but I know you’re reading… 😉 I won’t go into any details here, but it is so good to know that it has connected with so many…


REGRETS… For my wife’s birthday, I put together a picture book of Baxter. I scoured every electronic device in the house for pictures that we’d forgotten about. R’s ipod was a treasure trove. My wife’s ipad as well… I even got pictures from some dear friends that saw Baxter in the park the weekend before. It was excruciating & it was necessary… so many happy memories.

One thing that became obvious as I pulled it all together though… I didn’t have one single picture of me & Baxter anywhere. That makes me so immensely sad on so many levels. I despise having my picture taken with a passion that’s probably way beyond healthy. And in this case, it cost me… leaving me with nothing but memories now. There’s a lesson in all that and I’m not sure I’m really ready for it. But there it is…


And on that sad note… The Enemy continues to be loud & active… So many of our closest friends are being attacked in ways I can’t explain. Just know that it is exactly what I said in Part 2… He is relentless in his pursuit to take us out. We either confront that head-on or he wins…

This latest round has impacted my oldest “A” the most… She lost it last night in a way I haven’t seen before. Probably the culmination of Baxter & everything else that is going on. Thank God it finally all came out…


This weekend, our family is starting a study of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters… If you aren’t familiar with Lewis’ works, please check them out. His ability to wrap the realities of the Christian struggle into works of fiction are both spot on in their accuracy and yet completely disarming because they are NOT overtly churchy. I specifically picked this book because it dives deeply into the spiritual warfare happening all around us.
You see, I’ve come to realize that while scripture does promise us beauty from ashes… Our reality is this… IT MUST BE FOUGHT FOR…

Baxter’s Story – My Unit (Part 6)

From a February 2016 Facebook Note…  See all the earlier entries for the back story…


Life is hard… But you don’t need me to tell you that… If you need a reminder, just take a trip to your local Walmart… Indeed, life is hard and to try to do it alone is next to impossible. For one, we weren’t meant to do life alone. Look no further than the way Jesus lived. He spent the most critical years of his life with The Twelve. Sure, there were others around too… Quite a few of them at times… But when the stakes got really high, he turned to his inner circle: Peter, James, & John. When he went in to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5)… At the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17)… In Gethsemane, when the stakes were at their highest (Mark 14)… Each time, he pulled his closest, most trusted friends in for support. I believe this was more than just a coincidence or a biblical factoid. I believe it was meant to model something for us.

Since the day Baxter died, I knew at some point, I’d have to approach the other family to nail down exactly where we go from here. Lots of things were promised in the drama of that Sunday, but a few days had passed now and you just never know how time changes things. I set up the meeting for Thursday Evening… And I made sure I contacted my unit…

The picture above shows nine guys that fight as a unit. They’ve all got a job to do. And they’ve all got each others back. Lots of good Christian books have been written on the Band of Brothers concept. I could recommend a few if you’re interested. But I’m mostly interested in giving you a live action example of how this thing works in the trenches.

For starters, my unit is not all that big. Far less than nine… The key to this thing is that each man has to know the story of the other. ALL OF IT!… Yes, even the things you don’t like to admit to yourself… They have to know all of it because in order to watch your back effectively, they have to know what traps you’re blind to. And they have to be willing to call you on your own B.S. Because at some point, you will try to gloss over something out of embarrassment or self-preservation or whatever…

And know this… It is not easy!… I have failed my guys at times… Didn’t pick up on some things here… Couldn’t put the pieces together there… That sucks the absolute worst. But we keep going & fighting for each other because the alternative is we all get caught in the crossfire.

So as this Thursday evening meeting approached, I knew I was going to need them. I almost waited too late too… One of those things where you meant to do it all day long, but you keep getting pulled in other directions at work. I’m not proud to say that I gave them all of TEN MINUTES NOTICE that this meeting was about to go down & I needed them to cover it in prayer. But that’s the thing… My unit already knew what I was going through & was on high alert. 10 minutes of notice was at least 8 minutes more than they needed… They’re THAT good… So this meeting that could’ve gone sideways so easily… Well simply put… God showed up!… My unit delivered…

The other family right out of the gate, volunteered to cover our costs with the breeder for another King Charles Spaniel puppy this spring. See Baxter’s Story – Part 3 for a refresher on that not small fee. They literally had a check to the breeder the next day.
Next, they confirmed that they’d had the two attacking dogs put down and all of the grief & anguish that caused them. Obviously, they loved their dogs. But they wouldn’t ignore what had happened to Baxter.

As the conversation continued, I could see & feel their torment over what had happened. They re-counted bits & pieces of what had happened that day from their perspective. I got really choked up at one point and the dad… a former Marine… said in his own words… “Hey… I’ve cried like a B- over this thing”. Then we all got choked up for a few minutes.

The best moment though, was when the son… the one trying to get the small dog that day to go for a walk with Baxter & R… came into the room. I was able to look right into his eyes and say “It’s not your fault….” “We don’t blame you…” “It was just a tragic thing that happened, but its not your fault…”

In my experience, its not all that often that we get to breech the lines of the spiritual realm to see or feel the warfare that goes on there. But this was one of those moments… I could literally see the weight lift off of him… And by weight, I mean it was almost like whatever attack he was under spiritually just… STOPPED!… He was smiling again & out the door to Tae Kwon Do with his brother & sister.

Yep… My unit is THAT GOOD!…

I pray you’ve got you’re own unit to support you. If you don’t, please reconsider how you’re approaching life. Find some trustworthy… godly souls, open a bottle of wine, & get to know each others story. That’s where it starts… God makes beautiful things happen from there!…


Continue on to Part 7 here

Baxter’s Story – Neighbors (Kindness + Glass Houses = Grace)… Part 5

From a January 31st, 2016 Facebook Note…  See Parts 1, 2, 3, & 4 for the backstory…


I mentioned yesterday that something unexpected happened in all the chaos of last Sunday. I’m standing there holding little Baxter’s body, watching R run home when I noticed our next door neighbor’s teenage daughter. She had just backed her car out of their driveway when R had started her run down the hill. She had the car in drive, but she was barely moving up the hill. Her eyes were fixed on R. She crept slowly forward, but didn’t take her eyes off of R until she made it into the house. She’s halfway up the hill now & I see her head turning from R and now she sees me. She’s still creeping forward, but now she’s locked on me. I can only imagine what was going through her mind… R… R’s dad… What is he holding?… She was about 10 yard past me up the hill when she stops the car… She had added it up…

Our immediate neighbors have kids on either side of the ages of our kids. The oldest daughter is older than A (driving obviously)… Then they have a son & another daughter both younger than R by a few years… We have a quasi-cordial relationship with them, but don’t really chat like neighbors should. Life is busy for both of us, but that’s not a good enough excuse.

She steps out of the car and walks towards me… “Is that Baxter?…” Tears are beginning to well up in her eyes. I confirm with a silent head shake… And I take a deep breath to try to compose myself. “Is R okay?…” And there went all of my composure… “What happened?…” I do my best to explain it, but if you’ve been reading all of these notes this week, you know it was a complex situation. But her kindness in that moment was just tremendous. Teenagers get a bad rap for so many things these days, but this kid was a bright spot in a dark place. “You know that those same dogs attacked our dogs too, right?”…

I think I had a pimento cheese sandwich for lunch on Sunday, but I’m honestly not sure. Whatever it was came halfway back up my esophagus in that moment and then slammed backed down HARD!… Did she just say that the same dogs that had just killed Baxter had attacked other dogs in our neighborhood?… She must’ve read my expression because she started explaining the whole scenario to me. I had a later conversation with her dad and got the details on all the vet bills and other damages incurred. How did I not know this?!?!?… He also describes an attack by these same dogs on another neighbors’ dog. A different neighbor confirms that these dogs frequently harassed walkers & joggers at that end of our street.

By now, I’m guessing that many of you are perhaps seething with rage. Aggressive dogs… multiple instances… Why hadn’t this been dealt with long before Baxter lost his life? How irresponsible!… Justice should be demanded!… A pound of flesh!… that’s what they owe!…


John 8:1-11 is one of my favorite Jesus moments ever. These self-righteous religious types were always trying to trap & test Jesus during his time on Earth. They wanted desperately to make him look bad… unqualified… out of his league vs. their clearly superior knowledge of The Law. And Jesus frustrated the hell out of them over & over again. In this particular passage, they’ve caught this woman in an act of adultery and by The Law… she should be stoned to death.

Have you ever thought of Jesus as being cunning? It’s not a quality most would associate with him, but consider it for a moment. These pious little men harass Jesus most everywhere he goes and he very deftly side-steps their traps & landmines again & again. It drives them into such a frustrated state of frenzy that they hatch a plot to kill him. And even in that, he’s still three steps ahead of them.

Back to the woman… She’s expecting to die at any moment. But Jesus throws it back on the accusers… “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” he says… The little men slink away… beaten again by his cunning & guile… “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Don’t get me wrong here… I felt that same outrage about the dogs that you probably did… That Baxter’s senseless tragedy could have, no should have been prevented… I was there & gathering my stones… And then Jesus reminded me of my own glass house…


We adults have lots of responsibilities that we’re accountable for. Enough of us tend to manage them well enough that we maintain some sense of credibility as a species. But you’re kidding yourself if you can’t admit that you’ve been negligent at some point with SOME of those responsibilities. Oh you might have gotten away with it… Maybe there were no repercussions at all. Or maybe they were just minimal… perhaps so minimal, that you’re the only one that knows. Or maybe the consequences were greater.

So what makes one person’s negligence… recklessness… better than anothers? The consequences?… Let’s just call that crap & be done with it. When you’re negligent about something… you usually lose control of the consequences. Sometimes you get lucky & they aren’t that bad… And sometimes, IT all hits the fan so hard that it becomes a literal POO-POCALYPSE… Its the same way with sin… Big sin… Little sin… They all place us in Hell apart from God’s grace…

And there it is… The only logical response… Grace… I screw up regularly… So do you… Thank God his grace is generous enough to handle it all. Thank God it never runs out. Thank God his mercies are new every morning, because sometimes, I’m barely out of bed before I start ruining the day.

Nothing at this point can bring Baxter back. Nothing at this point can make my girl UN-SEE the things she saw. Adding to someone else’s guilt & suffering, to make me feel better accomplishes nothing. Their dogs are now gone too… And though we haven’t gotten to that point in the story, they’ve made it as right with us as they can…

So Grace then…


Continue on to Part 6 here

Baxter’s Story (A Reprise) – Part 3

From a January 29th, 2016 Facebook Note…  See Parts 1 & 2 for the backstory…



He was born on August 29th, 2015 along with three brothers… Bill, Brock, & Buzz… & one sister, Bailey. He was the runt of the litter… And they called him Bertie, not Baxter… Its okay that they didn’t know, but he was always Baxter. His Dad was Dickens and he came from a bloodline of Grand Champions. His Mom was Belle… also AKC registered. They were a perfect family.

By mid-October, Bill & Brock & Bailey had all been adopted. Just Buzz & Baxter now, holding the fort down. And that’s when we showed up… October 25th, 2015. We went to visit the pair and it was not long at all before we knew, Baxter was ours. Or were we his?… Its hard to tell the difference.

I remember so much about that day that changed us… changed me, forever. For starters, I dated the check wrong… 10/24, but it was definitely Sunday, not Saturday. We went to get him after church that day. We had no leash… no collar… and no harness…  As it turns out, its really hard to manage a puppy at an active Interstate rest stop with no leash, no collar, & no harness… We played zone defense as we coerced him to get his business done instead of roaming & trying to play with all the other dogs.

After the rest stop, we had to go to Pet Smart for a leash, a collar, & a harness… And of course Sonic, because we were within 5 miles of one and its the law… Also… Baxter HATED riding in the car… whined the whole way home. Fortunately, that wore off before the road trip to Orlando. He whined just a bit that first night when we all went to bed, but hardly ever after that. After that, he had our routine down… Or we had his routine down… Again… its really hard to tell.

And then there’s that monkey… His first chew toy… He loved that thing… Chewed the ever-living snot out of it… One day we came home and found my oldest daught “A” in the dining room (she home schools) with Baxter… & it looked like it had snowed. Apparently the monkey’s head had LOTS of stuffing… Lots & LOTS of stuffing… Key word there is “had”… R sleeps with whats left of that monkey now… It helps… But he did have other chew toys he loved too… a fox… a weasel… ipod cords… laptop cords… table legs… Good times!…

We officially registered him with the Continental Kennel Club with the name Elkay Baxter <last name omitted>. The first name was my pick entirely… You see, where I grew up, pure breed dogs were something that occasionally appeared on ESPN when there was a lull in programming. In my young world… Dogs came into your family in one of three ways… 1) Someone dropped them off near your house and they followed the smell of food, 2) A close friend or family member had a female dog with a litter of pups & you were obliged to “help them out” by taking away one of the mouths to feed, or 3) A hunting dog with no tags gets lost and… follows the smell of food. Notice that in none of those three scenarios is an exchange of money required.

And then there’s Baxter… We paid…. Well lets just say there was a fee for him… If you really want to know, google King Charles Spaniel breeders and you’ll get an idea. So I felt the need to mock the situation because my humor is dark & twisty like that…  So I gave him the first name Elkay… Actually, I gave him initials… L.K. … which stood for Left Kidney… Because that’s about what he cost… L.K. became Elkay…

Ironically, I would TOTALLY give my Left Kidney to take what happened Sunday away. And its a GOOD KIDNEY people… My love of good beer has seen to that…

Did he just say that?… Yes, I just said that… Loves Beer, Loves Jesus… That’s a bumper sticker that will sell people!… But I digress…

I wanted this post to be happier & lighter today because yesterday’s note was not and I have a feeling tomorrow’s post won’t be either. So take a deep breath with me and soak in the happy times with Baxter.

Today, he would have been 5 months old exactly…


Continue on to Part 4 here

Baxter’s Story (A Reprise) ~ Part 2

Dear Readers… In case you missed yesterday’s disclosure, the is a re-posting of a series of Facebook Notes I wrote earlier this year in the wake of personal tragedy.  It is dark… And it is real…  Written four days after “the event” while sitting on gym bleachers during R’s basketball practice, sobbing as quietly as possible… As I read it back now, its a SOBERING REMINDER that this fight for each other in this world must never end…



In the movie A Time to Kill, Matthew McConaughey played the role of lawyer, Jacob Tyler Brigance. Ladies, I’ll pause there & give you a moment… Ok, that’s enough… At the end of the movie, he gave as his Closing Argument, one of the most disruptively brutal, yet beautiful monologues ever captured on film. Its easily one of the best movies of the 90’s and if you haven’t seen it, you should. Ashley Judd alone… … … … but I digress…

WARNING: If you have a weak stomach… If you have delicate sensitivities… If you are easily offended… If you cannot handle the unfiltered truth… PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE… Skip down to “end Jake Brigance”… Because before this thing can get better, it necessarily has to get worse… We process this whole thing or risk glossing over it as inconsequential… And it IS NOT inconsequential…

[channeling Jake Brigance…]


I’d like you to clear you mind for a moment and imagine if you would, that your best friend in the whole world is of the canine variety. And that even though you’ve only known him for 3 months, he is like the air you breathe… you just cannot believe that living without him is possible. Now imagine that you’ve had one of the best weekends ever. School was cancelled… You played all day… no seriously… ALL DAY LONG in the snow… sledding & snowball fights & just everything any kid could love about winter. And towards the end of that amazing 3-day weekend (& counting), you decide you want to share that world with your best bud before it all melts away. He’s so excited to see you, just like always, and eager to get on that leash & out the door with you. He trusts you completely and without question. The two of you, in a winter wonderland is just PERFECT. Close your eyes for a moment & really try to picture it… No seriously… Stop reading this, close your eyes, & picture it…

Now imagine that faster than you can blink, that friend is being attacked right in front of you. The leash is jerked out of your hand as he is drug one way and then the other. You are completely FROZEN in terror… unable to speak… unable to scream… Time is completely standing still… Images flash in front of your eyes that you somehow CANNOT command to close… His head completely inside of the mouth of one of his attackers… And the blood… so much blood… You hear him whimper, was it really just the once? And then all you can hear is the sound of his attackers, still biting & tearing at him viciously…

Now imagine that there are other people there trying to intervene… They are struggling to free him from his attackers… Everyone is yelling… Everyone is screaming… The barking… The growling… The sounds swirling in this cacophony of absolute terror… And finally… its over… The attackers have been subdued by the others… removed from the scene… And there you are… still frozen…

Can you see him?… His broken… bloody body lying there on the ground in front of you… Can you see him?… His completely lifeless 7lb body… No longer breathing… No sounds at all… His eyes are still wide open with terror permanently etched on them…
Now close your eyes again… Can you see him? Your friend… Your BEST FRIEND!… Is he still in one piece?… You’re not even sure… CAN YOU SEE HIM?

Now imagine you’re not you… Because if you’re reading this, you’re an adult or almost an adult… And the adult in you can’t see him at all in this situation… Imagine you are the 9 YEAR OLD YOU and this has just played out in front of you… Close your eyes again… CAN YOU SEE HIM?

[End Jake Brigance]


Jake Brigance used a similar approach in his Closing Argument to try & produce an emotional response from the jury. His case was full of holes, so he did the only thing he could think of… He told the jury the raw & unfiltered truth, because it was all he had. So you may be asking, “The movie reference is great, but just what in the hell were you trying to do by telling that morbid story?”

Well, for starters… That is the end of Baxter’s story. He no longer has the opportunity to tell his story. And he meant too much to us… endured too much… to not have his story told.

This is also R’s story… Thank God it is not over!… I cannot praise God enough for sparing her any physical harm in this event. Literally that VERY SAME DAY, a 7yr old boy in a nearby community lost his life in a dog attack. Thank you Jesus for your protection of her! But nonetheless, R cannot adequately tell her story either… Too much trauma for a 9yr old to process completely. If you’re wondering, all of the fragments she has been able to recall are in the account above. For your sake, I won’t say which are which.

Maybe I used that approach because we live in such a desensitized world these days that it would be all too easy to gloss over this… “It’s tragic… It’s hard… It’s unfair… Now walk it off… And what’s for dinner?” Baxter deserves better than that. R deserves better than that. This is NOT a little thing… So maybe I wanted to put the reader into the story as much as I could so they could feel the actual gravity of this situation.

Or maybe I’m just like Jake Brigance… full of holes (feels that way)… left with nothing but the raw & unfiltered truth. And here it is…

EVIL IS REAL… I am not saying these dogs are evil… I am not saying that their owners are evil… (They aren’t) But this thing that happened was PURE EVIL… And the Father of Evil is SATAN… And he is alive & roaming like a lion, looking for someone to devour [1Peter 5:8].

I just freaked a bunch of you out… That’s okay by me… Maybe you’ve never known a Faith in your lifetime & this concept makes you uncomfortable. Maybe you’ve been exposed to church, but this Satan thing, you’re just not ready for it. Maybe you’re even a true believer and your church just happens to downplay the spiritual warfare that exists all around us… I’ve attended churches like that myself.

So maybe you feel that I’m overblowing this Satan/prowling thing… I can say unequivocally, that he [Satan] probably likes it that way. You’re much easier to take out when you can’t even acknowledge that any danger exists.

Back to this story though… I just want to state loudly & clearly… I SEE YOU SATAN!… I see what you’re doing here… And I swear by Christ’s authority, IT WILL NOT PASS…
Just lost a few more people probably, but it doesn’t matter. R is my priority here… Satan is trying to take her out… Hell, Satan is trying to take all of our kids out!… Satan is trying to take all of US out!… It’s what he does!… Sometimes in big ways & sometimes in small ways, but his assault is relentless.

In this case, Satan is trying to take my bright, shiny, animal loving, life loving R & wound her deeply. He’s hoping she’ll blame herself (and she has tried). Hoping her love of animals will diminish, which could alter the course of her entire life (among many things, she’s talked about being a Veterinarian someday)… He’s hoping her radiance will become dimmer… that she’ll be less likely to love so easily… That she would become at least significantly tarnished or at best, deeply scarred by this event. He’s hoping that she becomes a fraction of the woman God designed her to be.

He can hope all he wants because IT WILL NOT PASS!…

We do not deal with this by playing prevent defense here… We rebuke Satan’s attack with an all out offensive of Love. Love of R… Love of Baxter… Praying for the other family and the tragedy they also experienced… And we confront the self-blaming head on… I feel like I have been playing Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting for four days straight because I’ve said to her “It’s not your fault…” so many times. Today, before I could say it to her, she said to me… “Its not my fault…” [pauses for verklempt moment]…

And we talk about it… If you know R at all, you know we talk about it ALOT … There is no under the rug sweeping going on here… There is no downplaying what she saw… Whatever she remembers… whatever images give her nightmares… We confront it head on… We focus on images of the good times we had with Baxter. And we pray for healing for all of us.

And I do not fight this battle alone… I’ve been progressively reaching out to the guys in my “unit” to pray over this thing. Collectively, we will beat back the gates of Hell here, because there simply is no other option. Thank God I have brothers who have my back, because I can’t do this alone.

R will be impacted by what happened Sunday, we ALL will be impacted by what happened Sunday. But by God’s Grace, she will remain her shiny, happy self and there will be Beauty from these Ashes…


So dear reader… My prayers for you are this… 1) If this story has surfaced anything from your childhood that was traumatic… big or small… Something not fully dealt with… more like glossed over… I’m begging you to go deeper with it. Why do you feel that way? What could/should have happened? Find a friend & talk it out… 2) Really give some thought to Does Evil Exist? And if so, where does it come from? Or more importantly, what should we do about it? Where should we turn for help? Whatever you do, don’t just ignore it… 3) Your kids, if you have them… when you have them… BE PRESENT and guard their hearts closely!… Do not be afraid to fight for them & do not try to do it alone!…

“To those who have sorrow in Zion I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, and a spirit of praise instead of a spirit without hope. Then they will be called oaks that are right with God, planted by the Lord, that He may be honored.” ~ Isaiah 63:3


Continue on to the next part here

Dear Future Boyfriend…

In the 1991 World Championships, Midori Ito had one of the most epic wipe-outs ever witnessed in Women’s Figure Skating.  Why was I watching Women’s Figure Skating in 1991?… Girlfriend…  Future Wife… ‘Nuff Said…  But let’s see the wipe-out in question…

skater

Shortly thereafter, the skater was being interviewed by an eager  NBC sports anchor person.  And in an attempt to bring some real depth to the experience for the viewers back home, asked the skater “What was going through your mind when you realized you weren’t on the ice anymore?…”  The skater, in the best broken English she could muster replied…  “I ask myself…  What am I doing here?…”


With all apologies to Ms. Trainor…  We’re not even close to being THERE yet…  But nonetheless…  What am I doing here indeed?…

This was NOT the PLAN people!…  Her commitment to dance has repelled all other suitors in less time than you can binge watch a season of Stranger Things on Netflix.  The PLAN was perfect…  Finish High School… Dance Professionally all over the globe…  Then maybe at about 30, she might consider dating… Transitioning in her late 30’s from a career in performance to choreography… Start her own company… Conquer the known world…  I mean it was a beautiful plan people!…


But here we are…  And now that I’ve had several days to process the situation, there’s a few things I need to bring you into the loop on…

  1. I distinctly remember 15, 16, 17, & 18…  Like ALL OF IT…  And she has been well versed in all of the things that go along with boys at 15, 16, 17, & 18…  Countermeasures are in place.  You have been warned.
  2. Also… I don’t often shoot firearms, but when I do… I NEVER miss… #CountryBoyStrong the-most-interesting-man-in-the-world
  3. I hope your ego is stable…  She’s in Home School all day… Then Dance until about 10pm…  EVERY… WEEKDAY…  And about a half-day on Saturdays…  There will necessarily be long droughts in communications.  So far, no one has survived this more than a few weeks.
  4. The intensity of the Dance Season is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.  So let me try to give you a glimpse of what a Competition Weekend is like…  If you’re not at the event, she’ll disappear from social media & other forms of communications no later than Friday… sometimes Thursday evening…  And she will not resurface until most likely sometime on Monday…  There are no exceptions…
  5. If you should happen to try attending a Competition in person… Pucker up buttercup!…  It’ll be 6-8 hours of waiting around to watch her dance 3-4 times in 3 minute bursts… And that’s if its a well run event.  The poorly run events have all that, but then make you stick around until midnight for awards.  Before you poke your eyes out, if you’re nice & I like you… I’ll point out a few entertaining Twitter accounts to help you pass the time…
  6. The aforementioned Dance Season is about an every other weekend event from January to May.  Forget the PromPosal…  She’ll be at a competition…  If she’s not at a competition, she’ll be recovering from a competition…  Pretty much just don’t plan to see her or hear from her for those 4-5 months…
  7. If you have survived up to this point, you still need to realize that she has multiple uncles that love Jesus, but not too much… So they’re more than willing to go back to jail again.
  8. She’s a complex individual that equally enjoys The Walking Dead & the Hallmark Channel… Especially during Christmas Season… If that intimidates you, I have a suggestion…

officerbarbrady


Someday, some special someone will clear all the hurdles.  And the thing that pisses me off the most is… I’ll probably like him.  Cause she’s a good kid with a good head on her shoulders.  She’s also a good judge of character & understands how high the bar needs to be set.  And she’s extremely grounded, knows what she wants out of life, & she will not be denied.  So whoever it is… He won’t be a scrub…

scrub

And if one does slip through the cracks…  I’m still very familiar with swamp lands in both Carolinas…

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑