I learned that you are dead.
Although words say you have passed, your cruel deeds committed by you to me as a child still lingered for decades.
You might have softened and treated your own children better than you treated your foster children.
I had a condition you judged as a plea for attention. Rather than love and understanding you provided physical and verbal abuse.
Perhaps you learned cruelty from those that mistreated you. I have pity for you or anyone in that circumstance if that was the case.
Perhaps you thought you taught discipline and tough love. You were mistaken.
I learned from you how it was to feel neglected and mistreated.
Because others that showed me what unconditional Love was, I was given the gift of learning that not all in the world were evil and cruel.
With this gift I have strived to the best of my ability to choose Love.
Love has the power to break all chains, yes, even the chains that until this point attempted to bind me, even from the grave.
Dedicated to all child victims and survivors of abuse, neglect, and those many many upstanding Foster Parents that instill Love and understanding to those in need. God Bless You.
Visited my Dad Gerald last night in a dream. Perhaps it was brought on after watching “Walk the Line”. Dad admired Johnny Cash. Perhaps for his out reach to prisoners but I am sure for some of his wry lyrics in songs like I Got Stripes
“On a Monday,
My momma come to see me
On a Tuesday,
They caught me with a file
On a Wednesday,
I’m down in solitary
On a Thursday,
I start on bread and water for a while”
Sunday Morning Coming Down
“The beer I had for breakfast, wasn’t bad so I had one more for dessert”
Based on Dad stories it sounded like Johnny was singing his life story.
In my dream, Dad was incarcerated and I sat with him and fellow inmates in a common area, almost like a barracks environment. What was different was that we were able to take a walk outside.
The sun was shining on a gorgeous day. I put my arm across his shoulders, the sun had warmed his back and I could feel his loving spirit. We ventured up a hill where many logs had fallen.,He picked up a giant one and placed it to keep a cliff side from collapsing. We had a few laughs, shed tears of joy for just being together but also shed familiar tears that I remember so many times growing up when it was “time to go”. Regardless, it filled my soul. Peace.
Contemplating my next post which are typically comprised of those who have shaped my outlook on life, none have yet to be my junior. Pastor David O’Toole is the exception. I can only tell my story and will not give mention to those of a contrary opinion as this is not a pity party but rather a tribute to a good man.
Over 10 years ago I sat in the back of our local church praying for my one of my three sons to find a path to peace. Zachary as many 14 year olds was an angry you man trying to find his way. Zach recently had moved in with my wife and me in our small Ohio town. A glimmer of solace was listening to Zachary teaching himself guitar. It never dawned on me that God was about to answer my prayer.
David had been hired as a youth minster but also played in the worship band. He seemed preoccupied with his teen group and committed to his duties. I can remember we were in the church gym when I had the opportunity to talk to David about Zachary. I explained some of his struggles and his interest in guitar. David took Zachary under his wing and as any mentor, Zach was not always happy with David and probably vice versa but the relationship was genuine and grew strong to this day.I had the privilege of watching the band Strength Within, a Hard Core Christian band perform in which David was the lead singer and Zach eventually would play guitar in. I appreciated the edginess and the youth that attended the performances. It opened my eyes to a Christ worshipping raw subculture that did not tolerate hypocrisy. I was impressed.
During one of the youth summer trips David asked me to do all the cooking and it was then I saw his talent for organizing events. “Ray” he said, “there are three key factors that make or break a youth trip, the food, the location and the activities.” I still chuckle to day thinking about. “on that last day I want some much food, like a half chicken each for the kids,,,snacks at 11,” ….Good memories.
Once I had the honor of speaking to a recover group in which I whole heartily gave my testimony of my experience as the child of and addict. I mean I felt like I had given part of my soul away. The next day I was riding with David to lunch and I was explaining how I felt. He called it an “Emotional Hangover” , where you so much of yourself away that the next day you can physically and mentally feel the effects. This gave me a small glimpse of what pastors must experience on Monday mornings.
I could go on about others that I know David has effected positively but as for me I am forever grateful that God used Pastor David O’Toole to deliver my son who is now, Pastor Zach Roy, to us so many years ago.
Funny how a taste or smell of certain food can open a floodgate of memories. Recently, after a long enjoyable afternoon of fellowship at church, I sat down, with a piece of cherry pie. As I took my first bite, I was transported back to October 1972. I was still living in Ontario Canada with my two older siblings and our Dad. There is truth to the saying that still waters run deep. In our case the more things seem to have stabilized the more the foundation was actually crumbling. At times it was like living in a rain cloud. You couldn’t see far ahead and knew it was just a matter of time that the next storm would arrive. At this point Dad was either cold turkey heroin sick or slipping in and out of heroin induced coma. He might wake up just long enough to promise a fishing trip that never happened or to take us running down the street in a paranoid state terrified of one of his many demons. It was never a dull moment, as my siblings Danny 12, Lorraine 10 myself 9, taking our Dads word for it that we could go fishing after he was shaved…… With Dad passing out again on the couch and daylight burning, (I smile inside remembering) Lorraine and I lathering him up and with Danny being the eldest, he was in charge of the razor. Lorraine and I pulled Dads head back to tighten the skin just as we had watched him do countless times over the bathroom sink. Eventually daylight, exhausted, Dad woke up, puzzled why his face was dotted with blood clotted toilet paper where we had nicked him with the razor. Needless to say, no fish were caught that day.
It wasn’t unusual for us to be pulled out of or having to change schools. By the 4th grade I had already attended 6 different schools. But this time it was different, we weren’t on the run, or going to a foster home, but rather we had all our belongings and seem to be making the rounds to Dad’s family in Ontario for a visit as if to say goodbye. For all we knew we were moving back to BC (British Columbia). Hearing my father speak primarily in French to my grandmother as he often did when things were serious, gave me sense that something was going on. At that particular moment, we were all together, that’s all that really mattered.
We boarded the bus in Sudbury, Ontario at night. The heated bus air was a mixture of diesel exhaust, damp air and cigarette smoke. Unfortunately I was one of those kids that got car sick. The next four days in the bus were somewhat of a nauseous blur. “Hey Porky”(my nickname) wake up, we are at the next stop”, my Dad would say. And there it was, in every bus stop from Manitoba to Vancouver, day or night, like a beacon in the night, behind the glass case…”Porky, what do you want to eat”? “Just some cherry pie please”… On the fifth day on the road, we arrived in BC. It was around 6 in the morning and only then did we find out we were coming to “visit” my Mum. It had been 3 years since we had last seen her. Regardless of society’s view of our Dad, he was our world and all was right with the world, as long as us four were together. The bus stopped in Abbottsford, BC (being a felon, Dad couldn’t easily cross the border)> We did not want to get off. We stood at the base of the steps. I looked to Danny and Lorraine as I always did for reassurance or direction. Danny stood there as he always (and still does) quiet, strong as not to upset us. In the cold morning air Lorraine’s tears glistened in the light from the bus stop waiting room. Like so many times before, I held on to my Dads leg, pleading for him not to leave.
“Come on, let’s go meet your Mum”.The bus stop waiting room was illuminated with concession machines. In front of the lights were silhouettes of two woman. . As I walked closer ,they each looked similar and familiar. One was my mum but I wasn’t sure which one she was. The second woman was Mums sister, Sharon. Up until this point I had only visited Mum, twice in my 9 years. I wrapped my arms around the quilt stitched dark blue coat. As I hugged my mum around the waist, I could feel the cold fabric against my cheek as an unfamiliar hand stroked my besheffeled hair. We piled into the white leather backseat of a blue thunderbird. Patsy Cline’s “walking after midnight” played on the 8-track and through the vapor of our warm breath we could see lights of the greyhound bus station fade in the distance. I looked at Danny and Lorraine, as many times before, when the only known was the unknown.
Later in life I heard reasoning of why we were finally brought to Mum. One line of discussion was that we were in danger as some of Dad’s unruly dealings had left him as a marked man. Whether this was a part of his paranoia or truth, makes no different to me. Another reason was that my sister was coming of age and needed a Mum. That went without saying. Regardless of the reason, one truth I have no doubt about is the fact that my father saw the value of a stable family environment which no matter how hard he had tried, he could not provide. Today I am a father of five. And yes, I love taking my kids fishing and at times I may over promise and under deliver which reminds me of my Dad’s good intentions, but as God is my witness I strive to harvest the seed my Dad planted by putting his kids first. A seed planted at a bus station early one October day back in 1972. For this I am truly thankful. RIP GJR.
Business travel lost its glory many years ago. Boarding a return flight on a Friday afternoon from Fresno after a long week found me going through the normal mindless steps of boarding not knowing I had one more appointment this week waiting for me in 22C.
Sitting next to me in 22D was a light haired woman perhaps close to 40 years old wearing a blue hoodie and casual wear. Her face was friendly and her mannerisms kind. After a little small talk about my business travel I asked her what had brought her out to Fresno. She told me about 19 year old Son who was “finding his way” in California. I learned they were from St. Louis and she had been out to help her son get set up. It so reminded me of my three sons. Each heading out as they each had come of age in their own unique way.
As I continued to talk with my row 22 seat mate, I felt like I was peeling an onion back one layer at a time. I sincerely hung on every word she shared and as her story unfolded I could feel my heart opening up for a mother who was hurting for her child. She shared the details of her sons struggle with substance abuse as well as the surreal experience of moving him into a halfway house. Her strength and sense of resolve emminated to the point that I shared the many strong women in my life that I am thankful for specifically, my wife to whom I affectionately refer to as “The Hammer”. I prayed with my seatmate, we wept abit and I felt a strong sense of the Holy Spirit and a sense of peace.
As we continued to fellowship, she shared eecent encounters where she felt Gods presence. God had been leading her out of her comfort zone and as she faithfully followed, she would find God presence waiting for her. These encounters she called Divine Appointments. I had never heard of divine appointments and was intrigued. I was impressed with her level of recollection of each of these appointments. In Divine Appointment #22, I was running around the block………
I was unprepared when she gave me one of the biggest compliments of mylife, “Raymond, thank you for being my Divine Appointment #34.
I leave you with a prayer request for this young man that he may find his way, find peace, and that the his hero in the blue hoodie will have her son back, God Bless them, Amen.
Growing up with an older brother in the 70s meant I came to experience a phenomenon called, “The Clench”.
It was the privilege of being cornered and subjected to a series machine gun punches in the stomach while he yelled,”Muhammad Ali, Frasier”, “In The Clench”… For dessert a few breadbasket and head shots…I could not escape.
Over the years I discovered “The Clench” had taken up new residence. Looking down at my own hand, There it was, A tightly clenched fist. White knuckled with stress, anxiety, anger, worry, A five fingered barometer of silent storms raging inside. Such is life, internal storms, wrought with an intense feeling of wanting revenge on those who had hurt, abused or neglected me.
I could not escape….
When I was 16, while my Dad drove truck, I would ride shotgun. I remember his tattooed hand resting on the gear shifter, his last two digits permanently curved. His fingers had been damaged as a result of smashing his hand through a drivers side car window during one of his many altercations. He chose to fight. His closed fist meant he wasn’t open to a discussion.
Given his life story, it was not surprising
Historically an open hand was a sign of peace. When you approached an unknown, showing and raising an open hand demonstrated that you bore no weapon and meant no harm.
Even Christs’ open hands as decpicted in Byzantine art, with the thumb and first two fingers open and last two digits just slightly closed emerged as the sign of a blessing.
Look down at your hand. Is your fist tight? Deep down is your spirit silently screaming “I’ve had enough “?
May I propose that an open hand can not only symbolize peace but also a willingness to surrender.
Surrender my friend. Surrender all the burdens that weigh you down
Breathe in slowly. Breathe out.
Surrender. Take a moment and drop your weapon and open your hands and experience a moment of peace.
Take a moment to know that no matter what is going on in your life, you are alive and worthy of love.
An open hand is a sign of acceptance of reality. It doesn’t mean you have to like the circumstances. It simply means you are willing to deal with them.
As a believer in the teachings of Christ , I’ve found the simple act of opening my hands and raising them during worship, creates a conduit which allows the stresses of the world to escape. When I open my hands, I open my mind and eventually perhaps symbolically open my heart to experience Gods Holy Spirit of Love for which I beieve we were created.