Grand Slam

It was my sister, but come on, it’s been over a week.

Today, I gave my wife, Brenda, permission to give a me a Cher-like slap to the face saying, “Snap out of it.”

I have buried two parents. My wife lost a brother. We’ve been down the road before, so why has this loss hit me so significantly.

It’s a grand slam. First, it’s my little sister. Second, I’m the last one standing in the family. Third, she didn’t have a husband or local family, other than me. And fourth, sliding into home (literally), is the the PTSD around alcohol and my family that has existed my whole life.

First Base. As a big brother, you have this birthright responsibility to protect your younger siblings. I wasn’t able to do so here. What did I know? Should I have seen warning signs? How could I have helped? Was I enough of an advocate? For the most part, I feel like the “Yes’s” and the “No’s” align to the appropriate question, but those queries still bounce around in my head.

Rachelle’s health had been a struggle for years, according to her bedside doctors. The few signs I saw this spring, would not have made a difference. We had seen Rachelle monthly for haircuts, but during the pandemic, she was not comfortable coming over. That loss of regular connection resulted in not seeing any signs. Intermittent visits left intermittent excuses.

Rachelle cutting our daughter’s hair for her wedding.

Second Base. From my family dinner table, I’m the last one standing. That just feels odd. We didn’t have a close extended family. I have an aunt and a couple cousins in California but most family have passed. Fortunately, I have married into a very large and well-connected family. All the while, I have felt “orphanish” since my last parent passed in 2004 and that feeling is only heightened in this season.

Third Base. Rachelle lived with a man for many years, but was not married. Her one daughter is young and lives out of state. I’ve been the arbiter between boyfriend and family, everyone and hospital, and am now figuring out how to wrap everything up and honor Rachelle well. I have received the emotional texts and phone calls, absorbed the tears, figured out the finances and tried to lift it all up to the Lord.

And sadly, Home. Everyone from my childhood dinner table had issues with addiction. I have co-journeyed through those addictions. My dad was the temper-filled drinker of my childhood. My poor mother, could never shake the demon that was alcoholism. I remember her drinking as a toddler and I certainly remember the upheaval of her drinking in my early adult years. These are not happy memories.

With our family journey, certainly neither me or my sister would have issues with alcohol. It’s too obvious. It’s full of negative energy. Co-dependency is a bear.

Who am I to complain? Life is hard. Death is real. Thank God for the health in me and my family. Thank God for the opportunity to experience Jesus in new ways. Thank God for the journey that I am on.

Dad passed in 1997 at 63. Mom passed in 2004 at 62. And my sister just died at 54. Bam, bam and boom.

Rounding the bases this time has been hard. There is no celebrating this grand slam.


Two-Word Text

I was explaining to a long-time accomplice that in my sister’s passing, I was trusting God to be the God of Grace.

Rachelle could describe herself as the “prodigal daughter.” IYKYK. Let’s just say, she squeezed a lot of life into that tiny, 54-year old body. Shoot, there was a TV show made about parts of it.

While she had received salvation and confirmed it on her death bed, she had not spent much time “measuring up” to our American church-going standard. The stuff of sanctification was slight.

Earlier this week, before her passing, I prayed for the God of Grace to meet Rachelle. That she would be welcomed by a God FULL of grace. That just this once, He may not check the tapes. There’d be no medical exam. That the God of Grace would welcome my lil’ sis.

My friend answer my statement with a two-word text:

“God ran.”

God ran. Two words with so much power. The most powerful sentence maybe ever constructed. The Pronoun and a verb, of which there may not be more life, smile, power, or energy. God ran.

I shared these two words with a number of friends. One of them said, slyly, “We’ll, you can take that two ways, right?”

The words barely touched my ears, responding, “God’s character demands only one way.” (I probably said it more “preachy” then you are reading it).

God never runs away. If you turn toward Him, He always runs toward you. God is always and entirely The God of Grace.

We can try to get our arguments together like the young lost son of Luke 15, but God waits and watches. When you break the horizon, He runs, hugs, kisses, does not check the records or listen to your case. He throws a party.

That is what happened an Thursday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. A failing-kidney, racked-liver, hard-living blonde bombshell turned from this world to the next and she made no other move.

God ran.

Boxwood Investments

By Mason Rutledge, from the C3 Leaders’ Blog

This spring I planted four baby boxwoods to build up the backyard bed blown out by our dog.

Through the heat of this year’s summer, I have been devoted to watering this impending hedge. I’m working the dirt, ensuring that these beginning bushes blossom. Fledgling, I protect them by investing in them.

Extreme heat is not good for a boxwood. For example, you should not trim them on an extremely hot day. It is damaging.

While this season has been very hot, I’m not focusing on the risk, but rather the right input.

In a market full of fear, we work to eliminate the risks, rather than increase the inputs. We focus on the challenges, the threats. We worry over the wayward world. Circling the wagons, the thought is, “How do I protect?”

Joy is planted in us. It is there. God has put it in our soul. There is a stableness.

That joy can certainly die on the vine. It certainly be squelched by society. It is not assured that it will blossom. The is a risk and it has died in many.

Yet, we are assured that the joy God has given you can not be nullified, if it is being nurtured. The key is not risk reduction but rather consistent investment.

Certainly don’t give into the threats, but don’t focus on them. Nurture the joy given by God and you can be most confident that it will thrive, growing strong, taking over every bit of your life, forming a hedge.

Get out of your head. Step out of fear. Yield to Him. This investment is an exercise of trust.

My fledgling hedge is going to thrive. I’m doing the right work.

How much more should you be assured of God’s provision of joy as we do the right work.

Joy beats fear everyday.