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Chris Fabry
Married to Andrea since 1982. We have 9 children together and none apart. Our dog's name is Tebow.
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Where We Are Now

After finding and remediating mold twice in our Colorado home, we abandoned ship in October 2008. Because of the high levels of exposure, our entire family was affected. After months of seeing different specialists for all of the problems, we came to Arizona to begin comprehensive treatment to rid our bodies of the toxic buildup. In August 2009 we moved into a larger home, four bedrooms, south of Tucson, north of Mexico. I am doing my daily radio program/ writing from that location. Thanks for praying for us. We really feel it.

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Saturday, December 28, 2013
I took my sons to a used bookstore. No, a mega-used bookstore that sells musical instruments, movies, puzzles, T-shirts--I think they had a section of used cars I never reached. And everything was in really good shape.

I wandered through the fiction section, then into History and finally wound up in the "Spirituality" division. Lots of books about faith and belief and positive thinking and such. Then I spotted them. Three of my own books.

I pulled them off the shelf and took a picture of them to prove to my wife I actually found my books somewhere, then put them back and kept browsing.

An older woman happened by and stopped right where my books were located. She picked up a copy of "Borders of the Heart" and tucked it under her arm like it was her new best friend.

"You're not going to buy that, are you?" I said.

"Why, yes. He's one of my favorite authors. I just finished June Bug. And I'm this close to finishing...I can't remember the title now."

"Is it Dogwood?"

"No."

"Not in the Heart?"

"No."

"Almost Heaven?"

"Yes, that's the one. And after I get finished with it, I'm going to read it again because there's so much good stuff in there. I hear he lives around here."

I finally had to break the news to her that the person in front of her in sweats, a T-shirt, ratty shoes and an Arizona hat was said author and she smiled. I signed the book for her and she cradled it again and smiled.

I don't get royalties for books sold in used bookstores. But there are some perks worth more than financial gain. It was nice to meet you, Barbara. I hope our paths cross again.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
I was in line at Walmart buying a Christmas present. Two people ahead of me and there's something wrong with a $100 bill and the cashiers are studying it.

I turned and saw a younger dad with his son. The boy was pale, blond-haired, a little hollow-eyed. He could have played Boo Radley as a child before all the teasing.

"Can I get an Orange Crush?" he said, looking up at his dad.

"Okay. I guess."

I turned because there were others getting involved in studying Ben Franklin and asked how they were doing. I mentioned something about the Orange Crush and the dad said, "This is a special occasion."

"I have to take medicine that makes me sleepy," the boy said.

"You take it at the same time every night?" I said.

He nodded and the dad talked about the diagnosis. Hippa rules don't apply when you're checking out at Walmart. "His concentration has really improved."

I told him I had a daughter who took a medicine sort of like that and it made her really sleepy during school. She had to take a nap. He was staring at the gum or the magazine rack now and the conflagration over the bill was over. I blipped my way forward and pulled the credit card through the slot.

"Enjoy your Orange Crush," I said as I grabbed the present and left.

The last I saw them his dad was paying for the soda and his son was still focused on the gum.
Monday, December 2, 2013
There’s been a backlash about taking the word “Lord” from a performance on The Voice last week. See more about that HERE.

Perhaps it was a case of needing to the public domain version that caused them to remove “Lord,” but many see this as another instance of deleting references to God/Jesus/Faith. Best case scenario is that the move was made to make the song available free on iTunes. Worst case scenario…well, read on.

Worst case is that this is the new push that’s been going on for a long time. In order to have a manger in the public square we must also have Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty around. We must either extract or water down this exclusive religious speech.

Let’s imagine a world without the word “Lord.” The Eagles and Jackson Browne would need to change the words to “Take It Easy.”

It’s a girl, my Oh, in a flat-bed Ford slowing down to have a look at me.

George Harrison’s words would need to be changed to:

My Sweet Oh.

Wait, that song is pretty syncretistic, so perhaps it can stay. That may be a lower case “L” in that song.

But certainly we’d have to change hymns:

Praise to the Oh, the Almighty, The King of Creation.

And what do you do with a song like, How Great Thou Art?

Oh Oh, my God, when I in awesome wonder….

You’d probably have to take “God” out of there and supplant it with “Word.”

Oh Oh, my Word….

You can how silly this would become. That’s because words mean things. And religious speech is offensive to some. Always has been. But it’s particularly offensive to speak the exclusive religious speech of Christians who believe that God became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus, or Yeshua as he was known in his own culture, was not merely a moral teacher who taught us to turn the other cheek, love others and walk the extra mile, he was inextricably intertwined with the truth that he claimed to be one with God. He claimed to be Deity.

The Christmas hymn, Hark the Herald Angels says it well:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Emmanuel means, “God with us.”

Oh.

It’s easy to pick on The Voice for their faux pas. They were just trying to make things more palatable for everyone (or, perhaps trying to make the song available free). But when you extract the name “Lord” from a beloved tune, you gain the ire of many followers who will object, vilify, protest, tweet and express unbridled outrage.

The harder question for us is not what some producers at NBC decided to do but what I do every day. It’s much easier to boycott, picket, protest, and raise a holy ruckus over what those godless, pagan, insensitive people did by taking a word out of a song I like.

It’s much more difficult to look at my own life closely and see the ways I have marginalized God or taken “Lord” from my lips. Maybe this is why some are incensed. I get upset with other people when I see them doing things I am guilty of. Perhaps our furor over this is partly due to the small ways we have removed God from our lives.

Oh.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I’ve been doing call-in talk radio for more than 20 years. I’ve never had to use the delay or “dump” button. Callers have, for the most part, been considerate, compassionate, and kind. Some have been upset, angry, and agitated, but have always conducted themselves with respect and a sense of decorum.

That changed yesterday on my program, Chris Fabry Live. A man called to tell a story that I thought illustrated the topic of the show. The story turned out to be gross and profane.

I was shocked. All of those working behind the scenes were shocked. So much so that I wasn’t able to give the cue in time to dump the content of the call.

Earlier in the hour I said that I felt two words rising to the surface of my life in the past few days. The first was opposition. The second was kindness. I mentioned this long before we took that call.

Opposition comes in many forms. An opposing force can defeat your, bowl you over, or make you stronger for the fight. Opposition seeks to disarm you and defeat you. The caller represented this opposing force well.

After the call I tried to simply move on with the program, not knowing exactly what was on the air and what wasn’t. It was clear after a few minutes that people did hear the offending remark and I felt like I had to say something about it.

In the closing moments, a lot of people ran through my mind. The mom driving her kids home from school. The dad doing the same. The elderly woman who listens every day for encouragement. The station managers who trust us to protect their listeners from such outrageous and offensive material.

And then I thought of that man. He sounded young. He sounded nervous. What happened in his life to make him think this would be funny? Is he angry with the church for some reason? Is he angry at God? Does he even believe God exists? When I began to think of him, instead of anger and vitriol, I felt very sad for him. And I tried to be kind. And many of our listeners wrote and mentioned this—that the offensive, crude and undignified remarks were handled in a way that treated the caller as a person who needed God’s grace. Who am I to withhold grace when I’ve received so much of it?

So if you think of the gentleman who called and start getting angry, pray for him. Pray that God’s grace and mercy will overwhelm him and that he will become a trophy of that grace.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
I love talking with people who want to follow God with a whole heart. But it's painful to hear their stories and know how hard their lives are. Following God doesn't mean you won't get thrown to the lions. Obeying him fully won't keep you from imprisonment or crucifixion.

But you'll never regret obeying him, no matter how hard life gets.

Norma called yesterday. She's been living with a man for nine years. They have a child together. She became a Christian not long ago. Lately she's had this feeling that her relationship with this man isn't the best. He's a good guy, but he's not interested in God. And they're not married.

She went to a church and was counseled by a pastor. It's no big deal.

But that still, small voice is telling her there's something off, something not right.

I encouraged her to listen to that voice and surround herself with some people who want to help her obey God. I also encouraged her to separate from that live-in relationship.

I do not think this is going to be easy. Her heart is entangled with this man. Her child has a father and some would say it would be foolish to give that up. But I believe Norma has something better in front of her. And I have the faith to believe that this man who isn't interested in knowing God might consider eternal truths in a crisis like this.

But you can't manipulate people into the Kingdom. You can't cajole or finagle the grace of God. Norma's job, and yours, and mine, is to obey what God says because ultimately He has the best interests of Norma, her child, and the man she is living with at heart.

Say a prayer for Norma today. Say a prayer for her friend. For her child. Ask God to bring around her people who will care for all three of them through what will no doubt be one of the most difficult times of their lives.

And while you're praying, ask God to look in your own heart and point out something you need to obey, some way you need to follow more closely. He has a way of doing hard things that lead to good for his children.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I was umpiring in the field at a Little League game recently. The season was winding down and I finally took the plunge to see if I could keep up with the intricacies of calling runners out at 1st and 2nd.

Umpiring is not easy, especially when you have critics on both sides of the fence. But you can’t let the possibility of making a bad call keep you from making any call. That’s my motto.

I was standing behind the first baseman from the other team. His hair was long and unevenly cut under his cap. He had the look of a scared deer who had been running from hunters all season and was just tired.

“Are you having fun?” I said before play resumed.

He gave me a look, sort of a modified eye roll, then a grin. “Not really.”

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, kids are supposed to have fun. It’s a learning experience. It’s all about enjoying the game and discovering yourself and blah blah blah. This kid had cracked the code. He knew it wasn’t about having fun and learning. It was about winning. It was about not making a mistake.

“Why aren't you having fun?” I said, probing a little further.

He put his hands on his knees and spoke to the dirt. “Because our coach yells at us all day.”

That does tend to take some of the fun out of it. I looked at his coach—there were two. Judging from my interaction with them, they didn’t think umpiring was about having fun or learning either.

“Well, you guys have gotten a lot better over this season,” I said, trying to encourage him or say something he hadn’t heard from his coach. “I’ve seen a lot of progress.”

First base didn’t say anything.

On the next pitch, a ground ball came to the infield. The throw was a little off-target and first base couldn’t stop it. From the dugout came a yell, instructions that sounded like they’d been given before, mixed with derision.

The pitcher got the ball, looked at the runner and climbed on the mound. The coach's words hung over the field like a cloud.

“I see what you mean,” I said to First Base.

He didn’t look at me, but I saw him smile.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
A couple of months ago I was on a radio program with another host. He said he was thinking about making the leap to Christian radio. His email to me today excitedly (and he was a little scared) said, "I'm finally taking the plunge. Any advice?"

Here's what I said:
So glad to hear you’re taking the leap. Yes, it’s scary, but the best things in life are hard. And this will be hard, but good.

I try not to give too much advice, but since you asked:

1. Be yourself. Don’t try to be Rush or Beck or anybody else. God uniquely created you. Glorify him with who you are.

2. Talk about what brings out your passion. If you deal with things you don’t care about, the listeners will know.

3. Avoid the gripe fest. People like talk radio because they feel like they can vent. Venting lets a lot off, but Christian radio is different. Always have a point to the venting, a place you’re taking listeners that redeems the rant. Obviously, this takes us back to the Scriptures.

4. Don’t lean on guests for everything. You could do all 3 hours every day with nothing but authors. Avoid that trap. Spend time with your listeners and tap into their perspectives.

5. Figure out now what success is. Is it ratings? Is it phone calls? For me, success is connection and can only be seen in the rearview, as you hear from people who will thank you for talking about things they relate to.

6. In the middle of all of your prep and stress and strain about 3 hours a day, the best thing you can do is cultivate your relationship with God.


That's my advice. What would you add?
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Snapshots from a Little League game. A pitcher aims at home plate. Hopes he won’t hit the batter. Prays it’s close to a strike. Just close, that’s all he wants.

My son has made it to first because the pitches were only close. Blue helmet. Plastic cleats. The ball hurtles toward the plate and Brandon is gone, pushing off first and running with the pent-up energy only 12-year olds know. Striding toward second. The catcher stands and rainbows the ball over the pitcher’s head. This young man with a mask and shin guards who has suffered the slings and arrows of a coach who has only seen what he’s done wrong. But now he is up and firing toward two outstretched gloves. Shortstop and second jockey for position in a competition for who will catch and tag.

My son slides between them and the ball skitters a few feet away, harmless as a kitten. He is safe. A little dirty, but safe. And he stands on second and surveys the view, brushing off his uniform.

The pitcher gets the ball and eyes home plate, more determined. Focused. He is so focused he does not see my son straying off second, walking slowly back to first. Walking like he had no right to be where he had been.

“What’s he doing?” a mother says behind me. She has lamented the frigid temperature, now in the 50s. She is from Chicago, but her blood has been conditioned by desert heat.

“I don’t know,” another mom says. “Maybe he thinks he’s out.”

My son gets half-way to first, then a look of terror strikes him as he hears a voice from his bench and he turns back as the pitcher delivers. My son scampers back to second and half of the crowd breathes a sigh of relief.

The game over, we walk to the car and talk intricacies of the past two-hours. The player hit by the pitch who had to go out of the game. The triple another teammate hit. The pitcher on the other team whose mechanics and hair looked like Tim Lincecum.

“Oh yeah, on that play where you stole second and then tried to steal first, what happened?”

A laugh. Cheeks flushed red to match his hat. "Don't bring that up again."

“But what happened?” I say. “This is all about learning from our mistakes.”

A long, winding story of what goes through a 12-year old’s mind spills from his lips. Standing on second he was unsure whether or not he was “safe.” Or if the ball had been tipped by the batter. Or if he had left first too soon.

“When you make it to second, you stand on the base and call time if you’re unsure about anything,” I said.

“But I heard someone say ‘Go back!’” he says. “I thought it was the umpire."

Many voices yell many things at many people on a baseball field. There are voices we think we hear that mix and mingle with what we hear inside.

“Go back!”

In this diamond of a metaphor, I saw myself straying off second, moving but backward, returning to the base I touched long ago. A voice, a siren, a fear, maybe guilt urges me to go where I’ve already been. It sounds real.

“You don’t deserve to be there. Go back.”

Your opponent wants you to retreat. He does not want you to stand on the base where you are and move forward. But your coach compels you home. He is urging you forward and telling you this is about learning from your mistakes and he is waving his arm so you won’t break stride. Listening to that voice is something you have to choose. Listening to that voice will help you be “safe” at home.

Just remember to slide if there’s a play at the plate.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013
This is the prayer, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, discussed on the program 10/8/2013 and taken from the book, Prayers for Today: A Yearlong Journey of Contemplative Prayer. The prayer is also credited to Rafael Merry del Val.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebuke, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Creating something from the heart is difficult. Letting it go is even more difficult because you know there are flaws and imperfections.

A month ago my story, Every Waking Moment, was sent into the world. The picture on the cover is a profile of Treha. Some have asked, “Is that one of your daughters?” No. I won’t reveal the identity of the cover model, but the image is one I associate now with the “girl in my head.” The creation I dreamed up over several months.

Treha is wounded. She’s marginalized. She’s not “seen,” and this is the hard thing of releasing anything you love. You long for it to be seen and there’s so much competition and glitz and glitter in the world to look at rather than a plain Jane, an ordinary, struggling young woman with an amazing gift.

In the story, two young filmmakers stumble onto her. They try to capture her story, so the tale is told in linear fashion, but with bits and pieces of the film thrown in. For some, this is jarring. It doesn’t make sense. Others get it immediately and simply jump into the flow of the story and the clues revealed by the older people in Treha’s life. Bits and pieces of their own lives that commingle with hers.

Treha, and the reader by extension, has many questions about life. Where did she come from? Why is she the way she is? What hope does she have for the future? This question of identity, if anyone will ever see the real Treha, is our own struggle, our own journey. And the characters that seem “normal” around her discover that they have these same questions as well.

How you answer the questions of life, how you choose to respond to the circumstances surrounding you, helps determine your path. And it helps if you find one or two people along the way who can put aside their own agenda and simply do life with you.

This is the hope Treha brings to each reader. It’s something I pray you’ll discover in your own life, in Every Waking Moment.



I was sent the following video well after the book was written and edited,
but it shows perfectly what Treha is able to do.

A Guardian Angel Inspires a Nonverbal Woman With Dementia to Sing

Saturday, September 7, 2013
“Here’s your list of vocabulary words,” the teacher said.

The class groaned. But there was one kid in the room who could hardly contain his excitement. One kid who looked forward to this exercise in class almost as much as recess.

“Copy the words and then I want you to use them in a paragraph.”

The kid was me. And now I squirmed. I couldn’t wait to use the words in sentences. I was like a kid in a word-candy store.

“And Chris, don’t use them all in one sentence.”

Rats. She was on to me. I used most of the words in the first two sentences because a lot of them were throw-aways. Not as interesting. Then, I would use the rest to complete a story, some kind of rambling, child-induced, Swiss-Family-Robinson-knock-off of a paragraph that left me in stitches.

I did well at spelling because I could see the words. There was something inside that put them together. My friends had other abilities. Drawing. Math. Paste-eating. (I tried but 1967 was a bad year for paste and it turned me against Elmer’s.)

When I made it to high school and took typing, Ted Bias and I sat together, which was a big mistake for Ted because we laughed our way through asdf jkl;. The lazy brown dog jumps over whatever it wants to. When the teacher told us, “Type whatever you want to,” Ted and I looked at each other and the fingers flew. Monty Python quotes. Limmericks. Rhymes.

When she looked at our papers she never gave us the opportunity to write whatever we wanted again. She deemed it, “silly.”

When I was in Junior High, a teacher looked at some of my poems and stories and scowled. “Who are you trying to be, Dr. Seuss?”

Her words were an IED to my heart. She didn’t mean to shoot me down, but sometimes it doesn’t matter what you mean. What you say is enough.

So I learned punctuation and grammar. I wrote the inverted pyramid. Journalism. Structure and details and facts and getting it right. One spelling error was a letter grade.

Then, somewhere in my late 20s or 30s, something clicked. I looked at a blank page and knew something was missing. Not just words: my words. The words I’d stored up for years, the ones hanging around back there in fourth grade that I’d had so much fun writing.

Today I give you a new word. It’s a name. Treha. She’s part of a story I wrote about a girl yearning and longing to make sense of life. She has a gift. She has a story. It’s built by words just hanging around not doing anything until they met the empty pages.

I’ve tried not to use them all in one sentence.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Have you seen the old guy in the parking lot? He’s waiting for his wife. He’s biding time. Letting life pass him by until he can pull up to the front and let “the wife” in. I have not wanted to be that man. I have not aspired to this endeavor. It has always looked a little sad to me. I'm not trying to be harsh here.

I’ve always felt my wife doesn’t want me to become that old guy. She deserves more than a chauffeur in her twilight years.

Age dulls the senses and makes you oblivious to fashion. You wear black socks with sandals because it’s more important how you feel than how you look. You don’t care how you look. You don’t care how others younger than you perceive you because they’re not coming to your funeral anyway.

I was sitting in the parking lot of Walgreens the other day and realized I had become that old guy. I had my Cincinnati Reds hat on and gray hair was sticking out in unseemly ways. I need a haircut, but pulling the hat down makes me presentable. White shirt, red shorts, black socks.

The dog was with us. We’d taken the dog to the Farmer’s Market. Big mistake. He was too excited to contain, so we put him in the car and listened to him yap while we picked out carrots and broccoli. And then, on the way home, my wife said, “Could you take me by Walgreens?”

“What do you need?”

I thought she’d say she needed Epsom salts or hydrogen peroxide or Advil. A prescription, maybe. She sent me there the other day for 100% juice, any kind, she said. Didn’t matter the sugar content. So I walked up and down the aisles and finally found the juice and then called to make sure she really meant it.

Just like old guys will do. I’ve not only become the old guy in the car waiting in the parking lot, I’m the old guy who goes on a mission but has to call to make sure he’s getting the right thing.
“I want to take a picture of toothpaste for my blog,” she said.

I was supposed to accept this and just keep driving. I knew it in my gut. Don’t even look at her. Don’t smile or laugh. This is what I said “I do” to more than thirty years ago, driving to Walgreens to take a picture of toothpaste.

And I did. And I didn’t smile or laugh or question, I just drove and parked and sat there like those other old guys I’ve seen.

This has been my view. Again, not to be harsh or judgmental, but I've seen them as young and vibrant and at some point they give up. People point and they walk. Like sheep, they listen for “the voice” and they obey, herding themselves into respectable pens. And they listen to ball games on the radio in the parking lot. At least that's what I do.  

I have bucked this for years. I’ve followed my wife into Stein Mart and Hobby Lobby and Pier 1, acting as if I’m supposed to be there. Milling around candy displays and lusting at the stack of Milky Ways I know I shouldn’t have because of what it will do to my digestive system. Or standing over the cast-off items at Ross, thinking I might actually want to watch 50 episodes of some old TV show I saw in reruns as a child or that the sandals with built-in socks would get me noticed.

“I’m ready,” she said one day, standing with her purse and bags. Looking at me. Willing me to leave. Calling like a siren. Years ago I would ask to be lashed to the main mast to see if I could resist the voices. Now, I just shuffle off behind her and carry the bags.

It was in the Walgreens parking lot when I understood why men wind up in the car, in the driver’s seat, with the dog, waiting. I saw it clearly. And I realized I was wrong about them. I had NOT become a man without a purpose, I had become a man with a different purpose. Sitting at Walgreen’s made me realize these guys are the smart ones. They can’t hear the same frequencies as younger people and they have to look over their glasses to actually see things. But they are hearing frequencies of the heart. They're seeing beyond themselves.

Perhaps instead of driving his wife out of duty or to avoid guilt, he actually WANTED to be there. Perhaps he wanted to do this because after all the years of everything revolving around him and his needs and desires and wants and vision, he understands, finally, that life is really not all about him. At least, not JUST about him. It’s about him and her become an “us” or a "we."

So if you see me in the car, in some parking lot, weep not for me. I’m not really waiting. I’m saying “I do” at the speed of idle.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
My pal, Jim Whitmer, wrote and included the photo below. He and his wife,  Mary, met Jerry 46 years ago this fall. Jim writes:

We were all in a major photo shoot for Campus Life Magazine that was published in Feb. '68 - the lead article was about the "pressures" on a youth worker - and I was supposed to represent the stereotypical youth worker.  The attached 2-page photo spread show me (in the goofy cardigan sweater, with Mary hanging on me.)  But I've noted one of the important "extras" on the set.  He was known as "Moose" Jenkins back then, and the magazine actually called him that in the credits of the models.
 We've been friends with Jerry ever since.  Just a little "history" for you.

Respond to this and tell me what famous actor or literary character you think Jerry resembled 45 years ago.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013
I learned that my 17 year old son has more patience than I do.

I learned that what’s worth doing is worth doing right except when it comes to things you get wrong and you’ve already been at it six hours. Those things you can live with. Like the little plastic doodads that are supposed to go into the round, metal thingamajigs at the end so it doesn’t look like you put it together yourself.

You don’t have to put all those #6 screws in the back. I know. I took some out to finish the top drawer.

Lying in the floor and whining, “This is too hard,” does not help.

Sitting in the floor for seven hours is hard on your back but not as hard as standing for seven hours after you’ve lugged the thing in the room.

“Team lift” is a relative concept.

Sitting on the carpet for long periods of time makes you want to scratch your backside.

The desire to scratch is directly proportional to the size of the backside.

You can get younger children to laugh by scratching your backside and describing it with a word you’ve told them not to say. With a New York accent. But the 17 year old will not smile because he wears headphones.

Don’t cross your legs for more than five minutes at a time or you won’t be able to stand for a week.

It does not help to ask your son, after every step, what step you’re on. When you are on step #13 of 68, all you can see is 500 pounds of particleboard.

It does not help for other people to walk into the room and ask, “So, what step are you on?”

It does not help for people to walk in the room and say, “Wow, this is taking a long time, isn’t it?”

It does not help for other people to ask, when walking into the room again, “Is this the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to put together?”

It does not help to come in and look at my hat that has a flashlight duct-taped to it and say, “Dad, you know they make head lamps, right? Tee hee hee.”

It does not help to come in. Period.

Seven hours putting together a desk is a ridiculously long time. Especially when you have two people working together who are reasonably intelligent.

Seven hours putting together a desk makes you question the reasonable intelligence of yourself and your coworker.

The moment when you push the drawer in and it only goes halfway and there’s four inches of clearance above it is just about the worst.

The moment you finish the hutch and turn it over and see the back of one piece of particleboard staring at you is worse than the drawer thing.

The moment you realize you’ve screwed three screws into the wrong side of the finished piece of wood and that it will stare at you the rest of your life, or as long as you keep the desk, is worse still.

Seven hours of putting together a desk is a test of your faith in the sovereignty of God. And your sanctification.

It’s the day after and I still feel like scratching my backside.

However, when you’re putting the desk together for your wife who hasn’t had a decent desk in five years and deserves a space to call her own and you finish and arrange the computer just so, and finagle all the billion cords through the back of it and she looks at it and smiles and acts as if you just slew a dragon for the damsel in distress, it makes all the pain and questions and frustration worth it.

Just don’t tell her about those three holes in the front that shouldn’t be there or the doohickeys we didn’t put in the round silver things. And yes, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever put together, thank you very much.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
My son is playing sports again. He’s been pestering us for three years, ever since we signed his brother and him up and I was elected coach of his previous team. We had five players.

It was a baseball team. That was a season that never ended, I’m still replaying it. But now he’s 12 and all grown up and ready to run the bases again. So he went to a couple of practices before the season starts and they were doing drills and I was standing around not thinking much about anything except how to stay cool in August in Arizona.

I wandered out onto the field to help. One group was taking batting practice and another group was in left field, so I thought I would stand between the two and “protect” the children (who were of varying ages and sizes). But I didn’t have a glove. It was just me barehanded standing there, watching, hoping.

Ten kids up. Ten kids barely hit the ball out of the infield. Until the Babe stepped in and belted one to left that went over my head by ten feet and I just stood there wondering what I would have done if I’d had a glove. Probably wouldn’t have helped, but still, hope springs eternal.

The ball landed between two six-year-olds who were laughing and pushing each other and doing anything but thinking of baseball. They must have heard me yelling, “Look out!” They didn’t flinch as the ball hit between them and rolled to the fence.

That’s when I remembered my glove, which is the point I’m getting to. A baseball glove is a sacred thing to a boy who loves baseball. You sleep with your glove. You eat with it. You sit on it on the bus. And when you’re in the outfield, if that’s where they banish you, you hold it to your face and smell the leather, the cowhide, and look at the names.

Writing on your glove is like writing in the Bible. Sort of. It felt like I was breaking some commandment. On the outside thumb I wrote, “Rose.” My favorite player. This was before the truth came out about Charlie Hustle, of course.

Tony Perez. Johnny Bench.

I couldn’t spell “Concepcion” back then, so I left him off the glove. This was not racist, it was spellist.

Foster. Griffey. The names went on.

In small letters I wrote “Menke” for Dennis Menke who played third one year. Or ten, I can’t remember. And one glorious summer I wrote “King.” Not for Martin Luther King, but Hal King, who hit a game-winning pinch-hit home run over the Dodgers in game 1 of a doubleheader the Reds swept. This was back when you bought one ticket and saw two games instead of the way they do it now, which makes me want to write other words on my glove.

Back then, back when you were a kid, a name meant something. You aspired to achieve like those on your glove. You aspired to play like a champion. To be the very best you could possibly be. To throw as hard as Don Gullett. To leap and catch a ball like Cesar Geronimo.

Lee May and Tommy Helms were on the glove in the summer of ’71. Both were traded. I couldn’t believe it. Who was this Joe Morgan fellow?

You never know whose name will wear off and whose name you’ll carry. Each summer I’d go over the names that needed to stay and change the ones that had gone.

This is life. What seems important one year will fade the next. The trick is to find what lasts early on and stick with it.

So whose name is on your glove?
Saturday, August 3, 2013
My father died two years ago on August 4th, my daughter's birthday. He was buried on my wife's birthday, three days later. It seems like such a long time ago and yet, it feels like yesterday in a way.

I made it home late the night before he died and through the early morning hours my brother and sister in law tended to my father as I slept on the couch outside of his bedroom. This was an act of love on their part, to help my father die in the home he had built, where he wanted to be, where my mother wanted him to be. They had been there through the transitions and would be here for this last one.

Early the next morning my brother awakened me and said it was time. When I made it to my father's bed he had stopped breathing. My mother came and sat beside me, closest to him and patted his hand. Then she looked at his chest and back at us and realized what was true. What she had feared and longed for.

I expected to hear the weeping and keening of my mother. We comforted her and sat with her and we talked about him. I tried to tell her she had done a good job taking care of him, that she had loved him well, but the words were hard to get out.

The hospice nurse arrived and he kindly walked us through the next steps. We destroyed the medication my father had been given and we waited on the hearse from the funeral home.

The saddest sound was not our crying. That was strangely comforting. We were sharing in this passage, remembering, celebrating, and trying to honor a good man who had lived well and loved well.

The saddest sound was not the wheels of the gurney down that long, narrow hallway, or the moment when my mother stopped them for one last kiss.

I don't know, maybe that was the saddest sound. Just thinking about it sends me over the edge.

But, perhaps, the saddest sound came as we were at his bedside, wondering what to do next. What do you say to a woman whose dearest friend is no longer with us, or to his children? What do you say to yourself when the only father you've ever known is still and lifeless? What do you do?

My brother walked to the end of the bed or into the other room, I can't remember which, and I wondered what he was doing. Could he not bear the sorrow? Did he need to be alone?

He walked over and turned off the machine supplying oxygen to my father. Just a flick of a switch and the whir of the machine silenced. It's something my father would have done. When there's a motor running that isn't needed, you turn it off.

That was the saddest sound to me. The final realization that yes, this is the end. This is goodbye. The room grew quiet. Uncomfortably so. My mother blew her nose. I leaned back in the creaky chair. And then, outside, somewhere near the hillside he loved, where he drove his tractor and walked and whistled at the cows, the birds began their singing. Actually, they had been there all along, we just couldn't hear them because of the motor.

My father was finally free of pain, free of the need for oxygen, free from taxes and politics and the groundhogs in his garden. I like to think of him somewhere on the back 40 of heaven, cutting a field of hay for God. On a new Massey Ferguson that never needs a tune-up. Feeding hay to lions and lambs and swapping stories with Moses and my Uncle Pooch. Returning from whatever chore he's been given with a grin and two lungs full of air that feel like the breath of heaven, because it is.

He's in a place where they don't need oxygen machines. And where you don't have to turn off the lights. Because the Light is always there.
Friday, July 26, 2013
We had to muzzle Tebow last night. It's the ears. The vet said he needs them flushed and rinsed and medicated. We tried without the muzzle but he was having none of it.

So we got him a treat and tried to coax him into the muzzle. Again, he was having none of it.

Finally, Reagan brought him onto his lap and held him tightly, and with a swift move I got the muzzle on. But it didn't fit Reagan.

No, I mean Tebow. Now he was scared. His one way to communicate with us was taken away. No more snarling and showing his teeth.

Brandon grabbed his hind legs, we put him on his side (this took four people and the dog is barely ten pounds), and Andrea applied the medication.

He struggled for a while, and then we began talking to him gently, encouraging him. "Good boy, Tebow! Good boy."

I felt him relax in my hands. And when we turned him over for the other ear, he didn't seem as scared or fidgety. When it was over and the muzzle was off, he ran around the room wagging his tail and looking at us, as if he were grateful we cared. There was also a bit of, "Never do that again."

I don't know how many times God has muzzled me and held me down. I don't know how many times it will happen again. It feels better when it's over, but I know deep down it's never going to be over. There's always something growing in my spiritual ears.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013
I wish I had a picture of him walking away. I’ll try to describe it.

I remember when he was little, he’d walk away, at varying speeds, in order to retrieve something.

“Reagan, stop.”

He’d keep going for the car or truck or plane or whatever was outside in the grass and I wouldn’t mind. I knew in his little cranium he couldn’t process all the “stop” signals I gave with all the “go” signals passing through the synapses.

“You need to obey me,” I would say. “There will come a day when I’ll tell you to stop and it will be really important. Do you understand?”

“Yeth.”

Today he walked away. And this time it wasn’t over a toy car, but a real one. Reagan is 17, not three. He’s 6 foot tall. I know that because it says it on his driver’s permit. I asked this morning if he wanted to go for his test and he grinned like the Cheshire Cat.

He drove, obeying the speed limit, and we got there just before the DMV opened. He practiced his 3-point turn. There was a long line of people waiting in front of us, but within half an hour he was in the car and I was watching the last 17 years melt in a right hand turn. Wheels spinning, asphalt running beneath him like summer fields.

I sat inside a little room at a student desk and read the 13th chapter of Proverbs and made some notes on a story. But I couldn’t concentrate. All those years gone like a flash.

And I went back further, much further, to my own driver’s test. I failed. My dad wasn’t there. Neither was my mom. I went with Mr. Lambert, our driving instructor at the high school, along with a few others from class. He said if we all passed he would take us Wendy’s and buy us dinner. Thank God for Floyd Persinger. Floyd and I were part of the “Epic Fail Drivers Club” that day, and I was glad to have company.

(This is from memory, and after 30+ years things get fuzzy, so if Floyd was not there or if you passed, Floyd, I apologize.)

Dawn Lewis and I were in the car when the State Trooper came out. Dawn sat in the backseat of the car that drove like a tank (I’m sorry, what were you thinking Mr. Lambert?), and watched as I nervously pulled toward the intersection that would lead me up Mt. Failure.

It was a gray, overcast day as I recall. The trees bare. Everything muted in a sepia tone. Or maybe that’s just my memory. For Dawn it was probably Spring and the sun was out and birds filled the trees.

Across the road was a brick building that people said was the state mental hospital. To this day, I don’t know if that was true, but what happened next, right there at that intersection, has stayed with me like a bad country song.

An older woman in a heavy coat stood, bow-legged, waiting to cross the street. I think she was carrying something, a bag, perhaps, or a cane. I’ve blocked that part out.

“Just stay right here,” the officer said. She sounded annoyed, like I was a stain. Like I was single-handedly keeping her from something she needed to do. Perhaps she had an abusive husband. Maybe she had a sick child and couldn’t concentrate. Maybe that was her mother crossing the street, I don’t know. All I know is we sat there, the three of us, in silence. And waited. Like eternity shuffling across the two lane blacktop. Have you ever heard a State Trooper breathe? I have. I think her stomach growled, too. Perhaps that was why she was mean to me, she was just hungry.

Then the old woman stopped, in the middle of the road. Just stopped, I swear she did. And because I was an observant child, I noticed something about her leggings. Her stockings. They were rolled down, bunched onto her ankles. And her stance seemed familiar. It was something I had seen on the farm, a dog, a cow, I can’t recall, but what happened next shocked me. I shouldn’t have been surprised because, looking back, it was inevitable.

She peed in the middle of the road.

Not just a little bit, this was prodigious. And the water cascaded down the slope and I sat with mouth agape at the horror. Abject humiliation. I turned to the officer. She stared straight ahead and put her hand out, urging me again to wait. Keep the foot on the brake.

I looked in the rearview at Dawn. Her hand was over her mouth. But not a word.

I looked back at the road and the old woman had begun to move again, hobbling along, water rolling down the double yellow.

When she was safely on the other side, the officer motioned me to proceed. As if nothing had happened. As if this was something you could expect in life. No big deal, move ahead. Nothing happened here, move along.

I should have put the car in Park right then and turned to her. “Can you help me process that? Can you help me understand? The woman should have been mortified. She just peed in the middle of the road. But there was no reaction from her. None at all. But even worse, you’re not reacting. You’re acting like this never happened. Please use your words. Tell me how to look at life when an old woman loosens her bladder in public.”

All my life I have wanted to put the car in Park and ask for an explanation. Ask for some clarification of where I really was, what was happening, to make sense of the events I’ve seen, but everyone seems to stare straight ahead or give a flick of the wrist to say, “Move along. Nothing happening here.”

I drove up the hill and parallel parked by a barn with two barrels in front of it. I think I did. My heart was beating out my chest wondering what horrors might await when we returned to the parking lot. How do you overcome something like that? Pulling out of the sharply angled drive, I managed to steer the USS Titanic so far into the other lane that I quickly realized how dangerous the situation was. With lightning quick reflexes, I snapped the car in Reverse, backed up, then safely made a much more judicious turn and drove the two ladies back to the police department, a feeling of cold chivalry running down my spine.

Dawn got in the driver’s seat and drove straight up the hill and back like she’d done this her whole life. When the officer led us inside she informed us that Dawn had passed and I had failed, with not much more emotion than the wave of her hand.

“You can’t back up in a roadway.” Or something like that.

“What happened, Fabry?” Mr. Lambert said when he heard the news.

I had no idea. The whole day had that hazy, vague, dream-like quality to it, like I would wake up and it would all be over. But as we passed Wendy’s and I heard the groan of the others in the car, I knew it was real. Floyd and I both did. We would have gladly sat in the car and watched the others eat through the rain-soaked windshield, water like tears running down.

The door opened behind me and there he was, all 6 feet of him, walking into the DMV, his sunglasses in hand. I gathered my things and followed, but he was moving quickly, looking around the room.

“Reagan, stop!” I wanted to yell. But I didn’t want to embarrass him. He’d passed the photo counter where he’d get his license. Or maybe he didn’t pass.

He moved toward the front desk and closer to a room full of chairs, full of people needing a registration or a new license plate. And it wasn’t until then that I realized what was happening.

He wasn't moving through the building looking for the next station.

He was looking for me. And it wasn't the stride of a fallen warrior, it was the gait of a returning conqueror. The stride of love.

I stopped and waited and he finally turned around. I waved my red hat and he saw me and smiled. Bigger than the Cheshire Cat. He put both thumbs up.

“Way to go,” I said, slapping him on the shoulder. It was a manly slap, full of pride and hope and love.

I wish I had a picture of us walking away.
Monday, May 27, 2013
I was proofing a book I have co-written with Dr. Gary Chapman and one chapter discusses the biblical character, Rahab. Somehow, when we wrote the study for the end of the book, her name was spell-checked to become "Rehab."

I suppose Rahab needed rehab. Painful memories, bad choices. She had a lot to work through after her experiences in the house built into the wall.

We all need freedom from the past, but God offers more than a makeover. God's grace is better than rehab. It's a total renovation. In fact, it's not renovation at all.

The myth about following Jesus is that he wants to make us better, cleaner, or nicer. Install some carpet, paint some walls in our soul, and mow the yard. Not true. You can't rehab something that's dead.

Jesus wants to make us alive.
Friday, May 17, 2013
On the radio program, 5/17, we gave advice to graduates. High school. College. Med school. Technical school. If you wore the cap and gown, you are eligible to listen to these pearls of wisdom.

Here is a personal sticky note I would put on the dorm-sized refrigerator of any graduate.

Never underestimate the power of pain and failure
to teach.

I have learned much more from failure and pain than success. I hope you do not succeed at everything you do because you will become a small person if you do. You will believe the world is your personal oyster and it’s all about you. Perpetual success will stunt your growth. You need pruning. And pruning is painful.

Pain and failure show you how inadequate you really are. Everyone is telling you what a bright future you have, that you are our best hope for the next generation, that you have what it takes to change the world.

You do not. You have a limited ability, limited strength and endurance, limited mental capacity. You are young now and cannot conceive of running out of energy or ideas or drive or ambition. This is because life has only had a limited amount of time to smack the snot out of you. And it will. It will tear your heart out and try to feed it to the birds. It will make you kneel in the sand, at some point, with the sun beating down, and you will despair.

Your friends and family do not wish this for you because they love you and care about you and don’t want to see you hurt. They want the best for you, but they also know the horrifying truth about life and want you to be the exception to the rule.

Here’s the truth. Rejoice when life smacks the snot out of you because either you have made a terrible decision and this is a wake-up call to change, or you are doing the exact thing you were made to do and life does not like it.

The pathway to changing the world is not in your self-actualization or trying to feel good about what you’ve done or what you want to accomplish. You will change the world a day at a time stepping from one hot coal to another. And while you’re hopping you will become stronger. Not because you’re willing yourself to overcome the odds, but because you’re surviving and thriving in the middle of the struggle, this desert called life.

Life is struggle. Life is submission and abandonment. When you realize you are not strong enough, smart enough, and good enough to be who you were created to be, you have reached the first step toward peace in your heart. And that peace is not something you empty yourself to get. It comes from a relationship with God who can impute to you more than you could possibly imagine or achieve. And when you surrender to Him daily, and follow him, you will see the pain and failure and success from a wholly different perspective.

Never underestimate the power of pain and failure
to teach.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
We did not have time to include the messages I wanted to on the tribute to George Beverly Shea, but I wanted you to read this email from Robin. What a great message and tribute to this man!

Chris,

My co-worker at Moody Radio MidSouth, Dawn Rae, suggested that I let you know about my connection with Bev Shea. Dawn Rae is the morning drive host here in Nashville, and I am her
fill-in when she cannot be at the mic.

Bev Shea was an incredible individual, and meant so much to so many people. Millions of people have heard his voice and been deeply affected by his public ministry. What many people do not know is that Bev had a very effective private ministry as well. He didn't just work with the multitudes, he cared for people one on one.

When I was young, my mother was the pastor's secretary at our church in northern Illinois. When we had guests at the church, they would usually come home with us between morning and evening services, having Sunday dinner with us and relaxing before going back for the evening activities. People didn't go out to eat regularly then like they do today.

When I was 8 years old, George Beverly Shea came to sing at our church. He came home with us after morning services and spent time with me while mom got the dinner ready. He asked me about my mother's piano and if I played or not. I said I did and I played a couple of little songs for him and he talked with me about Jesus. He asked me if I had asked Jesus into my heart or not. I confided in him that, while I loved Jesus, I didn't think I was good enough for Him to want me. He told me that I was exactly what Jesus wanted me to be, and that He did love me, just the way I was. He asked if he could play a song for me, and he sat down on the piano bench and pulled me close to him. He played "The Wonder of It All" and sang for me. We both had tears in our eyes. I asked him if he thought Jesus would want even me, and he said he was sure of it, so he lead me in prayer right on that piano bench and I became a child of God.

Of course at the time I had no idea how special this man was to so many people, but I can tell you that he meant the world to me.

Since that day I have been in contact with Bev Shea only twice. Once when he was hospitalized - I did get a very nice letter from him after that occasion. It had long been my wish to meet with him in person again to let him know what his kindness meant to me. At the time I was working as a contractor with the Southern Baptist Convention, and this was a wish that my co-workers were aware of. A few years back, they were kind enough to make that happen for me, and I was able to meet with Bev Shea when he was in town here in Nashville. Here is a photo of us from that event at the Country Music Hall of Fame:


I just wanted you to know how special this man was, and how much I will miss him. I know he's singing for Jesus now. Then again, he always has.

Robin Oquindo
Monday, April 15, 2013

People running for the finish line had a disorienting experience on April 15, 2013. Bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon. Smoke and flying metal will quickly reorient your life. The finish line changed. You can see it on the faces of those running, on those who were on the “sidelines,” because the sidelines became the point of focus.

Some ran for their lives. Others ran toward victims. Shirts used as tourniquets.

The finish line, which only seconds before had been so important, was unimportant. The ultimate goal, to finish this iconic race, faded because life was at stake.

Our prayers are with those who are helping, who are going through the crisis, who lost loved ones. Pray for believers in the middle of this, that they would be able to do their jobs and reach those around them.

So many questions come from an event like this. Who did it? Why? May God use the individual questions for our own hearts. Where are we running? Is the goal we’re headed for really the important finish line?
Friday, April 5, 2013

My cousin, Beth, died this week. She was 62 and had been through years of failing health. But I want to tell you how her encouragement affected me early in life.

Beth was eleven years older than me, so my brothers knew her better. They went to school with her and her younger brother, Ronnie. Ronnie was one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever known, but he was a recluse. He grew a beard and walked the highway with a stick and to people who didn’t know him, he seemed scary. He talked in a fast, staccato clip, and would show you pictures in an album he kept and retrieve minute details of the pictures and tell jokes with amazing linguistic ability. But he was strange. And he died like Beth did, mostly alone. I’ve often wondered about the family dynamics in that little house in Culloden.

Beth was full of laughter. Chubby cheeks and a smile and always chewing gum, and then you’d say something and out would come this belly laugh that shook the whole house. Beth did not care who heard her laugh.

She was doing a school project at some point, it must have been early in college, on child development and she came to our house and gave me a test. She sat at the dining room table and leaned down to eye level with me and asked questions, had me look at shapes and colors and more I can’t remember. I remember the smell of that glue. I remember her face. Her eyes. Looking inside me, drawing me out. And then her laugh and the way her face jiggled and her eyes sparkled and then she gathered her things and spoke in hushed tones to my mother about how bright I was, how intelligent, how verbal. I think Beth saw something in me and let me know it before anyone else. I think she knew I could hear. She was the first person who saw a spark, I guess. I’ll always love her for that.

Beth introduced me to my first Jewish friend. I don’t recall his name and at the time I did not know I was a Gentile. We didn’t have many Jewish families there in the holler. I really only knew two types of people, those who lived in Cabell County and those who lived in Putnam County. Our road divided the two. And there wasn’t that much difference, to tell you the truth.

But Beth brought this boy to us who, when he ate his peanut butter and jelly sandwich with my mother and me looking on, bowed his head and began to pray. Right there at the kitchen table with the linoleum floor and the cats climbing the brick outside the back door, waiting for scraps. It wasn’t as if we had never said grace before, but we usually weren’t as thankful for peanut butter and jelly as we were chicken and rice or one of the other dishes my mother would cook. Lunch was something we did ourselves, without God’s help, I guess. I can’t remember if he was wearing a yarmulke, but I think he was. And when he bowed his head, my mother looked at me and nodded, as if I should do the same, so I did. And when I opened my eyes he was staring at me and eating his sandwich as if I were the crazy one. He knew what he was praying about and I was keeping up appearances.

Beth also took me on a drive that, as I recall, was a dark and scary experience. I believe this other boy was with me in the back seat and she pulled up to a house in Huntington and went in, leaving us there to listen to Carole King sing about it being too late, baby. Blurred, shadowy images come back from that night, and that song. Every time I hear it I think of her.

She moved away, like many do, and found a husband and a new life in Illinois. But health problems caught up with her. Maybe it was the whipped cream. She had a son. Then grandchildren. But after her father died, she moved back to the little house across the street from the church. There was a lot of pain in her life.

I don’t know if she knew she was loved. I don’t know how alone she felt at the end. I only know it’s too late to tell her all these things. It’s too late, Now darlin’. It’s too late.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
I write in anonymity. It’s a perk of the desert. Very few people in Tucson know about my radio work or my literary pursuits. That’s okay. It helps me blend in at the Farmer’s Market and Target.

But something happened yesterday that makes me think things are changing.

No, I did not get invited to the Tucson Festival of Books. It’s even better.

Two weeks ago I bought four new tires at a Firestone location 40 minutes away. This is another reason I live in anonymity, I live 40 minutes from civilization.

Yesterday I discovered a bubble on the right front tire. It looked like a mouse had moved in next to the rim and something inside said, not good. I Googled it and sure enough the experts said it needed to be replaced.

I called Firestone and took it in Saturday afternoon, bringing along a manuscript and a couple of notebooks to work on a writing project. Bill and Joey were at the desk and Joey followed me outside to inspect my mouse.

I estimate Joey to be early 30s. He talks fast. Very sharp. He knows a lot about tires, but he also seems aware of people and their needs. Inquisitive. While I was there a woman from the gas station nearby was having trouble with a pump and Joey went outside to help her. He reset a young man’s car radio after a new battery was installed. I’ve heard him on the phone explaining in painful detail about car problems and what could happen if those problems aren’t fixed. Usually he’s talking to me.

“Funny thing happened the other day,” Joey said as we walked to my car. “A guy came in from Indiana to get some work done and he sat down in the waiting area to read a book. And I looked on the back of it and there was a picture of you.”

I smiled and wondered if he was inquisitive enough to remember the title.

“It was called Not In The Heart. I told him, ‘That’s one of my customers!’”

I nodded and smiled. And then he inspected the mouse and ran his hand over it. “Yeah, you need a new tire. We’ll get that done right away.”

I handed him the keys and asked how much an oil change would be. And I’d bought the lifetime alignment, so I had him do all three. Then I headed for a restaurant where I could spread out my material and wrap my head around my manuscript. (The lady in Arby’s had not heard of me.)

When I returned, Bill said, “Joey brought this book over to me and pointed at the picture and said, ‘That’s him. That’s the guy who comes in here.’”

I smiled and nodded.

“So how many books have you written?” Joey said.

I told him and his jaw dropped. Then I gave him the line about how many kids I have and how most writers can’t make enough to feed their families from their writing so they have to do something else as their main job, blah, blah, blah. Writing is like digging a trench or fixing tires, really. It’s just what I do. It’s why I show us during sales.

I told Bill and Joey I would bring them a copy of Not In The Heart. Maybe they’ll start the first Firestone Book Club.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
This is from guest blogger, Andrea Fabry.


When Dreams Come True

When we left our home in October 2008, Kristen was a high school freshman, filled with dreams of starring in a high school musical. When recovery became harder than expected, we decided to skip high school completely.

Kristen was our seizure child. She was diagnosed with complex partial disorder six months after moving into our Colorado home. We found her the night of her first seizure standing in a closet, fixated on a certain area of the ceiling. Eight years later our first-grade son would point to this exact location, asking about the water marks. (This haunting memory is detailed in this previous post.)

We immediately put Kristen on seizure medications. We experimented with Trileptal, Depakote, Keppra, Topomax, and Lamictal over the years and watched as she became fatigued and less verbal, struggling with handwriting and cognitive function. Never once did we consider the cause of her seizures. The first time I read any medical expert suggesting we look at the cause was two years after we left our home, in Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's book Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
The majority of epilepsy, particularly in children, is classified as idiopathic, which is a medical term meaning 'we have no idea what causes it.'
Campbell-McBride lists the vitamin deficiencies and multiple side effects that accompany seizure medication, making the point that:
Anti-epileptic drugs work by suppressing brain activity: they neither cure the condition, nor do they prevent susceptibility to seizures . . . due to suppression of the brain activity, these children are not able to learn well, they do not do well academically or socially and their personality changes. I have lost count of the loving parents who described their child as a ‘zombie’ due to anti-epileptic medication.(p. 78)
I would add my name to the list as we put Kristen on a 504 plan with our school district simply to allow her to take a nap or rest each day at school. We tried to take her off medication once in those seven years, but the seizure activity quickly returned.

In her chapter on epilepsy, Campbell-McBride discusses the history of seizure management which, prior to the discovery of anticonvulsant medication, relied strictly on diet. Hippocrates treated epilepsy with fasting. The ketogenic diet,developed in the 1920s at the Mayo Clinic, led to a 95 percent seizure control success rate with a 60 percent cure rate. The ketogenic diet provides a 4:1 ratio of fat to the combined weight of carbohydrate and protein, which is called a ketogenic ratio. The reason the diet works remains a mystery; however, according to Campbell-McBride:
It appears that ketone bodies are just used by the brain as an energy source while the body is dealing with the real cause of the seizures . . . By severely restricting carbohydrates in the diet the activity of pathogens in the body is also severely restricted.
When we connected the toxicity of our home with the health of our family, including Kristen's seizures, in the spring of 2008, we took a chance and weaned Kristen off her seizure medication. As far as we know, she remains seizure-free. Little did we know we would one day embrace a diet similar to the ketogenic.

When our detox began in full force in 2009, Kristen jumped on board with all of our kids. One of her numerous symptoms included severe knee pain which hampered her desire to run and walk. Acupuncture helped, but the severity of the condition remained a mystery.

One day I read about the health issues associated with root canals. Kristen had a root canal done on an upper front tooth after tripping during seventh-grade track. The article explained the bacterial "goo" that gathers in the dead tissue, draining the individual's immune system. Another article described the connection between this particular tooth and knee pain. With Kristen's blessing her front tooth was removed in the spring of 2011. I have written in this previous post about the incredible benefits Kristen experienced.

Her knee pain improved, but her anxiety, verbal challenges, chemical sensitivity, and chronic fatigue remained. She completed her GED with the help of a tutor in the spring of 2011 and enrolled part-time at our local community college.

Kristen kept up through Facebook with the parade of musicals performed at her former high school and continued to mourn the loss of her dream. I felt her loss and pain on a daily basis. Would it have been better to stay in Colorado? Questions and doubts were my daily companions for many months and years after leaving our home.

I wondered how my kids would one day view our difficult decisions. Last fall, Kristen wrote an essay letting me know that deep down, kids know that sometimes parents do hard things for loving reasons.
About four years ago this coming October my mom did the bravest thing I have ever known anyone to do. She convinced my family to leave our belongings and everything in our five-story house behind. We moved out of our beautiful home and I don’t think anyone understood why. There was a lot of anger and my mom felt doubt and sadness. Yet she stayed strong. We left our home because it was infested with toxic mold. After two remediations that made all of our chronic symptoms worse she decided enough was enough. She moved us out . . .
Kristen went on to describe our numerous medical experiments that left us with a radical diet as our final option. Exhibiting wisdom beyond her years, Kristen wrote a paper for her English class linking toxic mold with the symptoms experienced by the main character in the classic short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper." (Read her paper here.)

Kristen took an acting class at the college and began voice training in earnest. She began to think about auditioning for one of the college's musicals, but her ongoing fatigue and remaining health issues kept her focused on recovery as well as her photography.

Three months ago Kristen decided it was time. She prepared 24 bars of music and with overwhelming anxiety auditioned for Pima Community College's winter musical, All Shook Up. She just wanted to get in, to be part of the cast. She would be happy to make the chorus. Or, dreaming big, she would perhaps get some small speaking role where she could display the talent that's been waiting all this time.

All Shook Up debuted Thursday night. I wept when Kristen walked onstage, and wept as she took her final bow. She wasn't in the chorus, she was the lead, playing "Natalie" and "Ed." Someone else saw what I have seen all along, and that is that dreams can come true. Not always the way we've seen or imagined.

Sometimes it's better.

Thursday, February 21, 2013



You can wait a lifetime for a moment like this.

Caught in time. Dropping from the cactus as the sun rises.

Snow like you’ve never seen it.

Snow in Colorado is expected. Snow amid the pines.

Snow in Chicago is a fait accompli. Gathering on roadsides as salt trucks pass.

Snow in the desert is…a gift. A touch from God on the backs of weary travelers.

The javelina have never experienced this. The quail are darting under white blankets. Children with sleds from distant lands ride over thinly covered rocks, dodging needles, giggling in the face of a certain Urgent Care visit.

Snow in the desert. 

Wear your shorts and zip up your coat.

Like life, it won't last long.

But it doesn't have to in order to make a memory.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Oh, okay. I guess I'll read this.

But it's not going to be as good as the last one.

Sigh.

I'm not into these characters.

This is nothing like his last book.

I wish I could find another one like that last book.

Oh well.

Well, this character is growing on me.

I guess I like him.

I'll keep reading.

At least a few more pages.

Oh, I can't wait to crawl in bed and find out where this is going.

Wow, I didn't expect that!

I can't wait to see how it ends.

I'm almost finished and I don't want it to end.

I'll never find another book like this.
Saturday, February 16, 2013

It is the fear of writing.

First you fear you have nothing to say.

Then you fear that what you have to say is not worth saying.

Then you fear you won’t be able to say what you want to say, even though there’s really no point in saying it.

Then you fear you’ve said nothing and said it poorly, but you take solace in the fact that no one is going to see this drivel.

Then you fear no one will care about what you have said poorly because you really do want someone else to see it.

Then you fear someone will criticize what you have said.

Then you fear no one will criticize what you have said and that everyone will like it and lap it up like thirsty dogs, but someday someone will see the truth and point it out to the rest and everyone will laugh and things will be even worse than if you had never tried to say anything in the first place.

Then you fear you don't have the right equipment and you need a new desk and a leather chair and a cat like Hemingway, and then more cats and you start looking at other writers and where they write and it makes you want to move to Havana.

Then you fear you won’t be able to say anything profound ever again.

Then you fear you've offended someone, which is probably true, and it makes you want to quit.

Then you fear you've offended no one and there's really no reason for you to be on the planet because writing is conflict and you have none, except all that boiling cauldron inside your head.

Then you fear you've missed a deadline.

Then you wake up and sit down and stare at the page and start writing again because there’s really nothing better to do than this even if you do it poorly. Because if you don’t, you’ll never really know.

And this is the breakthrough, when you reach the fear of not writing.

Friday, February 8, 2013
You want to show love to someone but there's so much pressure on February 14. What do you do? If you seize up, you won't seize the opportunity. Carpe Heartem. Seize the Valentine and spread the thoughtful giving over an entire week.

This is the shotgun approach, without the background check.

Too expensive, you say? Not really. Today, Day 1, create a simple card on the computer or a hand-made card that expresses your true feelings. Tell him/her to expect some tangible expression of love each day in the next seven days.

Anticipation will grow. If you have children, the kids will want to know what's going on. This morning, after I posted the first notice that the 7DoV is commencing, I had several of them ask, "So what did you get Mom today?"

I print a page that says which day it is and then print a clue about the gift she'll receive. At some point in the day she receives it.

The key is not to go buy 7 gifts and spring them. The key is to be thinking creatively. Ask the question, what would tell him/her that I've been thinking about him/her? What would show love in a specific way. I may let you in on some of the gifts I give in the next few days so check back.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
We talked with Kate McCord on Chris Fabry Live!, author of In the Land of Blue Burqas. She sold everything, gave up her lucrative job, and moved to Afghanistan. We came up with some principles for decision making from her experience that may help you. This is for when you feel God is telling you one thing and people around you are saying another.
  1. Plug in with God and his Word. Stay plugged in.
  2. Be plugged in with the body of believers.
  3. Submit to God by submitting to your authorities. Don't just hear them out, listen to them.
  4. What are your motives? Are you making a decision because God is saying this or you want God to let you do what you want to do?
  5. Whatever the decision, you will need the support of people who love you. Don't abandon them or isolate yourself from that support.
  6. Give yourself time. If you are forced to make a decision on the spot without time to pray and process, wait.
  7. You must count the cost. Others can help you see the true cost of the decision you're making and help you see the implications for yourself and those you love.
  8. When you make a decision with your life as a child, you bring your parents along with you, whether you like it or not. Consider them while making the decision.
  9. This is not just about your life, it's really about GOD. Allow him to work. Give him the opportunity to do something big. If you take things by the horn and wrestle this decision to the ground, you don't allow him the time or place to affirm and approve the decision.
  10. Take things one step at a time. Have a plan for where you want to be down the road, but allow God to guide you through the doors he wants to open when he wants to open them.
Monday, January 21, 2013

Today I was thankful for questions.

All that is unanswered in my life. It’s overwhelming. All the questions about my puny little life. And my children. And our community. Our state. Our country.

All the questions about the future, as well as the past. Answered questions help you make sense of what’s happened, what is happening, and what may happen. But the lack of answers provides despair or discouragement.

Today I let my thoughts wander a little more, a little further down the path than usual, because, to be honest, most of the time I get stuck at the hedge of all my questions. And the brambles and briers get so thick I turn around and wander back to where I feel secure.

No, not secure, back to where I feel more comfortable. The nest I’ve made of the questions I can answer. My little bed with the warm cover that keeps the cold away, at least for the night.
So I wandered past the hedgerow and found a clearing and an expanse ahead. Just a glimpse, for a moment, of what might be, what could be if I moved past the questions of my life. And the view, though, fleeting, was amazing. The view filled me with hope.

Until I looked at the questions again.

And that’s when it hit me—the questions are there to propel me, not stop me. The questions of my life aren’t there for me to find every little answer and get everything right. The questions are there to be a catalyst to look to the “Answer,” capital “A.”

One day, and it may be soon, all of the questions are going to make sense. Like arrows on the path pointing, “This way.” And the more uncomfortable I am willing to become, pulling off the cover of my complacency and my need to be warm, the closer to the Answer I will get.

Today I was thankful for questions.