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One of the Worst Days

Thanks Mark Hodges for the Picture

Today is one of those worst days.

I’m telling you this, for a variety of reasons that I have running through my head that I probably can’t articulate.  I’m a reconciler at heart.  Most of what I feel compelled to do has something to do with getting people back together with each other or getting people back together with God.  I’m sure that figures in here somehow.  I also like to think of myself as a hope-passer-outer.  Sometimes, somebody who is hurting with me or for some different, yet connected reason, might get a sense of hope from what I write.  I also want my friends who are hurting to know that I hurt with them.  God made it to where we feel better when we hurt together.  Did you sing that hymn growing up about being alone and the companionship of others?

But I don’t know a thing
In this whole wide world
That’s worse than being alone
Hold my hand all the way
Every hour, every day
From here to the great unknown
Take my hand
Let me stand
Where no one stands alone

Today’s worst day actually began on Monday – another worst day.  My brother called me.  He told me that I might want to sit down or brace myself before he told me the news.  He began by reminding me of another worst day.  The day about three months ago that we found out from our friend Les that a man at their church had apparently been sexually assaulting Les and Karen’s 21 year old handicapped son, Cole.  Cole had described some things that had been happening.  Les and Karen told police and when the police investigated they found they could make a case and they arrested the man.  He was arrested, he posted a $50,000 bond, and he was out waiting for trial.

That was a worst day three months ago.  Now the worst of the worst.  What my brother was calling to tell me on Monday was that the man went to Les and Karen’s home and attacked Karen and Cole while they were at home – and he had killed them both.  Oh, my God.  Seriously.  Oh, my God.

Have you ever been hit in the gut so hard that you got put on mute?  That’s where I was.  I mindlessly asked a few questions that my brother Cecil couldn’t answer.  I sat on the couch after we hung up.  Silent, numb, really angry, unbelievably hurt, wanting to curse, turning to prayer.  Turning to JeannaLynn.  I told her the news and I could see in her reaction exactly what I must have looked like a few minutes before.

There would be more details.  When my brother called, apparently within an hour and a half of the evil – or within an hour and half of the time that Karen and Cole were in the compassionate arms of Christ – they had not found the man.  They did find him.  Dead in his own apartment.  He had killed himself.

Karen and Cole, it turned out were not at home alone.  Five year old Casey was there, too.  He had run out of the home, my guess at Karen’s pushing, and to the home of some neighbors.   You can look up the details at the Sun Herald from Gulfport online or at www.wlox.com if you want.  You might already know.

Today is the day of the funeral.  One of the things that compounds this worst day is that I had surgery a week ago and can’t make the 13 hour drive to Gulf Port.  Hugs from a distance just don’t cut it today.

When we lived in Vicksburg when I was a kid, Les’ Dad preached for the county church and my dad preached for the city church.  We got to be friends.  Karen’s dad was an elder at the church where my dad preached.  I think he was an elder then.  Forty is so old when you are nine.  We got to be friends.

I moved back to Vicksburg to be the youth minister where my dad had preached.  Karen’s Dad was definitely an elder then.  JeannaLynn and I began our romance and JL would stay in Bob, Joan, Karen, and Robin’s house when she would come to see me for the weekend.  I was also going to Magnolia Bible College and Les’ family had some strong ties there.  Les had graduated from MBC a little before my time there.  Les is actually a little closer to my brother’s age.  Les has a brother named Billy who is closer to mine so admittedly in the 70’s it was like I was the Beaver, Cecil was Wally, and Les was Eddie Haskell.  Yeah, you know what I mean.

In the last few years, a few of us from Mississippi and Magnolia have maintained a close relationship largely via Facebook.  A few friends of friends have been invited, and we are all close even though a couple of us have never met.  It’s more than an electronic relationship.  We have a private group.  No, I won’t tell you what we call it.

We’ve been through others of these worst days together.  We walked with each other when John and Maggie Dobb’s son Robert was killed.  We stuck close in the Katrina aftermath because several of these guys live/lived on the coast.  They were heroes of the physical and spiritual rebuild there.

My brother, Les.  I’m guessing you’ll read this at some time.  We weep with you.  Our hearts are broken, too.  We cannot fathom the devastation you are experiencing this week – and today.  Today, the day of Karen and Cole’s funeral.  I try to think of what else to say, to write.  And I’m still speechless.  My life is talking, but I have no words.

I’m thinking short thoughts right now.  I’m going to put a few down.  These flow out of my experience, my study, my relationships, my victories, and my disasters.

I’m thinking about how badly we want to be at the Orange Grove church building today and how much we wanted to be there last night.  We want to share in the comfort of others and the comfort of Christ.  We don’t only want to give hugs, we want to get some.  So many people there are part of my great crowd of witnesses.

I’m thinking about all the different ways that God tried to pull this man (that’s what I’m calling the murderer) into a different path.  Even meeting Les was part of God’s effort to get this man to heaven.  It’s a rare occurrence that God directly manipulates a man’s behavior to make him go in a different direction that what the individual has chosen (see Rom 9; Exodus 14).  I wonder how many of God’s roadblocks this man crossed on Monday as he was bent on doing his evil deeds.  If you’ve read The Shack, you know that God loved this man, too.

I’m thinking about the perversion pornography brings.  I don’t know that this man was exposed to pornography, but I’d bet on it.  Not everybody who views pornography will ultimately physically abuse somebody else, but I guarantee you that 95% of people who sexually abuse another do regularly see porn.  There was the day when the greatest influence on abusers was the abuse they had experienced themselves.  The number of unabused abusers is growing because of pornography.

Marriage is one of the best gifts God has given.  Karen died on her 24th Anniversary with Les.  One of our prayers is that Les will be able to focus on that incredible blessing on October 10 in the years to come.

The longer I live here, the more the day of my death becomes a day of relief.

Jesus is still the answer.  He is the hope.  He has the love.  He brings the peace.

Jesus is holding Karen and Cole.  He’s also holding Les, Kyle (with Karissa), Conner, and Casey.  He’s holding Bob and Joan, Les and Margie.  All the family.  And he’s holding JeannaLynn and me.

Thank you, Jesus.  Life between the trees is only bearable because of you (Gen. 2:9; Rev. 22:2).  Because you live.

Even so.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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