Four years ago we lost a very good friend of ours. Here was my way of saying goodbye.
I am not sure why we experience surreal moments, and I’ve often wondered why we have feelings that leave us questioning the validity of an experience.
I was sitting tonight conversing with my wife’s cousin’s husband Frank as my wife Lee and her two cousins Kathy and Marcia were catching up on old times and working on a craft project. Frank is a terrific and engaging man. A twenty-four year Army veteran and now retired school teacher, Frank’s stories are always intriguing and oftentimes spellbinding. Frank now volunteers at an equine therapy ranch where kids with disabilities, both physical and emotional, receive therapeutic treatment via their interactions with horses.
As Frank was telling me about the work he was doing at the ranch, he segued into a conversation about working with at-risk youth. Specifically, he told me about a young man in his class some thirteen years ago that stood out because of his bad and bullying behavior. Frank explained how through a classroom exercise he had determined this particular boy needed help. He was not in a normal state of mind. A social worker that was with Frank framed it more specifically. “He’s a sociopath,” said the social worker. And shortly after that, this boy dropped out of school.
Frank did not hear about this boy again until he saw news reports about a murder committed during the burglary of a jewelry store in New York. The suspect was not apprehended on Long Island and had slipped into Connecticut where he ended up killing two more people in another jewelry store burglary. The victims this time were a husband and wife.
My heart skipped a beat.
“Wait. When did you say this was,” I asked?
Frank confirmed the timetable for me.
“What was this boy’s name again?”
Franks confirmed that for me, too.
Chris DiMeo had been his student. Now he was a felon convicted of the 2005 murders of Tim and Kim Donnelly. Tim and Kim’s son Eric is the guitarist for The Alternate Routes, a rock band out of Connecticut and one of whom I’ve been a fan for several years.
In 2016, Eric wrote a touching and heartfelt song about the events surrouding the death of his parents. Lee and I have seen The Alternate Routes perform live since then, and I spoke briefly to Eric about the impact of his music. I wish I had delivered something of eloquance in our quick conversation, but I think all I could muster as I wiped a tear from my eye was, “Dude, that song is incredible and amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us.” As always, Eric was humble and gracious and so very appreciative for the feedback.
As I sat here tonight talking to Frank and I realized his former student is the man who took so much away from Eric and his family, I became dizzy in the surrealness of the moment.
And I wish I could wrap this post up in a wise and witty bow that brings this whole conversation full-circle, but I am at a loss for words. My heart aches anew for the pain Eric and his family experienced. My heart aches for Frank and his knowledge that one of his students went on to become a monster. My heart aches for the next person who will receive a life-changing phone call (see video below).
I don’t have an answer to the questions rattling in my head except, perhaps, to say we must keep on fighting the darkness with light and attacking evil with love. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me right now.
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12 NASB
I have two friends on my mind tonight.
The first is my friend Rick. He is also a writer and keeps a blog about his experiences during his faith journey with Jesus. His blog is called Discovering and Sharing Grace, and its focus is on gentle witnessing.
When I met Rick several years ago, his words and his writings gave me a new perspective on what it meant to evangelize the gospel of Christ. They also made it obvious to me that in-your-face Bible thumping is not the solution. Rather, a gentle approach in which you share what God has done in your life and give to Him all the glory for His continued blessing; this is how we kingdom build here on earth.
I was thinking of Rick as I was conversing with another friend of mine, someone whom I’ve known for over three decades. I was surprised to learn this friend is not a believer, and as we had a conversation about faith and religion and salvation, I could hear Rick’s voice whisper in my ear. “Be gentle. Stay gentle.”
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. – 1 Peter 3:15
I am very passionate about salvation, but eternity and the afterlife is not something (IMHO) that should be discussed passionately. Rather, I invited my friend to allow God to surprise him. I asked him to put aside for a moment his very analytical and scientific brain and just let Scripture speak to him. It was a good conversation, but it was also nuanced and delicate.
Still through it all, my focus was to be supportive and inviting. At the end of the day, I don’t save souls. Only God can do that. Still, I can be obedient to the need to share the gospel and invite non-believers into a relationship with Christ.
Overall I think it went well, and my friend will be in my prayers going forward. I ask you to keep him in your prayers as well.
Although our final Sunday at Relevant Church will be on July 1 (the day we expect to fly out to the Dominican Republic), Lee and I hosted a get-together today for our church family. We wanted to have some time to be able to meet with people and basically say goodbye given we won’t be in town the next three Sundays. We had a good turn out and were even surprised by some of our music family members stopping by to say hello (and goodbye).
Over the last fourteen years of blogging, one constant has been the blessing that is our music and church family. Lee and I have grown so much and experienced so much as a result of the love and support we’ve received from both groups. In many ways, we would not be where we are today – on the cusp of picking up our lives and relocating to Samaná- if not for those individuals who opened doors along the way. The dominoes that fell in order to make this chapter in our lives a reality are the individuals with whom we took in concerts, went on vacation, and worshiped together on Sunday morning.
Lee and I are so very thankful to those who came out to share this time with us, and I honestly do not have the words to properly express how much it is you mean to us. With heartfelt sincerity, thank you!
After celebrating the completion of our house sale with dinner at the house of our good friends Ashley and George Friday night, Lee and I shared a relaxing breakfast this morning before heading over to my best friend Jeff’s house to celebrate the high school graduation of his daughter Emma. I’ve known Jeff for 12 years which means I’ve seen his kids grow up from little munchkins to the amazing young adults they are today. They are like nieces and nephews to me, and my kids have the same relationship with him.
It’s always a great time to partake in wonderful food and joyful celebration of a milestone event like graduation, and it was a blessing to be there for Emma and watch her have such a fun time with her friends.
Later this evening Lee and I met up with my kids to go see Solo: A Star Wars Story. Although Lee and I had already seen the movie, we had no issue with seeing it a second time (as well as seeing it through the eyes of my kids). Going to the movies has always been a part of what we do as a family, and it’s one of the things I will miss the most once we move to the D.R.
Still, we’re blessed to have this time to create new memories together and share these wonderful moments with each other. I know it will be these memories that will, in part, get me through the challenges that lie ahead in our ministry, so the more we can make between now and July 1, the better.
Two and a half months is not such a long duration for a house sale. I’ve heard stories of people having their house on the market for 6-9 months.
When Lee and I listed our house on March 14, we had high expectations it would both sell quickly and also at the original asking price. Getting slapped in the face with reality is never fun, but the good news is our house is officially sold. We closed on the paperwork this morning.
The last 79 days have been rather hectic and frustrating and riddled with pockets of anxiety, but today we completed a step that further solidifies God’s plan for us. Being house-less makes our move to the Dominican Republic that much more real.
And Yay God for that!
Today was a heck of a day. We had to get what was left of our personal items out of the garage before we close on the sale of our house tomorrow morning.
When Lee and I arrived last night from Georgia, the task seemed very doable. After all, we had all day to do it. When we woke up this morning, it felt quite overwhelming.
But God delivered. After posting on a neighborhood website that everything must go, we had several people from in and around the community show up and help. One woman took a literal truck load of items, and it was such a blessing to give all these items away.
I think the microcosm of the lesson God had me learn through all this was evident with the collection of Coca Cola commemorative 6-packs I had, some for decades. When we first started the downsizing process, I thought I’d make a pretty penny off that collection. As time passed and no offers came in, I figured I’d try selling them at a later date. Today, I just had to laugh as I saw a complete stranger walk off with all of them for free. The thing is, he was doing me a favor. Also, He was doing me a favor by reminding me to stop focusing on stuff and keep focusing on Him.
We were in need and the Lord delivered a solution. We marched all night, and the Lord delivered victory. And you just can’t put a pricetag on that.
So Joshua came upon them suddenly by marching all night from Gilgal.
Joshua 10:9 NASB