Distracting From Real Life: My XBox 360

I basically do eight things in life: Spend time with Allison, spend time with my kids, work at my sports medicine job, worry about my spiritual life, sleep, eat, think too much and write.

When I say I think too much, I really do. Allison always tells me that I’m thinking on at least five different levels at once. I prefer to think of it as three different levels. Typically, I have a surface level I’m thinking on – “This day is lovely.” Then there’s a middle level – “Allison is speaking to me right now about a critical matter.”

Then, there’s a deep level where I’m processing a lot of information. Maybe I’m processing one thing. Maybe I’m processing three things. But it’s going on in the background and I can either keep it going on quietly or it can come crashing in on me unannounced at an inappropriate time. Sometimes I’m unaware that it’s even happening – “Ray, have you even thought that pastors are vulnerable at a core level before they fall? This is big time information for your book!” “Ray, your relationship with your father could have been helped if you had realized your own weaknesses four years ago. Maybe you could blog about this in relation to Paul’s concept of fruits of the spirit and how you expected your church members to keep them but you weren’t.” BAM!

You can probably guess I don’t sleep much. Allison, my poor wife, sleeps less than me. She has a job where they don’t really respect her life, her child, or her time of stay. They beat her like a rented mule. She goes out of her way to make sure my needs are met before hers. Which is interesting. We’re both givers. I do everything I can to make sure her needs are met before mine. She does the same. Can you imagine two people in the same marriage trying to outgive the other? It gets strangely frustrating.

Not to mention that I feel very inadequate for her. The first time I ever laid eyes on her I knew she was special. But she belonged to someone else. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t lust after her at that moment. But she had something about her. There are a lot of women in this world but very few of them have that “special” sparkle in their eye. Some of them try but the majority of them fail. She doesn’t. Allison’s problem is that she’s had the unfortunate problem of being around a lot of losers in life.

I hope I’m not the next loser. After being outside all day, I smell like one. But I digress. Boy, I sure got off point.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that I have a ton to think about these days. My mind never stops. Ever. Even when I wake up in the middle of the night to get a drink, I start thinking. I think about life, my book, my kids, my wife. I think about what I should be doing differently. I think about my past and I think about how many pastors I can keep from falling. I want to stop thinking.

Yeah, I hear you guys out there. Turn to Scripture. I gotcha. I do. I pray. Thanks.

But there are times I just need to turn my stinking mind off. Even Scripture can’t turn my mind off. You know? Sometimes Scripture reminds me of how awful I am. Or of what I need to do next.

So, there’s XBox. Some of my followers have already told me how they hate XBox. My wife hates XBox. So hold your comments.

I LOVE IT.

“If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?” I would. If I lived in Utah and could marry my XBox and Allison, by Moroni, I would.

There have been nights I haven’t been able to sleep and it has rocked me to sleep like a baby. Go ahead, fundamentalists. Judge me. Tell me I’m a heathen for playing L.A. Noire. For playing Toy Story 3, Mercenaries 2, NCAA Football whatever the year, Red Dead Redemption. Judge me. Guess what? I’m playing video games. I’m distracted. My mind isn’t rambling off it’s five rails into oblivion.

If I get sucked into a Flynnesque warp, that’s fine. You want to argue the commandments and the video game sphere? Yeah, that’s fine. It keeps me sane. I think. Or not.

I’m distracted. I’m tame. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

You know you want to hook up with me on XBox. raynallie is my username.

Hypocrite.

Instant Inspiration

My book writing process begins today, apparently. Got green lighted.

So I’ve had a slow, downing type of day. Here’s a little inspirational up for me and you to share. (Got some from Cindy Holman when she mentioned me on her blog too – thanks, Cindy.)

Love the Muppets.

May 22

The guy that put this together is from Ligonier Ministries, so I’m a little curious about his eschatology. I agree almost wholeheartedly with R.C. Sproul’s eschatology, but that’s another story.

I do love this video, though.

I’m So Proud Of My Wife

Allison used to have a blog over at Blogspot like I did. She took it down, then realized she missed writing.

She’s started it back up again here at WordPress and I’m so proud of her. I love it when she writes. She’d say she’s not very good at it. I’d say that anytime your heart can connect freely with a keyboard, go for it. Especially hers.

When I watch her write, she has this furrowing of her brow like shes really, really serious. And she is. She has a point to get across. And she doesn’t want to be bothered. And I don’t. Usually.

Now, she’s going to get mad at me for saying this, but when I’m writing, it’s fine to bother me. I’m the master of multi-tasking. “Can you take out the garbage? Did you see what was on TV? My shoulder hurts. I love you so much. What’s the temperature outside? Don’t you think we need new curtains?”

But that’s why we get along so well. We’re different, yet our hearts are the same. She reminds me so much of my dear mother. Yet, she’s better in a lot of ways. And I don’t mean that as sacrilege. I just mean as a wife can be to her husband instead of as a mother can be to her son.

People ask me occasionally, “What do you think your mother would think of all of this?”

I can honestly say at this moment in my life, “My mom would love me for who I am and love Allison too. She’d want the best for us.”

Yeah. And that’s pretty sweet.

Check out her blog at http://fallenpastorswife.wordpress.com

It’s The End Of The World

Based on the theme of yesterday’s post . . . had to list this.

The Followers of Harold Camping, Pastors in Peril, and Pride

I suppose you know by now that the world is coming to an end on Saturday. That’s the prediction made by Family Radio’s Harold Camping. True believers will be raptured and those left behind will be in for six months of terror. Camping’s followers have been traveling the country spreading the word for a while now distributing tracts, putting up billboards and warning the unbelievers.

More, many of them have sold their possessions to spread Camping’s false predictions. He’s done this before and will probably do it again.

Reporters have asked some of Camping’s followers what they’ll do when they wake up on the 22nd. Some won’t answer. Those who do have a very concerning answer. They say, “I guess I wasn’t truly saved.”

I suspect on the 22nd, there will be a line of media and the general public waiting to ridicule and laugh at these people. They’ll be the picture of scorn for a long time at work, in their families, and in public. A lot of people will think they have it coming.

I’ve got a different perspective on it. Camping probably will deserve what he gets. He’s a false prophet.

However, I think a lot of these people have been duped. And I also think there’s hope for some of them. What I hope happens is that when they wake up on the 22nd, they’ll see the error of the system they’re in and look to truth. They’ll stop following a man and start following what is known. That they can admit to being wrong and show humility.

Even if they do have that response, they’ll be ridiculed. However, that won’t matter. The only thing that matters is that they show humility.

Unfortunately, there will be others in the Camping group who will hold to their wrong beliefs even when the 22nd rolls around. Whether it be a new prediction from Camping (who has guaranteed the 21st as the right date) or a modified description of what actually happened. The ridicule may make them harden in their unbelief.

Now, we can sit here and look at Harold’s followers with scorn or we can realize we’re not that different. Let me use another example that hits closer home for me.

There are a lot of prideful pastors in the world. I know this because I was one. I’m still prideful in many ways. That’s why I can speak to this.

There are a lot of men who are chasing after the ministry instead of chasing after Christ. Chasing after a position or standing. Men who view God as an object to be studied instead of One to be feared and worshiped. Men who use education and studies as a way to separate themselves from the masses instead of a bridge to aid them. I know, I’ve been there.

Being a pastor is a dangerous thing. It’s a temptation to want to be the next John Piper, to dress trendy and hip, or to appear great in front of your people. This often happens unwittingly. We tell ourselves that we love Christ and that we’re just seeking after Him. That what we’re doing is just furthering the kingdom.

But when we’re alone at night and we ask ourselves honestly, “what is the end I am pursuing?” the answer won’t be so neat and Scriptural. It would probably be, “my ends by my means. So that I might be appreciated, honored and find a better position.”

I don’t want anyone to fall. Ever. I wouldn’t want to see my worst enemy fall. I don’t like pride anymore. I don’t think I really liked pride before, I just found a way to cozy up to it and hold it tight at night.

But that ends in disaster too.

The best question I’ve learned to continually ask myself to guard against pride – “What if I’m wrong?” A good follow up? “How would I know?”

I’ve learned that whether we’re a prideful pastor, a prideful follower of Harold Camping, a prideful Christian (who doesn’t realize it), a prideful husband, we have two choices. We can either humble ourselves or wait for God to do it. And He will. Oh, yes. He will.

Repentance, Isolation & My Best Friend

I’ve had a lot of best friends in my life. You’re probably the same way. I remember Todd Winesburg at Oakland Heights Elementary School. We did everything together. We had all kinds of fun, playing imaginary games, hanging out, being kids. Then as time went on, I made new friends.

There was my best friend in high school, Mickey DuVall. We talked a lot. About girls, life, politics. We even did a talent show together dressed up as the New Kids on the Block. We shared secrets, passions and life ambitions. But, I left for college.

In college, I made a new best friend. Brian Trout. What a great man. He was a lot like Mickey. Quiet, reserved, but very wise. He kept me in line a lot of times. Any time I needed him, he was there. We spent a lot of hours playing Tecmo Bowl, talking and I had the honor of introducing him to his wife.

Then, I moved away again. In seminary, I made another best friend. Randy Johnson. We shared stories, theology, and struggles together. He understood my sarcastic sense of humor and loved me anyway. He’s seen me weep like a baby when I was hurting and has heard my worst secrets and loved me anyway. Then I moved again.

Pastors are in a bad situation. We’re told that we shouldn’t make close friends with those in our congregation. If we do, it can come back and bite us. If you become close friends with a church member, that person can betray you. It’s happened many times and the list of stories where it has happened would shock you. Pastors are a non-trusting bunch. I stayed very isolated for a long time.

I’ve learned that being isolated probably led to my fall in the ministry.

However, I’m happy to tell you that ironically, I’ve found my best friend.

The statistics tell us that 98% of marriages to the person one has an affair with end in divorce. That’s a horrible statistic. There’s a good reason for that statistic. Most of the time, people can carry on with an affair and have a devil may care attitude with that person. They don’t have to worry about bills, arguments, or life in general with that person. It’s only an isolated hour or so a week.

Let me get the point across as I have before – adultery is wrong. God says so.

I have no idea why things have worked out for me like they have, but for God’s grace. My life as it is right now is nothing more than a testament to God’s love for me working all things together for His good, not mine. My life should not be an example for anyone to commit adultery and go seeking after love outside their marriage. If you have problems in your marriage, fix it. Get help. End of story. If you’re struggling, figure out why. Don’t blame your spouse, fix yourself first.

I will tell you this. I am currently married to my best friend, Allison. She understands me and loves me like I’ve never been loved before. Again, our love is not a paradigm for people with marital problems, but we are an example of how God can make a horrible situation into one that reflects His grace.

And listen to me carefully. I don’t say these things in deference to my former wife. I don’t blame her for anything. I sinned and sinned horribly.

I don’t deserve the life I have now. In fact, the moment I committed adultery, I deserved the wrath of God. I deserved punishment in the form of a firebolt from heaven landing on my head and making me a grease spot to be remembered no more.

But I do know that right now, the love I have with Allison is wonderful. I am not ashamed to say it either. Despite my sin, despite my horrible wandering, God has shown me mercy instead of immediate justice. For that, I am thankful.

I am married to my best friend. A woman who understands my soul and my heart.

Am I sorrowful for the pain I have inflicted upon many? Yes. Everyday. As David said, my sin is ever before me. I cannot wipe that away. It drives me to tears over and over. It is a bitter taste in my mouth. However, even David, as he sits in heaven now, forgiven of his sin sees God’s mercy and grace upon his life after his sin with Bathsheba. He killed Uriah the Hittite, one of his best friends, over the lust in his heart. Did David deserve to be in the line of Christ after that? No. But God’s grace and mercy after David’s repentance bore that for him.

I deserve nothing. I deserve the worst. But I have many blessings. The best thing I can do is count all of them to the blessings of God and “go and sin no more.” I can do as David said in Psalm 51 and “teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”

My heart belongs to my God who saved me and redeemed me from the pit. I thank Him for the gift of a new best friend despite my sin.

Mother’s Day: Hope Amidst Tragedy

May 8, when it falls on a Mother’s Day, does not hold much promise for my emotional state.

Seventeen years ago, my college roommate, Scott Cook, was killed in a car accident along with four other students on the way home from a mission trip on Mother’s Day. One by one, they fell asleep just a few miles out from the university. There were just a few days left in the semester.

That day changed a lot of lives, not just my own. He had not returned after our freshman year but had come back for my junior year. He was a changed man. God had called him to ministry and his life was changed. Scott’s life, and death, changed mine. Every year, I remember this day and celebrate his life, but still remember the sorrow that surrounded his death.

Of course, May 8th always falls around Mother’s Day. My mom died in a car accident in 2008 the day before Christmas Eve. Her death and the tragedy of it still resonates soundly in my mind and heart. She had come to live in this community after the divorce between her and my father in 2005 and was a part of my life. She was my best friend. Then suddenly, she was gone.

Mother’s Day weekend is typically not very good for me. And there are a lot of people across the country who feel the same way about it. People who have lost mothers, wives, sisters, or who have had other tragic losses and Mother’s Day is nothing but a grim reminder of what we don’t have anymore.

Sure, we have the promise of being reunited once again with our loved ones after death. We know that they rest with Christ. I get that.

But when I sat in church today, all I could remember were those days when Mom was a member of the church I pastored. Those great Mother’s Days when she was there.

We’d hand out the goofy little pens or books to the moms that probably got lost in couch cushions across the community, but I would always take Mom hers. I felt like a little six year old walking up to her with a flower I had just picked in the backyard. All I wanted to do is let her know I loved her. To tell her “thanks, Mom, for all that you’ve done. I can never repay it, but you’ve saved me over and over. I hope I can make you proud someday.”

When I was in kindergarten, we made these necklaces for Mother’s Day one year. The teacher must have been looking to waste time, because looking back, they were an awful idea. But, man, I thought it was awesome. It was a string of paperclips put together with little pieces of wallpaper taped to each section of paperclip. I picked out some awful looking piece of wallpaper, but at the time, I thought it was cool. I took it home to Mom on Friday and gave it to her proudly.

Sunday came around and she was getting ready for church. I looked on the dresser and my pathetic looking necklace was lying there. Some of the pieces of wallpaper were already losing their tape. She was putting on a gold chain. I looked back and forth between the necklaces. Tears started welling up in my eyes.

“Mommy? Aren’t you going to wear my necklace?” Poor Mom. I swear for a second she thought about rolling her eyes, but she snapped that gold chain off and put my sorry looking wallpaper and paper clip monstrosity around her neck. And she wore it to First Baptist Russellville that Sunday.

Proudly. And I walked next to her proudly. Holding her hand and smiling. Because she was proud of me and what I had done.

We went to go see my sister the weekend before Mom died tragically. Mom’s mother had passed away decades before, but her mind was still filled with grief over her own mother as we celebrated the holiday. I didn’t know it at the time.

On the way back, we stopped at a Chili’s. The bill came and Mom grabbed it. I said, “No, Mom, I’m getting it.”

She said, “I’ve got it, Son. Let Mom take care of it. You’re always going to be my little boy. I’m so proud of you. I love you.”

Two weeks later I thought of that moment and wept like a baby. Even now while I think of that moment, the tears are hard to fight back.

So what can any of us do? Those of us who have sorrow this weekend? My roommate’s death weighs heavy on my heart again this year. Mom’s presence is on my mind. Eventually, her birthday will come, then the holidays, and I’ll be thinking about my father as well, who died in an accident.

Well, the best thing to do is listen to Mom. She loved to blog. That weekend that we went to visit my sister, when she got home, Mom blogged about her pain and missing her Mom. This was read at her funeral and has served me well since her death. She was a wise woman and her words ring true today, now, more than ever:

Saturday was one of those really tough days we have to endure as adults. Despite my personal heartache it was a time to have some laughter and to enjoy seeing my 3 granddaughters playing together. We went to visit Dave, MAC and Maggie for a few hours, to have some celebration of Christmas together and to enjoy fellowship; and although it was a day of deep personal hurt, the passing of my mother some years ago, I got through it pretty well.

Remembering those we love is expected, keeping on living in the moment is a necessity; blending the two is sometimes difficult. However, the sound of happiness and laughter is always welcome; even when the soul is weighed heavy with sorrow.

Love you, Mom.

Descent Into Sin, Part One: Tragedy

I started retelling my story last time with a short prelude into how I ended up in the ministry. Strange how we can summarize our lives into one blog post.

I’ve talked to a lot of fallen pastors and have found that before their fall, they experience crisis or tragedy. The same was true for me. However, even if tragedy or crisis strikes, each fallen pastor I have spoken to is careful to point out that their sin is still their sin. There was no excuse for what they did.

I don’t write about the tragedies that occurred before my fall to garner pity, only to let you know that a fall just doesn’t “happen.” There are a typically a myriad of swirling circumstances around the event that contribute to a fall.

My parents divorced in 2005 and my mother moved to our little community. She was devastated by the divorce and I was angry at my father. He and I had never had a very good relationship. The divorce didn’t help much, either. Mom was an instant hit with my two daughters. They had never had a grandparent so readily accessible. She doted on them and played Barbies with them like there was no tomorrow.

In February of 2007, my father died in an accident when he fell. He was living about an hour away and our relationship had slightly improved, but I still harbored much resentment toward him. I sought counseling after he died to deal with my anger and hatred toward him.

I thought that his death would remove the bitterness I felt in my life, but I was wrong. It was still there, festering.

The next year, we had a crisis in the church. I won’t detail it here, but suffice it to say it was a small situation that got blown out of proportion. It lasted for at least six months. We tried to ignore it, hoping that it would go away, but it didn’t. Feelings were hurt, people left, and it kept me awake at night. It was one of the worst stretches of my pastorate. In fact, I was starting to send out resumes. I was beginning to hate the ministry. All I wanted to do was preach, but the nagging crisis was all I could see before me.

While the crisis was still going on, Christmas 2008 was fast approaching. I was hoping the New Year would bring some peace and resolution.

I traveled with my wife and children to see her family in a neighboring state. Mom stayed behind at home to get ready for Christmas. On the way out of town, we even saw her in her car and waved to her on the way out of town. That was December 22nd.

The next morning, I awoke with a horrible feeling. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but I knew something was out of sorts. I called Mom. No answer. I called again. Still no answer. That wasn’t like her. She was OCD like me and always had a phone with her. I called and called and called.

I soon found out that she had been in a car accident. She had hit a sheet of ice and slipped off the road and hit a tree.

We left my wife’s family’s house and began to drive back home. On the way, I received a call from a hospital near Nashville. Mom was gone.

I have no way to tell you how I felt. Those of you who have lost loved ones suddenly to tragedy know how it feels. And when you lose them near a holiday, you know how intense it is. And more, you know what it’s like to have to tell your kids. I had to break my kids’ hearts that day.

We finally got back home and I had to go to Nashville and identify her body. Thankfully, one of my deacons did that for me. When we got back to the church, many of the members were there. They had been praying and mourning. It was a beautiful moment for me. Most of them didn’t know what to say to me, but that was okay. I didn’t know what to say either. They loved on me and hugged me. And I loved them right back.

I was in complete despair. Utter grief overtook my soul. My mother was my prayer warrior. She was the only one in my life who listened to my perils, my hurts, and my complaints. No one else did that for me. And now, she was gone.

Back to counseling I went, but I was numb to it.

There was another family tragedy that befell us just a few months later, but I cannot write about it. Let it be said that I was broken by that point. Was I going out looking for comfort? No. Was I searching for sin? No. But I was numb to everything. I had no purpose. No one understood me and I didn’t think anyone was listening either.

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