the reckless dad

‪reck·less /rekləs/ adj. without thinking about the consequences. rash, heedless, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, audacious, madcap‬

Category: God’s Redemption Story (page 1 of 5)

So Much has Changed…

Often in life, each day is just another day. Each day is a day unto itself. But sometimes, the day is more than just a day. It is a defining moment.

This day last year was one of those. It was a defining moment. It is frozen in time. It is a day never to be forgotten. It was probably one the hardest days of my life.

Without sharing too many details or the particulars – one year ago today, my brother was taken into custody after a court hearing and transported to county jail and ultimately to state prison. This is an experience my family has not talked about much outside of the ‘Westfall Family circle of trust.’ Today, I am feeling as though I need to share my thoughts on the last 12 months. I am not going to talk about the details, but I want to talk about the feelings and impact this experience has had on my family from my perspective, my point of view.

February 5, 2015 was one of the hardest days of my life. Watching your brother get taken into custody is hard enough, when you add into the mix having to watch your parents as their son is taken into custody and you have the makings for a tough day. I have found it is one thing to cope with your own emotions and to assist others in coping with their emotions… but when the others is your family, it is significantly more difficult to keep an objective presence. Watching my parents explain to my niece and nephew their father isn’t coming home for a long time… as their little minds attempted to wrap around the concept of another parent who would be missing from their lives. As they tried to make sense of something that makes no sense at all. Watching parents struggle with the exact same thing… finding sense, meaning and purpose in a experience that makes no sense.

It was on this day I learned the futility of saying, sometimes crap happens to good people and we have to accept it. This does nothing to comfort those suffering. Knowing it is unjust doesn’t make it easier to handle. I mistakenly thought those were wise words in a time of crisis because they are true. Scriptures teach the sun shines on the wicked and good all the same. But in times of distress, these words are hollow. Empty. Meaningless. We search for meaning, for understanding and we want things to make sense. And when things don’t make sense, posting out they make no sense, makes no sense.

Over the last year, I have experienced feelings of loss I hadn’t anticipated. Some time ago, I wrote the following words trying to understand my feelings:

  • This feels strange to write this…I find myself mourning my brother. No, he’s not dead. But he is in prison. While the story is complex and convoluted at best, I want to muse more on how this whole story causes me to feel.

    I find myself mourning him. He’s gone, while not being gone at the same time. It causes an odd void in my heart and life.

    On any given day, I communicate with Ronda more than I do any other human being… makes sense, cuz she’s my wife.

    Next in line on this list was my brother. I didn’t realize how often. I called, texted, emailed, facebook messaged, sent him a YouTube video or otherwise reached out to communicate with him. Countless times over the last two plus months I have found myself wanting to reach out to him about something, nothing or anything in between. I actually called his his iPhone last week! Haha. Habit.

    Given the amount I typically communicated with him, there is now a void in my daily communicative expression. This evokes a feeling similar to mourning in my heart because I am unable to communicate with him when and how I want to.

    I don’t know what I expected the feelings to be like…

    At least we can speak on the phone once a day. We could write letters, but that’s not a fun as it might sound. We can visit, but things have been some crazy at work I haven’t had the time to plan a trip to Georgia.

    I know this is only temporary and after this season has passed life will return to normal. But in the meantime, I miss him.

I feel a great sense that can only be described as loss. There is a hole in my life which can only be filled by my brother. A large, special piece of my everyday has been taken away from me. It is missing. This loss has certainly changed our relationship… I don’t know how exactly or what things will be like when we can talk whenever we want, but things have changed.

I know my family has felt the same or similar feelings on loss, too. This has affected us all. We all have felt the pressure, the loss, along with other feelings. We have felt betrayed at times. We have felt lied to. We have felt disappointment. We have felt like we have been left to pick up the pieces of shattered lives. We have felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. We have felt guilt. We have felt responsible. We have felt feelings that are real and powerful. We have hurt and we are hurting. I would argue this is normal. This is to be expected. And this is ok. What’s not ok is bottling the feelings up and letting them gnaw at our hearts and allowing those feelings to adjust or change the love we have for a brother/son who himself is hurting. Maybe more than us. Likely, more than us.

This may be a simplistic approach to the dilemma, but I believe guilt or innocence to be irrelevant. Maybe not irrelevant, but holding no bearing on the reality of my feelings about him or about this situation. I love my brother. I will always love my brother, no matter what. But loving my brother doesn’t mean I am not allowed to have feelings like the ones above. It doesn’t mean when I have those feelings I am in the wrong. But it also doesn’t mean I can use this as an excuse to feel differently about him. What has happened has had a dramatic impact on my family and we are forever changed because of it. And at the resolution of this whole experience, there will be more exploration to finally resolve it. To finally, make sense of it… as much as we can. No doubt, there will be more tears, more frustration, more anger, guilt, remorse, sadness, joy, laughter, more whatever.

I’m not going to pretend I see the silver lining and I know on the other side of this we will be stronger, better, blah blah blah. This sucks, from start to finish. But, this is where we are. This is our life. This is the experience we have. This is the hand we have been dealt and whether God is in it or not, we will endure it. God will use it, certainly. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Doesn’t make it suck less.

For about 12 months I have wanted to share my thoughts and feelings. I have wanted to express what we are going through. And I haven’t. I don’t know if it is because I was embarrassed. Or if if I didn’t want to hurt feelings. Or if I wasn’t sure we were or I was ready. But the sooner we stop hiding in the shadows, the sooner we can have some resolution about what and how we feel.

I love my family. I love my brother. I will always love them. Nothing will ever change that. This has been hard, but it hasn’t killed us yet. And I don’t think it will. If we continue to stand against this as a family, we will endure.

These are my feelings. These are my thoughts. This is my voice. If you are reading this and you feel like you have suffered and are suffering know you are not alone. Know there are others walking through life carrying heavy burdens. Burdens we daily try to give to Jesus, but hang on to because it is hard to give them up. There’s a band called HELLYEAH. They have a song entitled Hush. It talks about growing up in a family wrought with abuse. While it is not always true, emotional pain (regardless of the source) often easily translates from person to person. What I mean is, when we feel emotional pain we can associate with others feeling emotional pain regardless of whether the source of that pain is the same or not. As the scene is described in the song, a line from the chorus says, ‘if this reminds you of home, you better know you’re not alone.’ This is why I write these words today. I want share my pain to let others know they are not alone. To let others know they don’t have to suffer alone in silence. We can help each other. Today I may be strong enough to hold you up, but next week I might need you to hold me up.

I will hold you, will you hold me?

A Savior that knows…

Artwork by V-K-S

Artwork by V-K-S

Psalm 8:4 asks the question what is man, that you are mindful of him? Interestingly, as I read Hebrews 2 this morning I find the same question being asked. The Psalm reference is clearly messianic and the Hebrews reference supports this as it is found in a section describing how Jesus became like the creation in order to be in a position to perfectly offer us salvation. We needed a savior who had experienced everything it is to be human, while at the same time was able to keep himself unstained by the world… in other words sinless.

Philippians 2 tells us Christ emptied himself of some aspects of being God and became a human. He limited himself.

Why does a Savior who has experienced what we have experienced appeal to us? Why do we want a God we can relate to?

I think it is because we are community creatures. And this is an essential element founded in us by our creator. We are community creatures because our God and creator is a community. He is a triune God. Three distinct personalities comprising of one single God. An essential piece of being made in his likeness is the built-in desire to have community.

Misery loves company, but so does joy. Joy is much more potent or poignant when we share it with someone else. Love is difficult to accomplish alone, there has to be at least an object of love. I can attest from past experience being angry at myself is much less ‘rewarding’ than being angry at someone else. Our emotions require another person. They require community. This is how we were created. This is how God made us.

It is significant then, that he became like us before he died for us. It’s significant for several reasons. First, someone had to pay the penalty for our sins. It had to be someone who was human. Someone who had been asked to live within the confines of God’s law. Jesus was the expression of God’s willingness to allow himself to live within the confines of his creation. I don’t know that I can articulate the full ramifications of this played out, but God himself took on the form of a human and lived under the Law. Equally significant, is that he not only lived under the law, but he didn’t break the law. Jesus is the only human in history to have lived under the law and never broken any of it. Jesus lived a sinless life under the law. Of every human who has every lived on the planet in all of human history, he is the only one who was able to escape God’s righteous wrathful penalty for sin. Yet, he was the only who suffered that wrath. He took our place and stood in judgment instead of us. A third reason this is significant, is being a human living here on earth, he knows what it is to be us. He knows intimately the struggles of everyday life. He knows what to feels like be betrayed by a close friend. He knows what it feels like when friends die. To me John 11:35 is one of the most profound verse in all of scripture. We see Jesus having difficulty dealing with life on a specific day. He was overwhelmed by the circumstances of the day. He knows the hurt that comes with being lied to. He can feel the frustration that comes from the daily grind of doing the same thing over and over and over again. He knows what it is like to work hard, to sweat, to have a long day at work. Jesus knows every aspect of being human. He knows what it is like to walk in our shoes.

This makes it all the more sweet when he offers us rest, when he offers to carry our burden, and wants to take our yoke from us.

In a season of life where it feels like no one understands and the world is against us, there is comfort to be had in knowing we aren’t alone. Knowing God does know ho bad the hurt hurts. In my darkest hours, this has been the light in the darkness. This has been the only thing to comfort me at times. We read much later in Hebrews Jesus makes the statement, he will never leave us nor forsake us. Even in our darkest hours we aren’t alone.

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Quicksand

Found at: denvercounseling.com/quickstand-depression/

Found at: denvercounseling.com/quickstand-depression/

I love the movie the Replacements. Just a great movie. I think what I like the most about it is that it’s a movie about a team of underdogs captained by the chief dark horse. Just a fun movie with lots of humor.

One of favorite scenes is when they are in the locker room & coach asks what they are afraid of. Bees. Spiders. And finally quicksand. While I am afraid of spiders… on this list quicksand is the most terrifying to me.

Not quicksand quicksand. But quicksand where we get into something and begin to sink

The more we struggle or try to get out the deeper we sink.

Terrifying. It’s taps into our primal fear of not only dying, but failing too.

This must have been what Peter felt like when he got out of the boat. He gets out on the water a bit. And begins to sink. He has lost focus and is sinking. The more he struggles, the more he sinks because he is increasingly losing focus on Jesus.

We often beat Peter up for losing focus… but 11 other dudes stayed in the boat. Just an observation. Peter was apparently the only one brave enough, or dumb enough, to get out of the boat. But he did.

In the midst of the quicksand we find ourselves in, the answer is the same for us as it was for Peter. Focus on God. The Psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The way out of the quicksand is to:

  • Be still – calm down. Breathe. Slow down and stop being frantic. When we feel pressed on every side it rarely is helpful to freak out. It usually doesn’t get us anywhere to flail arms and legs. Slow down. Focus on our options and see the way out.
  • Don’t panic – panic is never the answer. Unless you are being chased by a T-Rex… then panic is the only answer. James encourages us to be of sober mind & sound spirit, which doesn’t sound like panic.
  • Know that I Am is God – this is subtle here, but we can’t miss it. When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt he told Moses to tell pharaoh ‘I Am’ had sent him to deliver his people. God’s name is an expression of existence. There is no question as to whether he is God of everything, simply because he exists. But this also reminds all who reads this, like God delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, so will he deliver all who call on his name.
I write this from quicksand. This week my plate feels very full. I feel as though I am having a hard time balancing it. As I meditated on my situation these thoughts came to mind. I’d like to say I was praying or reading the bible at the time… but it’d be a lie. I was driving worrying about all I have to get done.

God is God. God is sovereign and the king of all things. I trust him with my life.

I’m not afraid of quicksand. Even when it suffocates me.

Help those who can’t help themselves

I have done a lot of different things work-wise. Some of them I have liked, others of them have made me question my will to live. And still others, have ranked among the greatest joys of my life.

I worked in the dependency system for Florida’s Department of Children and Families and their contract agencies for almost five years. I have worked in churches for about 10 years. While these jobs are very different, they carry some similarities between them. They both involve caring for people deeply at their core.
It is hard for to name which I have enjoyed more… but suffice it to say, I have found great pleasure in them both.
God has gifted me with great concern for those who are defenseless. I feel it is my calling, responsibility, job… something I need to do.
This works very well when you work in the fields I have been working in. My heart breaks for those in need, for those who can’t fight their own fight for themselves, for those who need someone to stand with them and equip to better attack their situation.
I learned long ago we all go through life carrying two things: a toolbox and a suitcase. And no matter who you are, there are tools in the toolbox and baggage in the suitcase. At times throughout our lives we need assistance gaining more tools in our toolbox and help unpacking the baggage in the suitcase. Psychologist Abraham Maslow is quoted as saying, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail’. We all need more than one tool in our toolbox, and unfortunately we don’t all have more than one tool. We all need to release ourselves of unnecessary baggage at times. As we go through life, we keep packing the suitcase until it is too heavy to carry and we can’t any longer. We get bogged down. We feel defeated. We feel as though there is no end in sight. We need help in unpacking the unhealthy baggage we have loaded our suitcases up with.
While these sound simple and easy, they aren’t always. We need help. And some of us get so weighed down we can’t see the sun any longer and we quickly lose heart. We give up. We become defenseless. We become unable to move forward on our own.
That’s when we need someone to stand up for us… to fight for us… to not allow us to give up.
Jesus did that for us… it only makes sense we do it for each other. I will never forget when Jesus added tools to my toolbox and unloaded the destructive baggage in my suitcase. I’m far from perfect, but I have been loved and accepted by a Savior who is calling me to live like he does. He is calling me to help.
I am here to help.

20140623-103401-38041575.jpg

Help those who can't help themselves

I have done a lot of different things work-wise. Some of them I have liked, others of them have made me question my will to live. And still others, have ranked among the greatest joys of my life.

I worked in the dependency system for Florida’s Department of Children and Families and their contract agencies for almost five years. I have worked in churches for about 10 years. While these jobs are very different, they carry some similarities between them. They both involve caring for people deeply at their core.
It is hard for to name which I have enjoyed more… but suffice it to say, I have found great pleasure in them both.
God has gifted me with great concern for those who are defenseless. I feel it is my calling, responsibility, job… something I need to do.
This works very well when you work in the fields I have been working in. My heart breaks for those in need, for those who can’t fight their own fight for themselves, for those who need someone to stand with them and equip to better attack their situation.
I learned long ago we all go through life carrying two things: a toolbox and a suitcase. And no matter who you are, there are tools in the toolbox and baggage in the suitcase. At times throughout our lives we need assistance gaining more tools in our toolbox and help unpacking the baggage in the suitcase. Psychologist Abraham Maslow is quoted as saying, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail’. We all need more than one tool in our toolbox, and unfortunately we don’t all have more than one tool. We all need to release ourselves of unnecessary baggage at times. As we go through life, we keep packing the suitcase until it is too heavy to carry and we can’t any longer. We get bogged down. We feel defeated. We feel as though there is no end in sight. We need help in unpacking the unhealthy baggage we have loaded our suitcases up with.
While these sound simple and easy, they aren’t always. We need help. And some of us get so weighed down we can’t see the sun any longer and we quickly lose heart. We give up. We become defenseless. We become unable to move forward on our own.
That’s when we need someone to stand up for us… to fight for us… to not allow us to give up.
Jesus did that for us… it only makes sense we do it for each other. I will never forget when Jesus added tools to my toolbox and unloaded the destructive baggage in my suitcase. I’m far from perfect, but I have been loved and accepted by a Savior who is calling me to live like he does. He is calling me to help.
I am here to help.

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