March 17, 2018 Clam Bayou Park, Carter Joshua Reed Observation Deck, St. Petersburg, Fl.

As I wait for the sun to awaken the world, my thoughts are flooded with all the activities of “hell week” almost a year ago. We are visiting Katie and Joshua in St. Pete for a few days and I’m writing this from Clam Bayou as you can see. At times, the memories are crushing and some of the songs I’ve listened to have amplified that feeling. But here in the park, I also have an unexplainable peace and calm feeling. The memories are there for sure; very unpleasant memories. But peace and calmness mixed with sadness and sorrow. “A peace that passes all understanding.”

God’s creation is alive; I hear birds of all kinds and saw fish splashing in the water; the skies are lighting from the sun’s first rays. I also feel gratitude once again for the hospital and staff attending us last year and I am extremely grateful for a wonderful visit now with Katie and Joshua.

Some time back I introduced you to Hilary Weeks, an artist that I learned about through a movie. Here are the lyrics to another of her songs, “Just Let Me Cry”:

“I believe that everything happens for a reason
We’re not just tossed by the wind and left in the hands of fate.
But sometimes life sends a storm that’s unexpected
And we’re forced to face our deepest pain
And when I feel the heartache begin to pull me under
I dig my heels in deep and I fight to keep my ground.
Still at times the hurt inside grows stronger
And there’s nothing I can do but let it out.

So just let me cry.
I know it’s hard to see
But the pain I feel isn’t going away today
So just let me cry.
Til every tear has fallen
Don’t ask when and don’t ask why
Just let me cry.

When I agreed that God could put this heart inside me
I understood that there would be a chance that it would break.
But I know He knows exactly how I’m feeling
And I know in time He’ll take the pain away.

But for now, just let me cry
I know it’s hard to see
But the pain I feel isn’t going away today
So just let me cry
Til every tear has fallen
Don’t ask when and don’t ask why
Just let me cry.

I’ve felt joy the kind that makes my heart want to sing
So, my tears are not a surrender, I’ll feel that way again.

But for now, for this moment
Just let me cry.
I know it’s hard to see
But the pain I feel isn’t going away today
Just let me cry.
Til every tear has fallen
Don’t ask when and don’t ask why
Just let me cry.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.”


I’ve been troubled for a few days and I can’t identify a reason. I’ve had Carter on my mind a lot; I know we’ve just passed his birthday, but that was almost a month ago. I didn’t anticipate the recovery time since his birthday to be this long but it’s the only thing I can figure that may be the source.

The human brain is an amazing miracle that only our Creator could understand and design (as well as “build”). I was reminded of this last night when I attended a seminar called The Addicted Brain led by Tim Hilton. He explained the differences in a “normal” brain and one predisposed to addiction. His emphasis was on drugs and alcohol and what happens to the brain with continued use. He did this in very simple terms and easily understood diagrams. I was overwhelmed at the impact of just one or two dysfunctional neurotransmitters. It doesn’t take much to go awry in the human brain leading to potentially catastrophic results.

One of Mr. Hilton’s statements was, to an alcoholic, drugs and alcohol are not the problem; they are solutions. Life is the problem. He then said, “Everyone is seeking relief from something in their life.” There are a couple of factors that can contribute to dysfunction: 1) Genetics; and 2) a traumatic event. I can’t say anything about genetics, but I do know our family has experienced a traumatic event. How we respond is particularly important, because any choice we make will be accompanied by consequences (some good, some bad). I can only speak for myself, but I am disappointed with my response to the trauma of Carter’s death. Mr. Hilton talked about an addict’s “drug of choice”; mine has been food, and one of the consequences is I now have type II diabetes.

“Everyone is seeking relief from something in their life.” One of my Bibles has this introduction to Philippians 4:

“We live in a day when so many people clamor to climb the ladder of success. As we desperately seek things that will make us happy we often miss true joy. In this chapter Paul pointed to contentment as a secret to gaining true joy and happiness. Contentment doesn’t imply a lazy, irresponsible attitude or lack of motivation; it is simply an ability to be thankful and joyful no matter how much or how little we possess or what mountains or valleys we face. There is profound peace in thankful contentment. When we realize Who has given us what we have, we can walk in contentment and experience true joy. Then the message of Philippians will not be limited to a four-chapter book in the bible…It will be displayed in the everyday experiences of life.”

After opening chapter 4 expressing his love for the Philippians Paul says, “that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” I think this refers back to Paul’s instructions in chapter 3. He then pleads for unity for some of the Philippians who are apparently in a disagreement. Verses 4-9 contain the following instructions:

1) Rejoice in the Lord
2) Show gentleness to everyone
3) Do not be anxious about anything
4) Present your prayers and requests to God with thanksgiving

He says if we do these things the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ. He then gives us a list of things to think about (whatever is right, whatever is pure…) “and the God of peace will be with you.” He first says the peace of God, which transcends all understanding then he says the God of peace will be with you. There is no peace without God in our lives.

One other thing Tim Hilton said in the seminar was basically the only way out of the addict’s dilemma was to “reprogram” the brain by repetition of new coping skills. He said it must be done over and over and over… Another note in my Bible from Philippians 4 says “Thoughts positive or negative grow stronger when fertilized with constant repetition.”

We must repeatedly practice Paul’s instructions in Philippians 4… “And the God of peace will be with you.” We will no longer need our drug of choice.


If you google “Billy Graham Quotes” you will find MANY to read.  I looked at quite a few of them, but two really stuck with me:

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion- it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”

Intuitively, we know both of these truths.  But I have to admit that I don’t always work at growing every day to be more like Christ; and I think most all of us would admit to the fact that without some effort on our part, we just will not grow in the right direction.  We will grow, however.  If we work at it we will grow to be more like Christ and if we do not work at it we will grow to be less and less Christlike.  A few years ago, Casting Crowns had a song out called Slow Fade (song and video are at this link:  https://youtu.be/QASREBVDsLk).  The main point of the song is “people never crumble in a day; it’s a slow fade when you give yourself away”.  So without working each day to grow toward Christ we will slowly fade further and further away from Him.

My initial response to the second quote is that I’m not wealthy anyway so there’s not much to lose.  But that is so untrue.  By the world’s standards most all of us are inconceivably wealthy and wealth is a relative term anyway.  I’ve lost enough to be painful in my time, but currently it really doesn’t matter.  It’s like the quote; “nothing is lost.”  Now I’ve reached the age that some health issues are popping up, and yes, something is missing.  I can’t do what I could just ten years or so back; “something is lost” but I’m still here and functioning.

Losing one’s character is a disaster but hope is not lost.  One cannot mess things up so badly that God can’t fix it.  I hate to admit it but I’ve proven this to be true as well.  The recovery process is long, slow and painful, but it is not impossible.  Losing one’s character begins with the Slow Fade that Casting Crowns sang about.  It is very much like the prodigal son who finally comes to realize in the pig pen that his father MIGHT take him back as a servant and that would be a significant improvement to his current condition.  And we know how that story ends.


I never had the opportunity to meet Billy Graham but he profoundly impacted my life just like he did millions of others. I remember watching some of his crusades on TV and hearing the rich voice of George Beverly Shea. I remember seeing thousands of people fill stadiums and arenas all over the world to hear him preach and I remember large crowds making their way forward to make professions of faith or to rededicate their lives to Christ.

He was a man of great influence; he advised and counselled numerous presidents, yet he was never above ministering to everyday people, or so it seemed. He was more concerned about the souls of people than their position.

He was also a man of great conviction. I read that the only woman he would be with alone was his wife, Ruth. I also read or heard that he refused to have a television in his hotel room when he traveled; that he had ripped one off of the wall when a hotel had not complied with his request. I don’t know if these statements are true, but what I believe to be true is that Billy Graham probably did more to advance the Kingdom of God than anyone I can think of except maybe the Apostle Paul. And I’m sure Billy Graham brought the gospel to more people than anyone ever had simply because he had the technology to broadcast his message and could travel easier and faster.

But, he was also just a man. And men make mistakes and sometimes wish they would have done some things differently. I read where someone had asked him what he would do differently if he could go back. He said he would not travel so much; stay home, pray and study and hopefully help raise his children who really didn’t know their father very well for many years. One article I read said he was gone probably 60% of the time when the children were young. The article said the family was by no means perfect; but is there such a thing?

A few years ago my dad, brother and I attended a conference at the Billy Graham Training Center, The Cove, near Asheville, NC. It was a fabulous setting in a beautiful location ideally suited for worship and learning; and that’s exactly what we did.

Our country has lost a national treasure, but his legacy and impact on our world will continue for years to come. I know he has received a glorious welcome home and a “well done thou good and faithful servant.”


When I walked into our worship center this morning the video screens said:

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”  Ps 30: 5

My next thought was that I was still in the darkness.  Our pastor’s message came from Revelation 22: 16 in which Jesus said, “…I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star” which we now know as Venus and is most easily seen prior to dawn.  It is the signal for the approaching new day.  Our pastor identified three ways that Jesus is the bright Morning Star: 1) He is light to those in darkness; 2) He is the way for people who are wandering and 3) He is hope to those who are hurting.

He also gave us a quote that I may not have exactly correct and I didn’t get the author’s name, but here it is:

“Hope is not optimism.  Hope is not so much a certainty that things are going to work out as it is that even if they don’t work out we’ll still be okay.  You may lose your job, and that would be very bad but it would not be awful, it would be terrible, it would be significantly inconvenient but basic parts of you would still be okay.”  Hope is the deep assurance that no matter how things turn out I’ll be okay.

I felt that during the entire sermon, the pastor and God were speaking directly to me and it was a message I desperately needed to hear.  I can’t speak for the rest of the family, but I have still felt like I was in darkness; but I still think the Morning Star is visible.  I still don’t know how long before the “new day” begins, but I know it’s coming.  And when I’m in the darkness and wandering, I often don’t respond as I should and that’s certainly the case now.  But the comfort from the day was that He is hope to those who are hurting.

“Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.  Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath.  God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where Jesus, who went before us has entered on our behalf.  He has become the High Priest forever…” He 6: 16-20

I wish I could leave lyrics or a link to the song “Hope is Believing” but I have not found either.  It is a beautiful song from the movie Christmas Ranch and is available on iTunes; the artist is Cheri Keaggy.


Like 100+ million others I watched the Super Bowl this evening and it was probably one of the best ever championship games. It just wasn’t the same as it would have been under normal circumstances. Our family had a tough tough day; we knew it was coming but I’m not sure we knew just how tough it would be. We didn’t want Carter’s birthday to be unnoticed so we had celebrations in both St. Petersburg and here in Huntsville. We here, released four (because today is Feb 4th) helium-filled blue balloons plus one that said “Happy Birthday”. In St Pete they dropped one white rose (he would have been one year old) into the waters of Calm Bayou where his ashes were scattered. As I watched the balloons drift into the blue sky and disappear, it all still seemed so surreal. I could almost feel him with us as I watched the last balloon drift out of sight. But I couldn’t hold him; couldn’t kiss his cheek; couldn’t look into his brown eyes and dream of what he would become as he grew.

And now, we move on. We will always remember, always celebrate, always have a hole in our hearts, and sometimes we will be overwhelmed. But we move on anyway. It may take us a few days to recover, but we move on anyway.

Happy Birthday, Little Buddy.  There are many many people who love you but you can be sure that your Papa is one of them.

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly, and without fear, for newer and richer experiences.”
Eleanor Roosevelt


It would be a lie to say we’ve had a great year.  Our emotions have been rattled to the point of experiencing days where we can only sit and sob.  Some days have been okay and sprinkled in here and there I think we’re beginning to have some good days (maybe not this week).

This time last year we were excited about the future and the pending arrival of Carter.  Our beautiful daughters had given us one granddaughter with a grandson and another grandbaby (sex unknown) on the way.  We had planned to have a lot of fun with these babies and our entire family and there was no thought about the murky waters lying ahead of us.  As we’ve seen, our plans seldom work out the way we have arranged them.  We have the ability to control so little in our lives and we take so much for granted.

While our year didn’t go as planned, I’m sensing that the time is near for the “next thing”.  I don’t know what that is; but I hope it is a mountaintop experience like Carter’s birthday last year.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  Joseph Campbell

“You don’t always need a plan.  Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.”   Mandy Hale