When I finished my six months active duty training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, I came home to Rochester, New Hampshire, to my wife, Lorraine, and little girl. It wasn’t long before we had a son. Our family was close and none were closer than my ten-year-younger brother and me.
He and I had fun almost every time were together. When I purchased a motorcycle, I gave him a ride in the field behind the house. Without me knowing it, he had slipped off the back and was hanging on by one hand. The field was wet and muddy, so by the time I realized it he was a muddy mess. We laughed as we walked to the house so he could clean up. Younger brothers are special, and he was no exception.
I eventually moved my young family to California for a career job with more upside opportunity than I could find in New Hampshire. My brother was still young and attending the same church that I had, but he hadn’t given his heart to the Lord as I had. We prayed, as did other family members, that he would come to know and accept Christ as his Savior.
We owned a duplex that we refinanced to reimburse us for the reconditioning costs and our labor, which helped fund our relocation to California. Eventually, my brother purchased the duplex from us for the balance of the mortgage and expanded it to three apartments. It had worked well for Lorraine and me and eventually helped him also.
Time passed, but we stayed in touch. He married and he and his wife visited us when we moved to Texas and again when we moved to Denver, Colorado. He was never far away and always in our hearts.
He and his wife eventually moved to Florida. We ended up living eighteen miles from each other. My sister-in-law joined the church we attended and committed her heart to Christ there. Years passed and her untimely death at age 56 naturally overwhelmed my brother. In the process, he turned to Christ for comfort and accepted Him as his Savior. He was baptized and attends a local church where he has found good friends who have become part of his life.
As my pastor would say, “The prayers of a righteous person are both powerful and effective.” We praise Jesus for never giving up on my brother and know that he will see his wonderful wife in heaven some day.
I have learned over the years that passion is critical in life. I know that without passion very few meaningful things would have been accomplished in my life. Some people don’t call it passion. They might call it tenacity or strong willed or something without all of the emotion, but I believe it took all of my emotions to overcome obstacles and reach the finish line many times.
There are passionate people and then there are those who are not. One is no better than the other. They are just different. I’m not sure a family can survive two passionate spouses. I have the feeling that is what newspaper stories are made of, but I can’t prove it.
Passion can be detrimental when not controlled. As a child, I remember a discussion in our house about a desk. One parent remembered that it was purchased for one of the children. The other parent remembered that it was purchased for the family. As the heated discussion rose, it was made clear by the more passionate parent that if it was purchased for one of the children it was going to be cut up with a splitting ax and used as firewood. That cooled the discussion, but I’ve never forgotten it.
The desk survived, but the marriage didn’t. I often think of that event and try to remember to never replicate that type of heat when my wife and I disagree. If I get that passionate, I always apologize quickly, not wanting any scar tissue to form. We have been married for 53 years, but I still take nothing for granted.
Sometimes bad things happen for good reasons. God allows them to happen, and He specifically uses them to discipline His children so that they may learn. I think my folk’s desk disagreement was one of those events, for remembering it prevents me from losing it with my love, and for that I am truly thankful.
So many times I felt captured by the enemy. The first time I recall was when I was in grammar school. A buddy and I were enjoying the school swings and slide and talking about guy stuff. The play area was covered with gravel, and some of the rocks were big enough to toss. My buddy said, “I’ll pay you 50 cents for every window you break.”
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“I’m serious!” he responded.
Six broken windows later, I opened my hand ready to collect my three bucks. “I’ll pay you later,” was his response.
He never did pay me. I had to work hard to pay for the repair of the windows, and my reputation was tarnished for a while.
The second time I recall was when I was a teenager. A friend and I were standing on the edge of a sandpit and looking down at a pickup truck parked in the pit. A couple appeared to be making out, so we found a large rock, which was too heavy for him to lift. So I picked it up and threw it over the edge and into the center of the truck bed. It landed with an enormous thud. The truck bounced, and the passengers scurried around to straighten themselves up before they raced off.
The third time I recall was when I was riding in the back of a beautiful Chevrolet convertible with my buddies on our way to Sanford, Maine. I didn’t drink, but they had finished a large bottle of beer and handed it to me to toss. I stood up, and as we approached a large sign near the road, I tossed the bottle just in time to hit the sign. The broken glass flew back into the car, endangering everyone, particularly their eyes.
I was captured by the devil in any form you want to describe him. I had known the Lord since I was ten and knew that He and the devil couldn’t occupy my heart at the same time. My grandfather described it this way: “One boy is a man, two boys are half a man and three boys are no man at all.”
After we cleaned the car and ourselves of the broken glass, I told the guys I was done chumming with them. I explained it wasn’t their fault; it was my inability to do anything right in their unsupervised presence. They laughed, but it was over.
I’m a lot older now, and after having spent time closer to God I realize that all good things come from Him, including thoughtfulness, prudence and good judgment. Some of His wisdom arrived at my door over time when I was open to listening to Him. And to listen to Him, I had to be alone. That was just another way of saying what my grandfather had said.
We each need to spend time with God. He wants only good things for us, and I have learned to want His blessings above all else. I’m not saying I don’t do stupid things anymore, but I can say I have learned to talk to Him before I try to accomplish anything meaningful, and it has kept me out of trouble.