Divorce Sucks

Endings and Beginnings

The best stories end with a new beginning. There is a resolution of conflict and the promise of tomorrow. Hollywood love stories often end with crowds cheering, whether it’s on a crowded street, at a church, or a dining room. We’ve seen it over and over again, but the typical romantic comedy doesn’t delve into what happens after that triumphant scene, because that’s when reality kicks in. Nobody wants to watch the doldrums, the long gray of disappointment and work and cold silence and that crushing feeling of loneliness when you share a home with someone who no longer loves you. When couples divorce, it is both an ending and a beginning, and it’s terrible and wonderful, even at its best.

People use the phrase “going through a divorce” because it’s like entering a dark tunnel where the walls crush in and the light on the other side appears eternally distant. But there is that hope of getting “through” to the other side, emerging into a new valley of hope where the sun is warm on your face and the air tastes like hope and the pain and regrets remain in the past where they belong. When you are still going through the darkness, it can feel like it’s forever. It’s not. That’s what my friends keep telling me, and I believe they’re right.

The end of us is the beginning of me

After more than a decade of waking up next to the same woman and kissing her good-morning and raising children, and laughing, fighting, crying, dreaming, destroying, and sharing everything important, I face the task of defining myself apart from her. It’s excruciating, for it is the unraveling of my life, the annihilation of a future I believed in. It is the death of the man I am and the birth of someone new.

I must learn to define myself apart from her, for I was always more than her husband, yet after all these years, it is difficult to recall what I was, because I changed to accommodate her wants and needs and I wanted to see her smile. I wanted to make her happy, I worked really hard to do it, but in the end I wasn’t enough.  I didn’t make her happy in the end, and she let me know it. It doesn’t matter anymore, and now I’ve got to see the truth of it, embrace the inherent freedom.

I haven’t been spear-fishing in years. I’m making plans now, with true friends I haven’t been friends to since she and I got together. “It takes a friend to be a friend,” is one of my mantras, and only shared history and the memory of the man I used to be keeps the door open now, and I intend to dive in. The best advice I’ve heard so far on how to deal with divorce is “do the stuff you love to do.” I’m going to reconnect with old friends, repair relationships with family, and become the best version of myself that I can possibly be.

I’m not ready to jump into a long-term relationship, and I know it. I still love scent of the ocean at dawn and the sun going down on the beach, long kisses beside the juke-box, the taste of salt on a women’s neck, and that whisper of hope in my ear.


From destruction comes rebirth. The fire burns along the mountain slopes of Yellowstone, and the forest emerges better and stronger and more vibrant. The undergrowth burns away, the stout trees remain, and the canopy emerges again.

Character and strength burst forth in the wake of destruction, and the things that try to kill us make us more resilient, even though it doesn’t feel that way when we are crushed. We are destroyed in divorce, and can either surrender to the past, or be reborn.

I yearn to share a sunrise with a woman who grins, sand between her toes and music in her soul and goodness in her heart who lights up when she sees me, and shares the feeling that everything is right when she is beside me. I want to drink red wine and joy with her long into the night until the sun comes up, and hear that song in my chest, for that is the glory, those moments of peace and promise where the air is sweet and the world is right and tomorrow is better because we are together.

When we find each other, we will know.



Defeating Radical Islam

  The west is at war with radical Islam, whether our politicians acknowledge it or not. The United States does not want this war, nor does Europe; but hoping to avoid a fight is a sure way to loose when the fight has already begun. The enemy is among us, and they want to kill us. We must accept that truth, understand the reasons for it, and execute a plan designed to defeat the enemy.

I happen to have Muslim friends, kind and good people who want nothing of any soort of war. Unfortunately, they are in it too, and on the front lines, for they must lead the fight to reclaim thier religion and wrest it from the hands of the radicals. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, based on PEW polls, roughly 10% are fundamentalist Islamists. That means worldwide, about 160 million people believe that killing those who leave the faith, stoning women, beheading people, and murdering in the name of religion are perfectly acceptable ideas. Ideas which originate in the Q’uran. 

If only 10% of those radicals are willing to become jihiadis, that leaves 16 million highly-motivated true believers willing to die tomorrow and take as many infadels with them as they can. This is a threat the west can no longer ignore or take lightly, because many of those jihadists already live here. 

In the wake of the worst terror attack in the U.S. since 9-11, coming on the heels of San Bernadino, Paris, and Brussels, the United States must accept the fact that radical, jihadist Islam is at war with us, whether we like it or not, and we must do whatever it takes to win. There is no single silver bullet, and the battleground is complex and evolving. 

Victory demands a multifaceted, nuanced approach. This war has been going on for over a thousand years, and it’s not going to end for decades. 

A Bit of History

The Islamic Caliphate captured  Jerusalem in 637; initially the Caliphate was tolerant of other religions, including Christians and Jews, but eventually became more conservative, expelling and executing those of other faiths. The current Islamic State models itself on the Caliphate. When the Godfrey and his knights took Jersualem in 1099 during the first Crusade, the fighting was bloody and both sides commited atrocities. The Crusades would go on for centuries, with Muslims and Christians battling for control of the Holy Land.

The Ottomon Empire eventually took over from the Caliphate, and became a dominant world power. Constantinople was a center for global commerce for six hundred years. The empire, already in decline, sided with Germany during World War I, and following that defeat, the Allied Powers carved out a new nation… Turkey. There was a power vacuum in the Middle East left by the empire, as the British and French took the lead in influencing politcs in the region.  The French   controlled Syria and Lebanon, and the British held Palestine and Iraq.  Arabia and Yemen emerged. Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar were British Protectorates.

Following World War II,  with France and England reeling from the effects of the war, the mideast fought for independance from a long era of  European colonialism.  Israel was recognized as a nation in 1949 on lands that Palestine claimed, fomenting anger among the  Muslim populations throughout the region. More than once, Israel was attacked by its neigbors.

Demand for oil powered the economies of the entire Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran building powerful armies and growing wealthy. The Soviet Union and Untited states fought proxy wars, propped up dictators, and vied for influence in the region in order to keep the oil flowing.

The U.S. toppled Sadam, and pulled out without a clear plan, leaving the country vulnerable to corruption and invasion. ISIS swept through Syria and is now in Iraq.  They now sposor terror throughout the world, and claimed the last two mass shootings here in the United States.

 Boko Haram, ISIS, the Taliban, Al Queda, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and organiztions like them are growing more sophisticated and dangerous, recruiting via social media and communicating through encrypted emails, building sleeper cells and striking across thousands of miles. They prey upon the young, making attactive the idea of killing in the name of God. They have declared war on everyone who doesn’t agreee with them, longing for the apocalypse, and willing to die to obtain that goal.

So how do we stop the enemy?

Burst the Liberal Bubble

While liberals want peace and harmnony, (admirable goals), we tend to ignore the fact that evil exists, and the only way to defeat it is to fight. Not with mere words and calls for unity, but with bombs and blade and resolve. Religion is coming for us at the tip of a spear.

Liberals don’t want to offend, are reluctant to appear to hate, and will twist themselves into mental and emotional knots to avoid the truth because they don’t really understand it. The idea that humans are willing to die for religion seems a bit uneral to them, disconntected from their reality, and they cling to the belief that all religions are basically benign and created equal.  Radical Jihadist  Islam is inherently violent, and all the rainbows and unicorns in the world won’t change that. Wake up, people!

Cut off the money

The Saudis fund terror around the globe. Most of the 9-11 attackers were Saudi men, and ISIS gets  the bulk of its money from various back channels that end with the Kingdom. In the United States, and around the world, the Saudis fund many Mosques which subscribe to the brand of Sunni Wahhabism shared by ISIS. This is an austere interpetation of the Koran, a literal one.  According to their beliefs,  only those who folllow Whhabi are chosen. Others, including Muslims, are defiers of god. They are to be hated and persecuted. 

Poll  after poll shows that the citizens of Saudi Arabia hold deep hatred for the United States. They are not allies, not really. We buy oil from the Saudis because we must, and we fear thier power. OPEC controls oil prices, and if prices spike, our ecnomoy goes into free-fall.

The United States must become energy independant. This means renewable energy like solar, wind and geothermal. It means building more nuclear plants, and investing heavily in research for fusion, which is the holy grail of energy. Essentially limitless, safe, and inexpensive energy. 

This is going to take decades, but it is within our power. Only by becoming energy independant can we stop the Saudi influence on our economy and the way the Kingdom spreads its particular branch of Islam around the world. Without the money, it’s power will wane.

Increased domestic survailance


It is a terrible truth that a free society is vulnerable to attacks, and that the only way to prevent more loss of life is by giving up some of our liberty. This is not to say that we need an authoritarian government, only that there is a balance between our civil liberties, constitutional rights, and national security. We need to be vigilant, and some of that is going to be invasive. The NSA will be monitioring our phones and internet activity as the war ramps up, more so than they already do. More street cameras, more drones over our soil. It is scary. Big Brother is watching, and he’s going to keep doing it. There is no other way.

Judges will need more lattitude to issue wire taps and search warrants. The FBI will have to step up its intellegence gathering abilities, utilizing moles and undercover operations in the way that the CIA did during the cold war. Mosques which preach radicalization must be monitored. Immigrants with leanings toward Jihad must be deported. Citizens who fund terror groups must be put in federal prison.

Rather than open our borders to an influx of refugees, the U.S. needs to find a solution within the Middle East, and do it quickly. The innocents fleeing ISIS deserve a place to live in peace. As terrible as it is, that doesn’t mean that place is the United States. Germany is reeling from the influx of refugees, as are most other European countries. 

Stopping ISIS

The immediate threat is ISIS. The United States must form an international coalition which includes Russia and Iran, along with the EU.  This would entail boots on the ground, and would only be a temporary solution, because eventually power would haave to revert back to Syria and Iraq. The swiftest solution, although not pretty, would be to essentially give Putin the ability to do what must be done in Syria, going in with tanks and infantry, then rebuilding in the aftermath but maintaning a presence and influence in country. The U.S. is going to have to do the same thing in Iraq. 

There will be collateral damage, and we’ ve got to be ready for it. We won’t be able to leave for decades. There will be a constant insurgency, and American lives will be lost. Eventually, Iraq should be divided into separate autonomous states, with the Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia each with thier own nations. This would drastically cut down on the sectarian fighting.

Reformation and Enlightenment

Since the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and do not  subscribe to the violent beliefs of the Jihadists, they must take their religion back and propel it from the dark ages into the 21st century. Christianity went through its own evil period with the Inquisition, but eventually this gave way to the enlightenment.

The only way this can happen with Islam is for Muslims to act; the west needs to empower them. This means funding alternate mosques and schools. It means pouring money into regions where the only schools are Maderas for boys who are taught to hate before they are taught to read.

Within the United States, we must not condemn all Muslims. This is exactly what the terrorists want, an over reaction which only breeds more hate. However, while our next President must make it clear that we are not at war with Islam, he or she must acknowlege that we are at war with Radical Jihadist Islam, and find a way to unify the country, including Muslims rather than excluding them. We need them to be in this fight, with us, rather than against us, for they are us.


America needs a Reformation

church and flag

Religion and politics have been wrapped around one another for thousands of years. From a purely political standpoint, religion was frequently used as a means to control the populace and consolidate power.This was true of the Egyptians, the Aztecs, the Romans and Jews. As Christianity spread throughout the world, first through the travels of the early Apostles, and later by the growing Catholic Church, the teachings of Christ were often subverted and forgotten. The masses did not understand the simplest tenets of their own beliefs, for services were held in a language they did not understand and read from Bibles they could not read.

When Martin Luther published his famous The Ninety-five theses in 1519, he sparked a reformation, and shook the world to its foundation. With the invention of the printing press, believers had access to translations of the Bible for the first time, and the Catholic Church lost its monopoly on the faithful. In many ways, the reformation was about returning to the past, rediscovering something  true and old, rather than finding something new.

The core of the reformation was the primacy of the cross,  placing faith above works, and Justification by grace, which is not earned, but rather comes from God himself. The reformation focused on the teachings of Jesus rather than the laws of men. This, too was later twisted for political ends, with the rise of nationalism throughout Europe.


Christianity in America needs a reformation

As the 2016 election looms, the Christian vote becomes crucial in determining who the next President of the United States will be. Once again, politics and religion are interwoven, and with consequences which will reverberate around the globe. Christians in the United States are not as homogeneous as the Catholic Church was, but over the last forty years the evangelical movement has morphed into a political beast which equates belief and faith with a clear political agenda. It’s an agenda that is often blatantly contradictory to what Jesus taught.

As the younger generation leave churches across the country in droves and membership dwindles,  prominent church leaders scratch their heads and bemoan the intrusion of humanism and secularism, point fingers at liberals, and grow more conservative. Rather than turning to the cross, they instead turn to politics.

Here are a few important ideas that seem to have vanished from the collective Christian mind in America:

Judge not

You, therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgement upon someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

With the absurd debate over transgender bathrooms and gay-rights all over the news, Christians seem oddly focused upon codifying their judgements, and howling insults and hate from the pulpit and the rooftop. This is not only contradictory to what the New Testament teaches, but it also serves to drive a wedge between believers. It is a terrible stumbling block for many. Hypocrisy and judgment will kill belief as surely as the plague, and the church in the U.S. is ravished by these things.


“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Jesus taught much about humility. Not the kind of humility that we should take pride in and use as a weapon, but actual humility. Somehow, Christians still line up behind leaders, both religious and political, who exalt themselves every day. From the T.V. preachers with fleets of jets to Donald Trump, Christians get behind these clowns in spite of the obvious contradictions between what they profess, what they do, and what they actually believe.

“Woe unto you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all the other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” (Luke 11:42-43)

By focusing on law, men turn from the truth. Laws are of man, while God is God. Yet here in America, we have reverted back to the same sort of legalistic thinking which led Jesus to revile the Pharisees. Law becomes subversive to faith, eroding it, undermining it, ultimately destroying it.

Jesus preached charity

“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

In the United States, where success is conflated with goodness, this idea of charity has been engulfed by the religion of capitalism. Prominent church leaders and politicians have made the claim that God invented capitalism, which has nothing to do with Christ. Worse, the poor are paid lip-service on Sunday morning, then demonized throughout the week, called lazy, freeloaders, and nastier things by talking heads on the news. Folks ought to re-read the Sermon on the Mount, and then the rest of the Gospels.

poverty 1

While there is nothing wrong with wanting a limited government, this demonization of the poor has taken on tones that would make Jesus weep, and many Christians speak this sort of hate with their own mouths.

Jesus taught love

At the heart of Christian belief is love. Love is the greatest commandment.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. ” (Matthew 22:37)

We have forgotten this, it seems, in America. We routinely see hateful speech coming from those who sit in pews every Sunday, from those who preach at the pulpit, and from leaders who sway voters because they make the claim that they are Christian.

While Jesus spent most of his time with outcasts, criminals, and prostitutes, in churches all across this country there is the spirit of judgement, exclusion and hate, rather than that of acceptance and love.


Since the rise of the “Moral Majority” in 1979, the Christian Right has become a potent political force in the United States, with the majority of Christians identifying with the Republican Party.

Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, it’s time for Christians to re-examine their faith as it pertains to politics. Because Trump’s entire existence on this planet has been defined by greed, hate, infidelity, arrogance, and lies.

Regardless of the outcome of this Presidential election, the church across America needs to solve the problem at its core. The only way to do that is to turn back to the words of Christ.



Of Music and Memories

I’ve heard that smell is the sense most tied to memory. I don’t doubt that, but for me, a certain melody can bring the past flooding back in a way that nothing else can. Music has been an integral part of my life since Junior High, so at my age, that’s a prettty long soundtrack.

The perfect song at the right moment leaves an indellible imprint on me. If I’m in a pensive mood and hear that song again, there is a kind of echo in my soul and I can feel the sun on my face, taste the wine, or catch a whisper of perfume.

When I hear Jimmy Buffet, sometimes I’m back in college on a leaky boat with my old friends, that lazy warmth of sunshine, salt water, and laughter shining strong. Back when I knew I could do anything and the world was my oyster and real problems were things other people had. My biggest concern then was whether we would catch fish or get caught by the Marine Patrol. (We were always in violation of something.)

Rock You Like A Hurricane takes me back to high school, getting pumped up before a big basketball game, and I can smell the gym floor and feel the adrenaline and sweat and anticipation. Basketball was a huge part of my life, and like so many things, it’s faded from my consciousness, something I once did that I no longer do. I miss it sometimes, especially when I hear that song.

The Song Remembers When brings me  out west to Jackson Hole  and Yellowstone  when the air was crisp and the light was golden and tasted like hope. We heard that song on the radio as we drove over the Great Divide, the sun slipping below snow-tipped peaks around us and the sky painted a glory of pink and orange, and I recall that moment, knowing how rare and precisous it was, holding on to it for as long as I could. She and the moment slipped away like old loves always do.

My wife recently turned me on to Van Morrison, songs like Into the Mystic, and I can feel those songs wraping around my soul as we make new memories that one day we will look back on with deep fondness. I am in a season of gratitude and love, keenly aware of the often fleeting nature of peace and passion. It’s priceless, a sensation to be savoured, an emotion to be relished in the moment.

Because the memory is only an echo.

Free short story: Sand

kelli at the end



The ocean this morning is that special blue, deeper than any color can be alone, truer than the sun playing golden on easy waves, warm and inviting. The sweet breeze and the singing feeling in my chest and the taste of salt and life and the way light and shadows dance against a vast horizon are all part of one color.

I am an artist, feeling what I see, seeing what I feel, and right now in this moment I have discovered a new color. Hope.

Standing in the surf, hard packed sand beneath painted toes and wind tossing my long hair, hope embraces me, a brilliant color and emotion I have yearned to find. There is freedom and forgiveness and exhilaration in it, but it is more than those things, for it is akin to explaining the sunrise to a blind woman or the joy and pain of childbirth to a man. There are some things that only make sense with color and context.
Henry launches himself into a wave, laughing and carefree and seven, bursting with light and potential, and I am filled with joy and gratitude as I gaze upon my son, and for a moment a cloud passes overhead and there is regret mingled with wonder at his resilience and my own.

“Momma, did you see that? That wave almost got me. It didn’t though.”

“I saw, honey. You beat that wave.”
“Look out,” he shouts, grinning with his hands in the air. “Here comes a big one. Get ready.”

Yeah. I know about that.

Behind us, the castle surrenders to the water, walls sliding into the sea, a work of art doomed to memory from its inception because it was built in the only place it could have been with the materials at hand: Hope and love and sand.
I saw something in him when I first laid eyes on him, and part of me still wonders about that. Doubts my sanity. That’s a man, I thought. Tall and handsome and cocky, a guitar on his back and a searching kind of loneliness in his eyes at the same time. A road trip with some girlfriends to Panama city with a detour to Nashville cast ripples I never could have imagined. Probably we should have gone to the beach.

I’m from a little shithole southern town where everybody knows everybody, even though they never really do. They think they do, and make up lies to fill in the blanks. Don’t get me started. That’s a whole separate ball of wax. It’s part of it, though. Part of why I stayed when I should have left after things went like they did. There is hope now, and for me back then in those hard years between the folds, I saw hope in that guy with a guitar and wounded eyes and silver words.

You work with what you’ve got, and sometimes it’s sand. You build where you can, and if it’s the damn beach, then that’s better for the moment than anywhere else if that’s the only place you think you can build.

Worse, if that’s where you want to make something lasting even though you know better, because there is that thing that you can’t explain to anyone with a brain, including yourself. That love and passion and color and self-delusion wrapping around each other in a heady mix of blue sky and Cinderella and faith and kisses.

There are hotel rooms where people to this day cannot go because of us. We fucked like wild animals and it was glorious, mattresses askew and cushions on the floor and people calling the front desk. It was like that; that was the good part, the beginning, that thing that was real in its own way but painfully elusive in the life I eventually lived. The life we lived for a damn decade.

I wasn’t happy where I was when I met him, raging against the small town and small minds and big egos, and there was this huge man with song and gentle touch. A caress and a look around the eyes that unlocked parts of me I didn’t want to face, but which ignited a tingle and desire and a longing for something I’d almost given up on believing could be real. I wanted to believe. I truly did. I was divorced, he was divorced. I had a boyfriend, he had a girlfriend. We lived 550 miles apart…here we go.

I should go back and slap myself upside the head, but it’s a little late for that. I try to tell my daughters not to make the same mistakes I did, and I pray they hear my plea. They likely haven’t learned the things I wished they would, the right lessons that could have been lived and not said, and it makes me sad still.

That son of a bitch. The man I loved destroyed me and he hurt everyone I loved. There was darkness in me and surrender because I didn’t see anything else.

I am better than that. I remain undefeated, and with the sky true and the ocean sweet, I feel it. He was my enemy, implacable in the way of the tide claiming a castle built upon the sand. He did what he did, hurting and acting and reacting. Hurting me. Harming our family. The tide has no choice, serving the moon, but he made choices the ocean never has. Later, I made choices too. I don’t have many regrets. He can keep those.

The bitterness in my heart devoured me, and that I lay at his feet. That he fell in love with me for a second time when I wasn’t in love with him doesn’t matter anymore. I’d already moved on before I moved on, he just didn’t see it. Truth is often painful but always worth the price, even when it’s paid in heartache.divorce-2

I am a woman, a mother, and an artist, and my past does not define me. I fought like hell to get here to this moment and feel these colors. I earned this ocean and this light. I paid the price with tears and years and parts of me I should never have surrendered.sand3

I hear a laugh behind me, a joyous hearty thing, and I spin, my toes digging in the sand and the sun on my face and smile at the man I love and want to spend the rest of my life with.
He is not the same man I built castles in the sand with.

And that makes all the difference.

Dawn comes slow and warm, the surf an easy whisper on the beach. Lying on my back beneath a sand dune, the sky is turning from black to gunmetal gray, becoming something new, painted with swirls of pink and orange until the sun breaks on the horizon. I’ve always loved to watch the sun rise; it’s a wondrous transformation, as darkness surrenders to light. A kind of rebirth which only comes through time.sand2

Endings are really beginnings; I often forget that. I remember it now.

The fresh sea breeze soothes my soul and there is the taste of salt and the coming sun on my lips mingled with peace. The kind of peace you don’t know you need until you find it again and see how much you’ve been missing it.

I am a writer, and I’ve sacrificed much at the altar of love. The love of words, and the love of a woman.

Maybe that’s how it had to be.
Sometimes when you meet the love of your life you know it right away; that’s how it goes in the movies. It wasn’t like that for me.I didn’t know it until it was too late.

I met her in Nashville years ago, rebounding and hurting and she helped heal me. Made me feel loved and safe. There was a whirlwind romance with this unlikely woman from the deep south with wild hair and blue eyes and a hunger in her I found intensely desirable. Within six months of divorcing my previous wife of many years, I found myself married again, an expectant father and stepfather of two girls, living far from home in a new town.
I wanted to be that guy. I really did. I wanted to believe.

I wasn’t ready to meet her, but it happened the way it did and went to hell from there. I hung on through kids and demons and heart break, inflicting my own upon the way. Resentment grew in that void and bitterness festered. There were actions and reactions until it was impossible to know what was true and what was false. It’s not an uncommon story, and I wish I’d written a better one for my life, mine and her’s.

We hung onto eachother and our children through years of quiet desperation. Clinging to the hope that one day things would change, that light would break through the looming clouds and we would feel that shine on our hearts again. That God would bring purpose and healing to us together, not individually. To our family. That our faith would sustain us.
It happened for me, but it never did for her. I only thought it did.hourglass

On a perfect day right before the blue sky fell, the sun was gold dust glittering on the water and in the air and we were a family. I recall the sense of wonder and glory, savoring that moment with my children in the waves, holding hands with my wife, a deep gratitude and awe in me that things were good. I can wrap those memories around me now and hold them tight

Just because we wish a thing to be true does not make it so.

I defined myself as a father and a husband and an author, and it’s been a process to remake my life and my existence. I will always be a dad, and being away from my boys for any time has wounded both me and them. I’ll always be a writer, too and I embrace that part of me. Words don’t keep you warm at night, though, don’t hold you when you are crushed.

She was my muse and best friend, inspiring me, making me a better man and better author. It’s an anguished thing to loose, knowing that that has faded away. I hope forgiveness finds me. For the moment, there is peace. There is hope in the growing light.

The tide eats the beach and blue waves claim the sand as they have forever, and when the wind blows right and the ocean calms, the sand blows up onto the rolling dunes and the beach is born again.

The sky is bright now and I turn away with a certain wistful sadness; I’ve got pages to write. Later, I’ll come back with my boys and we’ll build a sand castle. The memories will remain long after my footprints are gone, and they will be true and good.

The End



Marriage, Love, Loss and Redemption


“Happily ever after “is the perfect ending for a fairy tale. Anyone who has been married longer than the honeymoon knows this is utter nonsense. The work is just beginning. Many of us put on wedding rings,hearing the vows which include “sickness and health, for better or worse,” but glossing over those truths with false expectations which can undermine, even destroy unions meant to last. Lord knows I’m no expert on marriage, but I know quite a bit about screwing them up.

fairy tale

The chivalric love of the middle ages, that era of glorious unrequited love and a glimpse of a pale ankle which would send a knight into fits of passion has made its way to the twenty-first century; it’s not quite the same now, but the underpinnings are still there. The romantic notions of “love at first sight,” a “damsel in distress,” and “prince charming” won’t die easily. Despite the shift in gender roles and the feminist revolution, these archaic ideas continue to affect both men and women in different ways.


Many young girls are raised to find a man, get married, and have children, subverting her own needs and dreams to his. There is nothing inherently wrong with getting married and having children, obviously, but the subverting part gets dicey. Before women could vote, work, and be successful in their own right, this paradigm worked on its surface, because women had little choice and therefore small expectations; being trapped in a loveless marriage in a subservient role chaffed and burned, yet divorce was generally not an option. It is now, though, and as women have entered the workforce and become CEOs and Senators, we’ve seen divorce rates climb. It’s partly because of absurd expectations, and mixed messages in our culture.

Women are objectified one moment, placed on a pedestal the next, either the whore, the princess, or the mother. In childhood, young girls are barraged by Disney movies where Cinderella is saved by her prince, where Barbi dolls have enormous breasts and wear glitzy clothes to find Ken. In young adulthood and the teen years, music comes into the mix, with songs of maudlin co-dependence, or upbeat songs of empowerment which are generally about promiscuity rather than brains or will. Then there are the “chick flicks,” the same movie made a hundred times with the “meet-cute,” the initial awkwardness, the falling in love, the break-up and then the reunion, often with people clapping around them. Ugh.

chick flick

Boys are raised playing army and football, where aggression is rewarded and competition is fierce and the key to any sort of success. They hear the same songs, watch the same movies, and the message of strength, even dominance finds its way into their souls. No man or boy wants to be the “Beta.” Everyone wants to be the Alpha male, because that’s what the girls and women like, too. Be stronger, don’t cry, hit harder, run faster. And later, make more money. For in adulthood, this is how males measure their prowess.

It’s a wonder anybody stays married at all.

Women are taught by society to want a man who is strong and fierce, but who is also sensitive and compliant, who will shed a tear during Sense and Sensibility  and listen patiently to her problems, but who will also throat-punch the jerk who disrespects her. Men are taught to suppress their feelings, to be stoic and strong, and internalize their stress and problems. Couples enter into marriages with these presets programmed into us, and when things go south, wonder what the hell happened.

Marriage is hard work. The hardest work there is. People change and grow, and hopefully they can do this together; this is usually a choice, whether conscious or not, and when a couple doesn’t grow together, they will inevitably grow apart. When things get close and mean, when the walls are pressing in, it’s easy to look around and decide that there is an easier way, that you’d be better off where the grass is a deeper shade of green. This is the message our culture continually bombards us with, through music, movies, and social media, this facade of pretty lies. People break and lives are destroyed as a result.


The fairy tale was never real. But marriage can be glorious and fulfilling. I’ve been through the crud and the blood and the muck, and I’ve had seasons where I woke up in the morning with an elephant on my chest.For some people, there is no other way, and my heart breaks for them.  I’m glad that my wife and I didn’t break, though. That we’ve decided that we’re going to grow together rather than apart. And in making it through the terrible, we’ve learned some important things about ourselves and each other. We look at one another now and say “till the wheels come off.”

We’ve made a conscious effort to make each other better. With God’s help we’re going to make it. Partners, for better or worse, and that’s better than the fairy tale.


Where Was God?


A twisted gunman burst into a church and murdered Christians in an act of hate and cowardice. My heart aches for the fallen, and weeps for my country which seems broken. Where was God when the bullets tore through believers in His house? How is it that darkness appears to be defeating light?

The struggle that I’ve been through the last few years, the problems that I’ve faced, pale in comparison to those of others. I’m not looking at imminent death. Still, it’s been a brutal road for me and my family, with poverty looming, the loss of a job, and emotional battles raging. I have found myself asking, more than I’d care to admit, where was God?

In my novels, this is a central theme, the ongoing erosion of faith in the face of evil and despair. For the Fox family, there are epic battles and catastrophic losses, and still William and Crystal are never truly destroyed. Their faith is stronger than my own has been, the sort of belief I long for and which I see in some of the strong Christians I know. I’m praying, learning, trying to guild myself with the Armor of God.

Often, the hardships we face make us question the beliefs we hold most dear. I believe that God uses times of tragedy, loss, and inexplicable pain to draw us closer to Him, to bring us to a better understanding of His nature. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It’s easy to blame God when terrible things happen. I know, because I’m guilty of this arrogant, human act. The truth is, evil in this world is committed by man. God did not cause that crazed, racist nutcase to enter a church and kill people. That was a decision that kid came to all on his own, one of free will. Our actions have consequences, for good or for bad.

God is alive and at work, and I’ve seen miracles with my own eyes. I’ve witnessed it in my life, and the lives of those that I love. Too often, I forget, for my faith is not as strong as it should be. In a world of seven billion people, there are tragedies every day, and the news will focus on the ten worst things and beat it into our brains, giving the impression that the world itself is bleeding and slipping into madness, that evil and peril lurk around every corner. We hear the bad but not the good, and this creates a pervasive, ongoing illusion, a destructive one, a lens through which we view the world shaded by darkness, one that filters out truth and light.

For the ten stories of accidents, shootings, disasters, and fires (the media is obsessed with fire of all sorts, from bombs to brush fires) there are a hundred stories we never get to hear. Lives saved, random acts of kindness, hope restored, faith found, and illness cured.

Where was God? He never left. He didn’t move, I did. Sometimes I forget.

“For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Ephesians: 5:8

A Christian Writer’s Journey


I’ve always been a dreamer, something that my father instilled in me from a very young age because he would say things like, “son if you work hard, you can be anything you want to be. Follow your dreams.”  I saw my old man write books, toil as a carpenter, and then go to law school. He practiced what he preached, rising from abject poverty to success through discipline and years of burning the candle at both ends. When I left the University of Florida to pursue a songwriting career, my dreams were vast and my ability limited. I had no idea how hard my road would be.

It occurs to me that I’ve had a lifelong problem managing my expectations, and this character trait has tarnished my relationships, my career, and my soul. When you shoot for the stars, mostly you don’t wind up where you thought you were going. The heart of the matter is pride. Leaning much upon my own understanding rather than upon God. So here’s my story, and perhaps some other folks can avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made, and perhaps with the telling of it, maybe I’ll finally wrap my head around the truth.


I moved to Nashville way back in 1992 with a heart full of dreams and a cheap guitar. Those first years were heady, back when I knew I would  “make it,” and I figured that within a few years, I’d be living the dream. I played the Bluebird, penned hundreds of songs with fellow songwriters,  and wrote every single day. I saw, quickly, that I had much to learn. I’d been in town for about a month when I saw a writers round with Bob DePiro and Mike Reid… they slayed me with their talent. Every song was perfection, their vocals were mind-blowing, and their musical ability was so far beyond me that I saw there was an entire mountain yet to climb. I embraced it, and I learned, worked on my craft, mentored by some great writers. I had songs on hold for major artists, went to number one parties, and rubbed elbows with the movers and shakers of Music Row. Then I started doing a dangerous thing.

I began spending too much time gazing at where I wanted to be rather than what I needed to do to get there, and worse, whether that was where I should go. Enter the bitterness, the, sense of betrayal and the resentment. The great Harlan Howard, whom I had the great pleasure of spending time with, once said to a disgruntled songwriter, “well, nobody called and asked you to move to Nashville.” Right.He didn’t say that to me, but it would have bee spot on. Nobody told me to decide to become a writer..that was my choice. But the desire to succeed was eating my soul, clouding my vision and ultimately hurting my music. Some of my fellow writers nicknamed me “Doctor Doom.”


I moved back to Florida following a divorce and the feeling of being let down in my songwriting career (or lack thereof,) thinking that I could leave writing in my rear-view mirror. I was wrong, and I started writing fiction, which didn’t require the same sort of schmoozing and glad-handing that songwriting seems to. When I got my first publishing deal, I was ecstatic. I’d signed a contract for a trilogy, and I hadn’t even written two of the books yet. I decided I would be a wildly successful author within perhaps a year or two. I’m hard headed, obviously, though my wife uses more colorful words to describe my frequent and woeful lack of understanding.

It takes years of hard work, multiple books, and networking, and talent to make it as an author. Like any other artistic endeavor, it’s a subjective thing, and people will buy what people buy. I find the writing in Fifty Shades of Grey to be awful, but tens of millions of people strongly disagree; E.L. James reached the stars by connecting with her readers, and more power to her. I could undoubtedly learn a thing or two from her. So, I’m writing, working, knowing it takes time, and trying not to chafe against that knowledge. Trying to enjoy the journey, and not focus on the destination.

During these decades of writing, I burned down one marriage and almost destroyed another. One of the central reasons this happened is because I expect things to go my way, and when they don’t, I get rankled. My essential impatience, my propensity to reach beyond my means to grasp. Marriage is hard work, and when things go south, which they will in any marriage at some point, I’ve had the feeling that things should be right again quickly. Wounds should heal, others should change, I should change…if not overnight, then within a time frame that I deem acceptable. Utter nonsense. It’s destructive. Because, once again, that resentment sets in and things only get worse. You end up feeling like you’re wasting your time, and when a sense of futility becomes pervasive, it’s already almost too late. It takes discipline and hard work to make it back from that.

Against this backdrop, I’ve experienced the same sort of impatience with God. It sounds as dumb as it is, yet when I’m in the midst of it, I can’t see it, missing the forest for the trees. I cry out to God, asking for help with more selfishness than humility: Help me make it as a writer, help my marriage, please send a briefcase full of money from the sky!  When I don’t get the quick results I desire, I feel betrayed. Like no one is really listening. Like the songs on the radio are full of false promises, and that the Word itself has misled me. But I have misled myself by choosing to focus on the wrong things, by hearing what I want to hear instead of the truth.

The truth is, life can be terrible, hard, and mean. And there is no assurance of a good outcome for any of us on this earth simply because we choose to follow God. The whole idea of abundance theory preached in many mega-churches is dangerous drivel.  It’s connected to Calvinism and the idea that success is predestined, a concept which helped to form the Protestant Work Ethic and build a nation, but which in many ways undermines the deeper message of the gospel. This Calvinistic attitude spawns the belief that poor are poor because God has decided it, and conversely that the wealthy are wealthy because they have earned favor in the eyes of the Lord. This belief system is insidious. Ask the Paul, Peter and Timothy about that.

Because the assurance and peace Jesus and the Apostles talk about is the eternal kind, not the earthly kind, and the our peace on this rock is found in knowing this and feeling fulfilled and joyous despite our circumstances. Salvation, peace, and joy are not things we have earned, but which come, ultimately, through the grace of God. Apart from God, I can do nothing. I am worth nothing. And this, perhaps, is the central truth I’ve missed over and over again.

The story isn’t mine. It never was. Paul extolls us in Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our fate…”  I’m an author, yet I’m not THE author. I focus on the things which I want, the tangible trappings of success, and I fix my gaze upon that which I cannot obtain alone. I cling to my pride like a talisman and wonder why I become disillusioned. I truly want to reach people, to touch lives and be a force of light, but I’ve been going about it all wrong, putting my own story ahead of the most important story.

It will take hard work and discipline, and faith, but when I look back twenty years from now, I pray I will be able to say that I was living and writing for the right reasons, not the wrong ones, and that I released my foolish pride, my selfish expectations, and human arrogance. By emptying myself, I pray that God will fill me with His spirit and that the kind of peace which matters is the peace I will have found.

I still have a mountain to climb, and my way is unclear. I have much to learn, and am certain I will falter. I am not alone, and in this knowledge I will rest assured, striving to fix my eyes on Jesus, my sole destination.


Altering the cycle… Love and Hate in America


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

   Martin  Luther King, Jr

Baltimore burns and the nation cringes. We see the non-stop coverage on CNN, the same inflammatory images repeating on an endless loop. Hate is like that, too. It doesn’t stop until we turn it off; unfortunately many people are turning it up, until rhetoric is a scream which drowns out any sort of hope to solve the underlying problems. The racial problems in this country, from economic disparities and police violence, to political disenfranchisement must be addressed. The nation is hurting and the rage seethes just beneath the surface, spilling out into the streets with increasing ferocity.

I’ve seen a staggering number of internet posts claiming that our current racial tensions are President Obama’s fault. The people who believe that are deluded. When Obama was elected the racists kicked into high gear, really putting their backs into it, finding ways to sow fear and cruelty and divisiveness. Hate-mongers with microphones and laptops have done their best to frame issues in the meanest, most lopsided ways possible, worsening a greater problem.

So the cycle continues something like this: poverty, lack of opportunity, and a toxic environment lead to a feeling of powerless, gut-wrenching anger. When racial profiling and police brutality are not only systemic, but systematically denied by governments, those same people get even angrier. They protest. Most of them are peaceful, but violence erupts, gasoline on the fire. While the news spends 90% of its time playing the inflammatory images of police getting hit by bricks or of stores burning, the media misses the greater story. The country misses the truth, and the truth is not black and white. The greater story, the real one, is more complicated… it’s more than one story. The one where blacks and whites are working together for positive change. The story of children handing out water bottles to police officers, cops risking their lives to save teenagers, grandmothers and fathers marching for justice that has thus far been elusive. The story that black teenagers know all too well, of the conversation their parents had with them when they first got their driver’s license. “If you get pulled over, keep your hands in sight at all time. Say ‘yes, sir,’ and don’t make any sudden moves.”  White kids don’t get that talk.

White people and black people alike are appalled by this violence in Baltimore. It’s counter-productive. It only serves to confirm racist suspicions coiled around the back of many people’s minds, triggering otherwise sane and seemingly decent people to spout bile like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Rather than stepping back for a moment and asking why these people are so angry, it’s easier to say “what kind of people burn their own city?”

And there it is, couched in what passes for discourse and news coverage. Words like us and them…Those people. There is an “otherness” about the dialogue, rather than a togetherness. Hate, rather than love.

Racism and bigotry are a choice. If this nation is to heal, each of us must do some collective soul-searching. We’ve got to choose love over hate. We must place a priority on our nation’s future, and that means creating more jobs and educational opportunities, putting an end to the bloodbath taking place every day in our inner cities. It means voting for leaders who recognize the severity of the problem and who offer realistic ways to address it, regardless of what party they happen to be affiliated with.

Rather than be outraged at the violence we’re seeing on the news, we should be shocked for the reasons it is happening. We must come together as one people in the spirit of unity and love, for that is the only way to end this cycle of hate.


The War on Christianity: The Enemy is Also Us


Christians face many dire threats around the world, from the decapitations in the Middle East to genocides in Africa, to the persecution carried out by China and Russia. Here in the United States, we hear much about the war against Christians, but it seems to me that the greatest threat comes from within.

The word “Christian” is first used in the book of Acts, and it means one who follows Christ. In America, this definition has been lost, ursurped by other things. Politics, and economics have nothing to do with following The Lord, and yet it seems that many Christians identify themselves by how they vote and where they shop. There is a shrill meanness to the way many Christians go about it, and it gives the rest of us a bad rap.

Jesus gave Christians a great commission, to spread the gospel to the corners of the earth. In the United States, generations are turning from God, and well meaning Christians with microphones and political signs and spirits full of judgement are a big part of the problem.

What Would Jesus Do?

Remember this catch phrase? It was effective because it asked an excellent question. So what would Jesus do now, in this world of sinners like me? Let’s look at what he actually did.

He offered forgiveness. We celebrated Easter last week. Jesus was nailed to a cross so that our sins would be covered. We know that none of us are perfect, that the wages of sin are death. Christ died so that we would not be condemned, giving us grace we did not deserve.

It seems many Christians have forgotten this.

Jesus spent his time among the outcasts. The prostitutes, the tax-collectors,  criminals and sinners. He admonished men to leave behind their worldly belongings and follow Him. He was welcoming, not shunning, leading by example and truth, offering healing in a hurting world.

Judgement is reserved for God, not man. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone..

Love Transcends Law…”The Greatest of These is Love”

The Old Testament Levitical laws no longer bind us. Entry into Heaven is given, not earned, and it is through faith not deed that we come to the Father. In James we read that “Faith without deeds is dead,”  but again, it is not for us to decide who has faith and who does not.

Christians seem to be focused on the wrong things. If we should, as Paul says in Hebrews “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith,” we have lost sight of the things that matter, missing the forest for the trees. When I see the new pope washing the feet of a Muslim woman, I think, that’s what Jesus would do!

One of my favorite verses in the New Testament is Ephesians 2:3:

“Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ been when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.”

A God-Shaped Hole

America is indeed hurting, and there is a God-shaped hole in each of us individually, and the nation entire. What we need is more Jesus, less hate. Greater love, less judgement. Faith which manifests itself by doing what Jesus actually did, bearing fruit that sustains a hurting world. Giving to the poor, helping the sick, spreading the gospel not with a sword but with the Truth.