Congratulations on your success. I'm sure a lot of people worked very hard to make that possible. I'm truly happy for you. I'm happy when anyone I care about sees their dreams come true. I keep hoping that one day mine will come true as well, but it's getting harder and harder to hold on to that hope.
We haven't talked in a long time Dude. Not since two Christmases ago. That was the Christmas that my book came out, and I was hopeful.
That was also the Christmas that...like many before...my daughter was being bullied and traumatized by the situation she was stuck in, and I was hoping to have a little success with my book, so I could get a place to live and get her out of that whole mess. I know you were aware of her situation, Dude, because I told you myself at the Bible study we attended. Others brought it to your attention too. So, I know you knew what was going on.
You knew I was homeless. You knew I was trying so hard. You knew how hard my life was and is and how lonely and crushing the isolation was. I know, because I told you. I told you that day in your office when you called me in to bitch-slap me for "not handling my trial the right way" as you put it. You even told me to "Get saved"
I was already doubting my value as a man, my ability as a daddy, and my worth as a human being. I left your office doubting my own salvation. Wondering if perhaps you saw something I had missed and now I wasn't even a Believer.
Thanks for that too, Dude. That was special.
So I guess that Christmas, when I really needed a little shove for the book...the one you claimed to love so much and actually endorsed (at least between us) and instead, you went far out of your way to ignore it and sand bag it...that shouldn't have surprised me.
But it did...and it hurt. It hurt a lot. You know what else hurt, Dude? Being homeless in your presence and in the presence of your church and never even getting so much as an e-mail encouraging me. Telling me not to quit. Telling me you were proud of me for doing what I did to stay in my daughter's life and remaining faithful as a dad. I never asked for financial help in all this. I lost my career...I lost the very things that make a man feel like he is a man. And never once did I ask you or the other beloved to rent me an apartment, give me a job, or even buy me a cup of coffee. I never asked. But I did reach out when I was hurting, and lonely, and scared. I was SO scared. Especially in those early days. I have always been a successful man and being homeless was frightening. It felt permanent. You don't understand that because you've never been homeless. But I have...and I still am. I've worked for three different companies that have gone out of business in this time. How odd is that? Do you think I'm lazy, or not wanting to work after knowing that? When I reached out to my small group, crying out desperately for answers when my world was crumbling and my daughter was suffering and I wished, sometimes, that I could die...I got bitch-slapped again. I saved a few of the emails I received, if you want to read them. They sure weren't loving. Or encouraging. Or hopeful. In fact, they made me feel worse. When I would come to church and sit by myself and hear the whisper of the enemy of my soul telling me what a loser I was, reminding me I was homeless and hadn't seen my daughter for more than 30 minutes in a couple of years...instead of reinforcing the truth, they reinforced what he was saying. I was ignored, rejected, and dismissed. People were more bothered by my sadness than by what was causing it. Thanks for that, too, Dude.
And still I stayed. And I supported. And I was a team player and a big promoter. When your book came out, I bought a box of them...even though I was broke and homeless, and gave them away. I gave one to my ex wife and she wound up buying a case of them to give to dying patients. I believed in YOU, Dude, way more than you believed in me. Way, way, more.
I got behind everything. I trumpeted every cause you were involved in. Because in truth...I loved you like a brother. When I use the term "brother"...I mean it.
But all I really got was more disappointment. More rejection.
Remember when I graduated from college two years ago? That was huge for me...a lifelong dream. I was homeless while I studied for those two and a half years. That was hard, Dude. Very very hard. I have permanent damage to tissue in my neck from studying in my car. My graduation was a big victory. I never even heard from you at all...not even an email saying "congratulations", nothing. If it were the other way around, I would have been very proud and let you know how proud of you I was. But I got crickets.
When I came to you for advice, because I knew God had been talking to me and calling me to ministry, you gave me fifteen minutes, (while your body language said, "I'd rather be anywhere but here!") and told me it wasn't God. That hurt Dude. It hurt a lot.
All those times my daughter was hurting and helpless and nobody ever asked how she was...that hurt. It hurt because I didn't have any family here, and you knew that, and you ignored it. That hurt Dude.
It hurt when I was rejected for the final time. When you were in a position that you could have helped, with just a word, and instead you remained silent. That hurt. It hurt because had I been famous, or powerful, or wealthy, or connected...you would have moved on my behalf. But I couldn't advance your cause in return, so it wasn't worth it to you. But it would have been worth it to me. And the thing is...I would have done it for you without hesitation.
It hurt, Dude. And it all hurts. This life of mine hurts. This crushing, loneliness and shame and embarrassment and pain and failure...it hurts. And all I wanted was a friend. Maybe a prayer partner. Maybe a slap on the back, congratulating me for the occasional victories I have managed to squeeze out in the midst of this devastation.
But I got silent rejection. Over and over. And came back for more because I loved you dearly.
I don't feel that now, Dude. I also don't feel hate. I feel nothing. Nothing but the empty vacuum of rejection and isolation and the unChristlike silence that narrated your place in this desert I have been walking.
Congratulations Dude. You worked hard for that "big get." You put great effort into your success and -knowing how hard that sort of success is- I know what a coup that was.
I'm truly happy for you. I mean that.
I miss your friendship, but I realize that apparently, we don't define "friend" the same way. Or "brother"
The Dude abides.
To contact Craig for speaking or interview opportunities, email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit his website (Big Fat Grace) at www.craigdaliessio.com
You can also visit his business page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Daliessio-Custom-Carpentry/155616481191873
Friday, April 18, 2014
I don’t know where the term “Good Friday” originally came from. I could Google it, and then write something pithy, and appear to be a scholar, but I’m not writing about the naming of the day today. At least not from a literal position.
It certainly wasn’t a good day for Jesus. Not from a human standpoint at least. We know what happened and there is no need for me to recount the terrible, inhuman, demonic butchery that the Romans undertook on the Son of God. Adding to the physical torture, was the fact that His own Father had to turn His back and abandon Him as he was nailed to a cross, like a poster to a telephone poll. It wasn’t good for Jesus.
It wasn’t good for Mary, His mother. To watch Him die slowly, after having watched him being beaten and battered and nearly skinned alive. To see His blood spill and spatter and to feel the helpless devastation that a parent must surely feel when their child –no matter what age- precedes them in death. There is no Biblical evidence that, by this time, Mary understood His mission or even His personage, fully. No biblical record tells us that Jesus took her aside and said, “Listen Mom, some very terrible things are going to happen to me and I am going to be killed. Don’t worry, though, because I’ll rise from the grave in three days.” No. Nothing like that at all.
It wasn’t a good day for his friends, especially Peter, who had so vehemently denied Him in such a base manner. Or for John, who stayed nearby and maybe had some of the blood and pieces of His flesh splattered on his own garments.
It wasn’t a good day for Judas, who sold Him for thirty pieces of silver and then killed himself because of the guilt.
It wasn’t a good day for Pilate, who tried to extricate himself from the responsibility of his actions by a symbolic washing of his hands.
It couldn’t have been a good day for God, the Father, who had planned this day from Creation, and who had to look away when the sin of all mankind fastened itself to His Son as He writhed in unspeakable agony on a vicious cross, in a garbage dump on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem. The “City of Peace.” It wasn’t very peaceful for Jesus.
It wasn’t good for the Jews, who thought, only five days before, that this was their Messiah. Now he was just another criminal, taken out with the rest of the trash, baking in the sun as his wounds festered and his heart beat itself to it’s end.
It wasn’t, above all else, a good day for me, or for you, unless you view this moment in time from the right perspective, and make the right decision about it.
This day wasn’t about Love. Not the way it’s been repackaged and sold to the world by neo-evangelicals and emergents and seeker-friendlies. Jesus didn’t endure this so that, in the name of love, we could take a quick look, feel a twinge of sadness, reduce the moment to just another event in the pantheon of world religion, and then mold it into some sort of hall pass that gives us the right to be the same as we were before we first stood here, watching this man die. The Cross isn’t where you spend two minutes in the penalty box and then go back out to play.
This wasn’t a good day for humanity, as the Universalists portray it. Not in the least. This was a day for deciding. This was a day for falling on one side or the other –with no middle ground- in the eternal struggle for the souls of men.
This was, as I have said many times before, a Head-On Collision moment.
The Cross of Christ is not good. Not if you don’t understand it, don’t grasp it, don’t accept it, and especially if you don’t fall on it and die. Period. No exceptions. This is where your world breaks in two like a saltine cracker. This is where you stare God in the face and either say “Yes, you did this for me, you bought my soul here, I will die eternally without you, I accept you for who you are, leaving all other gods and forms of religion behind. In return for this I give you my life. And I expect that life to be broken, reshaped and made over.” Period.
This is not Good Friday for Bell, McLaren, Tickle and Osteen. Because contrary to their views, you must STILL BE BORN AGAIN. Jesus didn’t just randomly spill His blood so that the entire world could sing and dance and drink and party and face no consequences, eternal or temporal. The Cross didn’t open God’s checkbook, his airplane hangar, or His architecture. And it didn’t reduce His Presence to a carnival ride, where anyone can jump aboard.
When you come to the Cross you decide. You decide right then and right there whether you will fall on this “Rock of offense,” and be broken and reshaped, or whether this Rock will fall on you and crush you into a useless dust, suitable only for destruction.
There is no playing around. The Cross will brook no compromise. The Cross stands smack dab in the middle of the road to eternity and there is no room to squeeze by the sides. To proceed beyond the Cross, you must climb on it yourself, die there, and be raised in Christ as a new man. The only other option is to turn away and go in the opposite direction. There are no detours or exit ramps.
Matthew 21:44 lays it out unmistakably... “Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” There is no room for compromise in that verse. This is Jesus speaking about Himself.
John 14:6, again Jesus tells us without any room for debate: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Nobody comes to God unless they go through Me.” (emphasis mine) Nobody. Not Oprah, not Mohammad, not Gandhi, not, the Pope, and not me. Nobody. That’s Good if you believe Jesus’ words. It’s not if you don’t.
Good Friday is good only for those who see Calvary for what it really is, see themselves for who they really are, see Jesus for who He really is, and surrender to the reason for the event. For everyone else, Good Friday is not Good.
If you reject this day, that man, His Cross...you have no hope in the Sunday that followed. If you turn away from this horrifying scene of butchery, or if you hesitate and stand in the shadows waiting for a more convenient day to decide, or if you try to reason a way around the call to join Him in his death so that you can live...this is a very bad day indeed.
As it always has been, the choice is yours. If you stand here at this dividing line in history and you do anything but surrender to it, accept it’s means and method, fall to your knees in confession that you needed this terrible day in order to secure your eternity, and finally grasp it’s purpose and relinquish your life to the Savior...then you’ve missed it by a mile.
This day is the day you decide, if you haven’t already.
Make it a Good day.
Monday, April 14, 2014
*May 5 marks the first anniversary of the release of what I believe is my best book so far. In the year that has passed, I have learned a lot. I decided to re-release the book with a spruced up cover and the following post script...no other changes were made to content.
Remembering America...Looking Back at the Last Innocent Age
Remembering America...Looking Back at the Last Innocent Age
A year has passed since I sat down at a Panera on a gloomy Saturday morning in May, in Franklin, TN. and uploaded this book to the publishing world. A long, grinding, difficult, heartbreaking year. So much has happened in that span. So many tears and so many smiles. Along the way, I learned some things.
I learned how broken we are as a country, as a people. Our spirits are bent, our pockets are empty and our dreams have been replaced with the relentless, harsh minutiae of merely surviving. Surviving policy that chokes off industry and eventually, kills personal achievement. Surviving the cold grip of isolation we feel more and more each day, even as the internet shrinks the world to fit on a fourteen inch computer screen, or a cell phone display no bigger than a credit card.
We can find out anything we want to about anyone we wish...but we don’t really take the time to know anyone anymore. That has made us angry, short tempered, volatile and exhausted. We left something very important behind when we turned the page on the innocence of the world I wrote about in this book. And we are very, very much worse off for it.
We have a government that has gone from being big, lethargic, and difficult, to being an industry all it’s own, with a language all it’s own, answering to no one. We the people have been usurped by Me...the ruler. That’s dangerous. That’s frightening.
That’s not America.
I never wrote this book intending to make a political statement. It wasn't necessary and the stories weren't about politics. But they are about Americanism. They are about Patriotism as a way of life, and respect for our heritage and our history and for each other. They are stories about personal greatness, and drive and ambition and desire and none of those things being frowned upon as something bad. They were celebrated as the very things that made us great. Really, truly, great.
We have removed God not only from schools, but from the lexicon, the public square, and even the sale papers at Christmas. And why? This nation was founded by Christians, upon Christian principles, with Christian ideals, and the goal of allowing all to live here but recognizing what the Founders saw as the superiority of Christianity. We were never a “Christian Nation,” not in the model of a Theocracy, but we were definitely intended to be a predominantly Christian society. We have killed that, and condemned it’s remnants to the scrap heap. Are we better for it?
Are we better for political correctness or are we more divided? When we strip one group of their right to believe and practice their heritage, and do it in the name of “tolerance” aren't we then being intolerant of that group? When we label every single word we disagree with as “hate” we find ourselves isolated and surrounded only by those who think exactly like we do. That’s tragic.
Kids are being bullied at a record clip, and the answer is, sadly, more and more kids being pushed to the brink and responding with a gun or a knife. Why? Because political correctness has stripped bare the natural response to “teach a bully a lesson” behind the school yard, or in the bathroom at school. I did it. You did it. In another time in this country, that was part of moving from boy to man, and in almost every case, the two protagonists wound up becoming lifelong friends. Not anymore. Now we press charges, teach anti-bullying classes and merely supress the anger deeper into the psyche of the parties involved.
Somehow, in the years since the Innocent Age ended, we have attached shame to success, derision to diligence, and we've come to view fierce independence and something akin to madness. Entitlement has stripped us of the rock-ribbed determination to succeed -and succeed our way- that brought this country the greatness she enjoyed. Why? What is so intrinsically evil about a man refusing a handout and standing on his own, facing the winds of difficulty, and digging in to make another go of it?
Not every discovery in this past year has been bad. I am homeless again. The house I was renting was sold and this economy still won’t bend enough to let me get back on my feet. But I learned how much I can take in the name of loving my daughter and staying in her life. And it’s a lot. I learned that a real man doesn't look for a handout as much as he looks for another deck to build, or a wall to paint, or a room to remodel. So he does those things and keeps pushing forward...most of the time through tears and sweat and the fear of defeat.
I also learned one very sweet lesson, about the power of words and memories. About a month after releasing this book, I sent a copy to Mrs. Messick, Sheila's mom, whom I describe in the opening chapter and whose death inspired, in many ways, the memories of Monroe Avenue and the joys we all shared. I had not talked to Mrs. Messick in a couple of years. It was wonderful as we spoke for an hour or so about the stories in the book, and the times our families had shared. There was laughter, joy, and a few tears. Laughter made the still-fresh pain of losing Sheila just a little more tolerable, if only for a moment. And that was enough.
I want my daughter to have a chance at this world. What will that take? I think it will take a return to God, to Patriotism, to Americanism, and to a place where we once again force the leaders we elect to feel responsible to us, and not to themselves and their self-interests. Can we do it? I don’t know. But if you’ve read this far...you know that it’s worth the effort.
God Bless America.