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Heart Disease

Just recently, this world lost a good man. His name was Robbie Yandle, and I had known him for almost 43 years. Longer than I have known anyone except for immediate family.

Robbie wasn’t my best friend, but I consider him my first friend. Yeah there’s a story attached, and I’m pretty old so my memory is fuzzy but some stuff stands out. I hope I tell it right.

I was born in Southern California to some pretty standard run of the mill hippies. I think of myself as an accident. Or I used to. Product of free love and all. By the time I was old enough to understand some things, I’d been back and forth between Oklahoma and California about a dozen times and lived with a variety of family members.

I was with my mother, living in Midwest City when I started kindergarten. Things seemed to be good at the time but one day nobody was there to pick me up from school. No biggie. I’d never walked home but I knew the way. When I got there, nobody was home except my not quite 2 year old sister. It was strange but I did my best. I knew how to make toast so that’s what we ate that night. And for the next four days.

The food I knew how to make was gone, Hannah was crying and sick, we were all alone. And out of the blue, my aunt and uncle showed up and rescued us both. We lived with them from that day on, and they eventually adopted us both.

Because of that experience though, something happened in my heart. It’s taken me most of my life to get past it.

When my aunt and uncle took us from that place, we went to a little town called Harrah, Oklahoma. They had a little house on a hill, a place we learned to call home. Regardless of all the places we moved to because of my dad’s job, Harrah was always my home. Still is. Here’s why –

Right after we were rescued, my (new) mom took me to church at Harrah First Baptist. I went into the kindergarten class. Mrs Grimes was the teacher. And I sat by a boy named Robbie Yandle. He was the first person I met, my first real friend ever. It was enormous for me. It started a lifelong process of healing a heart that was broken, sick, stomped to pieces.

I met others as time went on. I was in kindergarten, first and second grade in Harrah before we moved. And we moved a lot! After moving four times between second and sixth grade, we moved back to Harrah.

By then I was as closed off as a person could be. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know where I belonged. On top of that I was a skinny asthmatic who did poorly in social settings. I didn’t trust anyone and I held people in contempt because they always ended up hurting me somehow. So I looked for ways to make people stay away from me.

But some very good people took an interest anyway, and the healing began again. The thing about it is, I have never told these people just how important they were to me, or why.

Who I am today is partly due to those people having a role in healing my diseased heart – and just who am I?

I am a minister to the broken, a lover of those who have been hurt. There is not one single thing in my life that the enemy tried to use to destroy me that God has not redeemed. Not one single moment of time has been wasted – it is all His and now I share these things and who I am – saved, healed, set free, discipled, equipped, empowered and serving The Lord.

It took 40 years for me to get over what two people did to me in my first five years of life. But there were a lot of people involved in my being set free from that terrible past. And like I said, not a minute of it has been wasted. I want to thank some very specific people right now – because you should know just how important you are to me –

Robbie Yandle, Wes Brewer, Kevin Harkey – you guys were the first ones I got to know when I started school in Harrah. And even when we moved away, we still came back on the weekends. I’d see you in church or go to your house or birthday party or whatever. And when we moved back you were the first to welcome me home.

Tony Sossamon – do you remember setting all that land on fire right behind your house? When I broke my arm skateboarding but your dad wouldn’t give me a ride home? Prank calls, playing football in your back yard, baseball cards, OU games, rock fights and a bunch of others stuff – you are a true friend!

David Byers – wow what can I say about the coolest guy I’ve ever known? I tell my kids stories about you! You put up with a lot from me and I’m glad! Seriously – I thank God for you often! Plus you still have a great head of hair!

Marc Bell – I truly admire you. You have the best heart I’ve ever known. You are one of the most genuine people I have ever met. There’s nothing about you that is not awesome.

Curt Munger, Todd Caldwell, Jay Ramer – you three were like brothers to me. I love you all and would do anything for any of you any time. You said what needed to be said – you spoke encouraging words over me, you spoke the truth in love. You may have even beat the crap out of me for my own good a time or two.

The Gobin family, Middleton family, Deaton family – any time I was at your home, I was home. You took care of me, you treated me like I belonged right where I was – at your house eating your food, fishing in your pond, pealing out in your driveway, staying way too late, getting there way too early, and in at least one case blowing a hole in your floor with a 12 gauge shotgun. Steve told me it wasn’t loaded so not all my fault. I love each and every one of you!

Danny King – you’re my brother from another mother. Possibly the most important person in my life when I was a kid. I think about all the crap we got away with and wonder why we are not in prison. I just flat out love you man. And I’m proud of you – you’re a great dad, husband and a good man!

Jim Dillingham – you live like 5 miles from me and I never see you! What’s up with that? You’re as much my brother as any. You’re funny as crap and I love your stories and your funny voices. Do Theo for me!

Donovan Ward – high school friend, college roomie. You put up with stuff no person should have to put up with. I’m truly sorry. Your friendship meant the world to me!

Troy Caldwell and Randy Maxey – like two younger but not by much brothers. You guys had a friendship I envied. Two of the funnest people ever. I always knew I’d be laughing when you guys were around.

Deni Staples – one of the best people on the whole planet. To this day you encourage and challenge me. I love you and think you are awesome!

Donna Link – the first girl I ever loved for real. Well, who loved me back anyway. You just accepted me as I was and made me feel important.

Jimmie Parker – another great guy from high school who lives right down the road from me. I remember some trouble making, a lot of laughing, some foreign liquids introduced into the radiator of your car, sitting in opposite corners of the room in chem class and a bunch of other stuff. And that one ski trip where I got into some trouble. I blame the Methodist youth group to this day for most of what they say I did.

Mark Thompson, Branch Staton, David Staton, Clint Gray, Thomas Halsell, Brian Wideman – true Christian brothers who sharpened me and did their best to keep me on track. I was a mess in college. For the love of what all is holy I tried to stab a man with a fork in the cafeteria! I’m glad you were there to pull me off of him and for a million other things!

That’s all I can think of right now. Plus it’s gone on about two days too long. If I think of more I’ll add to later. I love you all so much! Plus don’t think if your name isn’t here you didn’t mean anything to me because you’d be wrong!

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(R)Evolution

evolutionJust a few words about why we are here (Cheryl and I, I mean. You’ll have to develop your own origin back story. Sorry.) and what we are doing. It’s a short tale, so just hang on with me for a minute or two.

I first started blogging about seven years ago – my first website was called “Rich’s Blog-O-Rama.” I posted funny stories, stupid fail videos, ranted about life and work and it was, generally speaking, a mess. Kinda like tumblr, minus the naked people. In spite of that, the site was visited, on average, 78 times a day. I had a lot of comments, and several other bloggers linked to things I had posted. This was all before twitter, and before most people knew what facebook was. I felt good about it, but I also felt like I could do more, but I was in no position to do what I wanted to do – more on that in a minute…

So basically I just got sick of it at some point, and closed it down. I kept writing – joined facebook about that time and posted long rambling posts and decided I needed another blog so I started “My Dreams They Aren’t As Empty” where I whined a lot about the state I was in spiritually, physically and mentally all the time. Not a lot of people got anything out of that, but I kept posting. I have deleted some of those posts, but the first one was 2/21/10, about the winter olympics.

Somewhere in all that, we started going to a new church, Gateway, and we really loved it – felt at home in church for probably the first time since I was a kid growing up in Harrah. And somewhere in all that, we started finding freedom – freedom to be all that we were created to be. My blog posts, and facebook and twitter posts began taking a turn toward more spiritual things, encouraging things, and somewhere in all that, I changed the name of my blog to “Not Ready For Prime Time.”

I called it that because I knew that God had a place for me in ministry, but I didn’t know what that would look like. I had been a pastor for 15 years – and it ended badly and we were hurt badly and I didn’t ever want that to happen again.

Anyway – the more we learned about who God is and how He sees us – as His children, as important enough to die for, dearly loved and adopted into His family – the more we wanted others to know God in this way. So, yet again I changed the name and the theme of my blog – to “Free Falling.” April 25, 2012 was my first post, called “Matt Foley, Lucifer and You.” It was actually a pretty popular post, and defined my style for the next year and a half – funny, goofy, catchy title, but some pretty good content. I would include a few very serious topics with some funny ones and had a great time learning and growing. Cheryl had started a blog around that same time, and we shared each other’s links a lot and were doing ok as part time amateur bloggers.

But, God was asking us to do more. We didn’t know what, but as we grew in Him, that vision began to firm up a bit, and last year, as we prayed and fasted, it really took a shape that we began to love and long for. We still weren’t there yet…but we knew something very cool was coming.

And that is this – rebuilt from the ground up, brand new website, new focus, new ministry right here on the internet. Freefallingonline.com. This is place where you can come to be encouraged, to discuss what is on your heart and mind, to find hope, healing and freedom. Freedom like Cheryl and I have found. Freedom to be everything that God created us to be. Instead of each of us having our own blog, we are both going to be posting to this one, and we have designed it to be simple – simple to post, simple to have discussions, simple to make friends and simple to meet needs.

So – that’s our evolution. The love and grace of God has brought us here, and we are here for you! Now, take a minute and reflect on your origin story – how did you get where you are right now, and where do you think God wants to take you from here?