The blog below is written by an accomplished writer, speaker, counselor and a former pastor who I am honored to call friend. Ramon Presson and I have known each other for several years. I asked him for an article for my blog that was not one of his hysterically funny pieces but one that reflects on something I think he does so well, puts things in perspective.

I feel this article ties in well to a new book he wrote I just got done reading, When Will My Life Not Suck. The book is short, easy to read and excellent, a hard to put down book. Those of us that know this man want the sales to soar. Trust me when I say he has put his heart and soul into this book; he wrote this for everyone as a sort of mission, a calling if you will. The book is not just for the depressed, the lowly or those who need an attitude adjustment, it offers everyone something who pick it up and quickly read it. It is full of his trademark humor, beautifully written, interspersed with a story from scripture compared to present day life. He uses real people as illustrations to make his points (including himself) and yes, I even saw my name mentioned in there too. The compassion of Christ and the blessing of my friend Ramon spills off the pages…buy a copy, you will not be disappointed. If you are, I want to hear from you!

Truth and Snake Charming

The young lady was willingly doing something you could not pay me enough to do—walk around in an enclosed pit of snakes. An employee of the quaint zoo near Maggie Valley, NC, Allison laced the top of her boots as she spoke to the twenty people gathered around the fenced rim of the rectangular concrete pit, the floor crawling and oozing with snakes. My skin was crawling all over itself trying to get away. Armed with only a short metal pole with a hook on the end, Allison closed the gate behind her and took the several steps down into my worst nightmare. Allison shuffled her feet among the serpents. (“I’m shuffling instead of picking my feet up because I don’t want to step on a snake and hurt it.”) Compassion for snakes seems rather misdirected if you ask me.

Allison would gather up a reluctant specimen with her hooked pole and describe it to us, including whether it was poisonous or not. Most were not, but my heart rate and shallow breathing didn’t seem to register that. In my ecology every snake is deadly and must be avoided or killed—preferably by someone else. But the lady moved easily about the crawlers, talking to the evil creatures as if they were a litter of puppies or flock of lambs.

Talking Back to Fear

Our brave (or crazy) Allison anticipated the question on everybody’s mind, (besides the one about her ever being able to attract a normal husband ): “How can you not be deathly afraid of being in a pit of snakes, some poisonous, all slithering and fully equipped with fangs?”

“You see these boots?” Allie said. She told us what kind of tough material her dark tan boots were made of, but it was definitely not the steel or iron which I would have insisted on. Allie said that a snake bite could not penetrate the hide. Not only that but the height of the boots were calculated to exceed the height above the ground at which any snake ( other than cobra) could strike. “Since snakes do not elevate their heads and strike more than 12-18 inches off the ground I’m safe as long as I don’t fall down in here.” Now I had a new horrific image to paint in my head—falling face-first into a brood of vipers.

Later that evening it occurred to me that while Allison is more inherently comfortable with slimy reptiles than I am, her fear and anxiety were calmed by truth. First, she knew that no snake’s fangs could penetrate the tough boots she wore to protect her lower legs. Secondly, Allie knew there was no snake present in the pit physically able to strike above the top of her protective boots. Thirdly, she knew that as long as she did not fall, she was completely safe.

If the Truth be Told

The words of Jesus came to mind, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Allison knew the truth about the snakes and her gear and that knowledge set her free from fear, enabling her to stroll among serpents. Think of the logical converse of Jesus’ words: if knowing and believing the truth is what sets you free, then what holds you captive? Yes, you and I are held captive by believing falsehoods, subtle lies, while operating as though the fallacy is completely valid and accurate.

I see clients, friends, loved ones seemingly unable to believe the better truth about themselves and instead give the podium to a magnification of a past mistake, or hand over the microphone to an exaggeration of a weakness. They silence the voice of contrary evidence which affirms their character, intelligence, ability, and worth. I see people who sadly engage in self-branding with damaging nouns and adjectives, or who accept the labels pronounced upon them by others. I wish to help them gaze into a more truthful and grace-filled mirror. I long for them to embrace the line from Calvin Miller’s The Singer that “No man may burn a label into flesh and make it stay when heaven disagrees.” And that, my friends, is the truth.

One of Tennessee’s most published therapists, author Ramon Presson is the founder of LifeChange Counseling & the Marriage Center of Franklin. Visit him at www.LifeChangeCS.org or contact him at ramon@ramonpresson.com (615) 319-6450.


Live Your Dream

Are you holding on to a dream or are you living it? If you are not living it, what are you waiting on?

As a friend and I walked in the woods encircling her home, we reviewed our lives. We each took our turn discussing how we got to where we were, what led us to meeting each other and both being at the same place at the same time. That inevitably led to the circumstances to be just right for our friendship to form. We both like to think that God had a hand in it.

As we opened up and shared our feelings with each other about our joys and our sorrows, we realized how rich our lives had been. It was one of those ah-ha moments. The light bulb came on during out chat, and we appreciated how interesting our lives had been. Our lives, in the day to day scheme of things, may seem mundane, but, in actuality, they are not in the complete package. As each of us is unique, our lives are also.

I suppose one can never talk to a friend about their live and the past without talking about the future. So it was that day, our conversation progressed to the what’s next for each of us. Both of us, having been cancer survivors, are reminded daily that life on earth is not a given. God is the only sure thing.

This conversation with my dear friend came back to me this week when my husband started talking about a milestone birthday he has coming up. He had concerns about the 'number'. Like so many of us, he finds himself getting focused on the age he is turning and what he hasn't done, what he doesn't have. Is that not what society markets to us all?

Oh how easily we forget all we have done and how blessed we are to be alive to even have the chance talk about it! My husband, for example, what exactly is he running out of time for? What does he have to do that is so awfully important to stress over today, which could be his last day, who knows but the good Lord above.

God gave me a little more time to spend with him,my husband, my best friend. That turned out to be my best dream, the only way that truly mattered and it is happening,; I am living it. My husband and I then went on to talk about what he wants to do with the rest of his time, our time together as we know it is limited, cancer taught us that and age is showing us mortality is inevitable too. Thus, we made some plans. Modest though they are as in this economy compromise is a must! Who can really afford to fly to the moon?

Whatever the dream is, the time we are given (our gift from God),is non negotiable. Plan accordingly and consider revising it if it is way out of reach. Unrealistic dreams are like unrealistic goals, lessons in self defeat. I wish that it had not taken cancer for me to realize how soon my time here will end but then again, some of us just have to get that big old sign to get the message loud and clear, LIFE IS SHORT.

Perfect time to write this with Easter coming up. Amen to Jesus for letting us know what is on the other side........

Hence I propose the following:

•Make sure your dreams are realistic and worth holding onto.
•Let others in on your heart’s desire, your dream, so that they will hold you to it and also help make it come together. There is sometimes no greater joy than helping others achieve their dream. (Why keep all the fun to yourself?)
•Make a plan, set up a course of action. Dreams don’t just happen; you have to care enough to make them happen. (If you want to marry someone, you have to date them first, preferably anyways!)
•Then enjoy it for all it is worth. And know that you have, indeed, made your Father proud.

For He, also, had a dream…

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…..” (Genesis 1:1)

And YOU are part of it!


You Wade on my Heart

I never intended to care. Heck, I was already a grown up, I had grown children and grandkids. What do I need another parent in my life for anyways? Why would I want a relationship with someone new that lives13 hours away? We have no shared blood, no long ago memories together. We have only one link, my mom.

He married her many years ago and I, in the process, picked up a stepdad, Wade Ketterman. I never really got to know him much until a little over a year ago. Prior to meeting him, my sister told me plenty. I heard what a wonderful man he was, how good he was to my mother and how well liked he was by her family. Wade was a keeper, a simple man who had an unselfish kind of love towards my mom, Margaret. He loved being with her, sharing his life with her and wanted to grow old with my mom.
I suppose because I am my mother’s daughter, he embraced me the same way, with open arms. And never have I met anyone that has so easily and warmly received me as him. My stepdad is hard to resist, how can you not love this guy?

Wade calls to let me know when Mom has had health issues, he calls to check on me and he calls to just simply say hello. Wade is not afraid to say I love you back to me either on a call even though he is from that generation where those words are not uttered much by real men! He is comfortable in his own skin and with telling you how he really feels about things if you are willing to listen.

And I do enjoy listening. As I have gathered bits and pieces of his life, I have figured out some of the makeup of who Wade Ketterman is, part of it anyways.
Wade was born in Pennsylvania around 1930ish. He lived a simple life and came from a family of quite a few children. A lot of the details of his life I am missing. Let’s just say there are many missing pages there. If I were writing a book, I would need to spend hours upon hours with him to fill in the gaps. And I would treasure those moments too. I can tell, from the wrinkle lines in his face, what great stories he would have too!

He spent quite a few years in Florida, on the coastline. He built a boat used on an Elvis Presley movie while living in the South! Christianity is part of who he is and years ago, he even taught children bible classes. He has a son, Roger but they have an estranged relationship. I think, like many relationships, too many hurt feelings over the years turned things sour. Such a shame too when his heart is so full of love and forgiveness that his son will never get to experience the pureness of it during his father’s later years. But one day, I am certain, God will shower the knowledge down on Roger so he too will know that his father was indeed a good man with a good heart.

The sincerity of Wade is so evident. This is one trait I just love about him! He is a man with very few words but when he speaks he means what he says, therefore, the words take on added power. Some might say he is a simple man because he is not all that complicated. But if you think simple means unwise than you do not know Wade, his intuition about life and people is remarkable. He has tremendous insight but he the strong silent type that does not force his opinions on others unless asked. I try to find the time to ask Wade his views, when no one else is around or over the telephone and am never displeased by his responses and his openness.

I have learned from Wade the pure simple joy in connecting with someone later in life and quickly making a connection. He has touched my soul in a special way that makes me so glad to have him a part of my life. He is a kind caring gentle man with a wonderful smile. I find his humor funny, his passion moving and his ability to hang in there when the going gets tough moving.

Getting to know Wade so well and care deeply about him made the call I received a month ago so hard to hear. The sores in his throat were not just cancer, but Stage 4. Since that day, the calls have been filled with news, mostly bad stuff and I think I have tried my best to weather the storm of emotion but when you love someone in a special way, it is not always easy. Who can shut down their heart?

Now, as my stepdad faces and lives with cancer, my heart is heavy. I had so many things I wanted to do with Wade that I will never get to do. I had a hundred more times in me to say I love you pops or just simply sit and be near him to make him. I know we live on God’s time and not on ours but I can’t help wishing I had met him earlier. Why couldn’t we have lived closer so we had more time to spend if our time was going to be shortened? He wanted to see the more rural area I live in, where my house is, and that won’t happen. Time ran out. Wade said he wanted to bring my mom to Tennessee and be near me. That day will never come. I wanted him to go on a vacation with us somewhere so I could see the light in his eyes when we did something adventurous but now the adventure he will experience will be the everlasting joy of heaven and I will be left here waiting and wondering when I will see him again. I do not want him to suffer, I want him out of pain but he will be missed. There will be a void that I never knew existed in me before I met Wade.

I wish Wade more days of smiles and less days of pain. I hope the drugs he gets for the remainder of his time on earth are wonder drugs so my pal will know God has mercy on him. He has lived a good live, fought a good fight and deserves a fitting end. He told me he has led a rich life. He has done so many things. I can see the laugh lines around his face, the twinkle in his eyes and the way he carries himself when he walks to know he has lived..oh yes, Wade has lived his life with vigor.

I can let him go but only because I know I will see him again, on the other side. As soon as I get to Heaven, he better flag me down! God knows, I love my step father Wade very much. I want to feel his arms around me when I get to heaven.

I am grateful God let Wade in my life. We touched each other’s souls in a special way that I can just feel inside; I know he can too. When I see him again, in heaven, God will have given him back an ability to have a booming voice that can be easily understood and I will be able to sit and hear the rest of the stories he never quite got to finish telling me of his life! Amen.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear
no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:4