I still remember how adorable he was when he first arrived back in September 1968 to be my brother. He was one and a half years old when he, his father, and his older brother moved in with my mom, sister, three brothers and me. My mom and new stepfather had just gotten married. Now there were nine people—two parents and seven kids—all living in 1,200 square feet. It might have been a little crowded, but looking back, I’m not sure I would have had it any other way. At the time, we were a family!
My sister, brothers, and I had just lost our father in January of that year due to a massive heart attack. Lowell and his brother had just lost their mother around the same time from a severe infection that took her life.
Lowell was the baby of the family. He was the special, adorable one. I loved the way he looked up to me. The way he wanted to be just like me. The way he wanted to do everything I did, just because I did it. Not that I was anything special, but the fact that he thought I was, always meant the world to me.
When I was fourteen, Lowell was seven. Our father’s employer was having a company picnic at Oxbow Park in Portland, Oregon, where we lived at the time. We had just consumed about 20 hot-dogs and several sodas. But Lowell insisted we go on the Spider amusement park ride. I wasn’t much of a fan of spinning, twirling, up, down, turn around until you puke rides, but Lowell, he could ride anything, and of course, he wanted to ride with me. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t know the price he’d have to pay for that desire.
For those of you who don’t know what the Spider is, it is an amusement park ride that has five main arms with two buckets for two people each at the end of each arm for a total of 10 pairs of riders. Its sole purpose is to go up and down and spin you around, slowly at first and then picking up speed. The faster it goes, the higher you go, and the more you turn and spin and jerk up and then down. It’s a lot of fun (NOT). It lasts about three minutes, and I think that is about two minutes and fifty-nine seconds too long.
From the beginning, I didn’t feel well. What I mean to say is that I started feeling queasy right away. It could have been all the food we consumed five minutes earlier, but I’m not sure, that is just speculation. I remember how proud Lowell was getting to ride with his older brother. I remember seeing Mom and Dad standing under the awning watching us kids ride, waving at us as we went around picking up speed. Two of my younger brothers were riding with us in another car.
We must have made about 4 or 5 spins around when it happened. Hot dog chunks just started spewing out of my mouth, and I couldn’t stop it. I remember distinctly looking at them flying through the air and musing to myself, “Wow, those are barely digested chunks of hot-dog.” I also remember looking at Lowell as I was spewing hot-dogs pieces around the park. I think he was trying to dodge the projectiles, not having much luck. There was a look of fear on his face, thinking he was going to get hit by some of them.
Lowell, stuck in this two-foot car with me, was trying to move as far away from me as he could. This may have been the only time I ever felt that Lowell no longer wanted to be with his “big brother.” I think if he could have, he would have jumped out of the spinning, twirling, jerking, spider. The momentum of the ride combined with the spinning was tossing vomit all over the place and all over everyone. Especially Lowell and me. I believe we ended up with the brunt of the mess. However, I do recall seeing hot-dog chunks flying through the air and hitting bystanders on the ground.
As the ride slowed down to let us off, two of my younger brothers, Merit and Bobby, were in a car next to us. When the ride stopped, they got off first. Of course, one of them had to inform the operator of what he already knew. “That guy just threw up all over the place.”
“I know,” he said, slamming the door after they exited. I’m not sure he was too pleased with having to clean up the mess I had just made.
Lowell and I climbed out, covered in, well, you know, and we started wobbling over to Mom and Dad for some love and sympathy. This was the moment we found out that Mom and Dad’s love was NOT unconditional! They started slowly backing away from us, hiding further under the awning and proceeded to disown us. They pointed to the car and said, “Go!” They didn’t want us anywhere near them! They didn’t care that we were traumatized and covered in puke and needing to be comforted. The only thing they cared about was not letting anyone see that “their” kid was the one throwing up on the amusement park ride.
The car ride home was painful, with nine people in a small Mazda station wagon, Lowell and I in the back because, well, we stunk and everyone else made sure we knew it for the 45-minute ride home.
You would think that would have changed the way Lowell looked at me, but it did not. As it was, I did not deserve his admiration. I let my brother Lowell down; I wasn’t there to protect him from the abuse he received from my mother in retaliation for my father protecting him. Sure, none of us could pick on him anymore, but she could, and she was mean and vicious in her attacks on him!
As we grew older, I wasn’t there to guide him and educate him about the dangers of alcohol and the risks of getting addicted to it. I never told him how damaging it could be to your life, your life choices, and all your relationships, including your relationship with your wife, your children and especially with God.
I wasn’t there to guide him and educate him about the dangers of drugs and their even greater risks for getting addicted. I never told him how, if he started down that path, they would destroy his life and could put him into bondage to an addiction so strong it would rule over him and everything he did in the future. That it would cost him everything he valued, his job, his wife, his children, his family, his friends and eventually, his life.
No, I wasn’t a very good brother to a young man who looked up to me, who admired me, and for that, I’m sorry, Lowell. I let you down.
My youngest brother, Lowell, went home to be with the Lord on September 17th, 2017. His struggle with heroin addiction finally over. He is now at peace in His Kingdom with my fathers.
It’s no secret, my brother Lowell was a sinner. In man’s eyes, Lowell could have been considered a much worse sinner than me; however, in God’s eyes (which is what matters), he was a sinner same as me. No better, no worse. The same!
You might be asking yourself right about now, how does this guy know that Lowell is even in Heaven? After all, we know how big of a sinner he was. The truth is that none of us are capable of judging anyone else. We are all sinners, every single one of us. Can one sinner adequately judge or condemn another sinner?
Perspective #86: We are all sinners, every single one of us. Can one sinner adequately judge or condemn another sinner?
The truth is that none of us has the wisdom or the purity to pronounce judgment on anyone else. Yet we do it all the time. I’m glad God doesn’t care about or listen to the verdicts we so callously pronounce on each other.
Lowell is in heaven for one reason and one reason only. He desired a relationship with God through Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. I know this because the two of us had talked about it several times over the past 7 or 8 years. You see, Lowell and I spoke, or should I say, texted, several times a month. That is the special benefit you get when you pay for his cell phone; you get to talk to him and tell him you love him. You also get to hear about the pain he’s in, how sad he is about all the mistakes he made, how much he loved his children, how ashamed he was because he let them down, and how hard it was to face them in his condition.
Here’s the problem with sin, any sin, all sin: It is a trap. It is bondage, and it doesn’t want to let you go. True, some sins are harder to break than others, but all sin is bondage. And if you know anything about sin, sin is what interferes with your relationship with God.
Perspective #87: If you know anything about sin, sin is what interferes with your relationship with God.
Now, here’s the cool thing about God being all-knowing. He already knows you are a sinner. He already knows how “bad” of a sinner you are. In fact, He already knows about every sin you’ve ever committed, big or small, including the ones you’ve even forgotten.
God wants to meet you where you are, not where you think you should be, but exactly where you are. In the cesspool of your sin. Where you are, right here, right now, no conditions, no special consideration, no pre-cleaning required. Just a desire, on your part, to have a relationship with Him! That’s it, that’s all!
You know, the religious leaders of Jesus' day criticized Jesus because He ate with sinners.
This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. - Luke 15:2
Was Jesus ashamed of sinners? No, not at all, He at with them. Is Jesus ashamed of you because you too are a sinner? No, not at all, He wants you to trade your sin for love.
The problem with sin is that it doesn't want to let you go. The key component it has in keeping you where you are at is shame. It says to you, "look what you have done, God is not going to want YOU, look at the mess you are in. Look at the mess you've made of your life!" And so, you are afraid to turn to God because of the shame of your sin. Understand, God already knows, when you come to Him and confess your sins to Him, you are not telling Him anything new, anything He doesn't already know. The point of confessing is not for Him, it is for YOU so that YOU will give yourself permission to walk out of the prison and bondage of sin into a life of love and freedom with Jesus Christ.
Remember, God can't make you want a relationship with Him, this is something only you can want for yourself. Do you love yourself enough to want what is best for you? To want this relationship with the God of the Universe? Let me encourage you, stand where you are, just turn around in place, and say, "Jesus, I want a relationship with You, show me how!" It is that easy, it is that simple, there is nothing else for you to do. From this point forward, He will take care of the "cleaning you up", just be patient with Him as this takes time. Understand it took years for you to get this dirty, it may take years for Him to clean you up!
Thank you for joining me, please let me know what you think by leaving me a comment belows!