Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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I can’t seem to write anything that makes sense lately, so I decided to let Cindy do the writing for a change.

My wife was a voracious note-taker. Whether at a conference, in a staff meeting or sitting in church — she always had a spiral-bound notebook or a index card in one hand plus a prissy-colored pen in the other.

But the times I remember her scribbling most was in the early morning, sitting at the kitchen table with her morning cup of tea [Tazo Awake, for those who care about such things], her Bible and, yep that frilly pen and a notebook.

I was always proud of her for the amazing discipline she modeled, especially since journaling has never been an easy task for me. But now that she’s no longer with me, I find great joy in knowing that the words she wrote still are.

Her favorite things to write down were Scripture verses.

In fact, I found one just the other day. And it made me wonder what the back story must have been that early morn. She wrote: “Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ Your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul.” {Psalm 94:17-19}

The underline was hers. Several underlines. In purple ink.

Another card evidently came from her own fertile mind:

“The words you mutter either encourage or discourage, motivate or deflate and either generate joy or repel it.”

I found myself wishing that I could hear her “mutter” another sentence to me. I think I know what it would be — and what joy it bring to my heart just to hear her say those three tender words. Even if only just one more time.

Then there was this quote from Philip Yancey’s book, “Where Is The Church When It Hurts.” Written in long-hand, in pink ink as I recall, was this insightful challenge: “If the church is doing its job – binding up wounds, comforting the grieving, offering food to the hungry – I don’t think people will wonder so much where God is when it hurts. They’ll know where God is – in the presence of God’s people on earth.”

There are so many other lines she wrote. Here are a few of the best ones:

God will orchestrate an opportunity for you to minister to somebody today. {And unlike me, Cindy seemed to seize every opportunity He gave her.}

If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you.

We are being watched by others – we must be conscious that our behavior and choices either draw others to Christ or away from Christ.

Thought swapping: Exchanging my negatives into positives.

The Law of Attention: Whatever you dwell upon becomes increasingly prominent in your mind.

I really loved this one: “With God, we will gain victory, and He will trample down our enemies.” {Psalm 60:12}

Just below was her commentary:

With God, protection.

Without God, no protection.

Human power apart from God can never find true victory.

But here’s the line I needed most. One I’ve heard many times before, but written in purple against the backdrop of a green index card it seemed to shout to me: Steve! Stop fretting about me! “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.” {Psalm 118:6}

I wish I knew what she was facing when she wrote those words. But all I can know is that verse — which not so long ago spoke to her heart — is now speaking to mine.

See, the hard part of Cindy’s journey is over. Her suffering is behind her…and my awful journey has barely begun. And I must confess to you — I am afraid. I know God is with me. I also know that I have no reason to be afraid. Yet the future still does frighten me. Living life well without Cindy beside me, at least for now, seems a hill way too steep for me to climb.

That’s why my lady wrote a message months ago and sent it on ahead just for me to read. A message that said, “Honey, whatever you dwell on will only become more prominent in your mind. So banish all that ugly fear. And let God support you…and bring joy to your soul.”

And so, at least for tonight, it’s my solemn resolve to try.

Thanks, babe. I told you I couldn’t do this without you.



May 8th, 2010 Update

May 8th, 2010


This has been quite the week.

Tuesday was our wedding anniversary. Friday was the one month anniversary of Cindy’s passing. Tonight is a celebration dinner that was planned long before we realized Cindy would not be with us — an evening originally planned by her friends to help raise funds for a treatment that would never take place. And tomorrow…? It’s Mothers’ Day.

Geeeeesh! Enough already!!!

I intend no disrespect to anyone when I say this, but I’ve about had it. Doing life in the normal moments has proven hard enough for me to bear. But to have to plod through this awful week? A week when it seems that every day {with the possible exception of Cinco de Mayo} was another day jam-packed with emotionally explosive memories…?

As I said, I’ve about had it.

So I’m not gonna do much poking around in my heart today. I can’t. I’ve been there enough – and I need a reprieve before I speak again tomorrow.

But since so many of you have so lovingly joined me in this journey…? And since you’ve been so faithful in prayer and so tender in the way you have responded to my tears and my fears…?

I thought that you might find it helpful to listen to the message I gave last week. It was my first message since Cindy’s death – and the most difficult that I have ever spoken. But it also a message of hope and renewed vision and a faith that continues on…no matter what.

Here’s the link if you’d like to take a listen – http://tinyurl.com/29r5b4m

just be forewarned: Although it was written and spoken by a confessed faith-wimp, the truths it contains are not for the faint in heart.


May 5th, 2010 Update

May 5th, 2010


Yesterday was our wedding anniversary…so I celebrated by going on a date with ten women.

Just to be clear, exactly what happened was — I had dinner with several of Cindy’s many wonderful “gal pals.”

Here’s how the whole thing came to be: Several days ago, when I realized that May 4 was just around the corner, I wrote about my apprehensions in this blog. Hours later, one of her “pals” asked me how they might help me get through what was certain to be a very difficult day.

That’s when I suggested that an evening alone might prove too much for me. The day I could fill with other things — and I did — but the evening…? Trust me an anniversary evening with Cindy wasn’t just an evening…it was an event! A delicious candle-lit meal accompanied by soft music – and ALWAYS hand-written notes tucked under my placemat. Wow! What a creative and generous love that woman shared with me.

Well…almost as soon as the suggestion left my lips — the “gals” were in full planning mode! So there I was, just last night, having dinner with ten very wonderful [and so very godly] women. Women who had been touched by Cindy and who love her with such an obvious passion.

The “gals” and I spent two hours together at Sauce – laughing and crying, reminiscing and missing our mutual love. It will probably surprise no one that they did most of the talking. And as they did, this guy was so thankful that the excruciatingly slow minutes I experienced earlier yesterday were now more quickly ticking by.

This morning I’m supposed to be writing a message, but I can’t seem to focus. Part of the reason is that I’m so thankful for the way they carried me through a very tough evening. So I’ve decided to write them and thank them.

Here’s what I’ve written so far:


Hey gals,


Thank you for the cards and the portrait.


Even more, thank you for putting your families on hold just to be my "dates" last night.  I know you will understand when I say that it wasn't the kind of evening I wish I could have had, but you "gals" certainly helped that gaping hole in my heart feel a bit less overwhelming.  You made me laugh - and cry - and the way you spoke of Cindy filled my heart with so much joy — just to know that she finally experienced a "sisterly-traveling-pants-kinda-friendship-love" that she had so long hoped for, but seldom seemed to find.


If I didn't say it well last night, please forgive me for rambling.  See, I don't speak as confidently as when I had Cindy to cheer me on - but that "sisterly-traveling-pants-kinda-friendship-love" thing is what I was trying to say last night.  I know how each of you feel about her - but I just really wanted you to know how amazingly deep Cindy's affections were for you.  And that, in a very deep sense that perhaps I alone can fully appreciate, you brought Cindy something she had longed for [but which had avoided her] the great majority of her life.


I truly believe that Cindy died an extremely wealthy woman.  Oh, she had her share of disappointments, to be sure.  And some unfinished tasks, too, as we all will have.  Plus way too little time {in my view}.


But here's the thing:  She was, and always has been, deeply loved by her Father in heaven.  She was also the joy of her husband's heart and the perfect filling for an otherwise hollow man [And, though it still shocks me to think of it, in his own flawed way he somehow managed to complete her, too].  PLUS…she was the recipient of a female bond that many "gals" search for - but never seem to find.  And not with just one other woman, which in itself is a wealth beyond description, but with several women who, in return, adored her.


To me, that's priceless.  And by any measure, a life well-lived.  And now…lavishly rewarded.


Your expressions of love toward me were a treasure, though very humbling.  See, I get it that you loved her very deeply.  I mean, she was the easy part of this duo to love.  But hey, if I get to benefit from some of your overflow toward her…?  I'm okay with that.  And from now on, I'll try to be even more deserving of the crumbs that drop from her lavish spread.  And maybe, along the way, you'll see a slice of Cindy come bounding out of me - even as I already see her in you.


Love to you all…



My first “big-event day” is behind me. But I’m not sure I could’ve pulled it off without a little bit of help from the “Big Ten” {although, come to think of it, that’s probably not the best term I could choose…maybe I should just stick with “Gal Pals.”} But hey, they really did come through BIG for me.

So what did I learn from this experience? Grief, if it’s a ride taken solo, will be way more painful and much more laborious and far more discouraging than if you put yourself out there and invite a few others to join you. And it will drag along much more slowly as well.

So I’m thinking today that maybe I’m gonna need several such evenings/events with Cindy’s “gal pals” before this painful ride comes to a full and complete stop.


May 1st, 2010 Update

May 1st, 2010

Cindy and I always celebrated two wedding anniversaries:  The official Gregorian Calendar anniversary {May 4} and Derby Day {today}.

Kentucky Derby Day – for you who aren’t conversant with its more familiar name.  Back in Southern Indiana, where we were married, we lived a mere 90 miles from Louisville – and in those parts?  The world stopped spinning come Derby Day.  But as I see things today?  It was on Derby Day when my world finally came together.

Which explains why I’ve been so sad today.

Hmmm.  And I thought Tuesday would be bad.  Silly me.

If our Derby Day “anniversary” is any indication?  “Bad” doesn’t even begin to describe what I’ll be feeling in three more days. 
Now part of today can also be explained by what’s gonna happen tomorrow.  I’m gonna speak at church in the morning for the first time since Cindy went to be with Jesus.  My leaders thought I should take a bit more time before I returned, but it felt right to me if I came back now.  At least it did.  Now I’m kinda thinking maybe they had way more wisdom than me.

See, I thought having something productive in front of me would distract me and remind that God still intended to use me.  And it did work that way for most of this week.  But now…?  I’m just downright scared.

Just understand, what I’m NOT is afraid of showing emotion.  I do that all the time.  It’s just the way God wired me.  I guess I’m just really afraid that I won’t do this right – or for the right reasons — or with the right mindset.

See, on the one hand, I can’t just leap into such-and-so message from some random Bible passage and completely divorce both me and my church from the obvious reality of what we’ve just been through.  But on the other hand, how can I even begin to speak to others about their pain — when I’m feeling so incredibly wounded myself?

The Pastor side of me wants to tend the sheep tomorrow.  But the sheep inside this Pastor still wants somebody else to comfort me.

Here’s the other part that has me spooked:  Never has writing a message so drained me than the exhaustion I felt when writing this one.  And if writing it took that great a toll?  What will it require from me to actually have to speak it?

So yeh, there’s a lot of freaky stuff spinning inside me tonight.  So maybe what I need to do is give you something that God gave me…just a couple of days ago.

I’ve been frustrated, for several days, by the fact that Cindy and I never got to say our last good-byes.  But then I realized, just this week, that something she said to me, on the Monday evening before she died, actually was her good-bye.

Cindy hadn’t spoken for two days…or eaten, for that matter.  In fact, the last nourishment she had taken was when I hid some of her medicine in a bit of baby food.  A friend who had come by to sit with her had noticed that some of the baby food was still in her mouth, so later that evening — knowing how fastidious Cindy was about her teeth — I took a damp cotton swab {a toothbrush was too harsh} and tried to gently clean the inside of her mouth.

That’s when she broke two days of silence with these amazing words:  “Thank you SO much, Mr. Wyatt.  Thank you sooo much.”

Not understanding what she was trying to say, I laughed and said, “Why are you calling me Mr. Wyatt?  You’re Mrs. Wyatt, remember?  What’s wrong with you?”

But by then, she had fallen silent…and never spoke again.

So, as had happened many times before in our marriage, Mrs. Wyatt got the final word.  But it wasn’t until two days ago that I fully realized the gift Cindy had given me.

Wow.  God alone knows how much strength it required from her to speak those wonderful words.

But here I sit tonight…on this evening of our unofficial anniversary, just three days removed from our actual anniversary and about 12 hours before I must speak the toughest words this Pastor has ever spoken.

And it feels kinda crazy, but remembering that story makes me more thankful than I am afraid.  In fact, I’m feeling a great infusion of courage right now — courage to speak my words…all because my bride found the courage to speak one last time to me.

“So, babe…thank YOU soooo much.  Tomorrow, I’m gonna make my run for the roses…for first time without you by my side.  I’m afraid I won’t be nearly as eloquent as you, nor half as courageous.  But I really hope you will hear my feeble words as my loving good-bye — and my deepest gratitude — to you.”


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