15 Years of War – and Love, and Loss

How the longest war in U.S. history affected a military family in love, loss and the cost of service.

weddingOne of the great things about being an ordained minister is the opportunity to officiate meaningful wedding services for your friends and family. My cousin Kristine’s wedding has some significant memories for me. It is one of the most unique and picturesque services I have participated in.

The wedding took place at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival grounds, which gave us an gorgeous, outdoor setting alongside the Boise River, while the amphitheater provided us with the structure to create an entry for Kristine in her amazing dress, a stage on which to pledge the couple’s lifelong promises, and an aisle which the groomsmen/Marines used to create a tunnel that Kristine had to pass through while getting spanked on her butt with their swords as her welcome to into the Marine Corps family.

The other significant thing about the wedding is that I got to tag team with my brother, Trevor, who is also a pastor. We bounced back and forth between our roles during the service. One of the highlights was when the two moms walked forward at the beginning of the service to light unity candles that represented their two children merging their lives together. Trevor leaned over to me and said, “Pat is on fire.” With her back to the crowd no one else could see the predicament that our aunt was in. Her heavily lacquered fingernails, had indeed, caught on fire in the middle of the moment she was trying to be so serious.

Trevor and I were no help; we were laughing too hard. Thankfully she put herself out quickly (without injury) and returned to her seat.

Our whole family was impressed by this man Kristine was marrying. Ross was even-tempered, strong, had a great laugh and sense of humor, and was totally smitten with, and committed to, Kristine.

While Trevor and I couldn’t provide the normal pre-marriage counseling we would have liked as they were both living in California before their wedding, we gave them some books to read, interacted with them via email, and asked them to consider keeping us involved in their married lives no matter where in the world circumstances (and the Marines) would carry them. They agreed.

A few years later Ross returned from war in Iraq. He had already had a homecoming with Kristine in Hawaii and had connected with more of the family in California. We were excited now that he was flying back home to Boise to celebrate his homecoming with our family here. And while he is one of those servicemen who don’t like to call attention to themselves, because we requested it, he flew home in uniform so our kids could see what a real hero looked like when we met him in the airport.

That homecoming was special. I opened up bottles of wine I had been saving which had been bottled a few years before for a special U.S. Marine Corp. anniversary. We grilled steaks and listened to Ross’ stories, at least those that he felt ready to share with us around the dinner table.

There were other special connections that my family shared with Ross and Kristine. On one of their moves across the country to a new Marine base and training school (where they would be living in a R.V.) they asked Jamie and me to adopt Ross’ hunting dog, Hooter. He was our kid’s first dog. That black lab brought so much love into our family. When Ross and Kristine traveled back to Boise on holidays they always came to see us and, of course, Hooter.

I’ll never forget getting that call though. I had just driven home from speaking at a men’s retreat for our church a couple of hours north of Boise. As I pulled into our church’s parking lot I received a message that there had been a tragic accident. Ross and Kristine’s second son George, who was getting ready to celebrate his first birthday, had slipped into a pool and drowned.

It has been almost a decade now, but the emotions are still so strong and the tears are so noticeably present as I recall, and write, these memories.

A few weeks later Trevor and I were tag-teaming another service for Ross and Kristine, but this time it was their little boy’s funeral.

There is a lot of pain and suffering in our world. I have not shied away from engaging it and embracing it as an individual and as well as my role as a Christian minister. I still was not prepared for losing George.

There are no words of comfort when you lose a child. There are just tears, questions and pain.

Amazingly, Ross and Kristine have weathered the storm that is life, death, and war.

15yearsA few years ago Kristine told me she was going to write a book on their experiences in the Marines, Ross’s deployments, the loss of George, and what they have done to create new life on the other side of their tragedy.

Last week I read her manuscript. While it is a story I am obviously familiar with, I was pulled into the narrative like it was the first time I had heard it. Kristine has done an amazing job of sharing the last 15 years of their lives together and she hasn’t pulled any punches in doing so. There is no sugar-coating in this book. Their family relationships are laid bare. The Marines and their leadership are called to task (The Marine Corps has vetted and approved this book and the battlefield stories Ross has shared). The reality and costs of war are very present. Half of it is told from Kristine’s perspective, and the other half from Ross’. They don’t pull punches on themselves, nor on each other. It is simply brutal, inspiring and real.

They are my heroes. I am so proud they are my family.

I hope you will read their story.

The Abuse from Saeed Abedini apparently Continues


I really hoped and prayed that I had shared enough of this story. Apparently not.

The last time Saeed Abedini made a statement about being home and his broken relationships with Naghmeh Abedini it was to the Idaho Statesman.
“It is not my intention to speak further publicly—through social media or any other channels—at least until I believe we have made significant progress in private. I thank you for your understanding and support.”
Unfortunately he couldn’t abide by his own request nor fulfill his own promise. Yesterday on his Facebook page he posted the following,
“I am grateful for marriage counselors who have been helping me but my wife’s relationship with me is not good at this point, so we need prayer that she joins this counseling process with us.”

Those who accused Naghmeh of dragging her and Saeed’s private matters into public view have now actually seen her husband do this very thing. It sickens me that he has shamed his wife because she is not yet ready to join together with him in marriage counseling. I think he may have just proved why she is hesitant. This kind of humiliation and public shaming is nothing more than ABUSE!

Until he gets this – until he stops trying to manipulate her – she is totally right to protect and distance herself from him. Unfortunately it may cost her her standing in her church and respect in the eyes of her religious community. It also may be what saves her life, her sanity, and her dignity. I think God cares about these things, even more than he does about trying to keep a broken marriage together.

I am disgusted that this Christian pastor is using his social media platform (that was built on his prisoner status) to disguise his emotional and positional abuse against his wife as a request for ‘prayer.’ 

Dear God I am praying this woman holds her ground.

Boise’s Got Faith

lulaskyI celebrated my birthday last week!

I took the notification off Facebook a couple of years ago as it seemed I spent a whole day thanking people for remembering me on my cake day. While I appreciated the affection it was also a bit of a drain. Now those I hear from on my birthday are those who have it written down somewhere. That is fine, and much more relaxed for me.

I share my birthday with a couple of really cool friends – one I went to high school with, the other just battled and defeated lymphoma cancer this last year.

We also share our birthday with an important, global recognition – February 4th is World Cancer Day.

If you’ve followed my personal story you know that I became involved with breast cancer advocacy several years ago. This has opened up the doors to work for several different cancer organizations in various capacities – as a photographer, writer, lobbyist, speaker and event planner.

One of the cancer organizations that I am so grateful to be a part of is one in Idaho called, Boise’s Got Faith.

If you are one to be turned off by religious overtones you need to know that Faith is a little girl who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia at 5 years old. Her Uncle Ryan decided to run the toughest half marathon in the Northwest (called The Race to Robbie Creek) as a means of raising support for his niece and her family. The financial burden on families dealing with cancer is overwhelming, even when they have insurance coverage. Thankfully, the race, the support, and the treatments for Faith were successful. She is a healthy, lively, and wonderfully stubborn little girl!

Yet Ryan’s cancer fighting journey had just begun; what was first known as Robie’s Got Faith expanded to Boise’s Got Faith (BGF), and Ryan’s caretaker role over his niece expanded to other children in our community who have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer. He built a team of people who wanted to make a difference in the lives of the families who were dealing with their  child’s cancer.

Every year BGF adopts a couple of children fighting cancer and helps provide financial assistance to them and their families.

lulaI became friends with Ryan when BGF adopted my friends’ child, Lula, who had terminal cancer. I was able to see firsthand what kind of support and care Lula and her family received from BGF while Lula was still alive, as well as after she had passed. (If you want examples I can give you many specifics that will leave you in tears.)

When Ryan asked me if I’d like to be the official photographer for BGF I didn’t hesitate. At first I offered my services because of what I saw them provide Lula and her family. As I continued to work with them I realized that I was connected to people who were of the same heart and spirit as me and my own cancer projects.

While obviously not all cancer organizations can operate this way, BGF doesn’t have to use any of the money they raise to pay for overhead expenses. Absolutely everything we raise goes to the families we have adopted.

You heard me right – all of it. Even the lunch we serve on race day has been graciously donated. Last year we raised over $35,000 to help two little girls named Alanna and Brynlee

EloiseFrankyThis year we have adopted two more amazing children who unfortunately are battling cancer. One is the very first boy that BGF has taken on in these five years. His name is Franky. He is 4-years old and was diagnosed with leukemia last April. He has 2 ½ years left of treatments. He likes trucks.

The other is a darling little girl named Eloise. She also has leukemia. She likes coloring, dancing, babies and blowing bubbles. She just turned three-years old last week… on my birthday.

Have you figured out what I’d like for a gift this year?

Any donation you make to BGF, whether it be cash, items that we can auction, or participation in our race day activities is so very much appreciated (and you know where all of it will go!). You can follow Frankie and Eloise’s journeys on our Facebook page (as well as keep tabs on past years’ adoptees). You can also find out more about BGF on the website and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Our race day this year is May 1st, in downtown Boise’s Julia Davis Park. There will be a kids’ run, a 5k race, and a family festival at the park’s bandshell including live and silent auctions.

I’ve made a wish and blown out my candles.

I have Faith.


Follow-up from the Saeed Abedini Blog Post

My recent post regarding Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini certainly struck some nerves with people – as I expected it would.

Here are a few of my thoughts regarding the response. Consider it like the “Behind the Scene” comments that a movie director installs on a DVD for those who are interested.

The Method to My Madness

23617_10150152059765123_651695122_11534543_7572834_nI wrote the article in three separate sections on purpose. The first was to show that I could find empathy with Saeed and his missions trip. While some commenters chose to outright judge him for putting himself in harm’s way, I have personal experiences like Saeed’s that people could also judge. Another good example would have been to point to the thousands of men in women in our armed services that are sent overseas and put in harm’s way. This is a great inconvenience for the families back home, but it is a sacrifice they are making for the greater good for our country. Because of my religious background I understand this kind of a missions trip. I didn’t go into writing my article as Saeed’s opponent. If anything, I have been a supporter of his heart and I have certainly been an advocate for his release and freedom.

Some readers chose this part of the article to comment on. I approved one of the more thoughtful posts (allowing others who felt this way to give it a thumbs up in the comments section). However other comments along this line were more anti-Christian, anti-Saeed, or simply ugly. I didn’t think they added to the discussion so I left them off the blog.

Free Speech

I have no problem restricting comments on my blogsite. While I love our countries protection of free speech, it doesn’t apply to my personal blog. I really appreciate comments that add to the conversation or point out things I may have missed. Some of the people who wanted to vent with comments need to go create their own venue to voice their opinions instead of trying to sabotage mine. For instance, one commenter lauded the value of long-term missionaries or medical missionary trips but blasted short term mission trips as having no value. She ended by stating:

This article seems to be from one who likes to go on exotic adventures and who hides his own sh!+.

Speaking of Sh!+

One very nice lady send me a personal message (as opposed to commenting on my blog itself) to correct me because of my language. I really do appreciate her approach. She complimented me on my message but reproved me for swearing twice in my article. She thought I’d make a much better example of a Christian whom unbelievers would want to follow if I didn’t have a potty mouth.

Truth is, I specifically used those two words on purpose. Here is what she reacted to:

While the thought of having our broken lives broadcast to the world is frightening sometimes it is exactly that exposure that allows the light to come into the dark corners where we’ve hid our shit.

And this one:

Unfortunately this creates an environment in our religious circles that when there is trouble in a marriage we do the best we can to manage the physical, emotional, spiritual and relational pain while doing all we can to hold the relationship together – even when it creates more hell than it is worth.

Even after her correction I wouldn’t edit these word selections. Like I said, I used them on purpose as they were the best words to express my thoughts. I also think she may be incorrect in her assessment of my value to the un-churched.

Okay, this is a bit of an aside, but it is one of my favorite conversations from this year. I received a message from a guy in my local community. He is a year older than me, went to the local schools that I would have gone to if I hadn’t have been in a private school, and had an LDS background where I grew up Pentecostal. He asked if he could join me at my local Cheers establishment, where everybody knows my name. The opening to our conversation was epic:

“So you are a pastor, right?”

“Well, I am not currently earning a living at any local church, but yes, I am an ordained minister.”

“Right… and apparently you aren’t afraid to say the word, ‘fuck’”

I laughed, knowing I had used it a couple of times in a group chat that we were both a part of. “No, I’m not. Sometimes it is the only appropriate word to use.”

“Good,” he answered, “Then I think you are safe to talk to.”

Then he began to share his background, observations, hurts and hopes, and we launched into a meaningful conversation that has developed into a friendship where we neither of us have to be afraid of offending the other person.

Maybe my word choices turns me off to some Christians, but in my experience most people prefer me to be real with them, warts and all.

Other Corrections

Some readers wanted to take me to task for having not done my research about Idaho code on legal separation (the commenter was wrong about Idaho’s law). Others thought I should have dug more into Saeed’s past indiscretions and that his criminal record should be public record. I did share what is publically available of his record and which hasn’t been sealed. For all of the quotes I used from either Saeed, Naghmeh or articles about this situation I provided links so that people could read those quotes in context. My detractors actually needed to do more research before they tried to correct me. It appears that several of the commenters of my post were too biased by their own perspective to do any real work before they responded.

Another reader wanted to look at my post in view of his own arguments against Christianity. I encouraged him to try looking at my post again looking at the issue that I was ultimately speaking to which is domestic abuse. He and I have a good, ongoing dialog together. He pointed out that my comment section leaves something to be desired on my blog. I agree with him. It isn’t the best system. I’m wrestling with the value of having any comments at all as some of the best blogs and news sources that I read don’t allow comments.

Another reader asked if I’d followed the steps of Matthew 18 regarding correction before I had posted my blog. Fair question. No, I didn’t. But in the context of standing up for a woman in an abusive relationship, I have no remorse. At all. When Christians are more concerned about protecting a procedure than they are of protecting an injured individual I find myself wanting to swear again.

The next commenter asked me if I’d personally seen Saeed abuse his wife.

No. Did you actually see him being beat in prison?

Another reader called me ‘sexist.’ Really, sexist? Do you mean reverse-sexist? Have I threatened your manhood somehow? As for my journey I have a lot of female friends who would tell you that I have advocated for them, protected them, and have backed them when others didn’t. I don’t think the sexist label fits me.

The next commenter called me a “full fledged emergent guru” who is responsible for “more delusional dung fed to the sheep!”


And this accusation:

You need to check yourself Chad. You have no idea what the whole story is and your blog is nothing different than harmful gossip. That’s a sin.


Helpful Corrections

There were a couple of corrections that I found extremely helpful. One reader pointed out that that my header for the third and most important section of the post was confusing. Rereading it I saw she was correct and also noticed that it didn’t fit the style theme I had established with the first two sections. Based on her feedback I edited the header and sent her a thank you message.

Another reader, who is a local photographer, noted that I hadn’t credited the photographer of the two copyrighted images I had used on my blog post. I have no excuse for this oversight. As a professional photographer myself I know how important this is. I had focused so hard on getting my words right that I cheated when it came to the images. Thankfully the photographer of those images was very gracious when I messaged her. She gave me the blessing to use her images in my blog post.

This kind of feedback is very valuable. I am not afraid to listen or to learn.

Back to my Blog Strategy

The goal of the second section of my post was to show that while the many in the Christian community rallied around Naghmeh when it suited them, when it later crossed their political leanings many of them ended up disrespecting her. This is from the Washington Post:

Franklin Graham, who hosted Saeed at a North Carolina retreat after the pastor’s release from prison, said he is trying to help the couple reconcile. In a post on his Facebook page, he seemed unconvinced about some of Naghmeh’s reported claims.

“Other than God, no one knows the details and the truth of what has happened between Saeed and Naghmeh except them,” he wrote. “There’s an old saying that there are at least two sides to every story. I can tell one thing for sure — not everything that has been reported in the media is true.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/02/01/the-strange-case-of-the-pastor-released-from-iran-and-his-wifes-abuse-allegations/

The problem is there is very little that has been shared in the media. There is the reality of Saeed’s documented abuse that he pled guilty to in Idaho, as well as Naghmeh’s reality that she feels intimidated by him right now and has been afraid, based on threats he made to her while he was still in prison, that he’d leave her and take their children. Graham can try to downplay the facts in order to cover for his friend, but all this does is belittle the issue of their broken marriage. He hasn’t helped at all but instead done the opposite. His sideways comments and actions reveal his motives. Did these leaders use Naghmeh when it benefited their own political and religious agendas? What would make them question her now?

My point is, you can’t say you trust Naghmeh in one breath while taking a selfie with her to publish over the Christian media empire, and then dismiss her with the next when she exposes the reality of her broken relationship with her husband.

Bottom Line

Twenty six years ago I sat in a class at Boise State University with a score and a half of women who had undergone domestic abuse in their own lives. Most of them shared how religion had only added to their pain instead of protecting them from it. I promised them that as a Christian male, and as someone who was going to school to be religious leader, I would try to reverse this trend.

So when I receive comments like the following:

I couldn’t be more disgusted by the article or comments than I am without vomiting.

For every abused women, trust me there are ten men who have said nothing regarding the screeching, controlling, manipulating and outright lying of the women in their lives who have accused them of abuse.

I’m motivated to let people like this to know that I will oppose their misogynistic ideology every way I can.

My Background

My Dad is not a violent man. He is probably a 180 degree from that position. I never saw him physically, spiritually, or emotionally abuse my mother. If there is any fault with him, I remember watching him detach when things got difficult. Thankfully, this only meant that he walked around the block to breathe, to collect himself, to pray, and to come back home. Do you know how freaking grateful I am for that example? My dad has never abandoned us, or tried to position himself above my mother and their children because of religious provision or cultural acceptance. He is my selfless hero, and I want to be more like him.

In college I registered for the class on domestic abuse. Since I was planning to go into a full-time Christian ministry I thought this might prepare me for rough interactions between husbands and wives. The professor tried to talk me out of attending. She warned me that I was one of only two males in the class and that I would not enjoy the experience. I told her of my conviction of wanting to learn and my goal of being a Christian minister. She sized me up and asked if I was really prepared to learn. She was right to challenge me as that next semester was incredibly difficult. As she warned me, I was the recipient of the class’s anger. Most of these thirty students had been physically and emotionally abused by their husbands, boyfriends and fathers. Several of them shared how their churches counseled them to stay in unhealthy and unsafe relationships in order to stay in good standing with their church, and thus, with God.

When I wrote my paper for the class final, I presented a case of how I would take stand against domestic abuse, especially in the religious world where I was hoping to be a professional. My professor gave me an A on the paper, but I knew my real grade would be how I lived this out.

My first test came a couple of years later after my college graduation when I was employed by a church. A pastor on staff continued to vocally and emotionally abuse one of the women pastors. She had a history of physical and emotional abuse in her first marriage which she was still trying to overcome. She ended up leaving. Based on what I had learned in college of the cycle of abuse I tried to privately explain to the pastor how his words and actions had triggered her. His response was to tell me that I was a “wet-behind-the-ears college graduate” and that I had no right to give him any counsel unless he asked for it. A couple of weeks later I resigned from my position in the church. He spun it as though I had a issue with our denomination’s theological views. The reality is, I quit because of him, and for her.

Almost Twenty Five Years Later

There are other responses I’ve received about my blog post that have been incredibly important to me. The are the ones from the women who have experienced physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. For me it mutes the comments from the detractors and haters.

Here is one from a friend who has poured out her soul and story to me:

Chad, …….. as a survivor of 23 years of domestic violence I am so on board with this blog post. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said, you just said it for me. And what you said here: “We have fallen in love with your wife who has been advocating on your behalf. We trust her. We believed in her mission to free you, and now we believe in her mission to be free. She, like you, in sacrificing your freedom by proselytizing in Iran, is now sacrificing the financial gain and fame she could have experienced on your return, in order to fight for her dignity and protection as a person, a spouse and a parent” , Is soooo right on. Yes, I still support her in her mission to free Saeed from the Iranian prison and I also support her and trust that she is working with God ( who is failed by the church’s religiosity) to also be free from abuse of any kind. AND I DO believe she was abused. Saeed’s part in not accepting his role as victimizer does not surprise me, but it does sadden me, because you can not work towards healing if you don’t believe you have a problem or want to face up to the things you have done. And it only brings Naghmeh more pain to hear that coming from someone who supposedly loves you. SHE is my hero for sure. She is a Godly woman, doing Godly work, even with herself, as well as her abuser. Thank you for this post. In some ways it brings a small sort of justice to us who have endured abuse..

And this one:

I can’t EVEN begin to thank you for this. I know I speak for great multitudes throughout history who KNEW that they could not speak because no one would hear and there would be even MORE abuse from all those around. THANK YOU!

A friend who runs a local shelter for abused women sent me this message:

I just read your soul sharing on Nagmeh and Saeed. It is the most accurate and articulate rendering of the situation I have observed up to this point. Thank you.

I just finished a meeting with a woman who was sitting across from me at my table at ‘Cheers.’ She grasped my hands while in tears thanking me for standing for her in her journey into freedom from years of abuse from her Christian, ex-husband. She is making it. She is worth it. So is Naghmeh.

Thank you for those who shared my post and are standing for the sake of equality, and protection of all individuals.

For those of you wanting to defend Saeed and silence the conversation about his relationship with Naghmeh please hear this – real repentance doesn’t defend or deflect against abuse accusations. The ONLY appropriate response by a man/husband/boyfriend to a woman/spouse/girlfriend who has experienced abuse and now again feels a current threat is to back down from their current position of power and relinquish any expression of threats and listen to her concerns. This is the only foundation that real change, forgiveness and potential reconciliation can occur.

If you don’t get this, you simply haven’t listened to or experienced the reality of domestic abuse. Ask yourself why your response to this story has been to become defensive and protect the abuser. What are you afraid of?

Readership and Numbers

For those who are interested readership has been significant, mostly through Facebook shares. One other website that I know of provided a direct link to the blog. Two other websites had links to the post within their comment sections.

Of course on Facebook there is also the curious observation of who chooses to ‘Like’ a specific post and who doesn’t. There is no way to know who actually sees a post due to Facebook’s algorithms, and since there is still no “Dislike” button, the numbers (or lack of) only promote speculation. However, I do know that when a post is shared 100+ times that it gets more exposure on your own friend’s notification wall. I’m grateful for every reader, every like, and every share. 

Without getting too detailed about the demographics, the article was liked, shared and commented on by more women than men, and more church laity than leadership. Again, there are many reasons for this other than whether or not they supported my positions in the article. But what I do want to say in closing is this, until more church leaders take a stand against domestic abuse they will continue to have a shadow over them as being part of the contributing problem.


The Day I Won Two Billion Dollars

Senator Jim Risch meeting with Chad Estes in Washington D.C. in June 2015In June, I was a tapped by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) to be a part of their delegation to Once Voice Against Cancer, a coalition of more than 50 cancer organizations. We assembled in Washington D.C. to approach Congress with our fiscal year 2016 budget requests – primarily boosting the National Institute of Health (NIH) budget which had been in a freefall the past decade.

In December, as part of the new budget deal, Congress approved a TWO BILLION DOLLAR increase to the NIH. It is a good, first step forward, in a long time in our fight against cancer.

I joked with my friend Jennifer Poole, the Idaho Grassroots Manager at ACSCAN Idaho, that I was ready to retire from lobbying. I had a gold star rating for getting $2B in one visit to D.C. and I didn’t want to tarnish that record. She laughed and told me that I was just getting started. Of course she was right. I had just learned that I don’t have to sit by idly by as many of my friends suffer from cancer. I could make a difference with my voice, influence and participation.

Yesterday was my first Cancer Lobby Day at the Idaho Capitol. The goal was to have volunteers from each of Idaho’s legislative districts meet with their representatives and senators about opportunities to push forward legislation regarding health care in our state. It was a very successful day and I am grateful that I was able to participate.

I’ve had a negative attitude towards lobbying in the past. Now having participated at both state and federal levels I have a much different perspective. I realize my representatives can only be expected to write and support bills that they have sufficient information about. Just because they have been elected to a leadership role doesn’t mean that they are experts on every topic that crosses their desk. My role as a subject matter expert on cancer and health care is important to them!

Portrait by Sue BryceI am a proud cancer advocate who isn’t afraid to serve as a lobbyist! Maybe what makes a difference in me accepting this role is that I don’t benefit financially as a healthcare subject matter expert. Nobody is paying me for this work. I’m motivated by the lives and stories of those who are fighting for their lives and their health, as well as those of my friends I’ve lost.

This morning I lost another. I only knew Jill Conley as a Facebook friend, but her life and story touched and inspired me.

I hope you can take the time to read her story, admire her photos or watch the documentary about her breast cancer journey.

This is why we fight. This is why I lobby.

Welcome home, Saeed Abedini. We are Sorry, but there Won’t be a Parade.

I’ve been quiet about the story of Boise Pastor Saeed Abedini’s imprisonment in Iran, but I have a few things to share now that he has been released. This post is a bit long, but if you have the time to read it all, I think you will find it worth it. The first section is very interesting and includes some of my personal stories. The second is short, yet I think very significant. Yet If your time is limited, skip to my last point, as I think it is the most important of all.

#1 Should Saeed have gone to Iran?


Some people have questioned Saeed’s missionary work in Iran that is clearly against that country’s law. They point out that he knowingly put himself at risk, even after being warned, and thus he deserved the punishment and imprisonment. I’ve read opinions from people in our country who were frustrated that our government would spend any resources to help him. While I’ve tried to understand this perspective I know that my I’m biased based on my own background.

I grew up during the Cold War. It was a time where our political attention was directed towards the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc. We prepared ourselves for World War III, and we hated anything connected to communism and socialism. The religious specter (at least the majority Christian one) adopted this same world view. Our Sunday School catechism included that the Devil himself was directing Brezhnev and that his KGB agents were demonic under demonic influence. We stood for the light and righteousness, thus God stood by America and our democracy. He opposed, as did we, communism and socialist ideology. To fuel our fires we focused on the religious persecution of the Christians in those countries.

It isn’t surprising that among the heroes of my youth were those who risked their lives to smuggle Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. I devoured books like, “God’s Smuggler,” the story of a man known as Brother Andrew who had miraculous stories of his adventures getting Bibles into places where it was illegal to do so. At the time I never would have thought to question whether or not it was a good idea. Brother Andrew was risking his life for the light, the good, and the Gospel.

It probably isn’t surprising that when I graduated from high school that I joined a missionary organization called Youth With A Mission (YWAM). This group had in its numbers those who had infiltrated the worst of the worst of the communist countries. I even had the privilege to meet some of these incredible individuals.

YWAM provided me the opportunity to go to the Philippines when I was 18 years old. The school I attended was planning to travel to an area on the Island of Mindanao that was at war; communist rebels known as the New People’s Army were fighting against the U.S. backed, Philippine government. A week before we were to fly to the Philippines one of YWAM’s missionaries living in Davao City on Mindanao was stabbed to death in her home.

One of the first, big decisions of my adult life was whether or not to go to Davao. I remember praying about it, consulting with my parents, and weighing the cost. I, along with the rest of my team, all decided to go forward with our missionary trip. What I learned there was informative. What we thought may have been religious persecution was actually a robbery gone bad. The missionary had walked downstairs when she heard noises in their home. She surprised the thieves and they killed her. The Filipino YWAMers I worked with on Mindanao were the ones called in to clean up the home. A couple of months later my friend Rudy and I were sitting next to each other on the floor of a church and he told me the story of what happened. “Chad,” he said, “there was so much blood… I never knew our bodies held that much blood.” As he shared he started to sob heavily. It may not have been because of Christian persecution, but this missionaries death was no less of a loss – for her family, for YWAM, for Rudy, and now for me.

Fast forward 20 years and I find myself back on the same Philippine island. This time I am leading a group of 18-20 year olds and have even brought my 14 year old daughter. On the political spectrum the communists have a peace treaty with the Philippine government but there is still ongoing tension. My church denomination had planted churches in communist villages and the Philippine pastor I was working with wanted to take our team there. Not only did we have to connect with the government military we also had to get permission from the communist militia. The biggest threat we faced was the travel. The last part of our journey was on motorcycles. There were three to four people, with luggage, supplies, and live chickens piled on each bike. There were no helmets and it sure as hell wasn’t safe. But when we weighed the risk next to our reward we went forward. Our group of students were the first Americans to ever spend the night in these villages. We were able to embrace them and their way of life for a couple of days, and they certainly embraced us. It was life changing. A bonus to this trip was that a few days later we traveled to Rudy’s home (now the leader of a Philippine YWAM base himself), and we renewed our friendship that had started two decades earlier.

My point is that some of us (continue to) put ourselves in harms way for the sake of something we deeply believe in. You can judge us for it if you’d like, but if you do so you will miss our heart and our vision for a different and better world. We get to experience so much incredible life by living on this edge that others ever do from their comfy sofas. I don’t judge Saeed for putting himself in danger and by investing in the lives of the people in Iran. It may not make sense to you, but consider asking yourself this question – what do you believe in enough that you would risk your own well being, your comfort, your freedom, and possibly even your life?

If we don’t have values or principles in our lives that are worth sacrificing for then we aren’t actually experiencing the fullness of life. 

#2 Should the USA (and President Obama) have gotten Saeed out of Iran?


I watched and read a lot of angst towards President Obama regarding his actions to help free Saeed. Some thought he didn’t act enough; that he didn’t care since he is a really just a Muslim in disguise, bent on America’s destruction.
Other Americans were mad at Obama – that he spent any resources and time to see Saeed get home. They felt Saeed got what he deserved and should spend his full sentence in an Iranian jail. 

I, for one, was so grateful that our president took the time to meet with Naghmeh, Saeed’s wife, when he visited Boise last year. He didn’t make it a political showpiece. The meeting was private and wasn’t followed with a press release. He honestly had nothing to gain from Saeed’s release in his ‘lame duck’ years of his presidency. I believe he did it because he actually cared. I think this is what Naghmeh thought too as it is what she shared publicly. All the political pundits who have some other opinion should consider deferring to those who were actually in the meeting.

When Saeed was freed from prison, Naghmeh shared that the President called her to congratulate her on her husband’s release. We wouldn’t have know this from Washington D.C. as Obama wasn’t politicking. Again, we only know the details because Naghmeh shared it with her community and her family’s supporters. Unfortunately in her Facebook post she had to politely ask people not to degrade the man who just helped to get her husband released.

Although President Obama just helped to get our local pastor released from an Iranian prison I read several posts from Christians who challenged this leader, his motive and his efforts. I will never understand Obamahatred, as I do not see it as Christlike at all. I have had to reevaluate some of my connections with people based on their curious, unspiritual, and fruitless displays and actions.

It comes down to this – If Naghmeh was grateful for her meeting with the President, his work on Saeed’s behalf, and for his follow up with her, who are we to challenge that? Those who claim to be in her camp but don’t trust her opinions in these regards are suspect to me. I find this kind of undermining of her statements as being condescending and misogynistic.  

Naghmeh has proven herself to be heroic in the fight for her husband’s freedom. I haven’t seen any reason why we should question her judgement in the rest of these matters.

I trust Naghmeh.

#3 Should personal issues between Saeed and Naghmeh have been made public?

Here is the issue that prompted me to finally write.

Naghmeh was a tireless fighter to see her husband released from prison. She rallied our local community, spoke at events, traveled throughout the country, lobbied our government, became a spokesman, and gained a national following. While I don’t know Naghmeh personally I do know several of her friends and supporters who have endorsed her genuineness. She doesn’t come across as someone who is seeking the spotlight for her own benefit, yet she hasn’t shrunk from that opportunity when it gave her a platform to rally for her husband’s release.

This last year the Christian world was shocked when it was revealed that Naghmeh’s marriage with Saeed was toxic and that she needed to take a break from her advocacy on his behalf to protect herself and their children. She wrote two emails to a group of her supporters with a brief explanation of the nature of their marriage difficulties. These emails were shared with the magazine Christianity Today and they decided to report on it.

“In two emails to supporters, Abedini revealed details of her troubled marriage to Saeed Abedini, an American citizen and pastor imprisoned in Iran since September 2012.

Those troubles include “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography),” she wrote. The abuse started early in their marriage and has worsened during Saeed’s imprisonment, she said. The two are able to speak by phone and Skype.

Touring the country to advocate for Saeed’s release while coping with marital conflict proved too much, she wrote. She told supporters she’s withdrawing from public life for a time of prayer and rest.

“It is very serious stuff and I cannot live a lie anymore,” she wrote. “So, I have decided to take a break from everything and seek the Lord on how to move forward.”

Our local newspaper, The Idaho Statesman reported the following:

In 2007, Saeed pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault in Ada County Magistrate Court. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was suspended, and placed on probation for a year, according to online Idaho court records.

Jump forward to his release this month. If, like me, you watched the news you saw that Saeed was first taken to Germany to a U.S military hospital to be examined. His family did not meet him there (but a politician did). He was then flown back to the US where he was met by his parents at a North Carolina retreat run by Franklin Graham. Naghmeh and her children were not a part of his welcoming. We later found out why by Naghmeh’s own words.

I do deeply regret that I hid from the public the abuse that I have lived with for most of our marriage and I ask your forgiveness. I sincerely had hoped that this horrible situation Saeed has had to go through would bring about the spiritual change needed in both of us to bring healing to our marriage.

Tragically, the opposite has occurred. Three months ago Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer. He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.

When I first read her post I was curious to see what opinions would follow in the Christian community, especially those here in the Abedini’s home town. I was encouraged to see many messages of support on Naghmeh’s Facebook page in response to her post. Yet despite her dreams of running into her husband’s arms when he arrived back in Boise, instead she was filing a petition of legal separation and a motion to make sure her children would remain with her in Idaho.

It wasn’t the homecoming that any of us wanted, hoped, or prayed for.

What did concern me were the comments I’ve seen about how this marital abuse should have stayed a private matter. While the thought of having our broken lives broadcast to the world is frightening sometimes it is exactly that exposure that allows the light to come into the dark corners where we’ve hid our shit.

Naghmeh didn’t intend to go public when she emailed her personal concerns to her support group, yet someone took it upon themselves to leak the story to the media. I’m torn with this decision, as confidentiality is such a sacred trust. There are, however, legal and moral reasons why priests, pastors, counselors, therapists and lawyers are obligated to share what has been told to them in confidence (the situations vary depending upon the role). For me domestic abuse is included in this reality. It isn’t something I will help someone hide or cover up.

The Evangelical Church has a very bad record when it comes to getting people the assistance they need in domestic abuse situations. One reason is because we have become obsessed with keeping people in this covenant as if the institution of marriage matters more than the individuals in the relationship.

If as pastors we conclude that scripture teaches divorce is a great sin, then our natural response is to make sure that no one in our congregation ever splits up. Our counseling and advice becomes suspect because we are predisposed to believe these people are more suited to please God if they are married. Some denominations hold back positions, roles and opportunity from people who get divorced. Unfortunately this creates an environment in our religious circles that when there is trouble in a marriage we do the best we can to manage the physical, emotional, spiritual and relational pain while doing all we can to hold the relationship together – even when it creates more hell than it is worth.

I think we’ve really, really missed God’s heart.

Recently I was made aware of a situation of a friend of mine whose husband came close to killing her in a fit of rage. When they met together with their pastor they were told they should take a two week break from seeing each other. Thankfully the police saw the reality in a different light and the situation is being addressed with more severity than what their pastor prescribed. Unfortunately this is not unusual in the evangelical world. We are very professional when it comes to under-responding to domestic abuse. This has to change.

As to Saeed’s story, what is both fascinating and horrifying to me is that in the midst of his imprisonment in Iran he was working hard on his public persona via putting pressure on his wife. He wanted to make sure that he was being presented in the best light. Based on Naghmeh’s admissions and her lack of actions the past three months, and now based on her actions since Saeed has been released, his desire to cajole, manipulate, and abuse the relationship with his wife didn’t work.

Naghmeh is one remarkable woman.

I am so impressed that she didn’t capitulate to the fame and fortune that would have come to her if she would have played her expected role as the dutiful, Christian wife. Imagine the beneficial pictures, book deals, speaking engagements, and movie scripts. Instead she had the fortitude to get legal protection from her abuser.

Saeed finally spoke to this situation tonight. He said all the right words that everyone from Boise wanted to hear.

“Naghmeh has been a hero to me and suffered enormously as a result of being 7,000 miles away from me and being a single parent to our two precious children while traveling and leading a crusade on my behalf… I will always love her for her sacrifice.”

Next he presented the message that the Christians wanted to hear – which in reality is nothing more than a well scripted, personal defense and denial of Naghmeh’s accusations:

This latest development, which Naghmeh first made public, leads me to offer this brief statement.

  1. Our marriage is under great stress and I am hoping and praying for healing and restoration.
  2. I love my wife and want God’s will for both of our lives.
  3. I am a sinner, saved only by the wonderful grace of God. While I am far from perfect—as a man or as a husband, I am seeking every day to submit to God as He molds me into what He wants me to be.
  4. Much of what I have read in Naghmeh’s posts and subsequent media reports is not true. But I believe we should work on our relationship in private and not on social media or other media. Naghmeh wrote this week, “We are taking personal time to work on very serious personal issues.” I intend to do this hard work in private.
  5. The God I serve today is the same God I served while being interrogated and beaten in some of the harshest prison conditions in the world and He is capable of restoring a marriage that has withstood unbelievable pressure. I ask for prayer for another victory.

And then the deferral – the request for all of us to turn our our attention away from Saeed getting his house in order and his wife in check.

“It is not my intention to speak further publicly—through social media or any other channels—at least until I believe we have made significant progress in private. I thank you for your understanding and support.”

But here is the reality, Saeed. We have fallen in love with your wife who has been advocating on your behalf. We trust her. We believed in her mission to free you, and now we believe in her mission to be free. She, like you, in sacrificing your freedom by proselytizing in Iran, is now sacrificing the financial gain and fame she could have experienced on your return, in order to fight for her dignity and protection as a person, a spouse and a parent. Your desire to have this be a ‘private’ matter was revoked when you tried to manipulate Naghmeh into making you look good to us. She, and we, didn’t buy it. 

Saeed, this isn’t what repentance looks like. If you don’t get this, and if you continue to abuse your wife and family in any way, you deserve to be locked up again, but this time in our American prison system.

Be free, Naghmeh. We are fervently praying now for you.


Scamming the Craigslist Scammer (651) 927-7163

A Craigslist scam from phone # 651-927-7163


A friend recently gave my family some furniture, which was an upgrade to what we owned. I decided to use Craigslist to sell one of my used couches. The following is a 10-day dialog, all via text, regarding the purchase of my couch. I have left it as unedited as possible, only removing some personal information and moving the order of a couple of texts to fit the actual flow of conversation when the texts were flying back and forth rapidly.

Please excuse the foul language and the length of this blog post, but I think it is funny as hell.

January 16th

Morning,i would love to buy the Couch you posted on craigslist,what is the final price if its still available. Thanks

He has only sent one text, but I already had a red flag. His phone number has a Minnesota area code. Of course many people move to Idaho from other states, but it still got my attention.

Hi, It is $450 for couch. Let me know if you’d like to come see it.

I will be paying you with a certified check and wait till it clears your bank before pick up is scheduled..

Red flag number two – he doesn’t want to see the couch or sit on the couch, he just wants to send me money? I also am confused by him talking about the check clearing before getting the couch. I’m figuring this is a scam, but he has me interested now.

where are you located?

Am currently in utah where I work as an engineer at Jacobsen construction co

Kindly get back to me with your name and mailing address to mail the check asap….thanks.

You can send it to
Chad Estes
Address 1
Address 2

I decided not to give the guy my address. Instead I gave them the address to my friend’s business who could intercept the mail for me.

ing the balance to the mover so pick up can be done.

The check will be mailed by Monday AM and it will be in excess cos the movers fee has been included so,kindly deduct your fee and assist me in transferr

Okay, the price of the couch is $450. The remaining of your check will go to the mover. I will need to know the name of the company/mover who will be picking up the couch.

Ok. will let you know when you the check has been delivered and cleared by you before pick up date will be scheduled

Thanks. You can remove the ads from Craigslist. I’ll notify you as soon as the total payment had been made out to you. Good doing business with you.

You too. What is your name and contact information?

Am engineer Tim Reeves and am using my phone no in texting you, I work with Jacobsen construction co.

Okay, this sounds so bogus. But since ‘Tim’ tells me that he will contact me once the payment has been made I decide to play this out. I don’t think he will actually send anything so I don’t say anything to my friend whose business address I used. I also didn’t remove the listing from Craigslist.

January 20

Has the payment been sent?

January 21



Yeah. good morning Chad Estes ….I am the guy buying Couch-$450 from you.. sorry just wanna let you know that the check has been delivered to you deliver to you kindly get back to me for confirmation

… thanks

Then I get a text from my friend.

Are you expecting a check from Elizabeth Sine? We got a priority mail envelope today at the office in your name. All it contains is a check.

How much?

1680. It looks legit. But there is no info on it.

Bob Designs. On the mailing label.

Okay, so this is kind of long, I’ll try to keep it short. Selling a couch on Craigslist. I was contacted from someone out of state. Said he was working in utah. just needed my name and a place to send the check. Seemed fishy to me.

My house isn’t listed and didn’t want to give him my number. Not wanting to lose the opportunity if it was legit I used the office address. He told me he’d let me know when he sent the check, but hadn’t yet, so I didn’t contact you about it. Figured it was bogus.

Ok. So it’s legitimate?

He told me he’d make the check for more, so that the person who is picking up the couch could be paid. I expected there to be $50 -$100 extra in the check. The couch is only $450. I think somebody is trying to launder money.

Ok. I can drop it by, but won’t be leaving till after 8 probably.

At this point I decided to call the police. I decided to wait until I had the check in hand in case they wanted any information from it.


That the tracking number.the check was delivered to [friend’s business address], ID 83714 on January 21, 2016 at 10:12 am

Do you have the cash with you now?

i guess you should have deposited it by now?

I was just informed by the office it was delivered. It appears that the amount may be incorrect. The couch is only $450 but the check is in the amount of $1680.

yeah,i told you it gonna be in excess,you will deduct your 450 and get the balance to my movers,OK?

Since you receive the check have it deposited in your bank or through an ATM

once you have the cash deduct your fee as agreed and have the cash balance sent to my mover via money gram so pick up can be done asap….thanks

What moving company are you using?

it a private company that belongs to my wife cousin

So what name am I supposed to put on the check?

Do you have the cash with you now?

Has the check been cleared

No, the check just arrived today and I wasn’t in the office. I won’t have it until tomorrow.

Ok,will get you the movers info when the check is cleared,you will have to send it to them via moneygram and after they confirm the payment,pick up schedule will be done..Thanks

I call the police and the officer informs me that this is, in fact, a scam. She says that once the swindlers have my name (which they do) my address (which they don’t) and I’ve deposited the check then they will have my banking account information and will go on to screw me. I ask her if they want to follow up on this illegal activity, but am informed that since they haven’t yet harmed me the police don’t really have anything to go on. I’m disappointed, and I still don’t think I understand the nature of the scam.


January 22

Morning Chad and how is your day going?

Do you have the cash now?

Hey, got the check and deposited it.

That cool

once you have the cash deduct your fee as agreed and have the cash balance sent to my mover via money gram so pick up can be done asap….thanks

I can just give it to them when they pick up the couch.

They will have to confirm the payment before coming for pick up..that there policy, they currently running an internal audit and moving with cash is prohibited for them

Once they confirmed the payment, they will come for the pick up

Just let me know when the check is cleared and I will get you the movers info to transfer the money to..Thanks

No problem. I’ll just write them a check.

Of course I haven’t cashed or deposited the check, but I did go visit my bank manager. He explained the scam in more detail. If I walked into the bank with the check and wanted to cash it they would just look to make sure there was enough money in my account to cover the amount. I could have walked out of the back with $1680. If I wanted to deposit the check they would have made the first $200 available to me. In another 24 hours if I looked at my bank account online it would show that the remainder of the check had also been cleared. The reality is that it takes 8-10 days for these checks to make there way back and forth between banking institutions. In other words a week later my bank would inform me that the check had been bogus and that they wanted their $1680 back. Now the scam made sense to me. He also encouraged me to call the bank on the check and see what they had to say.

The Guarantee Bank and Trust Company was indeed interested in my call. When I gave them the name and number on the check, the account number and the amount they verified that the check was bogus. They took down all of the information – tracking number from the envelope, the New York address on the envelope, and everything that was on the check. I could tell they were interested in following through where they could. They also suggested I call the police back again.

The second officer I talked to listened patiently while I tried to give him the background but cut me off when I suggested they come set up a sting and arrest the guys who come for the money and couch. He explained that no one would ever show up at my door (or at my friend’s office) to get the overpayment. They would just make up an excuse why they couldn’t show up that day and ask for the money to be transferred to them. He said he doubted any of these people were in state and thus there wasn’t really anything the local police could do, which now made more sense.

I decided to play along, but with my own rules. I was hoping to get an actual address from the scammers by saying I’d only send them their money with a personal check via a certified letter. Then I could at least let Guarantee Bank know a tangible follow up clue to these guys locations and identities.

It was time for some fun.

January 23

Are your guys coming today?

Do you have the cash now

You told me that cash was prohibited, so I’ll just write them a check.

No,u didn’t get me right. I told you it there policy not to be moving cash around when on transit

They have to confirm the payment first before coming for pick up

So Kindly help me get the cash sent to them via moneygram and you can deduct the transfer charges from it

Confirm the payment? You told me this was a family business that you are involved in. You sent me the money and I have it for them. Please come pick up your couch.

I will but my movers have to confirm the payment first before coming down

Thank God I inform you earlier about it that it gonna be in excess

Again, I don’t know what confirm the payment means. You can tell them that the payment has already been made to me and it’s ready to be picked up. You trusted me, so they can too.

I got you but it just there company policy, The movers picking up the items helped my wife relocate but they are unpaid yet

Well I’m not going to pay until they come pick up the couch, I need it moved out of my area.

They told me they won’t be coming if they didn’t get the cash in hand first because of the money I owe them earlier

What do you mean,are you trying to go away with my fund

You have my money at hand and you telling me you not gonna release it

What the big deal in helping me getting the money sent to them so pick up can be done

Please try to understand and get it sent to them so they can come as early as possible for the pick up tomorrow

I have helped you by telling you you could send the extra money for the moving company. You told me they would pick it up when they came to get the couch. That’s what I’m prepared to do. I’m not going out of my way anymore. Your issues with your families moving company are your issues not mine.

Why you strict and heartless, am sure you have a bad thing on mind and maybe running away with my money

Please kindly help me in getting it send to them and you can remove $80 for the stress am giving you

You can use it in fuelling your car to the money gram location

I don’t appreciate your accusations. I have gone out of my way to help you and your family in this situation. You need to work this out with your wife’s cousin, not me.

Am very sorry with the way I talked with you about you running away with my money

I trusted you from the start and I believe you can help me as well this time

Why can’t you help?

It not his fault, he would have help if not for the company policy

Maybe you should have a heart to heart talk with your wife and get her to pull strings.

Please my wife has to get this couch because there is nothing in her sitting room now

I told her that the couch will get to her by tomorrow

I already talked to her but she can’t do anything because it just the company policy

And because of the money owed them earlier, they won’t be coming if they don’t confirm the payment

Dude, you need to man up and be more firm with her.

Please Chad,I know you are a good man and can do this for my family

We will really appreciate it

Are you there Chad?

I’m going on a walk to cool down and to think more about this.

Ok. Thanks man..will be waiting for your response

I will really appreciate it cuz I already told the my wife that the movers will get there money today and by tomorrow the couch will get to her

Thanks once again for understanding me

I think this is the best I can do. I am going to keep the $450 for the couch. I will give you and your family 15 days to pick it up. If it is unclaimed I am going to resell it. I acted with you on good faith. As for the remainder of the money you sent I will send a check back to you, certified mail, so that you can deal directly with your family business. They don’t sound like the people I want to work with. I am sorry you are having so much trouble with them. If you’d like a little advice, you probably should have just paid them what you owed them and then this wouldn’t have been a hassle.

Oh…why you doing this for God sake,have been pleading to you for some hours now

Some lessons are hard to learn. Sorry.

Please send me your mailing address so I can send you back your money.

Chad, i know am stressing you but just do this to me as a help and you can even deduct 120 from it for the stress am putting you through

I am calm and centered about this now. I feel good sending you back a check. I do want to make sure it isn’t lost though as I don’t want to be responsible for your other funds. Address?

I don’t even know what to say again cuz my wife will be hurt if she can get the couch this week

I will overnight it to you, but I am taking that cost out of the money. You can still have the couch this week.

You not responsible for anything Chad. .why don’t you trust me

Please just help me in doing this and I owe you a lot

I might be of help to you some other time as well

This isn’t personal. It is business.

I understand

My mind is settled.

But I believe you can do this for me as a gentle man

Please Chad,should I get you the info to make the payment to now

No, give me your address so I can send a certified letter.

No I don’t want the money back here cuz have already budget it for the couch

Please in God’s name : help me do this

And you and your family will get a helper as well

Are you with me chad

No, give me your address so I can send a certified letter.

Please once again

Is there anything attached to it for you not wanna help me out

Chad, I will really appreciate it

Are you there?

Please kindly do it for me cuz I know it was my mistake

Please Chad I need a word from you

Time is running out. I know you have a good mind

They have to get the payment today cuz I already contacted them that the payment will be made today.

Didn’t want to tell you this before but I think I have to now..They are planning to charge my wife to court for the delay in making the payment owed them

Why the silence, please talk Chad

Wow. Your wife’s family is going to charge her in court? This is exactly why I don’t want to deal with them. You aren’t pulling me into your family’s crap. You will just have to send them the cash yourself. I will overnight the extra that you sent to me on Monday. I still need your address.

Not that they own the company, my wife cousin just work there and he was the guarantor for her tha she will return the money

Yoy not gonna involve in any shit chad

You keep changing the story. Your issue is with your wife, her cousin, his company, and your bad decision making. I’m not getting into the middle of it. I just want to send you your money back. Plus, I think you should be going out of your way to get these guys paid off so they don’t go after your wife. Then she will be happy. If you pick up the couch then she will be really happy. And when spouses are happy they start putting out again, if you know what I mean.

Middle of what,you holding my money and I only just need you in getting the money sent to them

Why are you doing this,we reached an agreement from the start that the excess will be for the movers and you agreed

Don’t know why you suddenly change

I didn’t change the terms, you did. You need marriage counseling and a good finance class like Dave Ramsey’s. Do you want a link to his webpage?

You shouldn’t have purchased a couch when you already had a moving debt with this company. You should have saved for the leather couch as it is just a luxury.

Yeah,I admit that and it won’t happen again..have learn my lesson..Please just try to do this for me as a favour

I don’t owe you any favors and I don’t need you indebted to me. I’m about to go leave for a family outing. Hopefully you will send me your address so we can part ways amicably. You’ll thank me for this one day.


You must have a problem , am sure about that cuz I don’t know why one will be so heartless

The only problem I have is that you haven’t come and picked up the couch you purchased. That, and the time I’ve wasted with you online. If you want to view me as heartless go right ahead. From my perspective I am sick your whining. Gird up your loins and be a real man.

Ok. How much is my balance left to you.i will get yoy my address to mail back the check to

The couch is, and always has been $450.

Ok then,I have 1230 left with you

What kind of check are yoy even planning to make my payment with

Yes, that is the amount over that you sent me. It will be my own personal check. I will send it from the post office overnight (so let’s deduct another $25 for this charge) from the post office in a certified letter.

So you will be sending $1200

That works for me.

Name: A Hunt address 8206 Rockbridge rd 30058 lithonia ga.

I look up “A Hunt” at that address and find an “Alfred Hunt.” His obituary says he passed in 2011.

I thought you were in Utah…

Get it sent to the address now and after confirmation, the pick up date will be scheduled

I’m only sending this to you. Certified letter. No bs.

Yeah..that my wife cousin info..He will clear the check and later comes for the pick up

What do you mean by no bs?

You are still trying to get me to send this to your wife’s cousin. I will only send the check to you. I’m done talking for now.

What the fuck. I think I should press charges against you now

You told me that you can send them cash earlier and I pleaded bit you keep saying no

You think you can go away with my money, thank God I have the chat history. My lawyer should hear this

No problem. I’ll just write them a check.

That what you said earlier

No. I never said I would send it to them. I said I would give them the extra money when they came to pick up the couch. I haven’t wavered. Go ahead and press charges. Call your lawyer. I haven’t done anything wrong. Now you’ve got me mad.

I don’t wanna cause any violence and a gentle man like you

Since you said you can’t send them the cash . I told them thay I will mail them the check and they say no but my wife cousin said he will help me I’m clearing it and give the cash to them

I’ll send you the check to get this over and done with, but I’m not playing middle man with your money or your family’s issues. You are a pathetic little man. I can’t believe you work construction.


You are funny chad

Just send it to him and latest by Monday when he get it cleared, they will come for pick up ok

You with me?

Get back to me with the tracking number for confirmation

Hey Chad, why the silence, you trying to screw me

I need a word from you now

I told you I’m out with my family.

Ok. you guys have a nice day

And don’t forget to mail the check today

Get back to me for confirmation after sending it ok?

An hour later

Hello Chad, how is your day going?

Have you mail the check?

I need a frio:-m you

Do you mail me the check already

No, you never gave me your address, plus the post office isn’t open until Monday.

That my address

What is your address?

Name: A Hunt address 8206 Rockbridge rd 30058 lithonia ga.

Listen, you told me that was your wife’s cousin’s address. If I send a check in your name via a certified letter from the US post office, he won’t be able to sign for it. You told me you were in Utah. I’m not putting anybody but your name on the check and I’m not sending it to anyone but you. We already decided this. Have you been drinking?


I think it gonna be cool like this cancel our transaction and get money in full send to that address

Am nor the buying the couch again

Failure to do that will cause you something bad

Some tui you don’t expect

I’m not sending shit to that address. Are you threatening me?

Your wife is going to be really pissed at you.

I need my cash

January 24

Morning Chad and happy Sunday

I need a word from you now

Get my money sent to the address and the name and we can finalise all this matter

Still waiting for your response, are you running away with my money. am gonna report you to the authority if you fail to reply today

I’ve made it clear that I will only send a check back to you via certified mail and I’m waiting for you to provide me your address. You can threaten me all you’d like, but you are making me dislike you even more.

Let me have my money

Give me your address

Name: A Hunt address 8206 Rockbridge rd 30058 lithonia ga

Send it to him now and that all..I won’t be disturbing you again if you can get it to him

Please try to mail it first thing tomorrow morning

I told you I won’t send it to your wife’s cousin but only to you. If you send me any more texts today other than your address – so I can send a certified letter to you, then I will not respond.

He is not my wife cousin, that the name of the person that mail the check for you

He is my friend.

He is a lawyer friend,mail it to him or rather give him the cash before he starts pressing charges against you

Am not available to pick any check now

Then I guess we wait.

Wait for what…I have something to do with my money, if you not selling the couch again

Mr Chad, be a gentle man and mail the check to alfred

So why did you tell me this was your wife’s cousin? Now you tell me Alfred is your friend and a lawyer? What is his phone number? I would like to talk to him about you and the way you’ve treated me.

Am sorry about that

I was drunk while texting you yesterday

He was the one that mail it to you on my behalf in the first place

Get it to him and everything will be settled

I believe after this transaction, we gonna be best of friend

I want to talk to him

Why would you want to talk with him

Just mail it to him and e will get it to me later when am around



You can call him,he is always busy and don’t pick strange calls..you can just leave a message for him

I hope have done your wish now,can I just have my money?

I’m not leaving a message. Want to talk to him.

Then feel free to call him if he can pick your call

See Mr Chad,I have your home address and number here…seems you wanna go with my money. I will deal with you and your family

I don’t know what you want again, we have been dragging this matter since yesterday and you keep saying rubbish

You asked for his number. I gave it to you

Am giving you the last option now,if I didn’t get the check tomorrow. expect something bad to happen to you and your family

Am gonna track you down for going away with my money

You are insipid, mean and ignorant. I won’t launder your money for you. Threaten me again and I’ll go to the authorities.

Ok, am not threatening you .am just a gentle man like you

Please just do what I ask you to do

No, you did just threaten both me and my family. Last time – your address, or I am finished.

You forget I live in Idaho. I have more guns than children, and I have a lot of kids.

I told you am not available now

So how would I get my money?

I guess you contact me again when you become available.

So you telling me my money is safe with you

Yes, until you give me your address so I can mail it to you. But I won’t mail it to anyone else. I’m not going to be a part of your bad business deal with your family. I want this to be over with as much as you do.

Mr Chad, what do you mean by that. can’t you be of help to my family?

You help your own family. Why are you hesitant to have me send you back your money? I think you have a nut or two loose.

There is nothing am hiding, it just a personal issue..I promise my wife some cash with the couch I will be buying her but I can’t afford the cash now and that why I sent it in excess to you in the first place

It was even alfred that help me in mailing the check to you

And now am asking you to mail it back to him for me

He will just get the money to them for me and they will come over to pick it up

I think this make sense to you chad

No. No. No. Alfred is not and will not be a part of our business transaction. That is what I wanted to tell him on the phone.

I think it will be a whole lot easier for me just to donate all of your check to a local charity and then resell my couch.

How about the Better Business Bureau for Boise? I will donate it in your name.

I’ll make sure to get a receipt for the donation so that it can be tax deductible for you, but I’ll still need your mailing address.

Why would you donate my hard earned money to a charity. .If you have plans in doing that,you can take 200 from it and get me my 1000 mail to alfred

I’m giving it all.

Ok but why would you do that.

Because I’ve tried several times to send you back your money but you keep lying to me and trying to get me to send it to someone else. I am tired of your games.

Even if you think am lying which am not, why can’t you get it sent to the person. At least he is inside the country

What does that have to do with it? You are a good for nothing, low down swindler. I won’t be a part of your money laundering.


Of that little change. All I know is that you can go away with my money

Yep. I can.

And you have motivated me to do it.

So you admitting it now..I knew that from the start

Come and get it. By tomorrow morning at 8:01 am it will be donated elsewhere.

You a thief and you not gonna go away with my money

Chad Estes
[friend’s business address]

I believe that your address. will get in touch with you soon

I might not even come around now , seven years from now. You will pay for this

Well that gives me seven years to sit here on this couch (that you promised as a gift to your wife) to laugh out loud at your impotence.

I offered to give you your money back and you wouldn’t take it. You obviously have something deceptive going on. Either give me your address to send it back to you or I will donate it to someone who needs it. You threaten me again and I’m going to the cops.

Ok, will get back to you tomorrow

Have a lovely night rest and my regards to your family

Keep the money for me ok

No. Give me your address. I want to be free of you.

January 25

I’ve had fun stringing these guys along while I walked my local park, roasted batches of coffee, and done other chores, but I decided I was done with their shenanigans and ready to share the story online.

Morning Chad

How was your night?

I hope you slept well?

Are you ready to end this silly dialog?


Get it sent this morning

Ya, about that… You never gave me your mailing address, which is why I told you that I wasn’t going to dink around any longer. I’m happy just to give the money to a charity in your name.

What do you mean

We’ve gone over this before, or were you drunk then too?

I wasn’t drunk. I told you not to donate my hard earned money to any charity

All I want you to do now is have it sent to alfred hunt and get back to me for confirmation


About Alfred, I wanted to send you my condolences. That phone number you gave me for him wasn’t in Georgia (which is the address you gave me for him) but in Virginia. I looked him up and found his obituary in 2011. I’m sorry about your friend. However, you mustn’t have been that close if you didn’t know he had already passed. If he is your lawyer, like you claimed, and he is still billing you, you should note that it is happening from beyond the grave. As for me, I won’t do business with zombies. I am totally prepared for the apocalypse should it occur.


What do you mean by that..It none of your business whether he is dead or alive. just get it sent to the address and all this is over

You got nothing to loose after all

I won’t be a part of your illegal activities. If you want the money, give me your address and be prepared to have it authenticated, otherwise your money will be donated here in Idaho. Nope, I don’t have anything to loose, but you do.

Don’t be scared, he won’t be disturbing you in your dream since you not the one that killed him

Or you knew anything about his death?

Ok..you seems to be very stubborn.

Damn right.

I will get back to you with my address. I want my money back today

I want your address now. Don’t you know it, or are you searching for another address of a deceased person?

What do you mean

Why you fucking heartless

Send it to the address now

Because I don’t like liars, cheats and thieves.

Am none of the three Chad

He is not dead,I still contacted him yesterday to notify him that he is gonna help me in receiving a check

Funny, the state of Georgia thinks he is dead.

Did you message him and didn’t get any response?

I went over this, asshat.

Went over what

Have left utah and am not ready to let anyone to know where I am currently

Then how will you get the couch?

I already told you I have movers that will come over and pick it up..That was our agreement

They taking it to my wife’s new apartment

Just get the check sent to alfred and the couch will be picked up latest Wednesday

Are you on your way to the post office now

I’m not putting a dead man’s name on any check only yours. I’m only sending it to an address that can be certified and that you have to sign for. So one last time – what is your proper name and current address?

Ok, let me talk to my boss if he can allow me to disclose our current location

What does your boss have to do with this?

U don’t seem to get me right

I work with him and am not ready to loose my job for this shit

He instructed me not to let any body knows where we are

Not even my family for now

And why would he do that? What kind of business is it?

Is not of your business. He owns a construction company in utah

I told you that already that I work as an engineer for him

Did he give you the address? Did he give you permission to spend all of this time texting me while you should be working? Do you have to get a hall pass to use the bathroom?

He didn’t know anything about this

Cuz am gonna be in trouble if he get to know this and that why I told you I can’t disclose our location for you now

Are you done whining?

Am not whining you but telling you the truth

The truth? You can’t handle the truth.

Just try to believe me for once, at least I trusted you with my cash by sending excess to you in the first place

So Kindly help me in doing what I asked you to do as well..ok?

You’ve been played, player.

Your first mistake was wanting to buy a used couch in Boise, site unseen, when you said you live in Utah. There are plenty of couches in Salt Lake City. I’ve sat in some of them.

Your second mistake was to ask me to accept more money in the check than what the price of the couch was. Most people want to dicker down on the price, not up. Even your excuse of the extra amount being to pay for the transporting the couch only made sense if it was for a little over the price of the couch; instead you sent an extra $1230. I immediately called the police.

Your third was to send a check from a bank in Colorado, from an address in New York, with a name on the check that wasn’t the name you had given me.

Your fourth was to think I wouldn’t call the bank on the check to verify it’s validity. They confirmed it was a fraudulent account and took down all the details I had on your scam. As you continued to give me more stupid reasons to send you the extra money from a bogus check I continued to talk with my bank and the police.

Your fifth was to threaten me and my family. If any of your contact information was actually valid the retribution would be heading your direction, not mine.

It would be laughable at all of the ways you tried to persuade me except that with as much effort you used it must actually work sometimes. You are nothing but a low life scum and I put a pox on you.

May the winds of justice catch up to you and your little minions. May you all suffer for your actions and for scamming people by taking advantage of their good nature. Hopefully the story I post of your scam will alert others to this kind of injustice.

Fuck off


For playing with me , you have no job

Go get one.

I have a couch for sale…


Here We Have Idaho… Unfortunately

In Idaho we live and die by the First Amendment – We demand our freedom of religion (as long as it is Christian); we fight for our freedom of speech (as long as it agrees with ours); We expect the opportunity to peacefully assemble (unless you want to Add The Words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s human rights act); We want our freedom of the press (as long as it is bashing the liberals and that foreign-born, muslim loving, America hating, Constitutionally challenged, *non-white* president).

Idaho-capitolGrowing up in Idaho I heard a lot about prayer being taken out of public schools: Madelyn Murray O’Hair was public enemy #1, the End Times political upheavals were just around the corner, Gorbachev was the anti-christ, and Jesus’ second coming would be one of vengeance (most unlike his first visit).

I never had to worry about the godless, public education system. My parents provided me a private, Christian school education. I’m very grateful for those years for many reasons. Unfortunately, though, I bought into some of the fears that my religious community held regarding public education. When it came time to put my own kids in the jr. high that I would have attended at their age I felt the need to warn them, “Be careful, they keep the devil in that closet over there.”

They corrected me, “No, Dad, that is where they keep our skateboards during school hours.

I’ve grown up a lot in the last (not quite) half-century in Idaho. Unfortunately Idaho hasn’t always done the same. This week not ten minutes from my home, in the center of our State’s political system, a guest chaplain was delivering the daily invocation in the Idaho Senate. The problem that caused several senators to withdraw from the chamber in protest wasn’t because they are atheists (our godless leaders in Idaho know how to bow their heads and close their eyes as to not offend their more religious colleagues), it was that the chaplain giving the prayer was a Hindu.

In Idaho we live and die by the First Amendment – We demand our freedom of religion (as long as it is Christian); we fight for our freedom of speech (as long as it agrees with ours); We expect the opportunity to peacefully assemble (unless you want to Add The Words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s human rights act); We want our freedom of the press (as long as it is bashing the liberals and that foreign-born, muslim loving, America hating, Constitutionally challenged, *non-white* president).

This is why in Idaho we can’t have nice things (like health care reform, better education, and higher wages).

I remember the days of trying to sneak out of chapel during school, or taking an extra long bathroom break in the middle of morning devotions. I also remember trying to stretch out some chapel meetings when the next period included a Social Studies exam. So when a quarter of the State’s GOP Senators chose to play hooky during what they viewed as an offensive, opening prayer they could have chalked it up to last night’s burrito, their morning alarm not going off, or trying to find parking around the Capitol building- that is, until a couple of them opened their mouths.

One senator actually lodged a complaint against guest Chaplain Rajan Zed for his Hindu prayer. Another piped up to say, “Hindu is a false faith with false gods.” When asked to apologize by religious leaders from several different expressions of faith the senator doubled down, “I said it was a religion with false gods. I’m not going to give an apology.” She even said she would have attended if the invocation had also included a “Christian prayer.”

This makes her remarks even more alarming. What she, and apparently her constituents want (she ran unopposed in the last election), is a preferred religion at our State level – because in her words, “I’m in a floor session bound to follow the Constitution. … It is a Christian nation based on Christian principles.

As an American, what I wish this senator knew is that the heart of the First Amendment is to make sure that there is no establishment of a religion by the government. Honestly, this is basic, foundational, constitutional law. If our elected officials bring their personal, religious discrimination into their government roles where they are tasked to represent all of the people, they’ve failed miserably. She should be censured, if not replaced.

As a Christian, I’d suggest that any person with a worldview that equates modern day America with Old Testament Israel is a failure as a Bible student. It is abhorrent to me that some Christians think that any people who don’t abide by ‘our’ religion are uncircumcised Philistines and belong outside the camp (if not worse). I’d also suggest that the care, tolerance, and example that Jesus shared presents us with a much different approach.

And as someone who prays, there are several Idaho State Senators who would have walked out of my closet this morning if they had heard my laments and petitions.

Hiding From Myself

hidingfrommyself1A couple of summers ago I received an email from an author who wanted me to review his book. It wasn’t an unusual request. I had spent a couple of years building up my presence on Amazon.com as a top book reviewer and parlayed my status into a job with a Christian web company. I loved getting paid to review new literature and fiction. I also stopped accepting a lot of the freebie work, for Christian authors, even through books kept showing up on my doorstep each week from writers and publishers.

When Bryan asked me to review, Hiding From Myself, I was honest with him that my reviewing queue was long and full. To this day I still have a couple shelves full of books and manuscripts I never got to. However, what I didn’t tell Bryan is that other things he shared in his letter intrigued me. It was my review of “Love Is An Orientation” by Andrew Marin that caught his attention. As I reread that review the other day I can see how it could have given him the hope that I could be an open-minded, maybe even open-hearted reviewer with his story.

Reading [Love Is An Orientation] was personally painful. I recognized many attitudes and actions in my life that have been anything but loving. I recognized how I was good at trying to prove a point, but I didn’t have much to show for being “right.” I recognized that I was better at burning bridges than building them. I recognized my desire to fix people has kept me from genuine friendships. I also recognized that my heart was built for love and was tired of expressing anything less.

This isn’t much of a book review. It’s more of an endorsement. I feel people need to read this book, including those who think they’ve been righteously homophobic, those who have been compassionate to the GLBT community but want to be better at building bridges, and those who have put their head in the stand thinking that this issue doesn’t affect them at all.

And now, because of that statement that encouraged everyone to read Marin’s book, I have an author asking me to read his biography. Bryan hooked me. I clicked on his link, downloaded his book to my Kindle, and moved it to the front of my queue.

That weekend I went camping with my family and several friends along Idaho’s gorgeous Snake River. Even though it was a time to get away from it all I brought my Kindle along so I could continue reading Bryan’s book. What I read captivated me; Bryan could have been me. We were born around the same time. We both were raised in Christian families. We had similar church backgrounds. We were both in Christian organizations, attended the same Christian events (Promise Keepers the same years; different locations), both believed the same ways, held to the same truths, and kept the same faith.

Yet Bryan and I had different responses to our first glances at Playboy. I certainly felt that Schwing while Bryan didn’t feel a thing. I solidified my hetorosexuality while Bryan had to question his. While I went on to adopt gay slurs, Bryan went on to inwardly wince at them.

While I had no problems integrating my spirituality and sexuality as a Christian, Bryan found himself conflicted. I could focus my energy on finding the right woman to marry (and trying to keep myself pure in the meantime) while Bryan found himself willing to forgo the purity requirements of his belief system in relationships with women in order just to prove to himself, and to God, that he wasn’t gay, believing that was point of demarcation of entrance into God’s kingdom.

This hit me really hard.

If we have created an environment where a Christian feels it is somehow more acceptable to “sin” in order to not have a same-sex orientation, then we ourselves have gone astray. We have attempted to fix our LGBT brothers and sisters (as if broken), heal (as if sick), exorcise (as in demon possessed), and convert (as if lost). When I read that Bryan would think that God would cheer, or at least look the other way if he had sex with a woman, just in order to prove that he was not gay, I literally cried.

It was this reality that shook me from my staunch homophobia a few years before I read Bryan’s book the first time. I had a young, college-aged, gay man entrust me with his eternal soul. He asked me to get him ‘straight’ on the straight-and-narrow. He then began experimenting with relationships with women. While I fully wanted to validate his newfound heterosexuality it was painfully obvious to me that he was only using these women to try to prove something to himself, to God, or at least the god that he thought needed this sort of sacrifice. Though I desired him to be “normal,” if only for his own sake, I began to despise his use (and abuse) of other people that I also cared about in his attempt to make this transition.

When I finished Bryan’s book that weekend on my camping trip I drove back to my home so I could call him without the roaming charges. We talked a couple of hours about his book and about our lives. Now Bryan has recently published the book and I just finished reading it for the second time, cover to cover. It again has challenged and impacted me.

His story covers a decade of his life fully committed to purge himself of his apparent sexual orientation. He even manages to get a job at the Playboy Mansion, working his ways into the holy of holies – Hugh’s bedroom. “I am in Hugh Hefner’s closet, drowning in a sea of silk pajamas.” And I wonder what Bryan’s next sentence, his reality, will mean to the mainstream, Christian mindset at all: “My objective at the Playboy Mansion: to be tempted and to stumble would be a miracle.

When your religion pushes you to the place where you think that humping like a bunny, with a Bunny would be a God-given miracle, well, then you know that your religion has led you astray. So then what? Bryan presses forward with the hope of a 180° turn, now with the help of a professional counselor, but has to admit, “Psychology would point to my theology as the root of my pathology.” (This makes those of us with ministry credentials squirm, thinking of the young, gay men who have sought us out for counsel, guidance, and above all, change. I wonder if we have helped or hindered them. My fear is the later.)

In the words of Bryan’s Jewish counselor, “You are a case study of what happens when we cut ourselves off from feeling our true feelings. As I’ve said many times before, the judgement of your innate impulse and the way you punish yourself for not being able to live up to the expectations of your family, friends, and church are leaving scars. And until you learn to accept yourself, and all the parts, without this awful judgment you attach, you will continue to suffer and self destruct…

Seriously, how screwed up is it that we, in our religious efforts to ‘help’ someone, have actually been leading them to where they are self-destructing? In Bryan’s life it led him to the point of suicide. His quote is one that I’ve heard from several people and read in too many news headlines: “[I have a] head full of questions all pointing to a fundamental truth: I’d rather die than be gay.”

I, for one, am done with this practice. I don’t want to sacrifice the lives of my LGBT friends who find that they are ready to end it all just because they don’t want, desire, or practice the same sort of sex as me. I am also done with seeing my heterosexual friends being emotionally and physically used to try and alter my LGBT friends’ sexual orientations.

In Hiding From Myself, Bryan shares a decade of his life, starting in college, feverishly jumping through all the straight hoops available to him. It is impossible, for me, not to see myself in this story. I could have been his best friend, college roommate, accountability prayer partner, Promise Keeper buddy, professional counselor, personal pastor, or his co-worker. I am left to wonder where he would have written about me and what difference I would have made.

There are those of us who would ask Bryan to just choose something different, as if his same-sex attraction was something that he willingly and knowingly opted for. Bryan writes, “What’s disturbing is this stupid assumption that a person is ‘choosing a homosexual lifestyle.’ Do you know how ridiculous that is? If it’s as simple as ‘choosing a heterosexual lifestyle,’ do you really think I’d be sitting here across from you in a mental ward?

So here is what I am left with. Bryan and I are two boys who grew up the same. He is the one who prayed for a miracle and yet I am the one that God chose to heal.

Here is why I would like all my friends, especially my Christian ones to read “Hiding From Myself.” Bryan doesn’t attempt to fix anyone’s theology. He doesn’t come across as angry and he doesn’t have an axe to grind. He simply paints a very real picture of what life was like for him struggling with his sexual identity in the context of his Christian world and worldview. His experience and his perspective is valid and important. And for those of us who are heterosexual and followers of Jesus we’ve been tasked to love – which means authentic empathy – which may mean that sometimes we need to shut our mouths, still our hearts, and really listen.

For those of my friends who don’t have a religious background, reading Bryan’s book will help you understand what it is like for a kid who fears they are gay to grow up in the typical, Christian experience of the past couple of decades. It may help you have more compassion for their journey.

While “Love Is An Orientation” is a great book from the outside-looking-in to the LGBT world, Bryan has offered a personal story that encompasses what life looks like from inside the Christian world when you fear that you are gay. He is honest, real, and raw (as well as a damn good writer). He has captivated me both times I have read his story and I am a better man, and a better Christian, having read his biography.

Finally, Bryan’s testimony begs an audience of those of us who have made sexuality one of our political and religious platforms. We have many Christian brothers and sisters who identify in the LGBT realities. If we aren’t loving enough to really get intimate with their stories than it is we who are hiding from ourselves.

Jesus Take The Wheel

blowntireWe blew a tire on our way home from Portland on Sunday. We had just come over the mountain pass known as the Blues and saw the results of the dangerous, icy roads. Within a quarter mile there were two big SUV’s on their sides with emergency vehicles attending both accidents. I was definitely white knuckling the steering wheel until I saw the town of LaGrande approaching. An hour further down the road I was grateful to have Ladd Canyon, another cold weather road hazzard,  in my rearview mirror.  I anticipated a relaxed final two hour drive to Boise with dry roads. It was then that our tire blew. I was going 70 in the left lane, making good time when I heard the thump, thump, thump and the wheel start to jerk. Within a few seconds we pulled off the interstate and piled out of the minivan to see the damage and the smoking, flat tire.

It’s a new vehicle, to us, so we hadn’t changed a tire yet. We unloaded the back of our very packed van and made a pile of our luggage on the gravel shoulder. It looked as if the Beverly Hillbillies had decided to make camp on Interstate 84.

Unfortunately we found out that the jack didn’t come with the van, nor did the accessories needed to lower the spare tire from its hiding place underneath the vehicle. We had no options other than to call roadside service. Knowing it was after hours on a holiday weekend, and knowing that I had cancelled my AAA membership in order to save money this year, I figured the bill to get us back on the road would be paramount to highway robbery.

My family hardly blinked. They gathered blankets, jackets, and extra pairs of socks and then stood in a wind defying circle to keep each other warm as the sun disappeared behind the mountain range. I wish I had been able to have fun with them but I think I was still in shock of what happened and trying not to think of what could have happened. I also knew we weren’t out of the woods yet. They danced, laughed and made the most of the moment for the next hour. They joked that Jesus had taken the wrong wheel. Then somebody passed gas and they told me they were so thankful they weren’t still trapped in the van as it could have been a deadly situation.

When Superior Towing showed up Jeremy had a tool to lower our spare (which he then gave to me). The doughnut that was hiding underneath could only barely be called a tire. He looked at me as if to say, “You know you can’t ride to Boise on this, don’t you?” but when he saw my face he knew I knew.

He had a good idea, “Let’s put the doughnut here in the back and put this full-sized tire up front since you have front wheel drive.” I nodded my assent and watched him change two tires instead of one. Then he asked me to come up to his vehicle and figure out the next step. I learned there were no tire shops open in Baker City but he thought he could get in touch with the local auto salvage owner, although it was closed, and see about finding a good, used tire.

We packed up the the van and everyone got back in the vehicle. I tried to shut the rear door but the latch had frozen in place and wouldn’t close. I had to use the tools that Jeremy gave me to pry the lock back into place. Then once I took my own seat and turned the ignition I found we had used all the van’s battery with our hazard lights. Jeremy saw me running after his vehicle just before he was going to pull back onto the interstate. He backed up and jump started our vehicle.

We drove the seven miles into town while Jeremy went to help someone else in need of roadside assistance. We sat in a fast food restaurant grateful for the warm building and the hot french fries. I couldn’t eat much though, because while I knew we were now safe, I still felt a bit stranded and was trying to figure out our options if we couldn’t locate a tire.

About 45 minutes later Jeremy called me and led us to the auto salvage shop. The owner had just gotten back to town (from Boise) and was willing to help us out. He and Jeremy found a tire, remounted it on our rim, and then Jeremy changed our tire once again. While I paid both men and their companies for the goods and services neither of them took advantage of our situation. I didn’t hesitate to call Jeremy’s boss the next morning and let them know about how he represented his company and cared for his after-hours, holiday-weekend clients. She told me that she was writing down my affirmation to add to his employee folder.

I drove the last two hours home without talking much to my family. Once we had unpacked the vehicle for the second time that day I gathered us all into the kitchen to thank them for the way they handled the crisis. I also apologized for getting us into the mess. I felt there was more I could have done on my end to make sure our vehicle was road worthy. While I had checked all the fluid levels and put chains in the van in case of bad roads I had looked at the tires and thought they were good enough for another thousand miles. I was wrong and wished I had asked a professional. They were gentle with me, which I appreciated, but I don’t want any of them ever making the same mistake I did, so I didn’t want to downplay the situation either.

When they all went to bed I finally cried. Life is so goddamn fragile.

One last note before I put this blog post to rest. In the hour that my family stood on the intersate shoulder beside our obviously disabled van only one person stopped to offer help. When I explained our situation we knew that his truck was not equipped with the tools we would need to lower our spare tire. I thanked him for stopping and let him know that Superior Towing was on their way. We shook hands, him looking at my family standing behind me in the gravel, me looking at his family in the warm cab of his pickup. It didn’t matter that we were of different ethnic backgrounds or lived in different towns, we both were husbands and fathers with all the responsibilities that the role entails. That was all that mattered.

I’ll never be a Jeremy. I don’t have the mechanical ability to rescue people and their vehicles the way he and Superior Towing does on a day-to-day basis. But the other guy that stopped, I want to be like him – not in too much of a hurry to stop and help out a family on the side of the road. I don’t blame the thousand other vehicles that sped on by, I just don’t want to be one of them.

My family and I went to Portland for Thanksgiving. I learned to be thankful on the journey back home.