Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Sarah McLachlan is one of my favorite artists. This song was one of those I felt she was talking to me. If you have ever failed, and Lord knows I have done that in an almost nuclear proportion, this may be a voice calling in the wilderness of your life. I have had many failures in my life. 

The line that keeps going through my mind is, 
"We believed that we could change ourselves the past could be undone, but we carry on our backs the burden time always reveals. In the lonely light of morning, in the wound that would not heal. The bitter taste of losing everything that I've held so dear" 

For me it was I came from an extremely dysfunctional family. My Mother left my Father when I was six weeks old and I was raised by his sister who had been widowed during WWII. In fact, "Babe", finally told me when I was ten that she was actually my aunt. (I always wondered why my Mom & Dad were brother and sister - I didn't grow up on the set of "Deliverance".) My Father was a merchant marine and was gone most of the time I grew up. Where the major dysfunction came into play was that everyone in my family was an alcoholic. My Father, when he came home was physically and sexually abusive to me. I can remember being awoken to him beating me with a belt or his fists and then pleasuring himself at my expense. He was always a very angry man. With Babe, she was usually passed out by the time I got home from school. I would find something to eat and watch TV until the channels signed off. I did hear on some late show this English guy saying that people should read the "Classics", so when the Bookmobile came around I told the travelling librarian I wanted to read them and she started feeding me books. I started then and have read about a book a week since I started. 

When the "white flight" occurred in our area of Richmond, our family did not have a ticket to move to the suburbs. So, I grew up as a white kid in an African American area. I did learn to love and appreciate that culture and I also learned how to fight pretty well. It seemed there was always someone wanting to see if I made a wrong turn somewhere and wound up in the wrong neighborhood. This led my life into gangs and a great deal of time interacting with law enforcement. Then at seventeen I became a Christian and was told that everything in my past was forgiven and forgotten.

I went on to become a minister after studying Bible at Abilene Christian University and eventually a Master's from GTU in Berkeley. I had all of the answers to questions nobody asked and became a spiritual leader. Then that line in Sarah's song came back that I believed the past could be undone. Needless to say, after failing in ministry and the end of my second marriage - In the lonely light of morning in the wound that would not heal - I lost my business, wife and two children. I had become a successful business person and now was in a small apartment and in the midst of bankruptcy. Somehow I thought I had overcome the wounds, yet I carried on my back the burden time will always revel.

I was alone. I had no money. None of my friends were around. So I crawled into a cave. I started drinking and would drink until I passed out every night, except on weekends when my kids would visit (I refused to give my kids what I got from my Father). I remember wishing someone would call, but I hadn't made that easy for anyone. I felt a great deal of resentment against people I had helped in my business and soon realized that it was just part of the whole masquerade that I had somehow become this successful and popular person.

Then I met Josephine. She had never heard of me, she had no idea I had been this big shot. She just slowly pulled me from my cave and inspired me to start over again. She was everything I was not. Josephine is a free spirit and I am not. She is spontaneous and I am boring. Above all she is the most compassionate person I have ever met. We have been married for sixteen years and I love her more today than when we first met. She encouraged me to start a new career, to seek out old friends and most importantly - not to give up on God. My kids Sarah and Nathan are the light of my life and I am so happy they love me. Every night I text them a silly picture to let them know I am thinking of them and that I love them.

Now why am I writing this? Well, to let you know I do not know all of the answers to life. In fact, I seem to have more questions about life than  I did forty years ago. However, I also know what it is like to lose everything. As I said in a previous blog about the Road We Walk, it is a one way journey. Whatever place you find yourself - you need to keep moving forward. You need to find your North Star and NEVER lose sight of it. In the midst of the pain and the desire not to see or talk to anyone, you have to force yourself to reach out. Facebook has been a great place to at least communicate with people from my past. Some of them I have helped and others I have hurt and let down. Refreshingly, I have found acceptance from both groups. 

Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation that is so awful we see no way out. All of those people who I thought didn't care - some were trying to find me, I just had a very deep cave. Ask for help. Find someone or a group of people you can trust. You are not alone. In all of this I can say God did not abandon me, I walked away from Him. Don't wallow in self pity there is no perfect life, just life itself. When I was a kid I would watch "Ozzie and Harriett", "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" - then I would sit and wonder if that was what the "real" world was like -- it isn't. The world is messed up and people are messed up.

You are not alone in this struggle. I hope my words have helped at least someone who can see there is a way out of the darkness.



  1. Al, thanks so much for creating this blog and sharing your insights and stories. It brings back old memories of all those long discussions you and I used to have back in the day. You have so much warmth and compassion. You are going to touch lives with this endeavor. Jeff and I both miss and love you very much. I do hope you know that. Take care and God Bless.

  2. Thank you LauraLee. You and Jeff stood by me and have been a continued source of encouragement. I guess I am not as guarded as I used to be.

  3. Thanks Al. I had never know that agony that brought you to the time we met. I do know that Linda will be forever indebted to your Sunday morning class that hammered grace home, even through hearts encrusted by performance and legalism.

  4. Al,

    So much I did not know about you, but appreciate you more.

    Thank God for Josephine, who "stood by the door".

    Doug in Miami

  5. Perfect timing, Al. I love you both always. Tell Jo I said hello please and be well.

  6. Powerful and moving song and personal testimony.

    Thank for the friend invite on fb.

    God bless your ministry

    Family Fountain

  7. Al, thanks for sharing these intimate thoughts and feelings. It makes me a better person, if not a more compassionate Christian. As I walk my path I find others experiences give clarity to what I've experienced in my own past. Whlle I never lived the sexually abused life you did, my father was an alcoholic, and was physically abusive to us.

    From one Lachner to another thanks.

    Rick Lachner

  8. Thank you Rick,
    I posted this blog because I became aware of how many people are living with a great deal of pain and hurt from these kinds of events.I know mine was a bit more extreme, but no less traumatizing than what others have faced. I want people to know there is hope, even when our lives don't start out or progress as we planned.

    From one Lachner to another thanks.