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The First Time I Met Him…

The first time I met him, he was sitting on a park bench with two social workers in my hometown. Here was a nine-year-old boy, with; what I would describe as a short “mullet” looking down on the ground talking nervously to one of the social workers who happened to be one of my childhood classmates.

I have to give you the back story, because this meeting was years in the making.

As a child born in 1957, I was the last born of four children to my parents. I always gloried in the position of being the last-born child and It’s true what they say about us.

Parents have already spent their energies on the first born, instilling all the discipline into them. They make sure every surface of the house is sterilized so if the child puts something in his mouth from the floor, it won’t harm them.  

Suffice it say, my parents spent all of their good-intentioned discipline on the first three, by the time they got to me, I was eating spaghetti off the floor with the dog…they knew it wouldn’t kill me and I credit it with never having gotten Covid. The things that live in my body would resist a space virus.

I was also the one that was allowed to do things that the first three were not.

I got to go out with friends alone at an earlier age than they had, I was allowed to wear clothing that the others had been denied, and my so-called “curfew” was often talked about, but rarely enforced. This royally pissed off my older siblings…but c’est la vie!

 Yes, we last borns really ARE BRATS, and I loved it!

HOLLA last borns!

You can imagine then that I was comfortably ensconced in my position as the last Pacheco of the family.

So, by 1995, it was a forgone conclusion that those included in our tiny tribe of six, my parents and three siblings, was now a closed community.

When you look at the genealogy of Jesus, you must wade through some pretty embarrassing relatives. In His family tree, Jesus was related to a murderer and adulterer, (King David) and Abraham, the first wife swapper (…gave his wife away twice…).

He was related to a guy who had been sold into slavery by his own brothers, (Joseph), and had a very famous harlot, ( a Ho…) by the name of Rahab who had hidden the Hebrew spies when they were doing Recon on Jericho.

Also, for all intents and purposes, Jesus was in the strictest sense of the word, Illegitimate.

Joseph was not his father…and it was a real stretch for anyone to believe that the Holy Spirit had impregnated Mary. So, he had to endure that indignity his entire life…the Pharisees called him a bastard.

In 1993…my brother Greg, who has now gone on to be with the Lord, called me and told me that I was no longer the youngest in our family. He related the fact that my father, now also gone to be with the Lord, (I got to lead him to Jesus before He died,) had fathered a child and of course not with my mother.

Let me say, how very much I love and honor my father regardless of whatever mistakes he made and although it is a dark thing, it still does not do away with the 80 years of faithful love and service he gave to everyone he knew. Many relatives didn’t know about my half-brother, or the true story because when we became his legal guardians, we took him away to Cincinnati with jus where we lived…

But of course, there are consequences to our actions…and I was about to meet my younger brother sitting on that park bench in my hometown.

The social worker informed me that the boy had been carried by a mother who drank heavily during her pregnancy, but by grace, he had only a mild case of fetal alcohol syndrome. When I first met him, I was told that his home experience was one of lice and visits from the police. At nine years old he already had a rap sheet at the local police dept for minor things, but the direction of his life was headed south.

 Here I was, the youngest of my four siblings from the 1950’s and my wife and I could just envision a newspaper headline in the future announcing that a young man in my hometown was dead due to some kind of gang activity. We talked it over with each other and the Health and Human Services people in my hometown and it was agreed by all parties that my wife and I would become his legal guardians.

It was rocky…that’s all I’m going to say about it. Trying to do the right thing in this case was a major rough spot with my natural children and our new son…the same age as our youngest son. But here is the point…

I sleep with the television on…sometimes with scripture on YouTube, sometimes on Prime with a movie playing. I like noise when I sleep…I’m a strange bird.

This morning, at around 2 a.m. I woke up to the movie, “The Blind Side” The story of Michael Oher, professional football player for the Baltimore Ravens. A homeless boy taken in by some well to do family and superbly played by Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. I watched it for the 30th time and cried again at 2 a.m.  right when Michael Oher at the end of the movie said, “I need a proper hug!”

My half brother grew and joined the Marine Corp. He had a hard time in school and we bumped heads a LOT! But, today, he is married to a beautiful wife, and working as a communications supervisor (His MOS in the Marine Corp.) with a company in Cincinnati.

You and I are also adopted. We were sitting in squalor and destined to be just another casualty of lost humanity, until Jesus came along. Scripture says we are “adopted” as sons and daughter of the Most High, and the Father looks upon us just like He sees Jesus…Holy and Righteous.

We have an abundant portion of the family wealth and are included in His inheritance.

Do we get that?

I don’t tell this story for any pats on the back. There were times I wish I had just turned my back on that kid and walked away. I’m no hero.

For years I hadn’t heard from him. There had been a lot of tension in our family and when he left, he was angry. For years we heard nothing. I went through a divorce and moved away.

About a year ago, after almost ten years of silence…I got a call on my cell phone.

“hey…” said the voice on the other side of the phone.

I broke into a wide grin…there was only one guy in the whole world who had that raspy voice!”

I said, “Hey man!!!!! How you doin?!!!” I was genuinely excited. All the unpleasant memories melted away, there was only gratitude that he had surfaced again. He told me about his wedding, his dogs, his lovely wife, where he lived and what he was doing. He had a good job, and a nice home.

I was thrilled! I have to say, having been separated from him for all those years, I had missed him immensely. He and I had private jokes that we would laugh at.  We of course repeated those jokes to each other and laughed our butts off over that phone call.

And then… and, I am crying as I write this, (my wife just  walked by and said, “You’re a hot mess!”) his voice got serious…and I heard him begin to choke back tears.

“I wanted to tell you…” the words came out slowly…but deliberately.

“I wanted to say, thank you for saving my life.” I had to pull over to the side of the road.  Couldn’t see any more…the tears immediately clouded my vision.

“I wanted to say, I’d be dead…and you changed my life.”  

I gotta say, I learned all about ugly crying right then. I mean…you would not have wanted to hear me. He was crying too and right there in the cab of my truck, on the side of the road, over a microwave signal in the air, my brother and I found redemption.

That’s how the Lord feels about those who are far away from Him.

Even though the angels rejoice when we come home…I think in my own little head…that the Lord pulls over to the side of the road and ugly cries too. He says, “FINALLY…my son, my daughter is home!”

As we ended the call, I didn’t want to hang up…but I heard him say,

“Man, I wish you were here so I could give you a big hug!”

I thought to myself this morning as I watched the end of The Blind Side…

”That’s right Josh….I need a proper hug.”

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You Were Born for this Time in History

I’m going to tell you a story. A seemingly impossible one. It may seem to you that I am sharing too much because; when people share the history of their families, it is usually the disinfected version. Mine will not be. For those of you who know me, this may just be old news, so you bear with me as I tell it to others. For those who are reading this for the first time, allow me to say, that history is rarely the predictable path painted by Hollywood.

In the lineage of Jesus, was a prostitute named Rahab, there was a cowardly man named Abraham who tried to give his wife to Pharoah to sleep with her so he wouldn’t be killed. There was Jacob…a deceiver, and David a shepherd boy turned King. God never colors his history to make it smell prettier.

After World War I, Raymond M. Martin now deceased since 1978, had a decision to make. He was the illegitimate son of a wealthy Kentucky banker. When he was born, the banker, his father, wanted nothing to do with him and so, he lived with his mother, bearing the shame of being an illegitimate child. He grew up on a farm in Bowling Green was taken into a loving home when his mother re-married and lived as the 5th child. When he was called to go to war, he went and fought in the trenches in France near Alsace Lorraine. The Germans used mustard gas against the allies and my grandfather breathed in a lung full of the poisonous gas. He was taken to a field hospital and nursed back to health, but his lungs were scarred for the rest of his life.

As he stood discharged at the end of the war, he didn’t really know what lay ahead of him. He could return to Bowling Green but thought to himself that there was also the promise of a job offer up in Kokomo, Indiana as well as a relative who lived there. He dug deep into his pocket and found a coin and with very little thought, said to himself, “I will flip this coin, and if it’s heads, I will go to Indiana, and if it’s tails, I will return to Bowling Green.” He flipped the coin and it was heads. With no regrets, he gathered his belongings, bought a train ticket and headed for Kokomo Indiana. Not long after his arrival, he met a young girl named Ann Gerard Buckley, courted her, became engaged and was married. These two individuals became my maternal grandparents. My mother; their firstborn, was named Lorraine after Alsace Lorraine where he was nursed back to health.

Born in 1924, both my mother and my father shared the month of February as their birthday month, with my father born on the fourth and my mother the twenty third. My mother was raised in a solidly Christian home, with all the characteristic virtues but my father was a different story. He is the part of the story that some would say to avoid, but I say embrace it. You can run from it but God is glorified through it.

 Lee Pacheco was the third of four boys born to Ramon and Rosa Pacheco in San Antonio Texas. My father grew up in a very poor home (something he also had in common with my mother) but was left with no real moral compass to guide his life. His earliest memories that he related to me were that his mother and father were from Puerto Rico. He recalls a troubled marriage with an abusive, philandering, bootlegging father who had to be; on more than one occasion, forcefully removed from the home of a prostitute by my grandmother Rosa.

On one such occurrence, she had all four boys in tow as she yelled to my grandfather from outside the prostitute’s home to come out and come home. Ramon Pacheco had been a tough kid raised on the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a child he had been forced by his father to work the fishing docks cleaning out boats in order to earn enough money for his family to live on. After serving in the Merchant Marine in World War I, Ramon saved enough money to immigrate to the United States and worked in Houston at shipping docks, finally making his way to San Antonio.

He had met my grandmother Rosa shortly thereafter, but I was never told where and how they met. As a boy, my father Lee, learned the reality of poverty, going to school many times with no breakfast or lunch. His mother who doted over her son, would roll cigarettes on a home rolling machine, place two cigarettes in his shirt pocket and tell him to smoke them at lunch to kill the hunger pangs. Forced to leave school in 8th grade, he went to work, first shining shoes and then as an upholsterer and never returned to school.

He signed up for the Army at 17, asking his mother to sign for him and was shipped to Fort Sam Houston where he became an undefeated Golden gloves boxer. He eventually was shipped to Camp Atterbury in Edinburg Indiana where he met my mother who; after graduating from High School, became a volunteer for the USO and went with a group of women and a chaperone to Camp Atterbury to socialize and serve the troops stationed there.

After a brief courtship, my mother and father were married in November of 1943 and just two weeks later, my father was sent overseas to Belgium with the army Corps of Engineers and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. During that battle, the young sergeant at the tender age of 19 years old, sat in a crater formed by a shell explosion with his rifle and scant numbers of his allied brethren around him. Enemy fire coming from all angles, the young man knew they were outnumbered and began to weep, realizing he would never see his young wife again and mourning the lost opportunity of never having children.

Ordered to advance, Lee jumped out of the shell crater and began running forward praying, “Our Father Who art in Heaven…” Falling into another shell crater, a rally cry from behind him informed him that two divisions had arrived. He was saved from certain death. The enemy began to retreat from their entrenched positions.

He suffered mild frostbite on both of his feet, but survived and was honorably discharged and returned Stateside after VE Day. For 10 long years, my parents were unable to conceive. My mother, with her Baptist upbringing knew that prayer changed things. She had agreed to become Catholic to marry my father, but her Protestant roots would always come through. Praying began and four children were the result.

1957 was a very impressive year to be born. Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated for his second term as president, Elvis was on Ed Sullivan for the third time, the FBI arrested Hoffa, Hurricane Audrey hit Cameron Louisiana killing 400 and American Bandstand joined ABC. Actor Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Dorsey of Big Band fame both died that year. Father Knows Best was a big hit on television, gas was about twenty-seven cents a gallon and in the month of December, my mother begged me to wait to be born just one more day so she could celebrate Christmas…and so, I obliged, waiting until 11:15 am December 26th, 1957 to make my entry onto the mainstage of life.

Your story is as miraculous as mine. God has gone to great lengths to make sure that you were born. YOU ARE SO IMPORTANT TO GOD’S PLANS IN THESE DAYS!!!The odds against our being born were incredible! But God reaching into the earth made sure that you and that I came into existence at the right time because He had purposed it from eternity past!

Those of you reading this that were born in the 70’s 80’s 90’s and beyond, survived to live today through the American bloodbath of Abortion. That you are here is simply a miracle! HOW SPECIAL IT IS THAT YOU ARE ALIVE!

This is a reminder to you that God has chosen you. It is also a proof to me that we as humans do not have control over our destinies as is so popularly imagined. It may sell a lot of self-help books and help people feel good but we are not in control of our future lives.

As for me, I am the product of the flip of a coin…or so it would seem. I had no control as to what the verdict of that coin toss would be, I had control of nothing in the events leading up to my father and mother meeting, nor did I have any control of when my parents would conceive me. But I am here, and so are you! You have been wonderfully and awesomely made by the decision of an eternal God eons past who knew your name before you ever existed. This time in history, is a time when all things are coming together. Seek God to discover what YOUR portion in God’s story is and run after it!