June 6, 1989 fell on a Tuesday.
1989, twenty years ago.
That Tuesday was a typical early June day in Denver. Overcast in the morning, slightly humid. It had been rainy and chilly for several days, but the sun came out that afternoon.
Tuesdays were long for me. As a youth pastor, on the staff of a large church, Tuesdays meant Staff Chapel at 8 a.m., followed by Pastoral Staff meeting at 10am. Depending on the agenda for the meeting, we often found ourselves buried well past the lunch hour.
Don't remember one thing about that day's meeting, but when it finally ended, I called a friend and we made plans for that night, for dinner and a movie.
Back in my second floor office, I sat at my desk.........staring out at the Virginia Creeper vine that surrounded my window. The sunlight was hitting it just so, and it was flourishing with all the recent rain.
I decided to call an old and dear friend, who was living and working in the Northwest. I had known Craig, and his wife, since our junior high days, and he had proceeded me as youth pastor at our church.
His voice was comforting, as it always had been during other bumpy periods in my life. It was good to talk with someone sympathetic about my growing restlessness and frustration, not about being a youth pastor, but with the day to day "politics" that are prevalent in just about every church. He understood, he had walked that same path.
We talked for a half hour or so, I heaved a big sigh, told him I was going home, but he left me with an assignment.
"Go out and have some fun tonight. Promise me.... you will go have fun. You need it. Everything will work out".
So I headed home to my little apartment. Happy to have some time to myself. And looking forward to an early dinner and maybe a movie, to take my mind off the growing sense that life was coming to a crossroads. It was a feeling I'd been having for months. Couldn't put my finger on what, but I felt a certainty that my life needed to, and was going to ....... change.
I had no idea that afternoon how dramatic that change would be. I had no idea, because I was living on this side of the dime.
You know, the dime. "Life turns on a dime".
It would take multiple posts, and hours and hours, and even then, I couldn't possibly tell the whole story, with all of it's twists, and turns, and miracles and yes, with all of it's traumas.
On June 6, 1989, evil men would come into my world and my life.
But I didn't know that yet. All I knew early that evening was two very close friends picked me up, and we were looking forward to spending an evening together. After an early dinner, we decided not to see a movie, but had a wonderful night none the less. Driving around, laughter, lively conversation. Just the night Craig had assigned me.
At the end of the evening, they dropped me off at my apartment, headed back to Steve's house, where those evil men were waiting.
One of the many miracles that happened that night was the miracle that I didn't walk into that house where they were lying in wait. They came to kill my friend Frank, to keep him from testifying in a robbery trial. Things like that didn't happen here, and they certainly didn't happen in my life.
They murdered Frank and Dan, and left Steve for dead.
When my phone rang at midnight, Steve was on the other end, and in that moment life turned on a dime.
I began learning about things I never thought I would know.
I know too much about cops and crime scenes. About detectives, and district attorneys. About line ups, and investigations, and evil people who live in a culture of crime. I know what color fingerprint dust is.
I know too much about paramedics, and emergency rooms, and having a police officer posted outside your friend's hospital room. I know how it feels to see your life on the front page of the newspaper, and the top story on the local news.
I eventually would also know too much about trials, and courtrooms. Judges and juries. About motions and delays, and how slowly the "wheels of justice" turn.
And how in the end..........there is no justice.
I also learned about friendship. About the people who stick with you, and those you only thought were your friends. I learned that churches are not always good at being there for you when you need them the most. And that a significant number of people are quick to think the worst of you, NOT give you the benefit of the doubt.
But not all the things I learned are bad things.
I learned what it means to have a "peace that passes all understanding". I know what it feels like to be in the palm of God's hand. I know what the sunrise looks like the morning after, when you realize that you are alive and little things like where you live or what your job is, or even where you will be in a week .......don't really matter.
What matters instead is that you are alive and God is still in control, and you will find a way to pick up the pieces of your shattered life. Because guns can't destroy everything.
I learned that some people will take you in. Literally take you in. Give you harbor and sanctuary. A place to lay your head. Feed you, love you, nurture you, make you feel safe again. Because of those friends I learned how to care for other people, even when it's hard, or scary, or messy.
I learned that police officers and homicide detectives can be your heros. And that prosecuting attorneys will fight with all their might against the bad guys. They will take it personally, and do everything they can to put those bad guys away.
I know for sure that most things in life are not all good or all bad.
I know what the word bittersweet means.
I know that tragedies and miracles can lay side by side on the dining room floor.