"…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Faith for an Army

My husband and best friend — the man who led me to the Lord and who chased fearlessly after Jesus — died on July 6, 2018. His death was the culmination of a decades-long battle with depression. Contrary to popular opinion, depression is not a matter of “wrong thinking,” but rather a mental illness that attacks organs of the body — in this case the brain — in much the same way that cancer does. And, like cancer, depression is a treatable disease that often can be managed with medication, changes in diet, counseling, and other methods. Craig fought depression with every fiber of his being, and he recorded a very powerful message about the battle in early June 2018, which he posted on Facebook here

Sadly, just like with cancer, depression can come out of remission and render the person helpless. Despite all their efforts and all the treatments, sometimes the disease wins. But, that is no more a reflection of a person’s character than if they were to succumb to any other illness. It is time we removed the stigma and talked candidly about depression and suicide. Pastor Ryan Rainey did a brilliant job of addressing the issue at the opening of Craig’s memorial service. You can view the full memorial service on Vimeo here. The video below is an excerpt of my portion, when Holy Spirit gave me the words and strength to share the message of love that God wants us to hear. The text version below omits a few parts that God threw in for good measure while I was speaking, so I hope you will watch the video, as well.

 

Eulogy for Craig Bennett Thompson
By Leslie J. Thompson

In Psalm 139:13 – 14, the Psalmist King David writes:

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Craig Thompson was custom made for me in every way.

We met in 2003, when he was already 38 years into his life’s journey. It had not been an easy one. From the very beginning of our marriage, Craig was transparent with me about his struggles. He never hid his war wounds. But all I saw was an amazing man of God.

Craig was born in San Angelo, Texas and moved to Dallas as a child after his parents divorced. His father was an alcoholic, and his home environment was chaotic at best, traumatic at worst. Craig attended 12 different schools in 11 years, and dropped out of high school in the 11th grade after a guidance counselor told him that he didn’t have enough credits to graduate on time. Three decades later, that judgment still weighed heavy on him

Which is incredibly ironic, because Craig is the most accomplished man I have ever met. After serving for six years in the United States Navy – which included three and a half years as a sumo wrestler to help build a cultural bridge between the U.S. and Japan – Craig worked as a private investigator and a hotel security manager, then ventured into the food & beverage industry before transitioning into software sales.

He left his last corporate job to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a big band singer – because, you know, that’s normal and all. And it was as Big T of Big T and the Bada-Bings that I first met him. Those of you who haven’t heard the story of how God brought us together, catch me another time. It will rock your world, but it takes about ten minutes and we’re on the clock.

Being married to Craig was the most thrilling adventure you could imagine. He was a consummate entrepreneur and we brought to life numerous business ventures he had conceived. We ran a retail store, started an insurance agency, launched two online television networks, then got into website design and mobile app development before diving head first into the drone world five years ago. Craig Thompson was a true Renaissance man.

But the most exhilarating part of all our many exploits was that Craig never met a stranger. He collected friendships every step of the way, and years later still remembered the details of peoples’ lives. He was also a natural-born encourager. For all his antics and sometimes off-color sense of humor, Craig loved to make people feel valued. He loved to help people overcome life’s challenges and know that they were worth the fight.

And the more Craig matured in his faith, the more he was able to minister to others. The more he walked with God, the more he showed humility – he was able to touch people deep in their heart and soul because he was transparent about the pain of his own journey. People are hungry for authenticity, and Craig loved going deep.

Of course, being married to him, I was there behind the scenes during that process, and let me tell you, it was messy. We went through a very dark season in our marriage, with brutal verbal battles that created a whole fresh set of war wounds for both of us. It got really, really bad. But we didn’t quit. In the darkest hour of our relationship, Craig made a beautiful video for our 10th anniversary and threw a surprise party for me with about 80 of our closest friends. We renewed our wedding vows, and from that point forward, Craig set the pace for healing in our hearts and our home.

He went on a five-day retreat called Quest to go deeper into his relationship with God, and he came back a changed man. I went on the women’s version of the retreat three weeks later, because I wanted what he had. Peace and humility and the ability to listen without judgment. He was loving me so much better – doing the act of love through self-sacrifice – and that just made me want to love him better, too.

He went on more retreats and started nurturing relationships with other amazing men of God who became brothers to him. Four years ago, Craig also discovered prison ministry, and found a whole new set of brothers at the Powledge Unit that he would go to visit every single week.

Through all of this, I saw my husband – the man I already adored – become a mighty man of valor and, like the psalmist David, a man after God’s own heart.

Craig LOVED people like no one else. He was raw and authentic – he was funny and goofy and also unafraid to tackle hard issues head-on. He loved ME like no one else. I never could have dreamed of such an amazing husband. But, of course, God knew that. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that He gives us exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or think.

Craig had struggled with depression on and off for years, and I was blessed that we were coming off a really good run. The last four years of our marriage were amazing. I have the BEST husband. So, when the depression came back in the spring, I was committed to walking through the season together. It’s like a cancer that comes back out of remission. It’s not the person’s fault that they have cancer, it’s something that happens to them.

But depression is more like an autoimmune disease. The body is an amazing machine, and it has systems in place to fight off intruders and keep itself healthy. But, if you have a disease like lupus or fibromyalgia or Type 1 diabetes, those systems turn on themselves. The body starts to attack itself. Depression does that to the brain. It is literally a malfunction – wrong thought patterns that can be exacerbated by a chemical and biological condition in which things are out of order, so that the mind turns on itself.

The disease of depression does not diminish Craig’s legacy of LOVE or his lust for life. Craig loved with passion and authenticity. He fought the depression with everything he had – he knew the battle he was facing, and he was absolutely determined to win. But just like with cancer, sometimes we lose.

Craig was the BEST husband, and he loved me SO WELL. He loved me and loved others well because he loved God. If you don’t know Jesus – know Him in the way that Craig knew Him and I know Him – I pray that you start today.

One of Craig’s last journal entries was Philippians 1:6, in which the apostle Paul writes:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Jesus is coming back, and He is coming soon, before the great battle begins. I hope you will be with Him in the fight. But until He returns, God will continue to see through the GREAT WORK that He began in Craig Thompson. He will see it through in me and in each one of you.

Jesus gave us two commandments:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

Craig loved me, and he loves you. Go love better.

July 30, 2018   3 Comments

Sharpening Iron

As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Many people think of this in the context of serving others, offering compassion and forgiveness, or helping someone with material needs. Yes, loving your neighbor as yourself can mean bringing someone a home-cooked meal when they are sick, turning the other cheek when a co-worker says something hurtful, or driving 45 minutes to help a friend with a flat tire. But it can also mean being strong when someone else is weak, and being courageous on their behalf.

Several years ago, our six-year-old cat Junior suffered a thrombosis on a Tuesday afternoon. He was lying on the stairs howling in pain and confusion, with his back legs completely paralyzed. I happened to be home that day and quickly scooped him up and rushed him to the vet. My husband Craig dropped everything to meet me there. The news was not good: Junior had only a 5-10% chance of recovery, and even if he did recover, he had a 90% chance of throwing another blood clot within the next six months. It was a genetic condition—nothing we could have foreseen and with no real cure—and so we made the difficult decision to put him down.
Junior the Cat
I cried like a child and fell into my husband’s arms. He was a rock, staying calm and offering me a steady flow of love and support for the next several hours as we said our goodbyes to a beloved pet, and then returned home and tried to step back into everyday life. Craig was strong and steadfast for me when I was weak and broken. Months later, he confessed that he was a wreck that day, too—that he wanted to cry and to be held as he grieved, but that someone had to be the strong one. Someone had to step up.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLV)

What surprised me, however, was when he explained that he had made the decision to be strong long before the event occurred. He had purposed in his mind and his heart to be calm in a time of crisis, regardless of his own feelings and emotions, so that others could trust and rely on him. He chose in advance to put me before himself, and he was ready when I needed his strength.

Going to Extremes
Fast forward to this past week, when I went skydiving for the first time. I have never wanted to skydive—in fact, since Craig and I first married 11 years ago, I have told him repeatedly that I would never in my life jump out of a plane. But last week, I went skydiving because I knew that someone else needed my strength. I purposed in my mind and heart to step as far as possible out of my comfort zone—to do something so extreme and confront my own fears and weakness head on—so that when a friend or even a complete stranger felt weak and broken, they would have a living, breathing example of courage and strength.

LeslieSkydive_FallingForward
My goal was not to encourage anyone else to skydive. My goal was to demonstrate that you can choose to be bold when you feel broken, that you can choose to move forward even when you feel bound by fear. Whether that fear is related to a relationship or a job loss or an addiction or a disability, it doesn’t matter. What matters is seeing first hand that you can choose to be strong, choose to be brave, and find the strength to overcome your circumstances through faith in Christ Jesus. When I jumped, I didn’t know who would need to see that example or hear that message, but I was sure that it would help someone move forward on the path that God has for them.

Be the Example
As children, we rely on our parents, siblings or grandparents to protect and encourage us when we feel frail. As adults, we are often called to be the strong one. We may feel helpless and broken ourselves, but Philippians 4:13 reminds us that our strength comes not from our own efforts or will, but from the Lord. Today, I encourage you to be an encouragement. Set your mind on things above by determining that you will be strong for someone else in a time of need. Reach out to a friend or loved one and edify them with your words and actions. Decide to love your neighbor as yourself by choosing in advance to be their rock.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV)

 

More verses on encouragement:

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25 ESV)

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

January 27, 2015   1 Comment