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The Fisher of Stories


From Sunday, August 26:

Today was a bad day. 

I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and I woke up tired. 

I looked at an article I had published in the paper this morning and I saw that they had “edited” in a typo. It bothered me. 

We rushed to get to church on time as usual. We got to church, sat down, and listened to our pastor preach about death. 

He talked about what was more tragic; the sudden loss of a young lady in a car wreck, or the loss of a old woman who hasn’t been in good health for a while. I’ve experienced both in the last eight months. You’d think I’d be qualified to make that decision, but I’m not. I have no idea which was more tragic. 

Of course after thinking about that, I thought about dad. I thought about how much he’s missed. From there it didn’t take long for me to start blaming God for the fact that our children will never meet him. To them, Brian Sloat is myth, a legend, no more real than anyone else that they’ve never met. And after that, I contemplated my own mortality. 

I’m afraid of death. It terrifies me. As a Christian, death is the ultimate reward. You are absent from the body and present with Christ. So why am I scared to die? What scares me about being with Jesus? Some would say that I have doubts. Doubts about my salvation, doubts about my faith, and doubts about my beliefs. Our pastor said I shouldn’t be afraid of death. 

The Sunday School lesson we had talked about affairs. It talked about how easy they were to fall into, and how it is always a good idea to end them and tough out your marriage. It reminded me of the pile of crap I turned into for a year and half. Most of our class knows what I did. My mind played for me a constant stream of their judgement, what they would really say if they could. 

Our kids didn’t get a nap today, and so they were terrible. When we were in the store, they acted out, climbed on shelving, and were just generally ill-behaved. I had to yell at them several times. I had to threaten to spank them repeatedly. 

We were in Tulsa traffic today. It was so humid you felt like you were swimming through the air instead of walking. We waited over an hour for a table at the restaurant. I was sweating everywhere we went. I snapped at Alicia. I was sulky and petulant for most of the afternoon. 

Today was a good day.

I woke up this morning. The Lord gave me another day.

I got to see an article that I wrote in the paper. I’m a writer. I am living my dream.

We got in one of the two cars we own and drove to church. We walked in the doors of the building without anyone trying to kill us for what we believed, and we listened to a sermon that taught me some things.

I got the chance to remember two very special people in my life. I remembered how they blessed me. How they both lived passionate lives before they were taken from me. I remembered the impact that they had on the lives around them, and how truthfully, they are both so much happier now.

I remembered dad today. I thought about the things that he’d say to our kids. I thought about how he’d hug them, squeeze them, and I thought about how that tough old Brian Sloat would probably be transformed into a giant softy by the introduction of his three grandkids. I found myself thinking about how I need to take them to see his grave, make him more real to them. Maybe soon.

I will not continue to be afraid of death. I will die. When I die, I will leave many people in this world, but I will be reunited with my father, my grandmother, a few uncles, an aunt, and Kambrin. I will not continue to be afraid of death.

I got to watch my newly saved and baptized daughter take the Lord’s Supper. I got to see her eat the cracker and drink the grape juice, even ignoring my own so I could sneak a little peek at her. I thought about where she might be without us. I got to thank God for them both.

The Sunday School lesson talked about love. It talked about how even sure-footed people can fall into traps. It talked about how coming clean is always the best policy. It reminded me of my wife’s forgiveness. It reminded me of why I fell in love with her in the first place. It reminded me that maybe I need to wash a few more dishes this next week, just to show her that I love her.

I got to spend a solid day with our kids. I don’t get to see them during the week, and I spent all day with them today. No naps, no real separation, and no breaks. They were active. They were joyful. They enjoyed being alive and playing when and where they could. There was a time when they couldn’t do that.

We hung out with some amazing friends today. We ate lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, and we laughed and fellowshipped the entire time. I was hot and sweaty, but I was walking. When I snapped at Alicia, she shrugged it off, knowing I was in a mood.

Today was a bad day. Today was a good day.

If the truth was told, most of my days are like this, and so are most of yours. We all take the good and bad, and at the end of the day weigh them on the scales of our temperament, and we draw our conclusions on whether the day was “good” or “bad.”

There is a story making the rounds on Facebook that I love. It explains the situation perfectly. According to the Internet, it’s an old Cherokee legend.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” 

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I will make every effort to feed the good wolf from this day forward. The evil wolf will continue to fight, for that is what he does best. I will be tempted with negative thoughts, pity-parties, and bad attitudes. I’ll have days where I want to be pissy and lame.

But I’ll try. I’ll give the good wolf Milk-Bones and organic, veterinarian-approved dog food. I’ll give him clean water every day and take him in for regularly scheduled vaccinations. I’ll brush his fur once a week and tell him that he is the best wolf a guy could ever ask for, and “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? Is it you? Yes it’s you.”

And maybe, just maybe…I’ll shake this nasty writer’s block and get back to blogging about things.


“Travis, are you okay?”

When I get a phone call from my wife that starts out like that, I know there won’t be good news in the conversation. Especially if it sounds like she’s been crying. However, nothing could have prepared me for the words after my reply.

“I’m fine babe, what’s going on?”

“Travis, Kambrin has been in a car wreck.”

“Travis…she’s dead.

I only know one Kambrin. A last name wasn’t necessary.

image“Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth,
would care to know my name, would care to know my hurt.”

It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d heard Kambrin sing. But it was the first time where the lyrics of a song she had sang moved me the way that it did. The song is by a band called Casting Crowns, and Kambrin did it justice. I remember crying, and asking myself why in the world God cared about me at all. But this isn’t about me or what I felt or when. This is about a seventeen year old girl, taken from this world too soon, and how God can be glorified by it.

image“I am, a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow…”

When a young person dies, it leaves a lot of people confused, hurt, and a lot of times, angry. They get upset about the unfairness of it all, and they start to ask questions about why it happened. Those questions rarely get answered. You can look to the Bible and see that God has everything laid out in a perfect plan, but the main issue folks have with that is that they aren’t properly filled in on that divine plan. That’s when the anger sets in, which quickly turns to bitterness, which can ultimately lead to hatred. In order to stop that chain of events, there has to be something that fills that disconnect between the plans we had for a person, and the plans God had for a person.

image“A wave tossed in the ocean…vapor in the wind.” 

Kambrin knew Jesus. We all know that. If we all try really hard, we can even push all the negative out of our minds and turn her into some sort of angelic personality, someone without blemish, who lived a perfect life and had no problems whatsoever. And yet, all of us realize that isn’t true. Kambrin was a normal teenage girl. I listened to her own mother talk tonight about how none of us had ever truly lived a perfect day. The part we need to focus on is that Kambrin, right now, is sitting in heaven with Jesus. She cashed in on that promise we have in our salvation. We are absolutely guaranteed that heaven is way cooler than anything on this earth. So why do we want her to be back here with us so badly?

image“Still, you hear me when I’m calling…”

We as humans are selfish creatures. It’s been a part of our nature since the Garden, and it will remain a part of our nature until the end of the earth. Even with the knowledge that Kambrin is now with the Author of our Salvation, we still wish we could hug her, talk to her, laugh with her, or just sit with her one last time. So ask yourself this question? Would you pull her out of heaven for that? What do you think she would want, right now? I’ve known Kambrin for literally her entire life, and I think I can speak to what she’d want. She’d want people to turn to Jesus in all of this. She’d want to know that her life…her death, and everything in between led people closer to the Lord, because that is a sure fire way for her to get to see you again. We have been assured that Kambrin did not suffer. Death was instantaneous, which means that in less than the time it takes you to read this word, Kambrin was in the presence of our Lord and Savior, filled with a new understanding and knowledge about everything she’d ever had a question about.

image“Lord you catch me when I’m falling.” 

Romans 14:8 says this: “If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord.” I’ve seen videos posted on Facebook of Kambrin singing “I Can Only Imagine” at SYATP. It’s obvious that Kambrin lived to honor the Lord. But can we have faith enough in God to believe that even in death, Kambrin was honoring the Lord? Having that faith is instrumental to us dealing with the hurt we feel now, the hurt we’ll feel on Monday, and the hurt we’ll feel in a month when her fellow seniors walk across the stage without her. In her death, she will honor the Lord. The Lord will have his glory. Amen.

image“And you’ve told me who I am…”

I spoke with her mom the night of the accident. She was in the midst of hundreds of people, packed into the Okay First Baptist Church parking lot, each one there united with the other, family, friends, students from school, faculty, administration, and many others. Lorena grabbed my arm and looked me in the eye and said, “Travis, I really want you to pray that this doesn’t hit the ground without God being glorified.” In that moment, spirit sodden with grief, she spoke about the peace she had. How many of us were at peace in that parking lot? How many of us were concerned with God being glorified? And so that’s what I’m going to do now. I’m going to make sure that you readers understand how, in the end, God can be glorified in the midst of such immense tragedy and pain.

image“I am yours. I am yours.”

We are His. Kambrin is His. And so, life will go on. Ultimately, the world will not stop in remembrance of Kambrin, not even for a moment, even though we all think it should. The seconds will tick indisputably towards tomorrow, and then towards the day after. And maybe you’ve read this and you wonder how I’m so certain that I’ll see Kambrin again in heaven one day. Maybe you want that assurance too. I’m here to tell you, you can have it as easily as she did, as easily as I got it. All it takes is the recognition that you’re a sinner, and separated from God because of that sin. Then you have to believe that Our Loving God, upon recognition of our separation, sent the ultimate sacrifice to earth for us in the form of His Son, Jesus. You have to believe that Jesus lived a flawless life and was brutally murdered on a cross as a payment for all of our sins. And lastly, you have to accept that gift of salvation, knowing there is nothing in this world you could ever do to earn it. Then…tell someone else about it. And just like that…God will be glorified in Kambrin’s death.

My thoughts, prayers, condolences, and deepest sympathies go out to the Dennis family. My thoughts and prayers are also with Kambrin’s friends, her senior class, her fellow students at Okay Public Schools, and the faculty and administration as they try to encourage and counsel the students during this time of tragedy and loss.

In closing, if you have something you’d like to say about Kambrin, feel free to share it in the comment section down below. If you are an outside reader with no knowledge of Okay except for those funny Christmas videos I post once a year, I’d ask that you take the time to share an encouraging word to the home town folks that read this. Family, friends, students, etc., you can post whatever you want to anonymously, without having to create any sort of account or worrying about someone identifying you. If you want to leave your name, that’s fine too. I love each and every one of you, and always remember, The Lord will take us through this.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Kambrin Sophie Grace Dennis
5/2/94 – 4/17/12
You are His.

Kevin was probably awesome.

Kevin probably had a wife and a family, judging from the look of him, I’d say he was an adult. He probably had brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and parents.

He probably went on trips in the spring and the fall, and he probably had lots of friends in a bunch of places around the world.

He was really kind of plain looking, kind of drab, even. No one would ever call him beautiful, and that’s just sad.

Another thing they wouldn’t have called Kevin was a good flyer.

You see, Kevin was a sparrow.

Yesterday, as I was preparing to leave the school, a couple of kids came up to me and said, “Hey Travis, you’ve got a bird on the tailgate of your truck.” I went out and looked, and there was nothing there. I didn’t think anything of it, because heck, it was a bird. Birds fly away. If I was a bird, I wouldn’t be caught dead on my truck.

Which as it turns out, wasn’t far from what happened. Not far at all.

So this morning, I go out to go to work, and I look at the grill of my truck. I find Kevin, stuck there, in all his dead bird glory.

Of course, I’ve taken the liberty:

You see, poor Kevin had the misfortune to be one in a group of sparrows that got in my way as I was running late to work yesterday. Really, they weren’t even in my way, they were off to the side of the road, but I guess my truck roaring by on the highway gave them a spook. They all took wing, with the exception of Kevin, who took a header straight into my chrome bumper.
“The early bird gets the worm, AND gets safely out of the way of a 95 Chevy truck speeding down the road.” -Travis Sloat
Kevin stuck with me through three trips yesterday, so I can only assume that his little body froze to my grill.
That’s nasty.
So today, I did what any normal person who didn’t want a taxidermied sparrow hood ornament would do.
I knocked him off the grill with a pitching wedge.

Why a pitching wedge you ask?
Well, two reasons.
1.) I don’t want to get the bird flu. Because for sure, iffen I get the bird flu, the swine flu will follow soon after, then the regular flu, and…well, let’s be honest. Maybe I should have gotten the bird flu. I could stand to lose some weight.
C.) I find that a pitching wedge gives you excellent control without giving up too much power around the greens. It produces a soft shot with some backspin, which came in handy when I chipped Kevin from my driveway to the nearest tree.

That’s closest to the pin, folks.
I win.
I’ve written something for Kevin, I’d like you to all read it to the tune of “Arms of an Angel” by Sara McLaughlin or however you spell it. Maybe you even want to play it in the background.
In the grill of a truck,you sped away from here.From this cold, sunny day, and the bigger birds that you feared.You were chipped from the grill, with a pitching wedge from me.You’re in the grass by the driveway, laying by a tree.
Rest in peace, Kevin.

Once again, thanks to Lee, or maybe thanks to my genius filmmaking, I’ve gotten some new followers. Folks, I just want to say that I do not normally condone birdicide, but this was just hilarious. If you don’t like this sort of low brow, “laughing about dead birds named Kevin” humor….well……

Go away.

That’s real.

Those that stay,

I love y’all. Let’s have some fun.

“As my memory rests, but never forgets what I lost. Wake me up, when September ends.” -Green Day
September has traditionally been a bad month for me. That started 9 years ago to the day. Let me take you back a while, and in all seriousness, there probably will not be anything funny in this blog. Feel free to skip it, but if you stick around, you might learn a thing or two about me.
It’s January 2000. I’ve just turned 17, and life is good. I have either just ended, or about to end my most serious relationship to date, and that is the biggest weight on my mind. My family life is fine, aside from the annoyances of parents on my case about school and having 3 younger brothers that are always hanging around.
My dad developed a cough the previous December, and he went to go have it checked out. The family doctor, (who I’d literally gone to for 17 years) invited us into her office. “Brian, we think you might have cancer. We’d like to run some tests.” Looking back, I think she knew. I was the only child in the room, and I think she was shielding me from the future. I thank her for that to this day.
We left the doctors office and went to my church. The pastor invited us into his office, and we sat down. Neither one of my parents could say anything, they were both crying. “He might have cancer,” I said, “they want to run some tests.” I didn’t think it was that bad. My dad was the strongest person I knew. He’d beat it. Heck, I honestly believed that he might just cough it up, he was so tough. The pastor prayed with us, and we left. Such began the fastest downhill slide of my life.

Of course, he had cancer. Not just any kind of cancer, but lung cancer. Not just lung cancer, but small cell carcinoma. They caught it real early, and that helped things a lot. Once again, I believe us boys were shielded as to the extent of things. I was never invited back into another doctors office. He started chemotherapy, and what happened next, I’ll never forget. We had a tradition at our house on Wednesday nights that was called “family night.” It was not something that you could get out of. Oh, and how we wanted out of it. It was just us sitting down as a family, playing a game or reading a scripture or just talking. I would honestly give my life, if only I could have one more “family night.”
We were sitting at a family night one night, and kind of a skirmish erupted. Tempers were volatile anyway, and something was said and things got angry. My dad rubbed his head, and when his hand came down, it was full of hair. As I’ve previously said, my father was a tough man. He had been through a lot in his life, and it had hardened him. Looking at a handful of his own hair, he broke. He started crying, and couldn’t stop. I think I knew then, but I wouldn’t admit it.
I took a church youth trip to Mexico that summer, and that caused a big commotion. He didn’t want me to go, he wanted me to spend time with him. Again, I’d give my life to have that decision to make over again. The day before I left was the biggest fight I’d ever gotten in with him. I yelled at him for the first time in my life. Please don’t misunderstand, I loved my dad. I just wanted to be selfish, and honestly, if I’d have stayed, I’d have known then that he was going to die. I didn’t want to admit that.
Around the first of August he got real bad. Went into the hospital for a few weeks. I can remember driving my brothers to Tulsa every day after school, and remember thinking what a hassle that was. I was so selfish, but then again, I was a teenager. One day, they released him to come home, and I thought that meant he was going to get better.
I was wrong.
September 8th, 2000 is a day that will forever be burned into my memory banks. We woke up, and he was bad. The hospice lady was coming over that morning for pain medication, but was delayed for some reason. I can remember walking into their bedroom, my mother at his side. My once strong father had been reduced to someone who, while I was watching, tried to pick up a cup of water and couldn’t do it. I watched, crying, as my mother held it to his lips. He kept saying, “Hurry.” At the time, I thought he was wanting the pain medication to get there. Call me crazy, call me whatever you want, but I know now he was talking to God.
My father looked me in the eyes for about 3 minutes. Held my stare. Looking. Telling me without words that I was in charge now, that I needed to help my mother, look after my brothers, and carry on the legacy of the name, Sloat. I’ll never forget that amount of time. For the rest of my life, I’ll see his brown eyes pleading me to live that legacy.
I left the room, and went outside to talk to my grandfather, who was not dealing well with all of this. As I was outside, my mother and my 3 brothers went to my father and told him that he had been a great dad, they loved him, and that it was okay to go.
He took a last breath, looked at them all, and died.
I can’t describe the breakdown that occurred. My brothers came out of the house crying, and so did my mom. “He’s gone.” Folks, for those of you that have experienced it, you know what I was going through. If you haven’t, I pray that you NEVER have to.
September 8, 2000 I lost the man I want to be when I grow up.
Dad, I know you’ll never read this, and if you do, please don’t read the rest of my blog. I’ve done some stupid things, but I’ve done some good things too. Overall, I think you’d be proud of me. I married a great woman, and finally after 6 years of marriage, I think I might be getting her to like me a little bit. I know the church thing hasn’t worked out like you probably hoped, but I still love God and Jesus, and that whole bit. I’ve tried to help my mom out the best I can, and I do still keep an eye out for my brothers. I miss you like crazy, and the hurt has never really gone away. I don’t think it ever will. Little things constantly remind me about you, and every time I look in the mirror, I see you. I used to think that was a bad thing, but now I don’t mind so much. I wish you could be here. I know you’re much happier where you are. I love you.
“Every person carves his spot,and fills the hole with light.And I pray that someday I might, light as bright as he.
Woke up early, one bright fall day, to spread the tragic news.After all my travel, I settled down,within a mile or two.
I make my living, with words and rhyme, and all this tragedy.Should go into my head, and out instead, as bits of poetry.
But I say, “Daddy, I’m so afraid. How will I go on,with you gone this way? How can I come up,with a song to say I Love You?”That’s my job, that’s what I do. Everything I do is because of you.To keep you safe with me. That’s my job, you see.-Conway Twitty

As I sit here typing this, our dog, Bella is taking her last breaths. The Missus just walked behind me, crying, and I’m afraid to ask. I don’t want to know. I asked earlier if she wanted me to end it, and she said no. I’m so thankful for that. I don’t know that I could have done it.
She started getting sick on Monday, and she’s going to die soon. We don’t know whats wrong, and we can’t afford to take her to the vet. This raises the question in my mind. Have I failed?
Most of me says yes, I have failed. I have failed to provide to my family, which includes our dogs. I have failed to be able to bring enough money into the house for an emergency trip to the vet, or really, an emergency trip for anything. Our families are not wealthy, simply taken care of. They are both going through hardships of their own, and we would not ask either of them for money. Nor would we ask anyone else. It was simply an unfortunate situation with bad timing that turns out to have had very sad consequences.
The Missus just walked in. She’s gone. I have to go take care of this.
I’m back. I don’t know what to think, and I don’t know what to do. As much as I said I hated that dog, I didn’t. I won’t say that I loved her, because I don’t really get that attached to animals. However, I did like her a lot, and she was always a friendly dog. Always had a tail wagging. Even today, when I got home, though she didn’t greet me at the gate, when she saw me she started wagging that little stump of a tail. She was a good dog, and she will be missed.
My favorite memory? The night I picked her up, I stopped and got a pink bow to put on her. She was a gift for The Missus. I COULD NOT get that bow to stick to that fuzzy squirming dog. I’ll never forget the look in The Missus’ eyes when she saw her. It was probably one of the happiest times she’s had in this marriage to me.
We’re through with animals though, until we are financially able to take care of them like we should. This will include a fund for emergency visits to the vet. I don’t think even a vet could have saved her, but we would of at least had the knowledge that we had tried.
Please don’t judge us, and please don’t feel obligated to post your condolences. This is more for me to vent than for you to read. I had to do something. In closing, I’ll leave you with a picture. She’s not dead in this picture. Just sleeping. I wanted to clear this up.Bella SloatNovember 08 – September 2, 2009“Most likely to wag something she didn’t really have.”