It’s Been There All Along

Have you ever bought a car thinking and the moment that you begin driving it around, you begin to see others just like it everywhere? How about discovering a band and then hearing that band over and over again wherever you go?

This phenomenon has a name. It is called Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Here’s the definition that one website gives for it, “The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon occurs when a person, after having learned some (usually obscure) fact, word, phrase, or other item for the first time, encounters that item again, perhaps several times, shortly after having learned it.”

As the relations between the public and the police continue to be strained, we continue to hear about cases of African Americans, many times young people, who seem to be bearing the brunt of the strained relationships. While it seems like we are hearing these stories just about every day, I wonder if it’s really just a case of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Maybe they’ve been there all along and we just didn’t notice.

I’ve blogged before about my own far distance from understanding just what this is all about. I grew up in a wealthy suburb of New York City and experienced privileges that many don’t experience. My family wasn’t rich by any stretch of the imagination, but geography plays a whole lot into the growing up experience that a person has.

I have friends who have helped me to understand better just what goes through the mind of an African American man who is struggling to be taken seriously or an African American mother who is worrying whether or not her teenage sons will make it home without being accosted by the someone, especially the police. Those conversations and insights have helped me to see things that I never saw before but which have existed for far longer than I imagined.

Please don’t let anyone tell you that this is a new problem. Please don’t let anyone tell you that this is propaganda introduced by our president. While I’m not a big fan of the president, I would hardly accuse him of causing these high tensions in the area of race relations. It is even possible that the impetus for the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon to kick in is the fact that our president is an African American man.

I don’t know how to resolve these tensions. Sometimes tensions need not be resolved, they simply need to be lived with, but I hardly believe that’s the case with what we are experiencing. If I had been born or raised somewhere else, or if I had been born a different color, I expect that I would have come to an understanding and consciousness of this a long time ago. But I am thankful that there is some understanding and consciousness now, I just need to make sure that the consciousness results in something other than observation.

“Black lives matter.” We’ve seen the banners in the midst of demonstrations. We could easily say change it to “All lives matter.” I say that not to diminish the impact that the recent tensions have had on the African American community but because we need to realize that every life is important, regardless of the differences that may appear. If we are all created in the image of God, then it’s important for us to treat every life as just that.

I would say that our society is fully aware of the impact that these strained relations have had upon the black community, now we just need to move to a place where we are moving forward, where we are no longer denying that there is an issue, and where we can honestly say that all lives matter, regardless of race or color.

May God grant us peace in the midst of conflict. May we find a peace in him that is found nowhere else. May those of us who know him make him known that others might experience peace that passes understanding, a peace that is able to calm the mightiest storm, literal or figurative.

An Unlikely Read

Unlikely DiscipleI’m not sure when I first heard the name Jerry Falwell. Growing up in a very conservative pastor’s home during the heyday of the Moral Majority, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to figure that his name may have been up there with Peter, James, John, and some of the other well-known biblical figures of the New Testament.

While my parents never idolized Falwell, I heard his name enough during my childhood for it to have stuck. Christian radio, magazines, music, conferences, and so much more were enough to expose me to the bubble that Mr. Falwell may have actually been responsible for helping to create.

A few years ago, a friend was driving to Lynchburg for work and asked me if I wanted to go along. It was not too long after my mom had died and my dad’s health was moving downward quickly. So, time in the car with a friend for a few hours seemed like a good distraction from everything that was swirling around me. He told me that he had a presentation and meeting but I could take his car and drive around Lynchburg once we got there.

Although I hadn’t planned on going to see the “school that Jerry built,” I found myself driving down the highway where I glanced a sign that said “Liberty University” for the next exit. I thought to myself, “Why not?” I mean, even though I’m in the same state, I didn’t know how often I might find myself out this way again, and besides, I was by myself, I had the perfect opportunity to spend as much (or as little) time as I could want exploring.

I followed signs to the campus and found a parking spot by the bookstore. I made my way over to DeMoss Hall where the visitors center was located. As I walked in, friendly, smiling faces greeted me and wasted no time giving me information about the school. I even received a free copy of Jerry Falwell’s autobiography (I still haven’t read it, but after my recent experiences and readings, it might have moved up my reading pile….a little). They invited me to visit the Jerry Falwell Museum across the hall.

I spent some time in there and talked to the older gentleman who was volunteering at the museum that day. He was friendly, and because I can still be lacking in my own self-confidence, I threw out the fact that I was raised and ordained Baptist…..I did, however, leave out the part that I had transferred my ordination to the Presbyterian church.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, so after I had looked around at the museum for a while, I walked around the campus a little bit more. I walked past the little prayer chapel and eventually made my way over to the place where Jerry Falwell is buried.Liberty-FalwellsGrave

I have to say, it was a little much for my taste. With a huge stone cross and an eternal flame, it had the hint that they had been trying too hard to emulate JFK’s grave in Arlington and yet make it abundantly clear that Falwell’s focus was a little different than Kennedy’s had been and that he had lived his life very differently than Kennedy had.

I couldn’t help but look around from that vantage point at the sprawling campus, the huge “LU” symbol on the side of the mountain, and this slightly overdone memorial/grave and wonder about focus. I knew what Falwell has said that he stood for, but I wondered whether that message was somehow lost in translation. It seemed that I was looking at a kingdom built to a man, honoring and memorializing him, almost to the point of idolatry.

Overall, I left the campus with a sense that I needed to process everything that I had seen. It was a little bit of an overload for my senses and I felt like there was more reading and studying upon Falwell that needed to be done. I had seen a glimpse at this man that I knew little about save for the occasional outcries within the media over some statement or other that he had made.

A while after the visit, the experience had kind of fallen back into the recesses of my mind. There was nothing that would really make it stand out to me. About a year after my initial visit, however, I was back on the campus again for a large Christian men’s gathering. As I soaked in that experience, it did nothing but solidify the thoughts that I had the first time that I had been on campus regarding focus. While it was an impressive campus, I kept wondering what it was all for.

It was some time after both of my visits that I stumbled upon a book while browsing the shelves at Goodwill. I think that I vaguely remembered having heard something about the book, but it didn’t strike my attention in that initial hearing. For whatever reason, when I saw “The Unlikely Disciple” by Kevin Roose at Goodwill, it struck my attention and I decided to pick it up.

Kevin Roose was a sophomore at Brown University when he decided to get some firsthand experience at discovering the decidedly vast gap between the secular and sacred. He transferred to Falwell’s Liberty University for a semester and went incognito to gather information for the book. He disguised himself as a student and a Christian and went to work figuring out what this evangelical Christianity was all about.

The book sat on my shelf for months before I finally cracked it open and began reading it. Once I started though, I couldn’t put it down. It felt almost like a bad accident on the side of the road, the kind that when everyone drives by but cranes their neck to see what happened. It was a painful read for me who has spent the better part of my life within the bubble of the Christian sub-culture. Roose’s insights and observations were spot on, he hit the nail on the head of so much that has come to symbolize fundamentalism in America.

I think that the thing that was so painful about it was the ability of Roose to peel away the layers and find a way to disguise himself within those layers without anyone really knowing the difference. I say that not because I feel as if he were an intruder but because it’s sad to me that the most distinguishing thing about Christians is cosmetic, outward, and seemingly superficial rather than being something that is internal and personal, that translates to something deeper than simply sin management.

Some of Roose’s impressions and observations felt fairly indicting for me. In some ways it felt like someone had infiltrated my family and told everyone secrets that were supposed to be kept within the family. You know, the whole “What happens in Vegas” thing except in regards to family. Roose observed the difference between the beliefs of many of his fellow students and their actual lifestyle and actions. While he saw many of them as kind and loving in some areas, he also saw some major discrepancies which led him to scratch his proverbial head.

As I continued to read, I thought to myself, “What is this saying about this sub-culture if he sees this stuff in a brief period of time?” I mean, one of the things that I have always tried to do is be honest about who I am and what I believe. Apart from that, one of the biggest things that my parents taught me was to be consistent, something that they modeled incredibly well. If people see inconsistencies in Christians, that’s our fault, not theirs, right? Shouldn’t our lives and actions match what we believe and the things that we say?

But it seems that Roose saw something in these Liberty students that was different, He said, “It’s hard to watch Liberty students singing along to worship songs during convocation, raising their hands and smiling beatifically, and not wonder whether they’ve tapped into something that makes their lives happier, more meaningful, more consistently optimistic than mine.” The overused mantra of “Preach the gospel and use words if necessary” seems to resound from this observation. Although he saw this difference and wondered about what was there that he was missing, it wasn’t convincing enough for him to embrace it himself.

But the kind and complimentary statements may end there. Roose saw the discrepancies in the belief system of his fellow students. He saw that there were more similarities between them and his friends who he considered “secular,” maybe even more similarities than differences. It’s just that the differences were pretty glaring.

Roose observed many of the things that have gotten lots of press within the evangelical church. He talked about the fact that there was “Frustration with a religious system that gives issues of personal sexuality higher spiritual priority than helping the poor of living a life of service.” He saw Sunday mornings as being about entertainment that resulted in what he called “Church Lite.” He talked about the general closed mindedness of many educators, particularly at Liberty and how there were no chances taken for exploration because of the culture that had been created, a culture “where academic rigor is sacrificed on the altar of uninterrupted piety, where the skills of exploration, deconstruction, and doubt – all of which should be present at an institution that bills itself as a liberal arts college – are systematically silenced in favor of presenting a clear, unambiguous political and spiritual agenda.”

I sat there reading the book and wondered how I was doing in all of these areas. I don’t think that he was plugging for people to change their beliefs but to at least take a deep look at them and understand them better. Simply saying “That’s what I was taught” or “That’s what my church believes” doesn’t really cut it when talking to people who are diametrically opposed in ideology and worldview.

This book is almost a necessary read for those Christians who can’t quite understand why the world looks at the Church with such disdain. While some might be offended at some of Roose’s language and attitude, I think it’s kind of important to understand how Christians end up coming across to people with whom they don’t agree. I wonder how willing Christians would be to do the same thing that Roose did, to go “cross-culturally” into a secular environment in an attempt to better understand people with whom they disagree or don’t see eye to eye.

Roose did a good job of documenting his own changes as well. While his journey and experience did not necessarily bring him to become a Christian, he was able to see some real value in the experience and I think he came to the realization that there was something different about the people at Liberty, people with whom he had originally thought that there existed a wider gap between him and them.

The danger in any observations about anything is that you are always only getting a small picture window into a world and a perspective. The spectrum is rarely as narrow as one observation shows you. While Roose got a good picture of Liberty’s version of fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and Christianity, it was still just that, Liberty’s version. Roose got a window into some people with whom he connected better, with whom he actually became friends based on commonalities rather than differences. He glimpsed some people who seemed to stand out more than others simply because they had chosen to buck the system, to swim upstream and against the tide that was so predominant and prevalent at Liberty.

Like him or hate him, the one thing that can be said of Falwell is that he was consistent, something that can’t be said of a lot of Bible thumping bigwigs who tout one thing while living something else. Falwell may have been incredibly vocal in his beliefs and disagreements, but he seemed to have lived what he believed, and honestly, that’s one of the most important things.

This whole read was another reminder to me that how I think I am coming across to others and how I really am coming across are not always the same thing. It’s important to do self-assessments to see what’s getting lost in translation and how I am presenting myself. Truth is truth, sure, I believe that, but it’s certainly possible that that truth comes across as anything but when it lacks a presentation of love and concern.

Changing Perspective

I love to read. At any given time, I’ve always got a stack of books that are on my “To Read” list. Heck, I’ve been tracking the books that I’ve read for the last few years and created a reading plan so that I can be more intentional with what I’m reading since that list is so long.

When I look at my Amazon wishlist, I’m not always sure how I discovered some of the books that are on there. A lot of times it’s from reading something else that makes reference to a book. Other times, it’s because of the recommendation of a friend. Still other times, it’s because I was browsing around and stumbled upon something that looked interesting to me.

I also frequent Goodwill a lot. My oldest son is a big reader and I am constantly trying to find age appropriate and yet challenging reads for him. On occasion, I will find something that piques my curiosity there as well.

While there’s generally a story behind every book that I have, I can’t always look at the bookshelf and pull up in my brain just what the story was for that particular book. Other times, it’s not hard remembering at all.

One of my commitments to myself over the past few months was to challenge myself in reading things that are out of my stream. I’m not a big political guy, but Ronald Reagan made an impact on me and made a difference during my lifetime, so I picked up a biography about him. I haven’t quite gotten through it yet, but I’m trying.

The bigger challenge for me is from a theological and ideological standpoint. It’s pretty easy for me to find my theological stream and simply read books by authors with whom I mostly agree. Chances are slim that there will be 100% agreement, but I would say the agreement is in the 75-80% range on most occasions. The challenge is to read books where my agreement with the author lies somewhere between the 20-25% range.

It’s easy to read stuff with which you agree, it’s a whole different ballgame to be stretched to read things with which you don’t agree.

My friend base is fairly diverse (not extremely, but fairly). I look at the various streams and chapters of my life: Childhood, high school, college, work, Connecticut, North Carolina, Virginia, and so on. I can find myself beginning to ask a lot of questions when faced with the difference between me and some of my friends. Somewhere, there was enough commonality for these people and me to become friends, but there is also enough diversity there that we might engage in some riveting and loud conversation should we venture into certain topics.

I think it’s important to change your perspective once in a while. It needs to be done within reason, but I think that there is so much value in seeing things from a different viewpoint. It seems almost inevitable that when we change our viewpoints and perspectives, we will see things that we did not see before.

I felt the need to change my perspective while I was in seminary. I had begun questioning some of the things that I had been taught growing up, and I thought, “What better way to do it than in seminary?” I wanted to wrestle through some issues on my own, without feeling that someone was right behind me whispering, “It’s that one, you know that one is the right way!”

Now, when some people begin to question, they take major leaps away from where they are. I never quite got there. Of course, major leaps for some may be child’s play for others. My leaps have never been incredibly far, but they’ve been leaps nonetheless.

I’ve read a few books this year that were a challenge to my own thinking. They were books that had been recommended by someone with whom I did not necessarily agree but with whom I have a good relationship. That seemed to be key, I love and trust these people, even though we don’t necessarily agree, and so I gave credence to their recommendations.

I hope to be sharing my thoughts on some of these books on here in the future. I hope that the things that I have learned can be beneficial to others as well.

Two Years…Again

Today marks the two year anniversary of my dad’s death. Time keeps passing by, there’s just no stopping it. I can’t really say whether or not it actually feels like two years have passed.

It was such a wearisome process that brought us to April 17th, 2013. Many times I thought the day would have arrived much sooner. Many times I wished that the day would have arrived sooner, if I’m brutally honest. It’s not that I wanted my dad to die, it’s just that there are times when what we might call “living” doesn’t really equate to a really good definition of that. While he wasn’t taken by something like Alzheimer’s or ALS or some other devastating disease, depression and heartache can take their own toll on the human soul. And that’s just what they did.

In many of the same ways that I have begun to see the growth that has come out of the death of my mom, I’ve started to see the same thing with my dad’s death. Relationships within the family that had been strained or non-existent have been reborn and restored. What might have seemed impossible or improbable has actually become real and existent. Who am I to doubt what God can do with broken and dead things….or people, for that matter?!

There are certain things that I’ve done that might seem weird to people. I still keep my parents’ phone numbers in my phone. It’s not like they still belong to them or that I can actually pick up the phone and call them. They won’t answer if I did and the people who belong to those numbers might think me crazy if I did, nothing new for me though. I’ve left voicemail messages on my phone from them as well. It brings me comfort to hear those voices. There’s something about hearing my dad say, “I love you very much” in a message. It’s as if all of the weakness that I was seeing was stripped away, even if for a moment, and I was left with a glimpse of what used to be.

I still want to pick up the phone and call them both. I still want to share things with my dad, to get his insights, to hear his voice, but I can’t. Nothing can replace him, just as nothing can replace my mom. They’re gone, not forgotten, and there still remains hope.

While some people have seen my sharing of thoughts as possibly exhibiting bitterness or anger, I can honestly say that those emotions haven’t really been strong within me. Sure, there is remorse in lost moments and maybe some regret as well. The regrets are more selfish though, I wish that I knew more about this or that, they don’t have anything to do with what I did or how I treated my parents. I wouldn’t take back anything. There’s nothing that I wish I had said or done. I feel like they left with things in as good of a place as any for us. Still doesn’t change the fact that I still wish for them to be here, to share more moments with me and my family.

Two years have come and gone and my heart still continues to ache. On these days, it’s almost as if the pain is palpable, that I can touch it and feel it more than other days. I imagine that no matter what anniversary it is that I’m remembering, those days will always give way to a fresh feeling to that grief and loss, as if it had just happened. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, unless I let myself get swallowed up by the moment. Feeling pain can sometimes help us remember that we’re human and that we’re alive.

I love you, Dad. I miss you every day. I can’t wait to see you once again.

Embrace the Journey

I keep realizing just how infrequently things go the way that I would like them to go. It’s been a hard process for me to not only come to that conclusion but to also embrace that as a way of life. Life just has a way of throwing wrenches in our gears and things rarely go according to plans. I know that I’ve quoted a wise friend here before, but it bears repeating to share that her motto was, “Embrace Plan B.”

I like to have a methodology and a process to things. People might not realize that about me when they observe what seems to be a haphazard approach towards things, but it’s the truth. I would like to say that my approach isn’t haphazard so much as it is organic. It’s a process with flexibility that I’ve learned to embrace over time, probably after many iterations of frustration and pain.

How often I’ve started projects that I thought would go a certain way only to find that they’ve taken sharp turns off of the course that I had planned for them. It’s too easy to get frustrated when this happens, at least it is to me. I like what I like and I don’t like to get thrown off course. Who does?

But I’m learning to embrace those times when I am thrown off course. After all, if I believe that God works all things together for good, I’ve got to trust that detours are sometimes the means to an end result that’s better than what I had thought out or planned. Detours might lead away from a potential danger or distraction. Detours might end up at a better destination than I thought, a destination that I might not even have known.

It’s still a process for me, a slow-moving journey towards growth. My anxiety still easily rises when things don’t go the way that I had planned, but I’m still moving, even if it is incrementally.

I feel like I’ve been taken off course over the last few weeks. I’ve been focused on things that are important but not things that I would always choose to be focused on. I find it hardest when it doesn’t seem like there is movement in my life. Those times when it doesn’t seem as if there is movement though, there usually is, but it might not be as fast as I would like it to be, or in the direction that I thought that it would be.

In the end, when I look retrospectively at a particular section of the journey, I usually find that the end result was the same or better than I thought it would be. I usually find that what happened in the midst of the journey might not be what I would have chosen, but it certainly ended up better than I would have thought. It’s those times that I need to hold on to and remember every time that I find myself in that same place again.

I’m still a control freak, no amount of detours seems able to change that, but at least I’m learning to give up control at times, or maybe it’s that I’m realizing that control is simply an illusion, something that I try to convince myself that I have to make myself feel better. If I really think that I’ve got control of a situation, it probably just means that I’m missing something important along the way.

Yes, it’s a journey and I’m taking it day by day. Just like the tides, there are ebbs and flows. Sometimes it feels as if it’s all coming at once and other times, it seems that there’s a peace and calm that allows me to relax and enjoy the moment. I’m doing my best to embrace the journey because in that journey is where I actually find the things that I need the most.

Healing in the Sharing

Over the past few years, I’ve preached an awful lot of sermons. Although I initially went into full-time ministry as a music pastor, my role has changed as I’ve found my voice, my gifting, and my calling. Teaching and communication are among my strengths and I’ve been trying to live into them more each day.

I could probably write a blog series about the process of sermon preparation. For me, it’s never been quite as simple as opening up my Bible and a commentary and hitting the computer. Like any other creative process, if I want it to be worth anything, I need to give it room to live and breathe, to take shape. Part of the beauty of sermon preparation is that in dealing with God’s word, you aren’t dealing with something stagnant and empty, but vibrant and full of life. I do my best to lean into the Holy Spirit as I prepare.

I’ve known that I was going to be preaching on Palm Sunday for a while. I even knew the text and the subject matter. I had been reading through Mark 14 when Jesus goes to the garden with his disciples for the weeks leading up to Palm Sunday. I would jump into the passage for a while and let myself marinate in it, letting it sink deep into me, shaping and forming me as I read it.

At the same time, me and sermon introductions have a love/hate relationship with one another. When I was in seminary, I would rarely write paper introductions last. I would usually let the introduction set the trajectory of the paper for me, guiding my writing and guiding the direction of the paper. With sermons, that’s not quite as simple, at least, not for me.

Going into Palm Sunday, I had a lot of things going on. It was one of those weekends that we all have from time to time, the ones where everything is scheduled and where you expect you will barely have time to catch your breath between events and happenings. I did my best to gear up for it, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. Sometimes, no matter how much preparation, you still feel ill-prepared, it just happens.

As much prayer and study that I had put into the sermon, it still just felt incomplete to me. The main place that I saw it was in the introduction. Like the opening moments of a film or the first few pages of a book, the opening minutes of a sermon, in my opinion, are the place where you either grab people’s attention or you give them permission to check out for the next 30 minutes. Sermon intros can make or break a sermon and will define how people respond and zone in on everything that will follow.

Maybe I’m making more of them than I should, but that’s what I’ve been taught through others and through my own experience. So, I do my best to make sure that I take the introduction seriously. It’s not just a throwaway element that means nothing, at least, not to me.

As the sermon crept closer and closer, my discomfort with what I had grew larger and larger. I was leaning towards yet another story about my mom, who died of cancer nearly four years ago. I was apprehensive as I had told countless stories about her to my congregation. I was fearful that one more story might lead to people checking out and feeling as if I were a clanging gong or banging cymbal. I knew how important that it would be that if I shared something to make it different, to make it something that people would feel was worthwhile.

Friday night came and went, Saturday came and went, and in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I woke up with a dread that something was incomplete, not right. I knew what I had to do, I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.

As the sermon had been taking shape all week long, I was focusing on Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. It was honest and real, it was short and to the point, it was an abandonment of self and an embracing of the Father’s will and glory. There was nothing selfish about it, it was Jesus passing one of his final temptations to embrace the plan that the Father had from eternity past. It was Jesus taking the cup that had been given to him and drinking it although he would have liked nothing more than for the Father to have taken it from him.

I couldn’t help but see the parallels between Jesus’ arrival at that place and my mom’s arrival at the place where she knew that she wouldn’t live more than a few months. In fact, in wrestling through it all, I realized that my mom was probably the first one of us in the family to have realized and embraced the future. Like I said, I wasn’t sure how much to share as I felt as if I had already shared a lot before. This story was personal and the challenge of anyone who ever tells a story that is personal, who shares a poem that is personal, who sings a song that is personal, is that there is always a fear that the same level of personal connection that is felt by you may not be achieved by everyone who hears.

There is a risk there, a potential for failure and rejection. Any musician or artist knows exactly what I am talking about, anyone who has ever poured their heart out making themselves feel emotionally vulnerable and naked knows exactly what I am talking about. That was the place to which I came at 4:30 in the morning on Sunday, just hours before I was to preach the sermon for which I had prepared all week long.

I ran to my computer and opened up some folders to find the file that I knew was there somewhere. I found the exact file that I was looking for and I opened up our PowerPoint file for that morning, inserting the desired documents into the slides. I had found the missing piece. I needed to share these very personal items to fully convey just how my mom had embraced the “cup” that had been set before her.

The first thing that I had found was what I have come to call “Mom’s Gameplan.” As her health continued to fail, I went to the place where she had gone to find comfort over and over again: her Bible. As I thumbed through the pages, I found two pieces of paper. On the one paper, I found the following in my mom’s handwritten:

  1. Do I really believe God works all things for my good, what does he want to teach me?
  2. Psalm 103:19 – God is in control of all things
  3. Isaiah 55 – have to accept the truth. Won’t always understand all things – don’t lose heart!
  4. Don’t make quick judgments when a crisis comes. Focus on God instead of crisis. Get into Word of God. Avoid focusing on the pain. Recall the past crises and opportunities that followed them. Don’t continue to be angry about crisis. Ask forgiveness. Submit yourself to will of God in my life.
  5. Demonstrate gratitude in the crisis.
  6. Determine in your heart that this is an opportunity for God to work in my life (to get me where he wants me to be).
  7. Refuse to listen to unscriptural interpretations about what God is doing in your life.
  8. Remain in constant prayer listening for God’s instructions.
  9. Refuse to give way to your changing emotions (feelings, etc.)
  10. Obey God and leave all the consequences to him.

Between these words and the prayer in the picture below, it seemed to be the missing piece, the piece that would emphasize just how much my mom had pointed me to Jesus and how much she had come to embrace the will of the Father. In these simple words, she modeled to me that she had learned to pray, “not my will but yours be done.”mom bedside table prayer

The sermon came and I was exhausted. My weekend up to that point had been physically and mentally exhausting. And you know what? When I find myself coming to the end of everything that is in me, it’s usually then that I realize just how much I need to rely less on myself and more on God’s strength. I managed to hold myself together, with God’s help, through the preaching of the sermon. My voice cracked here and there, but I didn’t fall to pieces.

The next day, I was heartbroken to find out that the recording of the sermon had been lost due to a technical failure that had occurred right after I was done preaching. My heart sank as I thought back to how much of my heart I had put into the sermon, but God had some more work to do in me.

As I wrestled through the news that the sermon recording had been lost, I realized that part of my continuing healing process and acceptance of God’s will was connected to all of this. I realized that there just might be something therapeutic and healing about having to preach the sermon again and by writing about the process.

So, here it is; one part of the healing, one part of my own growth. I can’t preach things that I am not willing to follow myself and God rarely lets me forget that important fact.

In the midst of it all, I realized again that there are times when you navigate the waters of a struggle in order that you can be a help to other people. I’m grateful that God has used some of my struggles to help others realize that they are not alone in the midst of their struggles. I’m grateful that God has prompted me to tell my story. I’m not sure who said it, but I once read that God doesn’t waste our pain. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”