If you’ve never read any of my blogs since 2008 or so, I’d encourage you to atleast read the one before this one. I would also encourage you to subscribe; as well as share this blog with someone you may know. My blogs (when I do write) are intentionally candid, transparent and brutally honest. As a ‘church kid’ I do still remain subtle and try to remain ‘politically correct’, to protect the innocent, the faint of heart; and most importantly, the people I love; and my church.
That being said….
If you take the time to read my last post back in January…there is a glimmer of excitement, hope and relief. Contained therein, there is an unspoken sense of ‘I’ve been through the storm and rain; and 2020 is going to be an exciting year.
For ALL (or most) of us….I sure seemed off. This has been some kind of year. I’ve seen so many memes referencing 2020; and how rough this year has been, from ‘Can we just skip the 2020 album, and go to the next 2021 track’ to so many others. My favorite has been the meme I saw by one of my friends I’ll call ‘CBB’. She is a former member of our church; and she never disappoints with the memes. The meme is entitled, ‘If 2020 was a slide’. The slide is a cheese grater!
For me….as I wrote my last blog, I knew God was leading me to make a decision in my own life and ministry; that I had prayed so many times about, over a couple of years. I’d promised the Lord that I would move in His time; and no matter what anyone said, I would move on His timetable. As I wrote the last blog, I didn’t even know if I’d be bold enough to obey God; or how my decision would effect anyone involved. What I did know is that I feared God, more than anyone else. My intention is not to go into details regarding any of that. My intention is to say to you – after I moved in the direction God instructed me to move, I traveled to Jacksonville, Florida for the Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference, held at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville. The conference was empowering, enlightening; and the things I learned and the people I met simply made the time there seem like things were just coming together. I had never been to SBC’s Pastor’s conference held at First Baptist Jacksonville. My father had been while I was in high school; and Jerry Vines and Mac Brunson (their previous pastors) were two of my favorites. But it is just a plethora of encouragement, insights and empowerment.
Lord knows I needed it. 2019 (so I thought) was a rough year…just dealing with a suprising loss in our church family. One brother we lost was such a major encouragement to me personally. He was not a deacon or a trustee. He wasn’t an usher or a Sunday School teacher. He was just a ‘regular guy’ from Louisiana, retired from Delta Airlines; and just supported his new pastor. He had been on oxygen for a couple of years; and had been struggling through that; having good days and bad days. But I just admired how he would make his way to Bible Studies on Wednesday nights; how he would help with our security and safety personnel; and he never left church without talking to me. One Sunday I was in the foyer greeting parishioners as they departed; and he was waiting (as usual) for me to finish. Finally, he said he’d see me on Wednesday night. A day or so later, he was gone. I never shall forget doing something I advise no pastor (especially a professional chaplain) to do. There in the hospital, in front of his wife and daughter, I broke down and cried like a little baby. As some know, I am not a crier. Little did I know that God was preparing my tear ducts for 2020. I miss him so much; and he will be one of the first men I look for, after I see Jesus.
During my time in Jacksonville, my father met me there; along with a dear friend of my family, whom I call my uncle. Being an alumnus from Dallas Baptist and Southwestern Seminary, it was also a joy to see quite a few old colleagues, professors, classmates, etc. I was unsettled by the brewing tensions 2020 would bring; but excited about pleasing God.
I did something I don’t normally do, in 15 years of pastoring – I stayed over Sunday. I visited my friend, H.B. Charles’ church (Shiloh in Jacksonville). After church, I spoke to one of my best friends, Bertrain Bailey; and we shared our Sunday experiences, as we often do. Of course, I didn’t have much to say. I hadn’t preached; and I had only heard reports of the great time our people had back at home as Shiloh in Fort Worth. As we spoke, Bertrain tells me, ‘Man…I’m seeing on the news that Kobe Bryant just died.’ My closest friends know I have always been a Kobe fan; and would always argue that he was better than the inimitable Michael Jordan. As a matter of fact, my intention was to name my youngest son Kobe; to no avail. I told him, ‘Don’t play like that. We don’t play about Kobe.’ He said, ‘No dude, I’m seeing this on the news.’ From there…It has been a blur.
Kobe was, in fact, killed, along with others, in a helicopter crash; and the world rocked. Without even settling down long enough, we were hit by the Coronavirus Pandemic. And most recently, the injustices of the killings of unarmed black men and women; and the outrage that now ensues. If things could get no worse – with family members who have fallen ill, members of my church losing family members, etc; the shocking loss of Pastor Manson B. Johnson of the Holman Street Baptist Church, has dealt another devastating blow.
Here is my summation to this blog…just in case you think the world revolves around your little worries; God knows how to allow a world of bigger problems to eclipse what you are facing.
To be sure, the things in my world continue to move on and move forward. It is my prayer that God will continue to show Himself faithful, in the midst of any challenge any of us may face, individually or in this world. Never forget the words of 1 Peter 5:7, which says, “Casting all your care upon Him; for he cares for you.’
Nobody told you that the road was going to be easy. If they did, they lied to you! As long as you live this life, and seek to make an imprint, there will be challenges along the way. It is so important to:
1. Remain Prayerful
2. Trust God (In God we trust, everyone else we thoroughly investigate)
3. Follow His Word
4. Walk with Integrity
5. Write everything down, including your story
6. Treat people right
7. Let God fight your battles
The good news is – if you’re reading this blog, you made it through some of the worst times in human history!!! Just think – we get to live in this time. And God is so gracious to allow us to experience it.
Be encouraged as you go throughout this process. May you find joy on your journey!