Ed Dorsey, Richard Hilton,Truman Bryant, Bob Cannon, Mickey Redfern, Pete Carter, Tommy McMillan, Dixie Glisson, Scott Willis, Chuck Allen, Craig Schmidle, Dr. Ron Davidson and Bobby McGraw. Some of these names you may recognize but most of them you probably don’t. If you know me however, then you know each of them, if only a little bit. Each of these men, at various points in my life, helped to form the man I am today at 47.
There are some other men who were friends of mine back in the day or are friends of mine today that I have enjoyed doing life with or am enjoying life with now.
Today I found myself reflecting back on each of these men and the parts that each of them have played in my life. I have written several posts about my dad and Coach Hilton. I have mentioned my Grandfather, Truman in passing but it’s amazing to me how all of these men have played such a critical part in my life at some of the most critical times in my journey of life.
Bob and Mickey came along side myself and several other young men shortly after Lisa and I had gotten married and started raising our family. Both men, freely gave of themselves, pouring their wisdom into us – much of which, I didn’t realize or understand at the time. They talked about their relationship with Christ, their wives, their kids – the things they did right, did wrong and always shared with a heart that let you know they genuinely cared about us.
Pete and his wife Sheila, simply adopted me as their younger brother and just loved me. I don’t know how else to describe it. They were and always have been there for me when I needed them to be. They have seen the good, the bad and the ugly; graciously loving me through all of it. I could never repay them for all that they have done for me. I don’t get the opportunity to see or to talk them as much today but I know they are one phone call away!
Tommy and his wife Bonnie have been great friends to Lisa and I for many years now. Their girls and ours have grown up together and through it all, they have always been there to support, encourage and challenge Lisa and I to be better parents. I have learned from Tommy to keep a positive attitude no matter the situation or circumstance. To be steady and consistent, knowing that if you do all that you can do, that is, all you can do.
Dixie was the first “Real” pastor I ever had!! From him I learned a multitude of biblical truths that helped me to become the husband and father I am today. He helped me to understand that the burden I carried of trying to be perfect, was simply an unattainable goal and that God was not asking me to be perfect – but to allow the “One” who was to guide my life. He is one of the nicest, gentle men you will ever meet but also one who will lovingly challenge you to be the best you can be.
For the rest of the men I mentioned on the list, all of them have or continue to play an important role in my and my family’s life. There is really no adequate way to convey what all of these men have meant to me personally and/or to my family. I am forever indebted to each of them. As I think about all of these men, what stands out to me most is the sincerity and honesty in which they have always conducted themselves.
So, what’s the point to all of this? All of these men were willing to share themselves with me, to do life with me, brothers trying to help me become a better man. We were never meant to do life alone and men especially, get this wrong. One of the great lies we (men) fall prey to is that we should not need help. As men, we should be able to do everything on our own. I am scared to think where I and my family would be today if I had followed the path of Lone Wolf. Proverbs 27:17 - Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
My prayer and hope for all who read this is that you have people around you that you can do life with.
For those of us who have a little more life experience than others, it is our responsibility to seek those people that might benefit from our experiences in life so that we may help them avoid some of the shortfalls we encountered along the way. To encourage the next generation, challenging them in love to hold fast to the truths that will sustain them for a life-time. That’s how I feel about the gentlemen above and I hope to do the same for those that follow me.
Our lives, our journey was never meant to be a one man operation
Peace and Thanks for Reading!
The longer I live the more I find myself asking the question…Why? Why do Cub fans get excited every spring and think that yes, finally, this is their year? Why is it that the things that taste the best are the worst for you and vice versa? Why is Taylor Swift nominated for best female artist year after year? Why do the police insist being on the highway whenever I am late to get somewhere? Why can we name the starting lineup for all the sports team we root for but can’t remember that guys name that lives next door? If family is the most important thing, why is it so easy for us to let other things keep us from them?
Why don’t more parents actually parent their kids instead of trying to be friends with them? Why did you just get upset while reading that last sentence? Why do we insist on “adjusting” the standards of what’s acceptable downward? Why do weather forecasters get to keep their job when they are so often wrong? But then again, why do we celebrate all-star hitters who actually fail 70% of the time at their job? Why did striving to be the best you can be become such a negative thing to pursue?
Why did we allow ourselves to become so disconnected with our communities? Why do we not hold ourselves to the standards that we hold others to? Why do atlanta sport fans show up late to games and leave well before they are over? Why do I insist on spending more than I actually make? Why don’t we take time to get to know one another? Why did Garth Brooks quit making music? Why doesn’t Taylor Swift quit making music? (I KNOW, THAT”S TWO SHOTS I’VE TAKEN AT TAYLOR)
Why? I think it’s time each of us started asking ourselves, why? I think we have allowed ourselves to go through the motions of living life and not ACTUALLY, LIVING our lives. Have we become complacent with the world around us and quit asking the hard questions and most importantly, taking action when needed. Why do we so willingly accept mediocrity? No, I am not angry with anyone or anything. Just being reflective this afternoon and asking myself what do I want the rest of my life to look like?
I listened to a message this past Sunday where the question was – what if you have 1 month to live? what changes would you make? how would you live the next 30 days? So, anyway, as I was thinking about that, I found myself asking – why don’t I live every day like it’s my last? My intention is to start doing just that, living each day the best that I can so that 30 years or 3o days from now, I won’t be asking myself, why didn’t I change?
Peace and thanks for reading!!
I left off the last post with the question, What is God’s Will for My Life? You here this question or statement a lot while hanging out with Christians, usually something like – “if you could pray for me, I am praying that I would do God’s will”. Or maybe you hear – “I feel strongly that this the path God has laid out before me”. I wonder how many of us truly do know what God’s will for our life is? Has Dr. Del Tackett asked the question, I begin to ask that of myself. Am I truly following His path for my life?
He then got into this kind of open thought process: If only God had made it simple for us. Maybe if there was just one law that we had to obey, maybe then we could know beyond a shadow of a doubt. Maybe if Jesus had just narrowed it down for us we have a better chance of coming closer to be in God’s will. It was a clever way for the Doctor to infuse some scripture into the conversation as he asked us to look at some different verses. The first was James 2:8 - 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Sounds pretty simple, do this and we are doing right. Why is this so hard for us? I mean, I like most people, and I can get along with just about anybody, but love them? like myself? That’s not so easy. Let’s look at another verse – Matthew 22: 37-40 - 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Now Jesus is answering a question posed by the Pharisees which was – what is the greatest commandment. Jesus makes it simple for them and us to understand – with all YOUR HEART, all YOUR SOUL and all YOUR MIND, Love the Lord your God. Got it and that one I can do. Love God, yes, I do love God so I can follow this commandment and I am good to go. But wait, there is another couple of verses in His answer. Verse 39 He says “the second is like it:”. Like it, let’s see, that means it’s just as critical as the first one and then we read again – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Well there it is again, the whole loving the neighbor thing. But wait, what is a neighbor, surely that can’t mean everyone, just those we really know, right? I want another verse please, maybe there’s an exception or something.
John 13:34 - 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. Love one another and not just love like you love ice cream on a hot sunny day or maybe like you love milk gravy on your biscuits. Jesus is crystal clear when he says “As I have LOVED YOU”. To love others as Jesus loved me, can that really be what God’s will for my life is. I believe it is, no, I know it is, think how much different my life, your life would be if we, as Christ followers would actually obey these two commandments.
To accomplish this will take lots of courage, a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable and going back to last weeks post we already know that apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Sure we can try on our own strength but truly, it is only through Christ that we can ever reach a place that we LOVE OTHERS as HE LOVED US.
As we enter into Easter weekend, I think it’s a perfect time to reflect on just how Jesus loved us. He took all our short comings, faults, and sins to the cross and willingly gave His life, a perfect life for ours. Remember this, Jesus had never known separation from God but He knew that would be price to pay for all of our sins. And He did it anyway!! Through Jesus, we know that we will not be separated from God for all eternity. Because Jesus loved us, we can love others.
Peace and thanks for reading!!
This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to travel down to Pine Mountain, GA and sit in on a morning session at IMPACT360. Impact is a one-year gap program designed to give young men and women the opportunity to establish a strong, Biblical world view before heading off to college, missions or wherever their next step is to take them. My son, Ben is a student there and has had an incredible time in his time there this year.
In addition to catching up with Ben, I was looking forward to listening to Dr. Del Tackett, author and creator of the Truth Project. My wife and I have gone through the Truth Project a couple of times now and appreciate the depth of the study and all the “truths” uncovered during the course of the series. Dr. Tackett, like many others, will come to IMPACT and teach the students over a three day time period. I went that morning expecting to hear from God through whatever Dr. Tackett’s lesson would be for the day. I had no idea as I sat down that morning of the deep, lasting impact the next three hours would have on me. Even now, a week later, I am just now really starting to process all the things uncovered for me last Tuesday morning.
There is no way to adequately cover everything that Dr. Tackett spoke of but hopefully, something I share of my own journey will be helpful to you, the readers, in some way.
As the session began, Dr. Tackett began with a review of the previous day’s discussion. In the opening, he said – “the nature of God is always truth”. This was so profound to me, of course it is, but wow, how simple was that statement. In a day and time where truth seems so scarce, there it is; there it’s always been since God spoke the earth and heavens into existence and created man – TRUTH, has been there all along.
So anytime, we are in the presence of God, studying His word, praying or worshiping Him through music, it means we are faced with Truth. Truth, God’s nature, exposes us and the culture around us. When we are exposed to truth, it calls us to action. We must decide to either ignore the truth as it’s revealed to us or to take action and do something with that which is revealed to us. Make no mistake, to ignore it (truth), is an action as it represents a conscience choice.
Just as I was beginning to wrap my head around this, the good doctor was getting into the next phase of the discussion. That we, through Christ are Equipped, Empowered and Set free to Flourish – Physically, Vocationally and Spiritually. In Genesis 1:22, we read - 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” So there’s the physical call to flourish and in Psalm 128:2 we find - 2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. And finally, in Mark 4:20 - 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
As he was sharing this I was processing the thought of flourishing spiritually and asking myself how well I was doing in this department. As I was pondering this Mr. Del said the following – “We tend to look inward at people instead of looking at the fruit they bear.” I looked at Mark 4:20 again: hear the word, accept it and produce a crop. I looked at it again and remembering the earlier talking point about truth – HEAR THE WORD (truth), ACCEPT IT (truth) and produce a crop (ACTION). In other words, it is not simply enough to know the truth, we are called to take action with the truth. The devil himself knows the truth and takes every action he can in preventing the truth from being told, shared with others.
So how do we share the “truth”, take action if you will. John 15:5 - 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. I have camped out in John 15 over the last week, reading it over and over again. In verse 5 Jesus calls us to action by abiding in Him, and He will abide in us. In doing so, we will bear much fruit! Choosing not to abide in Him means we choose to do nothing. My prayer is that all of you who read this will take a moment and read this chapter for yourselves, with fresh eyes and an open heart.
In Thursday’s post I will share with you my thoughts as Dr. Tackett transitioned into the “Great Question”. What is God’s will for my life?
Thanks for reading! Peace!
I thought I would take the time and try to put a wrap on my recent South Africa trip. I have not been the same person since that trip and my hope is that I never again, take for granted, this incredible life that I have been given. Before South Africa I was doing just that – taking my life for granted.
I had been struggling for some time trying to figure out what was next for my life. Recently, the youngest of our 4 kids has begun his first chapter into adulthood, leaving his mother and I with an empty house for the first time in a long, long time. I think when parents become empty nesters, there is a natural tendency to reevaluate life and make sure you are on the right path. Looking at all the aspects of my life I started asking one question – was I content with? my marriage? my kids? my job? my friends? Generally speaking, I answered each of those questions with an affirmative, yes but yet I still found myself, well, restless. I was missing something. What? What was I missing?
One of the questions I asked myself was “Am I content in my walk with Jesus”? The answer was easy, yes, I was content. I pray everyday, study most days, and my job affords me the opportunity to minister to people throughout the week, so yea, I felt pretty content. Still, I couldn’t shake the restlessness. Then a question came to me that I wasn’t expecting – “Was Jesus content with His walk with me”? Honestly…..I tried to ignore the question for a couple of days and was doing ok until we took off on our first leg of our journey to South Africa. Let me tell you, 15 hours is an incredibly long time when trying to ignore something so prevalent in your mind.
Do you remember the very first line from Rick Warren’s – A Purpose Driven Life? I do. The first line is “It’s not about you”. That kept coming back to my mind time and again during that flight as I read scripture, prayed and studied. I tried watching a couple of movies, the names of which both escape me as I write this. I would love to tell you that I had a great epiphany on the flight and God revealed everything to me but that is not what happened. But He did begin to show me areas of my thought that were skewed during my time in South Africa. And on several occasions I felt the full presence of God for the first time in a long time!
One revelation I experienced and shared with you earlier was a moment I had while standing on a sand dune. As I looked one way, I was awed by the Indian Ocean, the coast line, as wave after wave ascended on the shore and then looking inland, being able to see the various mountain ranges that circle the city of Cape Town was simply overwhelming to my soul. God’s creative beauty on display for all to see. Just incredible. Then in the same instance as we looked on what is called the Cape Flats and the 6 to 8 million people that inhabit this area, God impressed on me that I had missed the beauty found in His creation of people. All people, each one uniquely created by Him.
The most important lesson I learned during my trip is that I had made God too small, I had limited Him in my life by trying to make Him fit into something I could understand, relate to. Since returning, there have been a myriad of different events, situations and circumstances that have allowed me to see God with new eyes. I am just beginning to understand that I need to see my life through the eyes of Jesus. Jesus wants to have a relationship with me! To see me live a life that is fulfilled. To be content no matter the circumstance. In order for this to happen, I must release my selfish desires and allow Him to be Lord and Master over ALL of my life.
So, with all respect to Mr. Warren. I think we need to understand that it is about us in one sense and that is – we must choose what we are going to do with Christ today? tomorrow? and every day that follows.
Lastly, here is a clip of a song that is one of the most honest songs I have ever heard. I heard it for the first time about 3 weeks before I left for South Africa. Below the clip are the lyrics to the song. This is my worship song for now. It reminds of how great God truly is and that I will never understand the depths of Jesus’ love for me.
What Do I Know of Holy – Addison Road
I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?
I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees
What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?
And a God who gave life “its” name?
What do I know of Holy?
Of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your name
On earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of Holy?
I recently had the honor of speaking at a funeral to celebrate the life of one of the greatest men I have ever known. Below is a copy of my preparation draft leading up to that day. I decided to post it as a blog post because, outside of my father, no other person apart from Christ has had a greater influence on me becoming the man I am today. Although most of you won’t have a chance to meet him this side of heaven, this will give you a glimpse as to what this man meant to me and countless others in his lifetime. As you read this, keep in mind, the impact, the potential each of us has to impact the world around us.
Living and Leaving a Legacy
A “Great” man stepped off of the pavement of this life onto streets of gold in eternity last Saturday morning. A truly great man, who devoted much of his adult life to teach kids the game of baseball and for some of that time, basketball as well. Any of us who ever had the opportunity to play for him, whether baseball or basketball always improved as a player because of his coaching. He has forgotten more about the game of baseball than most of us will ever learn about it.
But is that why we are all here today? to honor a great coach? Maybe in some respect, that’s true but it’s more than that – I think, for most of us, we are here because of a bond that we have with this man that goes well beyond anything we could ever learn from just playing a sport!! The lessons we learned from this man have carried on within us to this very day. His influence has not just been in regards to those he coached, no……, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles have all been influenced by him.
Coach used the game of baseball to teach us about how to live our lives. Over the past week, as I have talked to several of you and read various posts, articles and such. I thought it was interesting how many times someone would say or write something like, “I didn’t realize it at the time but I learned this or that from Mr. Hilton.” Yes, we learned how to become better ballplayers from coach but more importantly we learned life lessons about – trust, respect, honor, loyalty, hard work, integrity, to just do the right thing and most of all LOVE. To pursue excellence is not only what he taught but how he lived.
Heritage by definition means “an inherited or established way of thinking, feeling, or doing”. All of us who are gathered here today are here because of the heritage established and handed down to us by Coach Hilton. Mark, I’m not sure but I maybe the only person here that can say – I played for your dad, coached baseball and basketball with him and also played for you. And as I think about your dad, and all the lessons he ever taught us….they really all revolved around one basic concept. To simply do the right thing. No shortcuts. Just do whatever it is that you need to do.
I’m reminded of a story. A time that Coach made me wear a catcher’s mask while playing second base. I had just gotten braces and that same afternoon at practice, I took a shot to the mouth as we were taking infield practice. There was blood everywhere it seemed. After the bleeding had stopped, Coach had me grab my glove and head on out to second. He knew I needed to get back on that horse so to speak. As he hit ground ball after ground ball, I kept turning my head or looking up at the last instant. This is not what he taught. Finally, after several minutes he walked over to the catching gear and brought out a mask to me. One way or another, I was going to learn to keep my head down and watch that ball all the way into my glove.
Coach didn’t mind physical errors, that’s part of the game but mental errors, not giving the effort, that was unacceptable. And everyone here knows what you heard from coach whenever one of these lapses occurred. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I heard the phrase – “knock em bout”. (this phrase was our cue to take a lap)
And I do want to pause here and say that there are two things Mr. Hilton taught me by example: to respect everyone! You don’t have to like everyone or get along with them but you can always respect them. And the other was to just be honest – with yourself, and others alike.
I received a phone call from coach…I guess it was 7 or 8 years ago now…., he was calling to let me know that he was getting baptized and just wanted me to know. I asked him when it was and as soon as I hung up the phone, the date was marked in our family calendar. This was one baptism I wasn’t going to miss. I tell you, outside of my own families baptisms, that was by far one of my favorite memories to date. Why? Knowing that he had accepted Christ and that I was able to see him publicly professing his faith was just an incredible experience for me. Even now as we are here celebrating the life he lived here, i know that there is a day coming where once again, I will be able to sit and visit with coach. To reminisce and share stories once more.
It’s rare that you find anyone who exemplifies a Christ-like life but they themselves have not accepted Christ as their savior. And I can’t explain why Mr. Hilton didn’t come to accept Christ sooner than he did but there is not a doubt in my mind, as I know, God used Mr. Hilton – Coach, to instill in all of us, biblical values, that if we incorporated and lived by, would help us to be successful in living out our own lives.
If Coach had the opportunity to step back one last time and impart one last lesson on us all, it would be this – Don’t miss heaven! One of my favorite verses in all of scripture is Philippians 4:8-9. The apostle Paul has written the church in Philipi to remind them of Christ’s love for them and to encourage and challenge them. Like Paul, Mr. Hilton had a desire, a love for people, especially kids and if he was here, I think he would use very similar words found in Philippians 4: 8-9; 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Today, we may mourn the physical loss of someone we loved very much but the life – the heritage – the legacy of this man will continue on for generations to come.
I am experiencing what I am calling a “Life Pause”. Within the last month or so, my life has been filled with some incredible highs and not incredible lows but some lows none the less. If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that last month I had the incredible opportunity to go to South Africa on a mission trip. And I won’t revisit that here other than to say that it’s been a month and almost daily, I am still experiencing revelations from that trip.
Returning home was great and the first weekend back, the kids, Lisa, and I were all able to meet in Thomasville, GA for a truly spectacular wedding and reception for the daughter of one of our dearest and closest friends. Getting together with old friends to celebrate such a joyous time naturally leads to good times! Being able to reminisce and share all the stories again, just served as a great reminder of what life is truly about, the journey. At some point, regardless of our past, we all have the opportunity to choose what kind of journey we take – the relationships we invest in and how we respond to the unexpected ups, downs, trials, tribulations, joys, sorrow and happiness that happens within the fabric of each of our lives.
The following week was thanksgiving and again, we all had the opportunity to gather with our extended families on both my mom and dad’s sides of the family. And although entirely different types of families, both are grounded in love for each other. As we drove home that night from a day filled with great food, laughter, good stories and a couple of games of corn hole, I was most thankful for the love that serves as the foundation for both sides of my extended family. It is not lost on me how rare that seems to be these days and I feel greatly blessed anytime I think of my family!!
The downside was that this was our first thanksgiving without my father-in-law, Jim and for all of us, there were moments where that realization would kind of stop you cold, a solemn reminder of how truly short our life here can be. Yet, even in the midst of the loss; we are able to ease the pain a little because of the memories we hold onto of brighter days gone by. And for me, it helps as I go through the day, spending time with family, to remember those who have all left us too soon. Each of them playing some part in my own journey on this earth, obviously some had bigger parts but all contributed to the memories in my life thus far.
Now it’s the 18th of December and this time next week, we will be celebrating the birth of our savior. Again, it will be a joyous time as we are able to gather together with loved ones. And yet again there will be some sadness, as we realize that not everybody is with us any longer but as we go about the tasks of creating new memories, there is no doubt they will be influenced by the memories already stored away.
In the midst of the anticipation for this joyous time of year, I received word that my old coach, Richard Hilton, was being put into a Hospice care facility to hopefully give him some rest and peace. In my journey thus far, he is one of the two most influential men in my life – the other is my father, Ed. It is not ironic, that these two men are more like brothers than friends and although not as close these last couple of years as I know both would of liked, brothers none the less. Coach was my little league coach back in 77 and 78. I was just one kid this man loved through his coaching of baseball. He loved kids through coaching baseball for 38 years. Quick math for you, that’s about 456 kids he directly poured his life into and multiply that by an average of 6 other teams per year and that number jumps to 2,736 kids. This doesn’t even begin to count all of the siblings and parents that were influenced by his time on the diamond.
As I visited him yesterday, I found myself oddly at peace as I looked into the face of a man who had such a profound influence on my life! I learned one thing from him and my dad both, that is at the heart of who I am. It is this thought – Anything worth doing, is worth doing right!! I am not always successful in this approach but it is the approach I always take. I was fortunate to not only play for Coach but I had the opportunity to coach with him as well, not only in baseball but basketball also.
Yes, a life pause, is what I am calling this. Taking time to reminisce and reflect on my life thus far and to remember all of those who have impacted my life, whether great or small. But life is to be lived moving forward, creating new memories, setting new goals and experiencing life to the fullest. This pause has caused me to reexamine the relationships I have in my life – what type of memories am I helping to create for those that I share this life’s journey with?
My prayer this Christmas season is that each of us would examine our lives and pause to consider the relationships we have and ask ourselves if we our having a positive impact on those that we are sharing this journey of life.
I wish you all a wonderful and merry Christmas!! Peace and thanks for Reading!!
As we got into the teaching time with the students, you could sense their excitement in having new people come to share with them. As I looked around the room, all of them had their bibles out and were on the front edge of their seats and all eyes looking forward. Initially I was nervous as I opened up our study time but that quickly vanished as we read some scripture and I begin speaking about what we had just read. It was such a pleasure to be up in front of these guys as you could just tell they were trying to soak up every word and being very attentive. With this group it was very easy to stand and speak about the things of God.
After my piece, I turned it over to Jimmie and he led the rest of our study time and truly did a phenomenal job in the short time he had to extol his wisdom. Faith Bradbury joined Jimmie for a short segment and talked to the kids about different ways to share the story of Jesus. As she was leading this time, you could see the kids really come to life as this is what is near and dear to all of them. Unlike most Christians that I know here in the states and including myself, we don’t always seem to have the same drive, desire to tell others about the good news of Christ.
When you talk to these kids, there is a common thread intertwined within each of them. Although each have experienced turbulent childhoods they choose not to dwell there. When you talk to them individually, you can see that most of them come from a very dark time in their past – it’s in their eyes, their voice and you can just feel it but then, like a switch, as they begin talking about God, Jesus and Bridge 4 Hope, you see all the darkness, the pain just fade away and you realize there is an entirely different person standing in front of you.
This is what they haven’t forgotten – that when all seemed hopeless or that no one seemed to care, they were able to find hope and know that someone did love and care about them through Jesus Christ. And they understand, that there are countless others within their family, community, Cape Town, and across the world that feel the same way they did, so they take every opportunity that comes to tell others about Christ. They live Matthew 28:18-20 as they go about their daily routine of life.
After lunch, we all gathered back in the classroom to get our assignments from Asanda before heading out into the community to talk, listen, pray and tell others about Jesus. The excitement expressed by everyone was palpable as their was an expectation that good things were about to happen. My partners were two of the most incredible young ladies I have ever met – Abongile and Bomikazi. I was about to learn a lesson in what trust, courage and boldness really looks like and see, for the first time in a long time, how God can change lives if we would just be willing to live Matthew 28:18-20.
Going door to door is so far out of my comfort zone and is something I have rarely taken part in when given the chance in the past. As we walked to the community I was reminded of my prayer, that I would be open to follow and commit to whatever God wanted me to do, so here it is, something I wouldn’t choose to do but hey, were here, so let’s do this. As we approached the first house, I realized that I wasn’t really nervous, I was curious to see what would unfold. AB and Bom showed no nervousness, fear or even apprehension as they stuck their head in the first door and asked if it was ok to come in.
As I watched Bom engage the young lady in conversation, I was struck by the confidence she had and then noticed that AB was right behind her looking just as confident and ready to speak if need be. No tracks, no phamplets, just two people wanting to share a conversation with the folks they had just met. Although they were speaking in a language unfamiliar to me, I was amazed at how much of the conversation I was able to follow. As the conversation was winding down, AB asked a simple question – “do you know about Jesus?”. And although they said they did, they didn’t want to talk about it so Bom asked if it would be ok if we prayed for them and if there was anything specific we could pray for on their behalf.
I watched in amazement as house after house, these two ladies would engage the people in conversation and as they talked with them, I was able to watch their faces and noticed how intently focused they were on the task at hand. Nothing else mattered except what was before them and the desire they had to help people make a connection to Jesus.
Making our way from house to house, God was impressing on me on just how beautiful His creation of people truly is. 4 weeks later and I can still recall each and everyone that I met that afternoon. Seeing people through God’s eyes means that you see them through LOVE! And as I met these wonderful people, I saw beauty in each of them and my sole desire for each of them was that they would be open to hear about Christ and to know that He truly is somebody that loves and cares about them.
For AB and Bom, they had no idea of the impact they made on my life that day. They reminded me that day that I have no excuses for not sharing my story of what Christ has done in my life. To see how boldly, and courageously these young women were at their sharing their faith, renewed a sense of urgency within me and empowered me to know that God is faithful and that His word never returns void.
Not sure if I have 1 or 2 more posts left about our trip to South Africa but will definitely wrap up by week’s end.
OK – so where were we? Sorry for the delay between posts but I promise to finish out this series this week.
After sleeping just an hour I was expecting to be in for a long day but as Jimmie and I made our way over to Empire Cafe, I was feeling really good and wide awake. I mentioned it before but it’s worth repeating – Empire Cafe is one of the bests cafe’s I have ever been in and it provided the perfect start to our mornings in Cape Town. As we ordered our drinks, we revisited our discussion from the night before and discussed our anticipation of what they day would bring.
For me, I had an expectation that this trip was going to be a special time for me – in what capacity, I had no clue but I was geeked up for this trip for well over a month. So, as I was drinking my 2nd cup of coffee americano, I found myself praying that I would just be open to experience the day with no preconceptions but simply enjoy the moment and allow it to be whatever it was to be. The plan was for us to leave our place by 8:30 so we could be at Beautiful Gate by 9:00am. That was the plan anyway..
We were unable to take the short route do to a road closing and what should have taken 20 minutes or so, ended up taking almost an hour for us to arrive. Typically, being 5 minutes late to anywhere really drives me nuts and here we were, almost 30 minutes late but everything was cool. Just excited to get the day rolling. As we made our way through the complex, we were just talking about this and that as we entered the building where we would be meeting with the Epic students. There is no way to describe what we heard as we begun ascending the stairs to the classroom, except it sounded heavenly.
The students start their mornings with a time of worship, to give thanks and honor God with song, prayer and yes, a little dancing. As we approached, the building was filled with music – soulful, straight to the heart type of music and as I entered the room and looked around, I was amazed to find that there were no instruments. The beautiful singing by these young people was so incredible, that really, it sounded like music but no, it was just their voices creating this wonderful experience.
What really got me, as we took part in this experience is how freely they expressed their worship. Outside of the three or four folks we had met the day before, we had not yet met any of the other students. It was so refreshing to see a group of people fully engaged and enjoying a truly marvelous time of worship. No one was concerned with what anyone else was doing, they were giving themselves over to the moment; this moment, this opportunity to offer their praise and worship back to their creator, their savior. This was the first of what would be two days of life changing events that took place within me.
Joy – it’s definition – the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. This time in worship was nothing short of pure joy as all of us gave ourselves over to the moment – giving thanks, through prayer, singing and dancing. I had to ask myself in that moment, how often had I cheated myself out of this feeling before, because I was more concerned about what others might think, instead of focusing on worshiping my creator, my savior?
I will cover more about Wednesday in the next post but I will end with this – as soon as we got back to the lodge where were staying, I went and grabbed my Ipod shuffle, put on my headphones and pulled up my worship playlist and Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” was the first song I heard. You can listen to it here. May I never again allow my worship to be influenced by what’s around me!!
Peace and thanks for reading!!
Before I get into the next chapter of my trip, here is a short, challenging post for your consideration.
I can’t really start or get into what happened Thursday and Friday without first mentioning Wednesday night. The plan was to come back to the lodge, study a bit and get to bed by midnight at least – see, that would be early for me as most nights I am usually up till 12:30 to 2:00 o’clock in the morning and up by 6 or 7. Well, that was obviously not what God had planned for me and apparently, Jimmie was not due any sleep either, as the two of us ended up talking till about 5:30 in the morning. Jimmie was able to get a couple of hours of sleep. I tried to sleep but woke at 6:15 to start the new day.
I won’t share what all we talked about but it’s amazing how much ground you can cover in a 5 to 6 hour conversation. I didn’t realize it then as we talked through the night but a lot of the things revealed to me over the next 2 days were actually discussed that night. Jimmie and I have known each other for about 5 years now but for me, I would say, that I really didn’t know Jimmie until that night. As were able to share stories about growing up, what our parents were like, and describe what our respective environments were like, we were able to gain a better understanding of the person sitting across from us.
Again, as we talked through the night I realized how often it was that I rarely took the time to really get to know someone on more than a superficial level. Obviously, it is not possible to develop and establish deep roots with everyone we meet but for those relationships, in which, we consider them friendships; I would challenge you to take a honest look at those and ask yourself, just how deep are those friendships, really?
Peace and thanks for reading!!