The picture above was taken of me and Katrina in 8th grade. We had been voted "Cutest" for the yearbook superlatives - lay off the helmet-hair jokes - and sat beside each other to take the photo. We knew of each other, but did not know each other. I thought she was cute - I mean, duh, she won the vote - and felt I had no business sitting beside her for this reason.
We are on Day 36 at the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital with Kaleb. We came in on October 14th with headaches and double-vision. He was treated for a sinus infection for the first week here, but something was still off. At the beginning of our second week here, he went into an unresponsive state.
I planted the TJC over twelve years ago. I am the Lead Pastor. I am the chief vision caster. I spearhead the staff. I am the first among equals with our elders. I am invaluable, and the church is in trouble without me, right?
Everyone has fears. I'm not talking about encounters with undesirable creatures (spiders, snakes, etc.), but experiences with undesirable realities. It could be losing our job, our spouse filing for divorce, getting cancer, or a child dying. We all have worse case scenarios in our mind that we pray never makes it into our lives.
This verse rings of happiness. I imagine it being recited by a family of smiling faces diving into a big meal. I see a church worship gathering beginning to sing praise songs and someone exhorting them with this verse. I see a man or woman repeating it to themselves as they gleefully walk into the new job they've been wanting . The passage sounds peppy. It feels lighthearted.
I woke up at 4am Saturday after a few hours of off-and-on sleep. My bed is a chair that pulls out into cot just feet behind my son's hospital bed. As I laid there, my thoughts raced. Here is my son, unconscious and unable to respond to us, receiving treatment for fungal meningitis. Is he going to beat this infection?
There are moments of pain that make praying difficult. The difficulty is not from a lack of faith, but from an abundance of sorrow. Crying out to God in the midst of pain often lacks cogency and clarity. It is hard to keep a train of thought when your thoughts are scattered in so many directions.
Many Christians are unaware of the life and ministry of John Newton. He is often known as "that guy who wrote 'Amazing Grace.'" What many do not know about Newton is that he was a highly influential and effective pastor in England in the 18th century. He wrote many hymns. He provided spiritual direction for many Christians, including William Wilberforce - who Newton helped persuade to fight against the African slave trade.