Sweet Hour of Prayer

Today is such a challenging day. Today would have been Dad’s 56th birthday, and it is his third in the eternal presence of Christ Jesus. I rejoice in the fact that he is no longer suffering. He is sitting at the feet of Jesus, proclaiming the name above all names. And what sights he must be seeing!

And still, there is the pain of not seeing his smile, not hearing a joke or a pun, not getting to call him whenever I want to talk. While it’s been nearly three years since his passing, my heart still hurts. There are times when something will trigger a fond memory of Dad. Each time, there is a mixture of sadness and immeasurable joy.

I recently found my bible I used as a preteen. As I flipped through the pages, with passages highlighted and marked with which pastor preached which passage on which date in the early 2000s, I remembered growing up in church with Dad. The fun activities as he taught the children’s class on Wednesday nights. The awesome games he came up with leading the recreation for VBS. The day he witnessed my baptism. All the stories of the bible he shared with me from a young age. My heart filled with joy.

As I placed my preteen bible next to a stack of hymnals, I remembered the hymns and gospel music Dad shared with me. Did you know that “they tell me of an unclouded day”? I am thankful Dad encouraged me to trust in the “Rock of Ages, cleft for me.” Together, we were “leaning on the everlasting arms.” We were “standing on the promises of God.” What “precious memories” that “flood my soul!” I am thankful for these memories.

It’s also football season! Watching the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium reminded me of the time we got to see them host Texas in 2017. That was before I began my seminary journey at Baylor, so we were both for Texas that day. Sorry, Waco friends. Then, when I began my time at Baylor’s Truett Seminary, Dad wanted us to have a rivalry together.

We got tickets to the Texas at Baylor game and were going to cheer for opposite teams, but we never got to go to that game. But I also remember Dad’s kindness. After he began hospice care, he told me of a Texas friend of ours who should get the tickets. She and her daughter joyfully raised up their Horns in front of McLane Stadium for Dad. It brought Dad joy to know they had fun at the game. If he wasn’t able to make more memories with his son at McLane Stadium, he was thrilled that our friend was able to make memories with her daughter watching our two favorite teams.

Fast forward to recent weeks, there was one game that came on for which Dad and I were always on the same side. The Red River Showdown between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners. In an incredible performance by the Horns, Texas shutout Oklahoma this year, 49-0. Wow! Dad would have been grinning and shouting the entire game!

I am thankful for a quarter century of memories made with Dad. The odd thing about grief is that I would never want it to fully go away. Because I enjoy these memories. These memories give me joy. They remind me of a loving Dad who cared for me more than I could ever imagine. As another one of his birthdays comes to a close, I am also thankful for another thing that was constant in our lives. Prayer.

A few weeks ago, I volunteered with our church’s youth group as I normally do on Sundays and Wednesdays. I have a special place in my heart for these wonderful teenagers who love the Lord and are passionate about their care for others. I am also thankful for my friend, Scott, who leads them as the minister of youth.

On a Sunday night a few weeks ago, Scott had prayer stations set up. For a while he stressed to the youth about the importance of prayer, and now we spent an hour of prayer. There was a station with art books where students could think and pray about what God was showing them through art. There was a station with current events so students could pray for people in our world. I was personally drawn to Lectio Divina, the practice of praying over Scripture.

I remembered finding a devotional Dad wrote in the 1990s, when I was just a few years old. He shared it with his grandmother who inspired him to lead a devotional on Psalm 107. And so, there I sat, praying over the words of the Psalmist, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” As tears streamed down my face, I remembered Dad praying with me often.

When I was a young child, Dad taught me how to pray. We would write down what we wanted to pray for. Ourselves. Our loved ones. Our world around us. And then we would pray. Growing up, we would end each night in prayer. If I fell asleep having forgotten to pray with Dad, he would wake me up so we could pray together. Then I would go back to sleep.

As I sat at that prayer station a few weeks ago, with these memories bringing a smile to my face, I listened to the instrumental music Scott had playing throughout that hour of prayer. I’m still “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” I am whispering the words to “It is Well.” I am asking the Spirit to “lead me where my trust is without borders.” And I am praying, with the Psalmist, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

That same weekend, Dr. York had us think about the value of prayer before we engaged in a class discussion the following Monday. I reflected on how prayer brings me closer to God, a God who wants me to share my wants, requests, and desires. Prayer reminds me to rejoice in a God who loves me beyond all measure, a God on whom I fully depend. God tells us in 1 Chronicles 16:12, “When you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you” (NRSV). Prayer allows me to have a relationship with a God who wants to spend time with me. Praise God!

In my Hebrew class, Dr. Poe Hays has us read the same Hebrew prayer often. I am still struggling with the consonant and vowel sounds, and so this prayer helps. But more importantly, it reminds me to thank God, for God gives me knowledge.

A few weeks ago, Truett hosted the African American Preaching Conference. It was a wonderful few days in which powerful proclaimers preached God’s Word and encouraged us to trust in God. It ended on a Thursday with two preachers. Dr. Jaqueline Thompson encouraged us to place ourselves firmly on Christ Jesus as our cornerstone. Before her sermon, Dr. Clayborn Lea reminded preachers that we need prayer. Amen. We need prayer. I believe in the power of prayer. I am thankful for Dad in instilling in me the value of prayer.

Going back to my memories of learning hymns with Dad, I have meditated on the words to the hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” What sweet memories were shared with Dad in prayer! What a sweet hour of spending time in prayer with amazing youth! What sweet moments in class and at a conference where the power of prayer was discussed!

I am thankful to Dad for praying with me often. I am thankful to God for a dad who valued prayer. These past couple of weeks, I have resonated with the following lines of this hymn by W. W. Walford:

“In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief, and oft escaped the tempter’s snare, by thy return, sweet hour of prayer.”

Oh sweet, sweet hour of prayer. This is a difficult season for sure, especially this day. But thanks to Dad, who instilled in me the value of prayer, my soul can find relief and rest. My soul can escape the tempter’s snare. When I struggle and don’t know which way to turn, may I remember Dad’s example. May I return to the sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet Hour of Prayer by Mahalia Jackson

Sweet Hour of Prayer by Alan Jackson

Depression, hope, and the beauty of the resurrection

Today, I share this blog with you not to garner sympathy. I share this so that you might be encouraged. I share this so that you might be empowered. I share this so that you know about this Jesus I have hope in. I share this so that you may know his love. In the midst of trials, my Savior reigns. He is with me. In his name, I will praise. In his name, I will place my hope. In his name, I will love others as he continually loves me.

For years, I have battled depression. I have struggled with feelings of constant anxiety and loneliness. If you have ever known me for a short time, perhaps this might surprise you. Even though I have struggled with depression, I still have joy, yes joy. Abundant joy. Just in case you ever had any doubt, you can struggle with depression and still have joy, and still place trust in an amazing God who loves us beyond all comprehension.

These past few years have been rough. I witnessed my Dad, the strongest man I have ever known, my best friend, decline in health and pass away after a more than 6-year battle with cancer. His death was on December 24, 2019. Since then, I have had moments when my depression worsened, and I felt more anxious and lonelier. Like there was a gaping hole in my heart. I can’t explain it, but even with the support of an amazing and loving family, and communities of fellow believers in my corner, it’s still possible to feel lonely. And yet, I still have joy. Why is that? Why do I have so much joy?

I have joy because Dad showed me what it means to be joyful, especially when times were tough. Even when he started hospice, we would video chat each night. There were still laughs, jokes, and smiles. There was also his positive spirit. He promised me that in some way or another, he would be at my wedding. And when the time comes, and I meet the love of my life, and propose to her, and say, “I do,” Dad will be there with that big smile of his.

Just weeks before passing into the arms of Jesus, not long before he could no longer speak, he turned to me, and asked, “Why is God so good to me?” That is a question I have even now. Why is God so good to me? As Dad has so wonderfully taught me, I know that God is still good. As Dad led us a month prior to his passing, with his and our hands raised, we sang, “Because He Lives” just as he did when I was a little boy. So, why is God so good to me?

Even as the waves crash around us, Christ Jesus calls us to leap from the boat we are in and walk towards him. To miraculously walk on water as we look upon his face and trust in his love.

And sometimes we sink. Sometimes, the waves sweep over us. And still, he is there ready to pick us back up. So, why do I feel anxious at times? Why do I at times feel depressed? Sad? Tired? Lonely? I don’t have an answer to this. And yet, somehow, I still trust that God is sovereign. God watches over me just as he watches over every little sparrow. Sparrows are beautiful. And yet, God thinks I’m even more beautiful. Wow!

If you are experiencing any similar pain, let me tell you this. I hope this doesn’t sound cliché. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to acknowledge what you are going through. Don’t be ashamed of it. God is not and never will be ashamed of you. Even when you fall short, even when you make mistakes, even when your hurt leads you to sin, there God is. God is there, waiting for you to turn and run to God. Just as the father ran towards the prodigal son, so does God run after you. God loves you. God loves me. God loves us all.

Before Spring Break of 2020, before the pandemic upended our daily routines, I walked to Baylor’s Counseling Center, a perk of being a student at Baylor. I was terrified, but I reached out. I asked for help. I know I’ve heard this somewhere. I can’t remember where, but it’s okay to have Jesus and a therapist (or counselor) too. And thanks to technology, even in the midst of COVID-19 and staying at home last year, counseling could be done online. So yes, I saw a counselor. And that’s okay.

So, let me remind you that it is okay to seek help. If you are hurting, please do. It is okay to acknowledge what you are feeling, what you are going through. Know that God loves you. I love you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. Even when I am in pain, God is still there. In God, I have joy. Sweet. Amazing. Joy.

I understand, if in the middle of uncertainty, you are feeling anxious. I’ve felt that. But please don’t lose hope. I know, as Bill and Gloria Gaither’s timeless and timely song reminds me, that “Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow!” In every circumstance, I know that “life is worth the living just Because He Lives.”

I know that I can face many tomorrows because he lives. And in the past year, I have had some very rough days. There have been days when it seems as though my depression got the better of me. I still remember sitting in a Zoom class not long ago and anxiety seemed to flood my entire body. You wouldn’t have been able to notice by looking at the little box of me on the screen, but I was having a difficult time that day.

This leads me to today. Easter. The day in which followers of Christ around the world celebrate the resurrection of a risen savior. These past few years have given me a greater appreciation for the resurrection. Not only was Christ resurrected, but in following Jesus, I am being resurrected, being renewed, every day. Recently, I experienced a silent spiritual retreat with other seminary colleagues. It was good for the soul. As I walked the trails through the trees behind DaySpring Baptist Church (the location of the retreat) in silence, I was amazed by God’s presence. As I sat looking at the creek bed below me, as the sun rose through the trees above me, I felt as though Jesus was sitting next to me, telling me to place my trust in him. I felt as though he wasn’t brushing off my pain, but was acknowledging it, reminding me that he knows that pain. As I sat there, I wrote the following poem to express my thoughts, a poem, I simply titled, “In the quiet stillness.”

In the quiet stillness

I find myself at peace.

It is here that my soul finds rest.

In this moment of solitude,

I feel your presence.

I feel your warmth.

As the sun breaks through the trees

And the birds sing songs to you,

I now seem to understand

What you meant when you said,

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Oh Lord, you are my Rock and Shield,

You lift me up when I am weak,

When it is difficult to stand,

When my heart grows weary,

When the weight of the world crushes my bones,

When depression and anxiety seek to defeat me,

When grief casts its dark shadow on me.

In the midst of chaos,

You whisper to me,

“Be still and know that I am God.”

So, let me be still.

Let me rest in your presence.

You are my fortress and strong tower.

Let my spirit soar with eagle’s wings.

Let me slow down and trust in you.

Let my soul run to you as I sit,


So quietly,

In stillness,

With your arms wrapped around me,

In the quiet stillness.

It was in that stillness that God embraced me, understood my pain, and acknowledged it. I knew that it was okay when I wasn’t feeling okay, because God is always there with me. Even when I feel like I am drifting away from God, even when I feel angry at God, God is there, waiting, just waiting for me to turn back to a God who loves me beyond all comprehension.

I see the beauty in the resurrection. I wish I could have been there when Mary Magdalene, who knew the blistering pain of grief, finally recognized Jesus after the resurrection. I see the beauty in the resurrection, because I know that upon his earthly death, Dad was resurrected into eternal life with Jesus. I see the beauty in the resurrection, because I know that in my relationship with a resurrected Savior, Jesus resurrects me. He renews me and guides me every step of the way.

Friends, life can be challenging. At times, it may seem as though the whole world is crashing around you and you feel helpless. Acknowledge the pain you feel. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot be faithful to God while struggling, while experiencing pain. If you need help, please reach out to someone. Take care of your mental and spiritual health. Know that you are loved. I love you. God loves you. I saw something on Facebook recently that encouraged me greatly, and so I will end with this encouragement.

Christ has risen. Because of this, I have joy. There will still be bad days. Depression may get the better of me some days, but I still have joy. Joy in a resurrected Savior who watches over me just as he watches over the sparrow. Praise God!

Another birthday without you

Dear Dad,

A full year has just about gone by without seeing your smile light up the room. I still don’t know how I will make it through many more years. They say it gets easier, and in some ways it does, perhaps, but I still miss you like crazy. There are still days when anxiety and depression seem to get the better of me, and I just wish I could hear you give me some words of encouragement. In the darkest of times, you’ve always pushed me to trust in the sovereignty of a God who watches over us. You never passed up an opportunity to remind me how much Jesus loves me.

Yesterday was another birthday without you. My 26th came just 6 days after your passing. Now, I’m 27. This one was a bit better. The shock and complete numbness wasn’t there as it was last year. I can’t even remember if there were any gifts or sweet treats last year, and obviously I wouldn’t have cared either way, but this year, we had apple pie! Yum! And as a gift, which was a complete surprise, and totally not something I found online and watched Nana order it for me, was a book of devotional prayer by Beth Moore, a talented author and proclaimer of the gospel whose words and preaching has provided a source of comfort to me this past year.

And of course, there was football! Texas crushed Colorado the day before, which I know you would have excitedly jumped up and high-fived me repeatedly had you been here to see it. And since we typically cheer for Oklahoma in their bowl games, guess what? They also crushed it! Baylor didn’t make it to a bowl game this year, but we still have the Aggies to cheer on. I wish I could somehow watch these games with you, but I know you are in a much better place. I cannot begin to fathom the sights in Heaven you are seeing. So, I’ll wait, knowing that one day, you and I will be reunited in Glory in the presence of Christ Jesus.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t have to wait. Plenty of times, I’m not quite good at it. Especially when I want to turn in a busy intersection. And yet, I’m slowly learning to wait. In this season of Advent, as we have waited to celebrate the birth of Christ, and as we continue to wait for his second coming, I’m also learning to patiently wait until I can see your smile once again. And if I’ve learned anything from you over the years, I know that as I wait, I must encourage others and be a light in the darkness.

I am reminded of the passage in the Gospel of Matthew that tells us to keep watch and to wait. We are encouraged to “keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42 NRSV). As I wait for Christ to come again, as I wait for the day when I will see you again, I am reminded by Matthew’s words to keep a spiritual awareness. For me, this means being there and uplifting others as you taught me to do. It means striving to amplify the voices of those not being listened to or cared for by others. It means shining the light of Jesus Christ so that others may know the love God has for all of us.

Oh, Dad, I miss you more than words can say. This year has been far from easy, and I know that like many, I’m ready for 2020 to be in the rearview mirror. Although I have made it through this roller coaster year without you, I know you are with me in spirit. As I wait for the glorious day when I will see that awesome smile of yours again, I will press on and be encouraged by your example. Oh, and Dad, just to drop a reference to Avengers: Endgame, the last movie we ever watched together, as I did at your funeral nearly a year ago, I will end by saying this. Dad, I still love you 3000!

Your son,


A Psalm of God’s Steadfast Love

As the Psalter in Psalm 136 repeats twenty-six times, I will give thanks,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

I will give thanks to the One who gives me another day to breathe,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

I will give thanks to God, my gracious, Heavenly Father,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who gave me two amazing grandparents I love most dearly,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who blessed me with a wonderful family,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who gifted me amazing friends in each stage of life,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who gave me nearly 26 years with the most amazing earthly father,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

I miss my earthly father, my Superman, beyond words, but he is spending eternity with Christ Jesus,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

O God thank you for the memories with Superman, you give great things,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

I thank my God for the love of hymns and Scripture that Superman gave me,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

I thank my God for all the movies, binge-watching, and football games,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

I thank my God for Superman’s love for others, for amplifying the voices of those society seeks to silence,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

I thank my God for giving me a loving earthly Dad, my Superman, who was my strongest supporter,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

In the best of times, in the darkest of times, God is with me,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who encouraged me and sustained me in my battles with depression and anxiety,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who gave my Superman hope, even as the chemo dripped into his body,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who gave my Superman a song to sing, even as he was leaving his earthly home,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who gave me a Superman who sang to me, “Because He Lives” when I was a young child,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who gave me a Superman who led us in the same song just weeks before his death,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who allowed Superman and me to see the mighty Mississippi,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who granted Superman and me the gift of traveling through the mountains of North Carolina,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who gave Superman and me the memory of taking the Sandia Peak Tramway up the mountain in Albuquerque, NM,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who blessed Superman and me in seeing the magnificent hues of a sunrise over the Grand Canyon,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who floods me with amazing memories of Superman and will one day reunite us in Glory,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Who won’t let me be defeated amidst the grief, pain, agony, and tears,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

O give thanks to a magnificent God, a God of hope, for He has done great things,

For his steadfast love endures forever.

If you walked out of the grave, I’m walking too!


It has now been 110 days since I said my earthly goodbyes to my Superman. With each passing day, I miss him more and more, and I am increasingly thankful for the impact he has had on my life, for reminding me, even up to his final weeks, that as Bill and Gloria Gaither’s song goes, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know who holds my future. Life is worth the living just because HE LIVES!”

Today, I celebrate with so many Christians around the world in rejoicing that Christ lives. Resurrection Sunday provides us with the reminder that Christ lives, the healing power of restoration, the assurance that we can face uncertain days, and the promise of eternal life to all those who follow Jesus Christ. While I still grieve, and while the future seems so uncertain in the midst of a global pandemic, I know that because my Savior lives, I can face tomorrow.

This past year has been challenging to say the least. This time last year, Dad was undergoing treatment for the cancer that had spread to his brain. I was ending my time as a public-school teacher and getting ready to begin seminary. As excitement grew of my future plans, Dad’s cancer had been shrinking and he was slowly regaining his strength. We had even planned on going to the UT-Baylor game, with him in his UT orange and white and me in my Baylor green and gold, and of course with both of us wearing purple UMHB caps to honor our alma mater.

Then, in October, the day after his 53rd birthday, we received the news that he would have to begin home hospice care. Slowly his health declined, and surrounded by friends and family, he breathed his last earthly breath on Christmas Eve at 6:50PM. I had taken off from seminary in November, and my professors kindly allowed me to make up the work the following semester. I finished the work in January while starting a new slate of classes. Only a month and half later, would the pandemic hit us and cause us to feel as if our world was crumbling around us. As an extrovert who has battled depression for much of my life, I will say that I’m not liking this shelter-in-place business. While we must stay home to keep everyone safe and healthy and flatten the curve of this outbreak, this is still all too difficult.

So, you might ask me, in the midst of all of this, why are you hopeful? Why are you at peace? Why do you have joy? I’ll tell you why with two simple words: Jesus lives! The power of this day is that I am reminded of Christ’s defeat over death. This was not a metaphorical death. Let me say this unequivocally, without hesitation, Jesus died. Jesus was buried. Jesus rose again. I have heard the argument time and again that Jesus’ body didn’t really die or that his body didn’t really rise from the grave. Some say that it is just a symbol of love and hope.

My reaction to that argument is “Where is the hope? Where is the love?” If Jesus didn’t physically die, then what is the point? Where is his love? Where is the restoration? If Jesus didn’t physically rise from the grave, then what hope could I possibly have in a powerless God that couldn’t overcome death? How could I hope in healing, in restoration, in being able to face these uncertain days, if God did not physically defeat death?

The truth is this: Jesus was dead, but in body and spirit, left that tomb, and this is the reason why we can even celebrate this day or any other day of the year. Death could not and did not win. Death was defeated. And just as Jesus defeated death some 2000 years ago to give me this hope, I have hope that in Christ Jesus, Dad also defeated death. Because of the resurrection, I know Dad has been resurrected into new eternal life in the presence of God almighty. The moment he breathed his last breath at 6:50 PM on December 24, 2019 was the moment that he got to see Jesus. That was the moment when Dad was able to embrace the Lord of Lords and touch His nail-scarred hands.

And this is why I have hope. Dad taught me to have this hope. Jesus’ bodily resurrection gives me this hope. This past year, one of the songs I have been listening to repeatedly has been “Ain’t No Grave” by Bethel Music featuring Molly Skaggs. Towards the end of the song, Molly Skaggs, repeats about a dozen times, “If you walked out of the grave, I’m walking too.”

If you walked out of the grave, I’m walking too. It is because of Christ’s defeat over death, that we can face whatever it is we are going through. We can face these trying, scary, daunting, uncertain days because Christ lives. This is why I have hope. While I know the struggle of facing these challenges is great, while the pain of loss is great, while depression is great, while the added anxiety of a global pandemic is great, the God I serve is so so much greater! If He can defeat death, if His body can walk up out of that grave, then I know that He is powerful enough to see me through, to see us through the difficult days ahead.

God has promised us time and time again that He will be with us, that He will never leave nor forsake us (see Deuteronomy 31:6 and 8, Joshua 1:9). Isaiah 41:10 tells us, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (NRSV). When God promises something, He keeps those promises. And of course, my favorite passage of Scripture, from Romans 8, reminds us that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NIV).

So, what shall I fear? Yes, these days have been difficult, and yes, more difficult days are yet to come. And yet, because of Christ’s victory over death, I have hope, and I have a reassurance that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ Jesus, a love so great that he died and rose for me so that I can have eternal life, and so that I can see Dad’s smile again someday.

So, if you walked out of the grave, I’m walking too. Praise be to God!

Gaither, William J. and Gloria Gaither, 1971. “Because He Lives.” Google Play Lyrics. Web. 12 Apr. 2020.

Bethel Music and Molly Skaggs. “Ain’t No Grave.” AZLyrics. Web. 12 Apr. 2020.

Because He Lives by Bill Gaither, Ben Speer, and Guy Penrod

Ain’t No Grave by Bethel Music and Molly Skaggs

We Shall See Jesus by the Cathedrals

In Loving Memory: A Pilgrim Witness for the Gospel (1966-2019)


I remember the first time I thought about blogging in early 2015. Dad was excited for me and would always share my posts with others. Now, nearly five years later, I said my earthly goodbyes to my wonderful Superman on Christmas Eve 2019. This is the most difficult blog post I have ever written, not because God isn’t giving me words to say as I type, but because I am still trying to process what life will look like without the physical presence of Dad.

He had been living his last month and a half in my grandparents’ living room. I slept in a bed behind a curtain so I could respond when he called for help. So I could also just simply be near him. I remember sleeping in his bed in my much younger years when I had nightmares. Now I was close to him to respond to his nightmares. Last night, when I accidentally moved the curtains, for a split second, I waited for him to call out to me. He didn’t. I am in pain. I am hurting. I am having so many anxiety attacks. I am not okay. Yet the glorious truth is that in Christ Jesus it is okay to not be okay. As I am weeping, our Savior weeps with me.

I also know that my faith sustains me. My faith in God assures me that Dad is no longer in pain. He is spending eternity with our Heavenly Father. He breathed his last breath with us at 6:50 PM in the presence of family and friends. His next breath was in the presence of Christ. It wasn’t labored. He didn’t have to struggle for that breath. It must have been a joyous and peaceful breath. And oh what he must have seen. I can only imagine. I wish I could for a split second see even one-hundredth of a percent of the glorious splendor in front of him. So much more magnificent than the Grand Canyon Dad and I were blessed to enjoy together in 2016. I take joy in knowing that I will one day join him and see all of the sights with my own eyes.

If you ever want to know who inspired me most on this Earth to pursue ministry and a seminary education, I’ll tell you. My Dad. From an early age, he gave me a love of Scripture by reading to me the stories of the Bible. He used hymnals and Gaither VHS tapes to help me fall in love with music that glorifies our Creator. We even had a game where he would whistle a hymn and I would have to guess which song he was whistling. I never could whistle, so when it was my turn, I would hum a song. What wonderful memories this little game gave us.

In my first semester at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, I was grateful for the support of caring professors who showed me kindness and love in this difficult season. In one of my classes, Dr. Mike Stroope discussed how we might look beyond just the traditional language of mission and share the love of Christ intentionally with everyone we meet in every circumstance. He used a term that has stuck with me since. Pilgrim Witness. As we pilgrim throughout life’s journey, and as we meet people along the way, we are, as Christians, to witness to others through our words and actions. How we treat others is our witness. I have thought about this term quite a bit lately and it came to me that Dad is the best example I can think of as a pilgrim witness.

Everything I saw in Dad was someone who loved others and I have seen his heart break far too often on behalf of others. I cannot imagine a more faithful pilgrim witness. Throughout my life, Dad has loved me, comforted me, encouraged me, fought for me, and has guided me more times than I could ever count. When I fell as a little kid, he would pick me up. When I was sick with chickenpox or hospitalized before my fourth-grade year, he took care of me. When I started having symptoms of Crohn’s Disease in high school, he took me to countless appointments and hospital procedures. When an emergency surgery had me worried that I would miss my high school graduation, he was there to tell jokes and cheer me up. During my UMHB years, we went to so many football games and worship events together. When I gave an academic presentation of my research on William Wilberforce, he was there. There are so many other examples, I can’t count them all.

He was a pilgrim witness to me, but also to others. I have heard from several of his friends who were blessed by his presence during his years working at Channel 25 in Waco in the 90s. For the past two decades, he helped my grandparents care for their foster children and eventually their adopted kids (his brothers and sisters) once they became permanent members of our family. They have so many stories of their own that I have been blessed to enjoy hearing over the past few weeks. Since 2005, he worked in Special Education as either a paraprofessional or as a teacher, and he poured his heart into so many kids. I always felt as if I knew so many of them personally even though I had never met most of them. He loved those kids. I will miss his stories of them and the ideas he shared with me on how to make their lives more fun while at school. He was the kind of person who would help supply kids with food, clothes, and shoes if they needed them. His coworkers over the years have shared with me how much he encouraged them as well. And any time he saw injustice in the world while watching the news, I often saw his heart break for either trafficked kids or victims of hate crime. There are so many other reasons that he was the ultimate pilgrim witness that it seems impossible to name them all.

Dad meant the world to me, and even though his physical presence is no longer with me, he is still with me through the Holy Spirit. Oh, that I might be just a small fraction of the pilgrim witness that was my Dad. For now, I will rejoice that he is no longer in pain. He is celebrating eternity with the Father. So, you will never hear me say that he lost his battle to cancer. No. He beat cancer. Cancer has been defeated. He did that. God did that through him. He had victory over death thanks to the gift of Christ’s victory over death.

I want to see what he is seeing. I want to smell, taste, hear, and feel what he is smelling, tasting, hearing, and feeling. Right now, all I can do is imagine. Honestly, I cannot wait. Even if I live for 70 more years without my Dad, those 7 decades will pale in comparison to the eternity we will spend together. What a day that will be!

“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17 NKJV).

Dad, you have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. You have kept the faith (see 2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV). I love you with all my heart, beyond description. Until that glorious day when we shall see each other once again, see you later Superman!

This Is Just What Heaven Means to Me by Vestal Goodman

Oh Happy Day by Walter Hawkins, Leann Faine, and Angela Spivey

That’s when God wants to hear you sing


It’s been two months since my last blog post. At the time, I wrote about my amazing Dad (a.k.a. Superman). This post is also about Superman, but it is one I never wanted to write. It’s a post that, honestly, I wish I never had to consider. Allow me to provide some context.

Two weeks ago, I planned for a weekend of fun with Dad to celebrate his 53rd birthday. We were going to spend some time at home watching college football together and with BigDaddy and Nana. Baylor playing Texas Tech, UMHB playing ETBU, and of course, the Red River Rivalry between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners. On Sunday, I was going to take him to the church I work at as a part-time custodian, Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, TX. Then as a birthday present, we were going to have some food at On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina. It was going to be a blast.

I got home Thursday evening, the eve of his birthday on October 11, and we were already talking about the food we were going to eat on Sunday. I couldn’t wait. Friday, his birthday, I took him to Scott & White for his CT scan. By the time we got home, he became quite sick with nausea and a headache, so we decided to take him to the hospital at Scott & White Round Rock. I was hoping that maybe it was just a reaction to all that nasty stuff they make you drink before the scans.

After a night spent in the hospital, he had an MRI. Then, from his hospital room, we watched the Texas game, both becoming irritated at their losing to the Sooners. Not long after, a doctor revealed to us what the MRI found. There is a spot in his brain, and if treated with radiation, could lead to significant brain damage. Then she mentioned the word that pierced my heart. Hospice. She asked if we wanted to consider end of life care. I was at a loss for words. My jaw dropped, my heart raced, and I felt a nauseating sensation in the pit of my stomach.

Hospice? I couldn’t wrap my mind around this. So many thoughts flooded my mind. I want him to see me preach my first sermon. I want him to see me graduate from seminary, to see me become an ordained minister, get my first ministry position, watch me fall in love, and get married. I had even asked if he would officiate the ceremony when the time came. I want him to spoil his future grandkids. And I know that these are all things he wanted to experience with me as well. The thought that he might not get to experience these events with me filled me with grief, sadness, and anxiety. But more than anything, I just don’t want to say goodbye to my Dad, my Superman, my best friend.

At this point, as I am typing this, I am weeping. I still can’t face the reality that all of this is happening. If a complete stranger asks me, “How are you doing?” my answer is “good.” If you know me well enough, I’ve reached the point, where I’m blunt about it. I’m not good. I’m not fine. I am in pain. And yet, I find peace in a Heavenly Father who walks with us in all of our struggles and pain.

Fortunately for me, I am surrounded by wonderful and kind people at Truett and Seventh & James. I have received encouragement and prayers from friends in Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa. Former high school teachers have uplifted my spirits. My church families at Lawler Baptist, FBC Florence, and FBC Belton are praying with my family and me. Pastors have helped bring me peace and comfort during this time. To help me get my mind off things, my former government teacher from high school spent late into the evening one night, conversing with me about other things. I felt we could talk for hours. We would have probably talked longer if I didn’t have homework and an 8AM class the next day. Others cried with me. One of my former teachers simply reminded me that God loves me and that she loves me. Dr. Todd Still, the dean of the seminary, gave me a hug and assured me he would be praying for my family. My new friends at Truett have shown me their kindness each day. Professors in have encouraged me more than I could ever thank them. I am thankful for all of these people. Also for close friends in Cody Earp, Greggory and Amberlee Miller, Katie Stringer, and Michael Baker. Also for so many others not mentioned here. I don’t know how I could handle this without these wonderful people in my life.

Going back to Dad’s hospital stay, I remember him thanking Jesus and telling our Lord and Savior how much he loves Him. I have never kept it a secret that the one human being who has given me this steadfast love for and faith in God more than anyone else has been my Dad. We have faced so many challenges, even before his first cancer diagnosis in 2013. In the midst of these trials, and still today, Dad gives me hope. He reminds me to trust in the goodness and sovereignty of our Heavenly Father. Yes. We declare. With all our hearts. God is still good. Even when everything seems so overwhelming, God is still good.

I believe in miracles. So, I am constantly praying for one. I’m praying for a miraculous healing for Dad so he can be here for many years to come. But even if that miracle doesn’t happen the way we want it, I still have hope in Christ. It hasn’t been easy. There has been lamenting. I have also said words I so desperately wanted to take back. I’m not perfect. I don’t claim to be. But I still have hope in Christ Jesus. Dad has instilled in me that hope. Speaking of miracles, I believe meeting Christ in Heaven, no longer suffering on Earth, is a miracle too. I just hope for one that allows me to spend so much more time with my Superman here on Earth. Call me selfish if you want, but I want him to be at my wedding. Recently, he reminded me that he will certainly be there in one form or another.

Last week, Dad reminded me of his favorite verse in scripture: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). Why am I still hopeful, given all of our challenges, especially this one? The answer is faith. My faith is in Christ Jesus. I am confident that Christ is with me. I trust in His amazing grace and sovereignty.

Every night, no matter how busy I get, and right now we’re in the middle of midterms, so I’m talking busy, I take time to video chat Dad. This is something I look forward to daily, and that is ending my day seeing his smile and us telling each other about our day and how much we love each other. Sometimes, there are WiFi issues, so occasionally, we must settle with a simple phone call, but the point is that I end each day spending time with Dad even when I’m at Baylor.

I’ve been singing numerous songs lately. This includes hymns such as “In the Garden,” “It is Well,” “Amazing Grace,” and my all-time favorite, “Because He Lives.” I’ve also listened to some newer songs on repeat. “Holy Ground” by Passion, “All My Hope” by David Crowder and Tauren Wells, “Way Maker” by Leeland, and “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters.

I love music. It’s uplifting. It reminds me of the faith I have in Christ, the same faith Dad has shown me my entire life. Growing up, a wonderful couple of evangelists, Paul and Vanessa Cherry, would lead revival at Lawler Baptist each year. A song they sang by Greater Vision that I have listened to and have sung to myself for years is “God Wants to Hear You Sing.” The chorus goes like this:

God wants to hear you sing
When the waves are crashing round you
When the firey darts surround you
When despair is all you see
God wants to hear your voice
When the wisest man has spoken
And says your circumstance is as hopeless as can be
That’s when God wants to hear you sing

Now I find myself singing even more often. In crowds at worship events and sometimes with a hymnal in my apartment. In the midst of everything around me, with the weight and burdens I’m carrying, when everything seems so overwhelming, I am singing. I am using these songs to cry out to God. I am using them as a source of encouragement. I am using them to remind me of God’s goodness. I am using them in prayer and in my lament. God has granted me with so many wonderful songs of his love, grace, and the blessed assurance that He is there.

To my Superman, I love you. Thank you for this level of faith I have in our good, good, Heavenly Father. You have been and continue to be the strongest person I know. I love you beyond description. Though this challenge is great, God is greater. When sadness overwhelms us, I will continue singing, “That’s when God wants to hear you sing!”

Griffin, Rodney. “God Wants to Hear You Sing.” Google Play Lyrics. Web. 25 Oct. 2019.

God Wants to Hear You Sing by Greater Vision

All My Hope by David Crowder and Tauren Wells

God Moves Strong!


In just three days, I will begin studying at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. If you were to ask me to name one person, here on earth, who has made the most impact in my life and my desire to pursue ministry, you would get a quick answer. My Dad.

Throughout my 25 years of existence on earth so far, Dad has been my source of strength, compassion, and wisdom. I simply could not fathom how my life would have been without this Godly man to serve me as my father. Even before I was born, he chose the name of Joshua for me. The Hebrew origin of the name means, “The Lord (YAHWEH) is my salvation.” Dad chose this name for me to serve as a reminder that the Lord is always with us.

Growing up, Dad taught me how to pray. I still remember keeping a prayer journal and we would use it to pray for those on our prayer list each night. When I was young, he helped me fall in love with God’s Word by reading me the stories of the Bible. When I had questions, it seemed to me that he had all the answers. One of my other favorite things I would do with Dad was a little guessing game we used to play. One of us would hum (I couldn’t whistle and am still unable to do so) the melodies of our favorite hymns while the other would have to guess which hymn was being hummed.

These are just some of the many memories I have of Dad guiding me along my spiritual journey. He has and continues to be the Godliest man I know. In some of the darkest valleys, he has reminded me to always trust in God’s plan for our lives. In moments of great joy, we have given God the glory for those good things.

When he went back to college while I was in elementary school, he chose the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Occasionally, he took me with him to the campus, allowed me to sit in on a couple classes of his, and over time I too fell in love with what would become an alma mater to us both.

For several decades now, Dad’s passion has been working with kids who have special needs. Part of this stems from taking care of some of the kids my grandparents cared for in foster care and later through adoption into our amazing family. As he worked on his education degree while at UMHB, Dad also worked with many kids in the public-school system who have had various special needs. I have seen the love he has for ministering to kids in this way firsthand. That, in addition to the many stories of how great of an impact these students have had on him, have given me a passion for loving and serving others. His humor (sometimes filled with sarcasm and practical jokes), compassion, and hard work ethic have helped shape me into who I am today. His love for others has inspired me to love others, which has now led me to begin the exciting journey that is a seminary education.

Going into my sophomore year at UMHB, I was thrilled about new classes, new opportunities, and the new friends I would make while being involved in student-led ministries. Roughly a month before the start of the 2013-2014 academic year, I received news that no one wants to hear. “Your dad has cancer.” I was in shock and absolute disbelief. I could not understand how the strongest man I knew had cancer. It was beyond my comprehension that the same person who cared for me my entire life— waited on me when I was hospitalized both as a 4th grader and as a senior in high school, took me to all of my doctor’s appointments, and prayed with me when I couldn’t understand what was wrong with my health— had cancer.

Yet even after his first surgery that summer, he pointed to the heavens repeatedly and said, “Thank you, Jesus.” In the years that followed, he continued to praise a living, amazing, good, good, Heavenly Father who watches over us. In his moments of most difficult pain, he would listen to Kari Jobe and the Gaither Vocal Band on repeat, still praising God with his every breath.

After he defeated cancer the first time and finished chemo, I said, “Hey Dad. Wear your Superman shirt and let’s take a picture.” Since then, I have often called him my Superman, and plenty of people will ask me on occasion, “How’s Superman doing?” One of my closest friendships at UMHB started when a young woman came up to my Dad during Spring Revival (we only knew each other through Facebook at that point) and said, “Is this your Superman?” After I said yes, she shook Dad’s hand, and said, “Sir, I love you so much. You are such an inspiration.” When my Dad beat cancer the first time, we praised God together.


Then I reached Junior year at UMHB and Dad developed a brief infection from chemo that made him feel far worse than the chemotherapy ever did. I couldn’t wrap my brain around how much pain he went through. As I was also struggling with Crohn’s Disease, not understanding why I was feeling extra sick one day, Dad texted me something that I will never forget to this day, something that had me in tears. His text read, verbatim:

It came to me in my weakness that God moves strong. He is shaping me into something awesome for His glory alone. Show me this text in a month and we’ll praise Him together. Love you boy.

God moves strong. God Moves Strong. GOD MOVES STRONG.

Those three words echoed in the back of my mind for some time. Any time I feel discouraged about any circumstance, I remember those words: God Moves Strong.

It reminded me of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

What Paul reminds me here, and what Dad reminded me in that text, and still reminds me today, is that while I may not understand why difficult circumstances happen, God can use those weaknesses, those pains, those sufferings, for His glory. While at any point, we may be weak physically, emotionally, spiritually, or in any other way, God can use us and our weaknesses to show how awesome and mighty He is. It’s this simple truth that has given me so much joy, even in the midst of so many hardships. It is why my favorite hymn is a song written by Bill and Gloria Gaither, two of my favorite hymn-writers, titled, Because He Lives. Dad told me recently that he would sing this over me even before I was born. So, naturally, this song is even more meaningful to me.

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives

It is only because of the precious blood of Jesus Christ that I can face anything. Bill and Gloria Gaither remind me of this in their song. Paul reminds me of this in scripture. Dad reminds me of this constantly each day. Even in our weaknesses, our pain, and our hurt, we can have hope in Christ Jesus. Life is worth the living because He lives. God can use every part of us for His glory, and to me that is worth celebrating every single day.

In every dark moment I have faced in life, Dad reminded me that God is always with us. In every happy occasion, Dad has taught me that we serve a magnificent God, and when we follow Him obediently, He celebrates with us in those good moments in life. In a few days, I will begin the exciting journey that is seminary. I have so many people to thank for helping me get this far in my spiritual journey. Dad is at the top of this list.

My Superman is still fighting this fight with the good news recently that most spots are either stable or shrinking. He has faced more battles than I can count, and yet he still reminds me of those three simple words he texted to me 5 years ago, words I proclaim every day.

God Moves Strong!

Gaither, William J. and Gloria Gaither, 1971. “Because He Lives.” Google Play Lyrics. Web. 21 Aug. 2019.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 21 Aug. 2019.

Because He Lives by Bill Gaither, Ben Speer, and Guy Penrod

Because He Lives by the David Crowder Band

A Living Hope

As I reflect on the past year, my mind keeps going back to a simple truth, and that is “God is always with us.” For me, the past 12 months has been quite a roller coaster of emotions, trials, hardship, good things, exciting changes, and miracles that remind me the power of our Living God.

Just 12 short months ago, I left the halls of Georgetown High School not knowing what my future would hold, yet trusting in the plans God had for my life. Several weeks later, I received a call from Academy Middle School asking if I would teach Social Studies to 6th and 7th graders. Georgetown was a blessing in my life, but God was directing me to somewhere new. I would transition from an Eagle, whose fight never dies, to a stingin’ Bumblebee. I decorated my new classroom with maps, flags, and posters of people such as MLK, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, and Maya Angelou to remind kids (and myself) that everyone can make a positive impact on others.

Then came the start of a new school year. I greeted each of my close to 150 students as they walked into my classroom for the first time, not yet knowing what kind of impact they would have on me, but hoping that I could make at least the slightest positive impact on them. Like any teacher, I learned what activities worked and led to fun learning and what… well… didn’t. Overall, I hoped that students would learn to explore the world around them, ask questions, and embrace and respect the awesome differences of people on this planet.

Being in a Social Studies classroom, we learned of both past and current events, and sometimes this led to tough discussions as to why people have to be so cruel to others. Our collective world history has been rife with challenges and violence of individuals and groups of people with hatred and discrimination towards others. For centuries, people were taken from their homes, traded as cargo, and forced to live lives as slaves. A madman and his brown shirts sought to wipe away an entire group of people because of their Jewish faith. Marchers were beaten and killed in the American Deep South and in South Africa because they believed that everyone should be granted basic human rights including the right to simply cast their vote. Slavery still exists, Authoritarian regimes, such as China’s, are still persecuting Christians, Muslims, and others, and hateful people still attack people of faith in Pittsburgh, Christchurch, and Sri Lanka. Yes, bad things happened and still happen, but as I was reminded from the kind hearts of 6th graders, there are so many people who show love and kindness to others. If anything, I hope that the positive stories that we did share reminded them to be lights in their communities.

During our time together, we learned that in the midst of slave trading, John Newton left his work as a slave trader, repented of his wrongdoing, became a monk, wrote the words to Amazing Grace, and tirelessly campaigned to end the slave trade. Martin Luther King, Jr. used his eloquent speaking skills to rally people around the idea that people should not be judged based on the color of their skin, Malala Yousafzai proved that girls deserve an education, Irena Sendler risked her life and was tortured for daring to rescue countless kids from the Nazis, and Nelson Mandela inspired the world to join his cause in ending the Apartheid. I constantly wanted to remind kids that they too can be lights in their communities. “Who’s someone who inspires you,” I once asked. One kid replied, “J.J. Watt. He does kind things for people. I can too.”

Of course, we also learned of the varied culture in this world. Rock-a-billy, Motown, Country, Jazz, and Hip-Hop music that shaped America’s musical landscape, bizarre foods in other parts of the world, dances, holidays, sports, and the various religious traditions of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, and many others. I hope that I made Social Studies fun for students and helped them understand that while all of us are different and unique, we are also human beings who can show kindness to one another.

Before teaching about our state, our country, and our world to my students, I always prayed for a good day in which I could encourage at least one student if not more. And then there were moments where they encouraged me. There were countless times when students would stick around after class for a few more seconds to tell me something exciting happening in their lives. I learned that a student got a yorkie that she was constantly excited about. A few others wouldn’t leave my classroom until I shared at least one pun with them. Sometimes, they and others would have jokes of their own. “Did you hear about the kidnapping,” one student asked. “No.” I said. There was a slight pause before he smiled and said, “He’s okay now. He woke up.”

A few gave me drawings, plenty of different presents, and one gave me a thoughtful letter at the end of the year to thank me for teaching her things she had never learned before about history. I am thankful for my interactions with these students.

Of course, there were challenging circumstances outside of school as well. Dad’s cancer came back in several locations, including his brain, and with that, radiation and chemotherapy. Yet through all of that, Dad has been the one who has most encouraged me and has reminded me that God is there. God is with us. God will bring us through any circumstance. God is faithful. He cares for and loves us. Trust in Him always. God is good all the time.

My students saw me trying not to get emotional one day. They asked about me. I had just spoken to Dad on the phone before that class period. I told them my good thing of my Dad’s cancer shrinking. They cheered and celebrated with me. With the recent news that the spots in his brain have shrunk to almost nothing, my coworkers have also celebrated with me.

It’s difficult to understand why certain things happen, whether it’s evil in this world or a loved one battling a dreadful disease. Yet even in the midst of all of the pain and hurt in this world, I still have hope. My students have given me hope. Dad gives me hope. And the unfailing, majestic, powerful, good, good, Heavenly Father gives me hope.

We will face trials, hardship, and setbacks, but a song sung by Bethel Music I have been listening to lately reminds me that in Christ there is hope to be found.

Who could imagine so great a mercy?
What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever
Jesus Christ, my living hope

Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Jesus, Yours is the victory, whoa!

Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope!

What a beautiful reminder that we serve such a powerful God. The same God that created the universe, the giant galaxies, and the subatomic particles, is the same God who created us. We can have hope in God. Death could not defeat Him. Death cannot defeat us. In Christ, I have hope.

I am now leaving Academy a better person than when I arrived at this wonderful school. As I embark on an exciting new journey of ministry as I study at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, I will always be thankful for the memories made as a Bumblebee and the continued hope I have thanks to not only God and my family, but also because of these students. I am blessed beyond measure!

Some verses for encouragement:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

~ Isaiah 43:2

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ~ 1 Peter 1:3-9

Bethel Music. Living Hope. By Phil Wickham and Brian Mark Johnson. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 06 Jun. 2019.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 06 Jun. 2019

Living Hope by Bethel Music

Living Hope by Phil Wickham

I Am Not Alone!

Well, it’s been two weeks since I last posted my blog, and somehow the same thought keeps running through my mind, “I am not alone.”

If I could sum up the last two weeks since my last blog, that is the simple statement I would use to describe my thoughts, “I am not alone.”

In all the trials and circumstances, I have faced, or I have seen others face, I am left with the reassurance that Christ is always with me and that he will never leave or forsake me. Another thing I am sure of is the fact that as a collective body of believers, we are never truly alone. We all go through something, we all struggle, and we all face hardship. Yet when we join together as believers, we realize that so many people are fighting are battles alongside us and we are joining them in their fights as well through the power of prayer and living life together. I can’t tell you how many times people at school will come up to me and ask how I am doing, how school is going, and how my Dad is doing.

I have learned that other believers truly care what circumstances you are facing, and that’s one of the many things I love about going to a small Christian school in central Texas, people care.

Last Thursday was our second night of Worship in the Quad of the school year, a weekly worship service Michael Baker and I lead every Thursday night at 8:00. The first week, I gave a message on defining ourselves by the power of Christ working in us instead of defining ourselves by our own shortcomings, and last week, I shared my testimony while reminding others that they have a powerful story worth sharing.

I am excited for this year as I have had a couple of people already wanting to share their testimonies at Worship. Over the past few years, as I have helped lead this wonderful ministry, I have seen just how true the statement “I am not alone” truly is. We all have a different testimony, a different story of how God has shaped our lives. Every single one of our stories is unique. I have gathered a strong sense of community by inspiring others with my story and having them inspire me and others with their stories. In this, I have realized that as believers, we are all in this thing called life together. When one person is going through something, we must support him or her through the power of prayer and by simply living life with that person.

I have also learned this truth when I am with my amazing family. Throughout high school and college, I have faced a number of challenges, and every time, my family has been there to lift me up and remind me to always trust in God with all my heart. And when they face trials themselves, I have sought to repay their love and kindness with more love and kindness. That’s what families are supposed to do. They are supposed to lift each other up when one needs support and encouragement, and this truth extends to the greater Christian family as well.

The past few months with the return of Dad’s cancer and seeing him start the process of a long six months of chemo, I have realized that we are not alone. When I am going through something, I know my Superman Dad and my awesome grandparents are there to cheer me up. And as my Dad endures the pain of chemotherapy, I hope he never forgets that he is never alone. I am with him. Our entire family is with him. People he doesn’t even know are with him. Most importantly, Christ is with him!

Dad and I absolutely love football, especially Baylor, Texas, and Texas A&M, as well as UMHB games when we can make them. Every weekend, I always look forward to some awesome time spent with him watching football. During halftime of last Saturday’s Baylor game, as Texas and Texas A&M were also winning against their opponents, we watched the tail end of the Oklahoma at Tennessee game.

Early in that game, it looked as if Tennessee was sure to win. With less than 5 minutes left in the first half, Tennessee was up 17-0 when Oklahoma scored a field goal to make it 17-3. With no one scoring in the 3rd quarter, it would look as if Tennessee, having the home field advantage was going to secure the win. Then Oklahoma rallied, scored 14 in the fourth to send the game into overtime. First overtime: both teams score a touchdown. It’s now tied at 24. Second overtime: Oklahoma scores a touchdown and now Tennessee must answer with a touchdown to send it into yet another overtime. After two plays and a false start by the Volunteers, the Oklahoma Sooners intercept the ball to win the game. Both Oklahoma’s offense and defense helped upset Tennessee on their turf.

While the Sooners may have struggled to begin the game, they realized that they had their other teammates to help them when one player had a bad play or when two interceptions were thrown by the quarterback. As Christians, we must realize that like football players on the field, we are never alone. We don’t just struggle by ourselves, we all struggle together, and when we realize that we are in this thing called life together, we are stronger. As the goal of football players during a game is to win the game, our goal as Christians should always turn towards Christ. When we are together in that, we realize that our mission becomes so much easier.

Even a much greater example of coming together in the midst of our individual trials comes in how a nation or an entire global society comes together during horrific tragedy. Last Friday was the 14th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Several thousand people, including those from every continent lost their lives that day. Yet even in the midst of such turmoil, people came together as we realized that we were not Republicans or Democrats or Independents. We were Americans, and in a greater context, we were of the global human race. We came together, and in the midst of our trials, we became stronger, because we were together.

Not only are we not alone as other believers are there with us, but more than that, God is with us! Psalm 139:7-10 (NIV) tells us:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

No matter what we face in this life, we are never alone. In every situation both good and bad, in every happy moment, in every hardship, in every circumstance, God will always be with us. He will go before us.

As I made a quick trip to Wal-Mart this morning, I cried as the radio played, “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe.

When I walk through deep waters 
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through 
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

I cried tears of joy because I know that I am not alone, I know that Dad is not alone, I know that you are not alone. We are never truly alone when we go through something. For my Dad, of course chemo will be rough, but he will have an army of believers behind him every step of the way, and more than that, God will always be with him.

When we choose to follow Christ, we must realize that we are never alone. We are never ever alone!

Even when I face trials, even when those I love face trials, I will remember these words: I AM NOT ALONE!

Jobe, Kari. I Am Not Alone. By Kari Jobe, Austin Davis, Ben Davis, Mia Fieldes, Grant Pittman, Marty Sampson, and Dustin Sauder, 2014. K-Love. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.

I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe

God With Us by MercyMe