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

What a Glorious Day That Will Be!

Today is an unbelievably challenging day. Today would have been Dad’s 55th Birthday, and it is now his second in heaven. I believe with my entire being that on December 24, 2019, Dad was resurrected into new life and is celebrating eternity with Christ Jesus.

For this, I am thankful. I am thankful that he is no longer suffering. Instead, he is rejoicing. He is proclaiming the name of Jesus. And he is seeing sights that I can only imagine in my finite earthly mind. I look forward to the day when I see my Dad again, and ultimately, when I see the face of Jesus. As I sang in the homily that I delivered at his funeral more than a year and a half ago, in the words of Jim Hill,

What a day that will be

When my Jesus I shall see

And I look upon his face

The one who saved me by his grace

When he takes me by the hand

And leads me through the Promised Land

What a day, glorious day that will be!

Until that day, I will rejoice that Dad is in his eternal home, and I will constantly reflect upon the fond memories of a quarter century of time spent with Dad.

And yet, grief is still ongoing. It is still so extremely difficult. Coupled with the anxiety and depression I have experienced throughout my life, there are days when I simply want to do absolutely nothing. There are days that overwhelm me to where I feel as though the entire world is crushing my bones.

If you are reading this, and you are struggling with grief, anxiety, depression, etc., please know that your mental health is important. I am learning and striving to take better care of my mental health. Please know how important this is. Care for your mental health. God certainly cares about it. You should too.

I find one thing that helps me is sharing my journey, one that is rooted in the foundation of Christ Jesus. Yes, I have bad days. And yet, I still have joy. Even in the midst of everything Dad went through in his battle with cancer, he would always remind me of the joy that he had. I am thankful that Dad gave me a love of Scripture, gospel music, serving others, and the joy that can be found in Jesus. It is this joy that gets me through days like today.

Several weeks ago, at Seventh and James Baptist, a church I have absolutely fallen in love with the past few years, Dr. Angela Gorrell, a professor at Truett Seminary, shared with us about her new book, The Gravity of Joy. That night she shared parts of her personal story in which she found joy while researching joy. I highly recommend the book, even though I haven’t even started it yet, and I promise you that it is on my to-do list. Her story was an encouragement to me that even in the darkest moments in our lives, we can find joy.

So, why do I have joy?

For me, the answer is simple (at least it seems that way in my mind). Jesus Christ gives me this joy. I have joy because of a savior who was crucified so that I might have eternal life. I have joy, because while life right now might be challenging, I know that my savior defeated death, and I know that I will see Dad again, and most importantly, I will one day see Jesus Christ face-to-face.

I have joy because my earthly Dad showed me what it means to have joy even when times were tough, especially when times were tough. I have joy because of the memories of Dad that God allows me to reflect upon. Dad would often go to great lengths to encourage someone and make their day better (as he did for me countless times). Whether it was his coworkers and students during his years in Special Education, friends of his at various stages of his life, or close family members, I have lost track of all the stories of the goofy things he would do to bring a smile to someone’s face.

I have joy because of the faith I have in Christ Jesus, a faith Dad imparted on me for nearly 26 years, and even after his passing, I am still encouraged by his faith. I also have joy because my grandparents continue to encourage and uplift me. Whenever I need someone to talk to, the first person I call is my Nana, and she will of course let me know if I go a day without giving her a call. The presence of family members across Texas and in Indiana also gives me joy.

I have joy because I am surrounded by so many wonderful people in Waco and beyond. My Seventh and James family, especially, Erin, Matt, and Scott, encourage me more than they’ll ever know. My Truett family consists of so many professors, staff members, and fellow students (including my awesome roommate, Zach) who bring a smile to my face constantly, especially when I can share puns with Dr. Grear Howard. That man is a legend and a phenomenal witness of the gospel. I have also recently become a part of a group of friends in which we study God’s Word each week and occasionally spend time outside of Bible study by playing games and watching football. There are so many more reasons, in addition to these, as to why I have joy.

There are two other moments, specifically at Truett, that have recently reminded me of this joy I have. Two weeks ago, Truett hosted the African American Preaching Conference. It was a wonderful few days of amazingly gifted preachers who proclaimed God’s Word. One of the highlights for me was a sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Ralph Douglas West.

In his sermon, he emphasized 1 Corinthians 2:1-2. Here it is in the NRSV:

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

He reminded us that it’s easy to preach Jesus Christ. Doing so is quite popular. What is more challenging, but absolutely required of us, is that we preach not only Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

It is because of a crucified and risen savior that I have joy in the midst of trials and challenges in my life. It is because of a crucified and risen savior that I can make it through days like today. It is because of a crucified and risen savior that I want my life to be one that lifts others up and advocates for others just as Dad did in his life.

The last moment I will share with you was last Tuesday in chapel. One of the songs in which my friend and fellow seminarian, Leah, led us in was “Give Me Jesus.”

I was emotional then, and as I have downloaded the song on iTunes and have listened to it repeatedly this past week, I’m still emotional. Here are some of the words:

In the morning, when I rise

In the morning, when I rise

In the morning, when I rise

Give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus,

Give me Jesus.

You can have all this world,

Just give me Jesus.

When I am alone,

When I am alone,

When I am alone,

Give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus,

Give me Jesus.

You can have all this world,

Just give me Jesus.

These past few years (especially early October and late December of each year) has been difficult. But, in those moments, Jesus Christ gives me hope. So, when I am afraid, anxious, depressed, grieving, just give me Jesus. Because he is why I have joy. Dad, thank you for sharing this joy with me throughout your life, and for continuing to inspire me through the work of the Holy Spirit. Because of a crucified and risen Savior, I know I will see you again. And what a day that will be!

Give Me Jesus by Danny Gokey

What A Day That Will Be by Jim Hill

Camp, Jeremy (note: not original author of hymn, but the lyrics I found are attributed to him). “Give Me Jesus.” AZLyrics. Web. 11 Oct. 2021.

Hill, Jim. “What A Day That Will Be.” Google Play Lyrics. Web. 11 Oct. 2021.

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!

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Daddy.

Dear Superman,

Today would be your 54th birthday. It has been more than nine months since I said goodbye to you, my closest friend in life. I miss you more and more each day. For the first time since January, I listened to a recording of your voice. Why I have waited this long, I am not sure. At one point, you told me that there was no one you would rather spend time with than me. Oh, what I would give to spend just a few moments with you, to watch one more episode of the Office or a college football game with you, to hear you laugh and tell jokes, to see you smile at me and tell me that you love me with all your heart.

This journey of discovering how to live life without your physical presence has been far from easy. I know it’s not supposed to be easy when you love someone so much, but my goodness, it’s been rough. There have been so many days that have been quite emotionally painful. I miss being able to call you and tell you how my day is going. I am thankful beyond measure to be able to call my Nana and BigDaddy, but I wish I could call you too. Last night, as I cleaned the church while listening to my iPod, I broke down in tears as I listened to Richard Smallwood sing, “The Center of My Joy,” and I couldn’t help but sing at the top of my lungs and fall to my knees when listening to “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. I am eternally grateful to you for impressing upon me to have such a strong faith in our Heavenly Father who watches over us. He is the center of my joy and I can only imagine what it will be like when I can see you again, but more importantly, when I can see the face of Christ Jesus. I cannot wait for the day.

We made so many memories together, memories that I have thought about a lot lately. I remember fondly our road trips to the Grand Canyon in 2016 and to Virginia for the Division III Football National Championship in 2017, travelling through the Deep South while listening to the iPod that Mr. Barber kindly loaned us. My favorite was the album by Huey Lewis and the News. I wish I had a time machine so I could travel back in time and visit you, even if just for a moment. I wish we could drive through the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia again or take the Sandia Peak Tramway in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Or perhaps just simply watch a football game together as we cheer every touchdown and yell about every fumble or interception.

We loved binge-watching shows together such as Star Trek: Voyager, Speechless, and the Office. During quarantine, I introduced myself to Parks and Rec and the West Wing, two shows I know you would have liked too. So many things we used to do together just doesn’t seem the same without you. I miss you more than words can say.

These past 365 days have been challenging. Just a few days before your birthday last year, I had so much planned for an awesome weekend of just the two of us guys hanging out together. I was going to come home Thursday night, we would spend Friday, your birthday, at the doctor’s office (meh), but then treat ourselves to perhaps some Bush’s Chicken. Saturday, we were going to watch the Red River Showdown between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners before watching the Baylor Bears take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Then, on Sunday, I was going to take you with me to Seventh and James so that you could visit the church I had fallen in love with in Waco and meet some amazing people I worshipped with each Sunday. We would top the day off with lunch at On the Border, our favorite place to eat in Waco. It was going to be a blast!

But as you know, it didn’t work out that way. Your birthday ended with us in a hospital room. We still watched some football together, cheering on the Longhorns even though they couldn’t pull it off (Shucks! And they didn’t this year either. Double shucks!) as you laid in your hospital bed. That Saturday, October 12, 2019 would become one of the most difficult days of my life as the doctor sat next to me and suggested that we consider end-of-life care. That’s not the weekend I had planned. I was shocked. I was heartbroken that the strongest, most fearless, hardest working, most Godly man I knew was nearing the end of his life. The following two and a half months was a roller coaster of emotions. Then, joined by our amazing friends, Karen and Adolph, our family told you farewell as you departed your earthly home for an eternal heavenly one on Christmas Eve.

In the days, weeks, and months after, so many friends and family have encouraged me and have taken care of me. Nana checks up on me every day and I have so many friends in Waco and elsewhere who bring me so much joy even in moments of deep pain and sadness. There is so much I wanted to experience with you. I wanted you to see me graduate from seminary, preach from a pulpit, fall in love and get married (you were supposed to officiate the ceremony), and spoil your future grandkids. I still take comfort in words you spoke to me nearly a year ago. You told me that in one form or another, you would be at my wedding. I know that in spirit, you will be there just as you are with me now as I type this blog post.

Grief is challenging, daunting, nerve-racking, and depressing. Quite frankly, it sucks. I don’t like it one bit. But I take joy in knowing that you are in Heaven with Christ Jesus, free from the pain and sickness of cancer. Death did not have the final say, eternal life did. You beat cancer. So, while I continue to grieve, I will also celebrate and wish you a wonderful birthday, your first in Heaven. Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you, with all my heart, beyond description. Until we meet again, see you later, Superman!

Love, Joshua

Center of My Joy by Richard Smallwood

I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me

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

Are There Bluebonnets in Heaven?


As I walked through the garden,

I felt the cool breeze sweep over me.

The many flowers were in full bloom;

The Indian blankets and white poppies dotted the hillside.

I strolled alongside a steady stream and listened.

I listened as the wood thrushes and mockingbirds

Performed their sweet melodious sonnets.


As I gazed across the bright blue sky,

And fixed my eyes on the distant trees,

I felt as if I were in a painting;

A magnificent work of art, inspired by God,

And placed on a canvas by a master painter.

I was in complete awe of the immense beauty.

Life sprang forth all around me.


As I continued my journey throughout this vast garden,

I heard someone singing a song with words I had heard before.

As I drew closer to the singer’s voice,

There sat my Granny, on a bench, singing “Precious Memories.”

A smile spread across my face,

As I remembered all those times spent with my Granny.

The crafts, the dominoes, and the stories filled these memories.


While she continued singing, another voice joined her.

She called for him and he came to sit right beside her with an arrowhead in his hands.

“Look what I found Granny Olene; it’s just for you.”

He turned and looked at me with a bright smile on his face.

It was my Dad, and he continued happily singing with my Granny.

The words to “Precious Memories” became even more significant to me.

Oh, how I will miss the laughs, football games, and late night movies with Dad.


Then I saw a gardener, hunched over,

planting bluebonnets;

All the while, singing along with Dad and Granny.

I knelt beside the gardener and asked him, in wonder,

“Are there bluebonnets in heaven?”

He turned to me, with soil on his fingertips and scars in his hands.

He smiled at me and asked, “Do you know the name of this garden?”

“I call it Paradise, and someday, the four of us will sing together.”


After the gardener spoke these words,

I awoke that morning,

Joyful at what I just dreamed,

Waiting for the day when I could sing with Dad, Granny, and the gardener.

Until then, I will keep these images and my Precious Memories in my heart,

As I tell the world of this gardener who assured me

That there are bluebonnets in heaven!


Originally written on June 21, 2017, the fourth stanza and mentions of Dad were added on February 17, 2020. Dad and Granny Olene, I love you both, with all my heart, beyond description!

Olene Shepherd Stewart: October 13, 1921 ~ June 13, 2017

Ronnie Dean Stewart: October 11, 1966 ~ December 24, 2019


Dad and his Granny Olene

A life well-celebrated!


Dear Superman,

Well. It’s been 12 days since you breathed your last breath here on Earth. It doesn’t seem like that much time has passed. It feels like it was only a day or two ago. Each day, I miss you more and more. I’ve heard it gets easier over time. I’m waiting. It’s not getting easier yet. It’s starting to sink in, I think. I would give anything to hear one more joke or watch one more Good Mythical Morning YouTube clip with you. I am filled with joy in that you are living in Heaven for an eternity free of pain. At the same time, I find myself trying to balance that joy with the grief I have in not seeing your smile anymore.

Okay. Now I’m crying. I still have occasional anxiety attacks. I miss you so much. Does time really make this any easier? I have my doubts.

We celebrated your life the last two days. There were so many people at your visitation. We were sharing so many memories. Some of your high school friends were sharing with me about your goofy antics. After every story, I realize more and more that I am your son. Maybe I’ll carry on some of that goofiness in your honor. I also learned that you had a detective agency when you were little. That’s cool!

Some of my closest friends from high school and college came to pay their respects. The Earps and Daniells were there. So were the Montgomerys. Michael, Jamie, and Kenzie stopped by. Karen Standridge did too. Bryson, our sweet cousin, entertained as always. You had high school friends, college buddies, coworkers from Channel 25, Florence and Georgetown ISD, and plenty of others. The Segrests visited from Waco. I go to church with them now. They hugged Nana and told her they would help take care of me in Waco. You’d like them. There were so many hugs. Not sure who gave the best one. Perhaps our friend Serena from GISD. She gives good hugs.

Yesterday was the graveside service. There were so many people there. Dad, you were loved by so many. From each chapter of your life and mine, people came to celebrate just how awesome you were and how much you meant to us. I kinda goofed on the registry book. I forgot to make it accessible for everyone to sign. Nana counted 50 something who did sign. I would say there were close to 30-40 additional people who were there. They wore their superhero and college shirts.

Many of your classmates from high school and college were there. Some of your Channel 25 buddies were too. Quite a few of your former coworkers from Florence and Georgetown were there. Mrs. Petty gave me a sweet hug. Erin Conaway, the pastor of Seventh & James, was there. So were some of my Truett friends. Sarah Kuczek and I talked about football. Kirsten Parker and her mom sent me a photo of themselves afterward. They were wearing a Longhorn and a Superman shirt just for you. So many people that I can’t name them all. They were there to celebrate YOU!

The service was amazing. And with perfect weather! Mark Fitzwater filmed it for our family. Your friend Scott Zajicek sang Amazing Grace just as you asked him to. Wes Willie shared some details of your life and sang 10,000 Reasons. Roy Smith prayed a sweet prayer as he often does. Sally Russell read Psalm 23. Greggory and Amberlee sang your favorite song, “When I Cry.” They could not have done so more beautifully. Michael Baker sang the song you sang to me when I was little. It’s our favorite. You know? Because He Lives. I love that song. Then he sang “Sanctuary,” and Shawn Shannon closed with a wonderful benediction.

You asked me months ago to preach at the service. Well. I did my best. I preached. I also sang a little. Not exactly my comfort zone, but I wanted to sing for you. Remember when we would sing at Lawler Baptist for 3rd Sunday Singings each month. I loved singing specials with you. Oh, what I would give for just one more 3rd Sunday Singing with you. The last time we sang in front of people together was when I was in middle school I think. Also, I think that was the last time I sang in front of a crowd until yesterday. So many wonderful memories. I miss you so much. I also dropped a Marvel reference just for you, and I’ll say it again. Dad, I love you 3000!

During the reception, there were so many jokes and so much laughter. I know that’s what you would want and that is to enjoy each other’s company as we remembered all of the fun times we had with you. There was plenty of food thanks to your friends, Karen, Monica, and others from GHS, your high school friends, and cookies from Lawler and FBC Florence. Also, Bryson entertained there as well. Man, I love that little guy!

Some of your high school classmates asked me to take a photo with them. In honor of the goofball you were, they wanted me to lie across their laps. Apparently, there is a photo of you doing that when you were in high school. Of course, there is! I will miss your goofiness. You were always the life of any party or get-together.


Dad, now is the difficult part. Now I must find a new normal. But I don’t want a new normal. A new normal, if there is such a thing, means that you’re not here physically. Not here to laugh, tell jokes, yell at the television set with me when our football teams aren’t doing well (or when the officials make a bad call). Not here to give an encouraging word. I want your advice. Dad, how am I supposed to do this? I miss you so much. I’m waiting for your prankster self to tell me that I’ve been epically punk’d, but I know better.

As I feel these feelings, as I experience this hurt, I know you’re in a better place. I am rejoicing in that fact. I look forward to the day when I will see you again. WHAT A DAY THAT WILL BE! Until then, see you later Superman. Again, I love you 3000!

(Yes, I just called you Superman and made a Marvel reference. Would you have it any other way?)



Psalm 23 (NKJV)

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

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

I’m going to seminary!

As I am typing this, I hear the sounds of crickets chirping and birds singing their sweet sonnets, and I see the sun setting in the distant trees. Something about sitting outside reminds me of the wonder of God and the beauty of His creation. I realize that I am immeasurably blessed by this magnificent creator.

If you were to ask me what gives you joy in life, I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down to just one thing. When I am teaching, the smile of a student, the laughter of another when he has a joke to tell, the delight another has when giving me a work of art she drew just for me gives me so much joy. In the past two years, I have gained joy in engaging wonderful students as they have also taught me a thing or two about the joys of life.

I have also been blessed with amazing church families over the years. These church families have mentored me, prayed with me in my darkest moments, sent me cards when my young self struggled with depression, sang with me in rejoicing in the goodness of God, placed their hands over me when I first announced my desire to pursue ministry, and when I chose to place my trust in Christ Jesus and follow Him for the rest of my life, it was a fellow church member who first mentored a young christian. My church families have meant so much to me, and I will always be grateful.

My friends have also given me immense joy. Each of them have meant so much to me over the years. We have lived life together. With trips to the movies, football games, church camp, the State Fair, dances, escape rooms, Bible studies, and lip singing in the parking lot of the UMHB Baptist Student Ministries, and so much more, the Lord has blessed me with countless memories with friends. Seeing two of them get married from the perspective of getting to be the best man last year was a great highlight of my journey with these friendships. I am absolutely blessed beyond measure.

Of course, it goes without saying, but my family has given me so much joy. Visits from relatives who live in San Antonio, Goshen, IN, and elsewhere always brings a smile to my face. My grandparents have guided me in both the mountains and valleys of life, and their love for others has rubbed off on me and I am so thankful for that. Their adopted kids have blessed me beyond measure, and my Dad, who has faced some of the toughest battles, reminds me daily what a true servant of Christ Jesus looks like. He will always be my Superman.

In all of these categories of those who give me joy, one thing is constant, and that is God. Lord Jesus has given me joy at home, at church, as a student at Florence ISD, a student at Mary Hardin-Baylor, a teacher at both Georgetown High and Academy Middle schools, and in every encounter with those who meet me along life’s journey.

In every one of these encounters, in everything I do, I place my hope in Christ, and my ultimate desire is to please and serve Him. So I’m sure it does not come to a surprise to some, especially those closest to me, that I am excited to share the news that I will be attending Truett Seminary at Baylor University in my pursuit of honoring God through full-time ministry. I have loved serving in various capacities in church. I have gained immense joy in doing ministry at UMHB. And the most rewarding aspect of teaching these past two years have been the personal connections with my students, and the smiles their faces bring when they realize how much teachers care for them. God placed me at various points throughout my life, including Georgetown and Academy, so that I might show His love to others, and young people certainly need to encounter the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In case you are wondering where I see myself in ministry, the honest answer is that I’m not entirely sure. I love engaging youth, college students, and young adults with the Gospel. Maybe someday, I will work on a college campus or maybe even pastor a church. I’m not entirely sure just yet. I just know that I want to serve Christ in whatever I do. One of my favorite verses is 1 Thessalonians 2:8. It says this: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” I love sharing life with others, and in so doing, sharing with others the love of Christ.

I am excited for new adventures yet to come, and thankful for experiences which have shaped me into who I am today. If you want to pray for me, I welcome it. Pray that whatever I do, I only do it for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ. This is my prayer each and every day!

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 26 April. 2019.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

It has now been almost two months since two of my closest friends dedicated the rest of their lives together in marriage. It was a wonderful ceremony centered around two Christ-like people and their love for each other. I am thankful to have witnessed this remarkable occasion, and I am blessed to have been able to stand next to Greggory as his best man.

I have known Greggory for roughly 5 1/2 years now. I don’t remember the exact date we met, but I remember meeting him at Worship in the Quad, a ministry I was so thankful to be involved with during most of my time at UMHB (Note, that it was actually in the BSM given the inclement weather that evening). I remember meeting him in the BSM’s sanctuary. He was smiling, full of energy, and I could tell that he had a passion for serving the Lord. Never in my wildest imaginations did I think that he would become one of my closest friends in life, someone I realized I could turn to in any circumstance.

Later in the Spring of 2013, I was looking for a roommate for the following year. I had known one of our mutual friends, Will, and asked him if he had a roommate. He told me that it would be him and Gregg, but I could join them as the 3rd roommate. Because of the housing process at the time, it didn’t work out with Will, so now it was just Gregg and me. When we applied for housing, I saw a glimpse of Gregg’s unique energy and cheerfulness. We signed up for the only apartment complex left, Huckins, which has since been replaced by the new Performing Arts Center. Those apartments were the smallest on campus, so we were constantly in close proximity with one another, and this was the perfect setting to develop a close friendship.

Going into Sophomore year, I faced something more challenging than that I had ever faced. Only weeks before returning to UMHB for my 2nd year, I learned that my Dad, the strongest, most God-fearing man in my life, had colon cancer and required surgery followed by months of chemotherapy. I wasn’t always sure who I could turn to when I was away from home, and there were nights in which I would cry myself to sleep. I even had a few panic attacks during my Sophomore year. While there were countless men and women on the UMHB campus to constantly uplift, pray for, and inspire me, the most encouraging person outside of family quickly became Greggory. God always seemed to give Gregg the right words at just the right times I needed it. I’m not entirely sure if I ever told him this, but all of the jokes, laughs, puns (yes, lots of puns), deep spiritual conversations, non-spiritual conversations, prayers, and simply his presence helped me through one of the darkest times of my life.

In the midst of all of this, I was also diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease that year. This provided a constant struggle with stomach pain until I eventually discovered what I could and could not eat. Having Gregg’s friendship helped me through this as well. We became even closer as we both helped prepare Missions Emphasis Week together, with the following year being under his joint leadership with a few others as co-directors. Missions Emphasis Week was an awesome event, organized by an awesome group of students (under the BSM leadership), where we invited amazing missionaries across the state and the world to give students opportunities to share the Gospel locally, nationally, and internationally, thus helping fulfill God’s Great Commission to share His love to the ends of the Earth. Throughout planning and enjoying MEW, Gregg and I were able to witness each other’s passions in serving God by serving others.

All of these experiences helped show me someone I could count on, more than most, to encourage me in life’s many ups and downs. I mentioned some of the things I loved most about Greggory in my best man speech. One thing I have always loved were his passion for telling great puns.

Perhaps it’s because I too like puns that this became one of my favorite quirky qualities in Greggory. We constantly had pun battles (with him almost always winning), especially when he made deviled eggs for some reason. His egg-cellent puns always cracked me up, especially on Fry-days. He never walked on eggshells to get to the best puns, and because we were both Baptists, he just had to always quote Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my YOLK upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my YOLK is (over)easy and my burden is light.”

Even after he just got married and we were taking wedding photos before the reception, Gregg made yet another pun. “I thought there was something else I needed to do today, but I can’t put my finger on it,” Gregg said as he twisted his new wedding ring around his finger.

So just for Gregg, I shared a wedding pun during my best man speech that I found off of the Internet.

So Gregg. Did you hear about the two cell phones that got married? Their reception was terrific! (Ba dum tss)

And then I moved on to the more emotional part of my speech. It was indeed an emotional night. Even the cake was in tiers.

After promising that that was the last of the puns I told the crowd that I knew Greggory and Amberlee’s relationship, a relationship between two amazing vocalists, would last. After all, they are always in one a chord.

There are many amazing experiences with Greggory that I have had over the years, and are too numerous to count. I could probably write a doctoral dissertation about all of our adventures. But for the sake of this blog post, I am going to fast forward a bit from Sophomore year to our first Senior year (yes first Senior year).

Throughout our college career, Greggory and I would joke to each other about our singleness every time one of our friends started a relationship, got engaged, or got married. For Greggory, that would soon change in the middle of Fall 2016. I remember when Gregg came bouncing into our apartment to share some exciting news with me. He had been hanging out with this young lady named Amberlee, and he was going to ask her if she wanted to start a relationship with him. I was so excited for him and told him to let me know how it worked out.

Later that evening, I was sitting in my room in our apartment (Junior and Senior years, we lived in the nicest apartments where we had our own bedrooms) when I heard the main door open, along with this clink-clink-clink noise. I knew it was the clinking of Gregg’s metal thermos that was always strapped to his backpack. I opened my bedroom door, slid in my wheely-chair, and asked, “So…?” With his use of hand movements and sheer jubilation, Greggory told me that they decided to start dating. I was so excited for him. My best friend was now in a relationship!

Not long after this (a few days or weeks; I’m not entirely sure), I met Amberlee after one of her concerts. Both she and Gregg were Music majors and were in many vocal performances at UMHB. Upon meeting Amberlee, I could tell that she too was full of energy and a passion for Christ. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about you,” was the first thing Amberlee ever said to me. I quickly came to the conclusion that this very “smiley” person would become a close friend of mine, which only made sense given that Gregg was also a very “smiley” person.

Over the past several years, I have developed a great friendship with both Gregg and Amberlee. We have shared both excitements and challenges in life. We have laughed with each other, and we have encouraged and prayed for one another. I am so thankful that Greggory found his soulmate in Amberlee. Not only are they happy with each other, but through my amazing friendship with Greggory, Amberlee has also become a very dear friend of mine.

I cannot begin to describe just how much these two amazing people mean to me. One more memory I will share is a memory I have of one of Amberlee’s performances she did with some of her colleagues in UMHB’s Music Department. The last song they sang was one of my favorites I originally heard from David Phelps. And sorry, David Phelps, but their rendition was even better. The song was, You’ll Never Walk Alone. Throughout the performance of the song, each member of the group sang a solo part of it before they all sang the ending together. The words go like this…

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

I can’t remember exactly, but I think I may have shed a tear or two when that song was sung. This song has always been a great reminder to me that no matter what challenges we face in life, we never walk alone. Christ Jesus walks with us every step of the way, and he has also given us other people in our life who walk with us as well. Two of the closest people in my life who have walked with me in the good times in life, as well as the many storms, have been Greggory and Amberlee.

Their wedding and reception was nothing short of absolute beauty as it exemplified the love they share for God and for each other. It is my prayer and my hope that they find a lifetime of happiness with each other, and that they always remember a simple truth that has stuck with me throughout my life’s journey. That simple truth is that you’ll never walk alone!

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David Phelps. You’ll Never Walk Alone. By Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, 1945. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 08 Oct. 2018.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 08 Oct. 2018. (modified with egg puns)

You’ll Never Walk Alone by David Phelps