“BE THERE!” by Ronnie Stewart

SupermanCrusader

When I started my blog several years ago, I asked Dad if he ever wanted to be a guest blogger on my website. On December 24, 2019, Dad breathed his last breath on Earth. At that moment, he defeated cancer and celebrated in the presence of God Almighty. This has been certainly been a difficult journey that my family and I have been through, but it is one we are enduring with Christ walking alongside as. In spirit, Dad also continues to walk with us and inspire us daily. Earlier, I found this blog that he had written and emailed to me on December 14, 2016. At that point, he had gone through two rounds of cancer and defeated them both. Here are some reflections he shared that we never got around to publishing. I hope that his words will inspire you as they have done so for me. He simply titled the post, “BE THERE!” His words are in a roman font (not italicized).

Seeing ourselves and others like GOD does, I believe, is the greatest gift we can give to each other. You truly never know what someone else’s journey holds and the hardships they have endured in their daily walk. Finishing our race and running it well should be more like a marathon race where we help each other complete the race before us.

December is a difficult month for me because of the various tests that I have to go through and the memories that it brings back to me. The second chemo “trial” that I went through made my hair fall out and sores pop up all over my body. I could only see the ugliness and wanted to hide from everyone and myself. God impressed upon me that the reflection that I was hung up on wasn’t the same reflection He saw and loved unconditionally. He didn’t care that I was bald because He numbered every hair that fell out and had already numbered every hair that would replace the lost ones.

During our trials and tribulations, I believe we become closer to our loved ones than we ever could imagine. When I couldn’t raise my head, I could focus on mom’s “sparkle” shoes and realize she was with me. Joshua would pat my forehead with a cool cloth, and I knew he was with me. Dad would make me scrambled eggs, and I knew he was with me. My brothers and sisters cheered me on, and I knew they were with me. My friends at work let me be lazy and fed me well, and I knew they were with me. Facebook friends encouraged me and built me up on a daily basis, and I knew they were with me. Most importantly, GOD was with me and I talked to Him a lot, and He listened to me ramble on and on. GOD’s always with me.

By no means am I sharing my experiences because I want sympathy or someone to feel bad for me. I encourage Joshua not to dwell in the valley, but to marvel at the mountaintop experiences. I hope I encourage someone to be there for someone. There’s always someone worse off and needs to be lifted up, and sometimes even carried. We can lift others up by encouraging words and sometimes just a smile. Please continue to pray for those that fight or have lost someone.

GOD is good all the time!

Dad wanted some verses added, so here are a few that come to mind:

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24 NIV)

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 NIV)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:1-7 ESV)


You’ll Never Walk Alone by David Phelps

Flawless by MercyMe

A life well-celebrated!

Dadhasmynose2

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.

FlorenceFriends

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?)

Love,

Joshua


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
Forever.

My first birthday without you

Dadhasmynose2

Dear Superman,

I turned 26 today. Part of me wishes you were here to celebrate with me, but I take comfort and am joyful that you are spending my birthday in the presence of our Savior. You are free of pain and I cannot begin to fathom what you must be seeing right now. I wish I could see some of those sights.

Today has been the hardest since your passing just 6 days ago. Every so often, I wait for you to peek around the corner and wish me a Happy Birthday, but somehow, I know better. I know you are in a much better place and will always be with me in spirit. So why am I so saddened? Why does my heart hurt so much?

I spent most of the day looking at old photos of you. An entire lifetime of your joyful smiles. I also know where I get my goofiness. If didn’t know already, I would surely have figured out by looking at photos of your younger years.

There was mostly laughter and smiles as I was looking at photos of you. Then I came across one of us. I was a toddler and you, I think, were trying to get my nose. You didn’t succeed since I clearly still have one. As I stared at that photo, I saw the love you had for me. I know I brought you joy. You did the same for me.

Oh, Dad. This is all too difficult. Shayla told me the time you told everyone else to gang up on me in our silly string wars. I would give anything to have one more silly string war with you. To laugh with you again. To joke with you again.

My precious cousin, Jasmine visited. You would be so proud of her and the amazing mom she is to Bryson. I know you loved that sweet boy. He loved you too. I wish I could see your face again light up with joy at Bryson’s cute playfulness.

Dad, I’ll be honest. If it wasn’t for everyone wishing me a Happy Birthday, I might not have remembered today was the day. It’s so different without you. My heart aches without you. And yet, I have hope and peace and joy. You are the reason I have these things. Hope. Peace. Joy.

Among the many photographs, I also came across a letter you wrote to your Grandma Cozy around your first Father’s Day as my Dad. You shared with her a devotional you gave. It’s in your handwriting. Do you mind if I share some of it?

“I had my mother ask my grandmother what I should give my devotional on because I wanted my first devotional to be for her.

Ma Ma quickly replied ‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! By their living! By their loving… She also told Mom that I had to find it myself… Psalm 107 verse 2. I found it.

This verse means to me that I need to live a good Christian life so others will see me glorifying Jesus. It also tells me to have a love that is patient and forgiving of others.”

It continues, but I’ll save the rest for me for now. You weren’t with me physically to give me a birthday gift, yet you still gave me one. I will cherish this letter and your words for years to come.

You have inspired me so much in life. Even though you are no longer physically with me, you continue to inspire me. Thank you for this faith you taught me to have in Christ Jesus. I miss you more than words can say. I cannot wait to be reunited with you. It will happen before you know it. As Jessy Dixon would sing, “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King!” See you later, Superman!

Love,

Joshua


Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

Whom He has redeemed from the hand

of the enemy.

Psalm 107:2 NKJV

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

PilgrimWitnessDad

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

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

Just As I Am: My Salvation Story

grandcanyontrip7

Over the past several years, God has shown me that even in the midst of painful trials, disappointing circumstances, and daunting challenges, He is always right there with me. He constantly showers me with His unconditional love. He reminds me that His plans are always greater than my plans.

I have shared various parts of my testimony the past several years, and I still remember the first time I shared it at UMHB at the Worship in the Quad ministry I was so passionate about. Side note, it was in the BSM that night because of the cold weather. I remember friends approaching me afterwards, thanking me for inspiring them with my story. Each time someone would thank me for sharing, I have tried to remind them that they too have a testimony worth sharing with others. Every believer has a story worth sharing, so don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

A few days ago, the world learned of the passing of the Reverend Billy Graham. Social media was filled with people from all walks of life paying tribute to one person who helped inspire so many around the world through his charismatic evangelizing of the Gospel. As I sat in my little office space at work, getting ready for another day of teaching, I was combing through social media, and I came across a quote attributed to Graham. It read, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Rev. Graham has now changed his address and is alive in the presence of God Almighty for all eternity.

As I have reflected on Graham’s impact on the lives of so many people, I remembered the impact he had on me growing up. I also remembered my own story of how I came to Christ. So, I thought I would share it with you here in this blog post.

On July 19, 2000, about a month before I started the first grade, I was at a Vacation Bible School at a church in Georgetown, TX. At a young age, I knew that Christ loved me more than I could possibly imagine and that I loved Christ more than anything else in the world. What I didn’t know was that the most important part of loving Christ was accepting Him into the heart, an act commonly referred to as becoming “saved.”

I still remember my bible school teacher approaching me and asking me if I wanted to become saved. I honestly didn’t know what that meant at the time. It sounded cool and I figured that it would probably be best to become “saved,” although I wasn’t sure what I was being saved from exactly. When I returned home, I couldn’t understand why my Nana was so excited. I remember asking her if all of this was really that important. She certainly assured me that it was.

Over the next several years, as a young kid, I had so many doubts. At one point I doubted if God really existed. That didn’t last long once I looked at all the nature around me and the stars in the sky and thought, “Well of course He exists.” Even then, however, as I understood more fully what salvation meant, I had doubts as to whether I was truly saved. After all, I didn’t understand what was going on at that Vacation Bible School. For the longest time I thought as if perhaps I wasn’t the person actually making that decision, rather someone made that decision for me. I wondered if I was genuinely a Christian.

These doubts were daily and consistent. I realized that the only way to erase these doubts was if I came to accept Christ into my life as my own decision, now that I knew what accepting Christ truly meant. After so many sermons, there would be invitations for anyone willing to take that most important step and accept Christ into their hearts.

Growing up, I remember watching various preachers in person and on television, and the one who seemed most encouraging on television was Billy Graham. I remember him sharing the Gospel in the simplest ways so that anyone could understand the beauty of God’s love and the plan of salvation. I remember hearing “Just As I Am” being played as hundreds of people walked to the stage to accept Christ. I remember understanding that this was something that needed to be done in my life, but always telling myself, I’ll do it next time. Next time. Next time.

The summer after my 7th grade year was one of the most depressing in my life. I was so miserably depressed that summer that although I never considered actually carrying it out, suicide became a recurring thought in my young mind. Before I continue, if you ever have these same thoughts and you wonder if life is worth living, let me tell you that you are important. God would not have made you if He didn’t have a purpose for your life. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are made in the image of a God who pursues you every second of every day. Please reach out to someone and remember that your life is worth living!

Also, if you have ever battled depression or anxiety, know that there is nothing wrong with you. It is not your fault that you are going through this. God is not punishing you. God loves you. I too have battled depression throughout my life, and I am here to tell you that even when I battle depression, I fall to my knees and ask God to guide my every step. I have hope and joy in these circumstances because I know of the unfailing love God has for me.

In the middle of this summer, I went to Youth Camp with some friends in Brownwood, Texas. One evening, a man who went by the name of Runks Runkles gave a sermon. I don’t have the slightest recollection what the sermon was about, but what I do remember is what happened afterwards. He asked if anyone wanted to pray a simple prayer, asking God into their lives. I prayed that prayer. He then asked those who prayed that prayer to stand. I stood, and as my friends, with their jaws dropped, looked at me, I understood right then, to this day no longer having any doubts, that I was saved. That night I had more joy than I have ever had or ever will have until I meet Jesus in Heaven, because I knew that I was a believer in Christ.

There are too many people in my life who inspired me to reach that point that I could never thank every single one of them. Billy Graham was one person who planted that seed in me that would later lead me to asking Christ in my life. Singers and songwriters, Bill and Gloria Gaither, were two others. One of my pastors growing up, Roy Smith, was another. Paul Cherry, an evangelist friend, was another. And of course, my awesome Dad and grandparents also instilled in me the value of trusting in Christ and putting my faith in Him alone. To everyone else, not mentioned here, I thank you as well!

Throughout my life since then, I have still faced many trials. From being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, living with constant pain since my freshman year in high school, watching my Dad struggle with cancer multiple times (and beating it multiple times), other loved ones struggling with pain and disease I could never possibly imagine, and still battling depression off and on, I have faced many hurdles in life and will continue to do so. God never promised me or anyone an easy life.

What He did promise me was that when I fully trust in Him, I can feel joy in the midst of pain. What He promised me was that even when I doubt, He still loves me unconditionally. Even when I question why bad things happen, He is still there, and He feels my pain, understands what I am going through, and He waits for me to once again turn back to Him, a Heavenly Father who loves me more than I could possibly fathom. Even when I ask for healing, ask for trials to end, ask for the desires of my heart, and He says “Wait” or just flat out “No,” I still trust that He is sovereign and that He still has a plan for me and will use me for His glory. And this gives me joy.

People may ask me why I have so much hope, so much joy, and so much peace. I would tell them that the answer is JESUS. If you’re reading this now, know that the answer is Jesus. For you and me, and for every other human being on this planet, He died a very painful and brutal death. He rose from the dead, and He will return one day to bring those who have accepted Him to live with Him for all eternity.

My Dad has definitely been an inspiration throughout my life’s story. To give you an example, I was struggling one day at college (Mary Hardin-Baylor) with my health problems. As I was struggling with this, my Dad, who was battling an infection after having beaten cancer the first time, text me some encouragement. Even as he was battling pain far worse than I can imagine, Dad texted me, “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 [Christ] together. Love you boy!” With Jesus Christ by his side, Dad overcame that infection in addition to beating cancer at least 3 times. What this example shows me is that even in the midst of painful trials, we can have hope in Christ Jesus. My Dad still reminds me of this daily.

I will tell you right now that you will still face struggles, but even in the midst of those struggles, you can still have joy in Christ Jesus. It all starts with accepting Him into your life. If you do this, you will still face many challenges, but you will have that assurance that Christ goes before you, that He is there to guide you throughout those challenges, and that one day, we will spend eternity with Christ and without any pain or sorrow. All you have to do is accept Christ into your life, trust in Him, and live for Him.

Please do not wait. You may not have tomorrow. You may not have the next hour. The time to accept Christ in your life is always right now.

If you are unsure of what to pray, pray this prayer.

“Lord Jesus, I come to you today, and I thank you for loving me so much. I understand that I am a sinner. I am truly sorry. I want to turn away from those sins and start following you. Please forgive me. I believe that you are God’s son, and that you died to take away my sins. I believe that you rose from the dead and will return for me someday. I understand that the only way to spend eternity in heaven is through you, Jesus. Come into my heart and save me. I love you and I want to follow you for the rest of my life. I ask you into my life. In your name, I pray, Amen.”

If you prayed that prayer, welcome to the family of God. Now, go tell others that you have asked Jesus Christ into your life, and share your story with others. Share what Christ has done in your life. I also encourage you to frequently read God’s Word. If you can’t afford a new Bible, biblegateway.com is a great resource that has the entire Bible in numerous translations. Always remember that you are beautiful and you are constantly pursued by a God who loves you so much.

If you still have questions, contact your local pastor, or you can email me at morethanconquerors839@gmail.com. I am praying for you and I love you.


Some words of encouragement:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy. – Zephaniah 3:17 (HCSB)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 (NIV)


Forever by Kari Jobe

Because He Lives by David Crowder Band (song originally by Bill and Gloria Gaither)

Thank You Lord for When I Suffer (A Poem)

As I sit quietly with my Master

My Savior

My Lord

My God

I realize that I don’t thank Him enough

And how could I?

Through His infinite wisdom and matchless grace

God has given me everything

Why don’t I thank Him?

Why am I not on my face, bowing before Him every waking second of the day?

Why am I not thanking Him with every word I say?

With every song I sing?

With every breath I breathe?

If I were to praise Him and thank Him every fraction of every second

It wouldn’t be enough

And that is the beauty of my God

He is so powerful

So amazing

So wonderful

So sovereign over all

That I can never thank Him enough

He has given me everything

So I thank Him

Right here

Right now

I call out to you Lord Jesus

Giver of every breath

Creator and great Redeemer

And I thank you

Thank you Lord for all of the small things in life

Thank you for the conversations with friends

Thank you for the laughter

For jokes, the puns, and the harmless pranks

For the shoulders on which we cry on

Thank you Lord for the birds that sing sweet, melodious sonnets

For the flowers in bloom, dotting the landscape with the colors you created

For the wildlife on land and sea

And for the stars that dance across the midnight sky

Thank you for the green lights that allow me to get to my destination even faster

And thank you for the red lights as they give me a second to focus on you

Thank you Lord for late night movies with Dad

For the comedy shows with friends

And of course, for college football on Saturdays

Thank you Lord for all of the little things in life that amaze me and bring me so much joy

Lord Jesus

The Messiah

The King of Kings

Thank you for the answered prayers and the big things

Thank you for grandparents who love and care for me

For their passion

Their grace

Their wisdom and guidance

Thank you for the amazing kids they adopted as their own

For the smiles they bring

The stories they have and the jokes they tell

Thank you for allowing them to encourage me daily

Lord Jesus

Thank you for giving me a superhero Dad

Thank you for all the many ways you have used him to uplift and inspire me

Thank you for giving him the knowledge to go back to school

Achieve his degree

Become a special education teacher

And to defeat colon cancer

Not once, but twice

Thank you for the all of the memories we share

Thank you for allowing us to see the beauty that is your Grand Canyon

Lord Jesus

The bright Morning Star

The Alpha and the Omega

The source of Living Water

Thank you for when I suffer

Thank you for when things don’t go my way

Thank you for when people hurt me

When people betray me

Thank you for the pain

For the heartache

For the many obstacles in life

Thank you for my life as someone with Crohn’s Disease

Thank you for the stomach pain

Thank you for the limited diet

For a life without cake and ice cream

Thank you for the tiredness

For all of the symptoms I endure daily

I thank you for these things

Because in them, I can encourage

I can inspire

I can uplift someone also struggling with pain

Because in you, I find hope

In you, I find peace

In you, I find strength

In the midst all of my weaknesses

You are strong

You are sovereign

Though I may be weak, in you, I am strong

Though I may get depressed, in you, I find joy

Thank you for giving me trials in my life

For these trials produce in me a longing for you Oh mighty God

I thirst for you

I hunger for you

I want to draw myself nearer to you

Wrap me in your loving arms Oh God

Never let me go

You are my Rock and my Fortress

You have brought me up out of the dominion of darkness

Into your marvelous light

You have called me your son

You have saved me

You have redeemed me

I cry out to you my God

For you have restored me

You have taken my brokenness

And have made me one in you

I can’t fathom your love oh God

Why do you love me so much?

Why have you blessed me so much?

I don’t deserve any of it

What I deserve is death

What I deserve is eternal separation from you God

I deserve to be shunned by you for eternity

I am a sinner

I am unworthy of your love

I am a lowly human being rife with imperfections

But even in light of all my faults, you love me

You went to the cross for my transgressions

The punishment that I deserve

You took it upon yourself

Hanging there on a cross

As soldiers mocked you

As people spat on you

You did this because you love me

How can I ever thank you enough?

You died for me

You willingly died because of my sin

Because of my shame

And so I thank you for not giving me what I deserve

And that is death

Yet death could not stop you

Death could not, cannot, and will not win

I thank you for the victory over death

A victory that allows me to come before you and thank you

Thank you Lord Jesus

Right here

Right now

I thank you

I thank you for the little things

I thank you for the big things

For the answered prayers

For the pain and suffering

For not giving me what I deserve

And I thank you for victory

With every word I say

With every song I sing

With every breath I breathe

I thank you

Lord Jesus, thank you

Lord Jesus, thank you

Lord Jesus, thank you…

Mountains and Valleys

Well it’s been more than 2 months since my last blog post (more than 4 months since my last one that wasn’t a poem), and since starting my blog in February of last year, that is the longest I have gone without posting anything. So, to start, hello again. It’s good to be back.

So much has happened since my last post, and if I could sum up my life since then, using just three words, those words would be “Mountains and Valleys.” Those words, which just happened to be the theme of this year’s UMHB Spring Revival, encompasses the ups and downs I have experienced the past several months, and if God has shown me anything, it is that His grace is sufficient, and that no matter if we are on tallest of mountains, or in the lowest of valleys, He is always there with us.

Probably the biggest “mountaintop” moment for me was March 31st. For about a week prior to this day, my Dad, my family, and I were anxiously awaiting the results of Dad’s PET scans to see if any cancer remained in his body. Then, in the early afternoon of the 31st, I visited with one of my classmates for more than an hour after leaving my International Relations class. As I left our conversation at the steps of Luther Memorial, I noticed the light on my phone going off, signaling to me that someone had sent me a Facebook message. When I saw Dad’s profile picture, I somehow knew exactly what it was about. As I opened it, my heart jumped for joy when I read these words… “PET scans showed absolutely nothing! :P”

Wanting to hear his voice tell me the good news, I gave him a call, and he assured me that there was absolutely no cancer left. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Fighting back tears, I couldn’t wait to tell the world the wonderful news. First I went to Mabee, so that I would have WiFi to share the news on Facebook. I ran into my awesome friend Jesse. I had the privilege of being his Cru-Leader the past year. With his contagious smile, he celebrated the news with me. After I left the building, I knew exactly who I wanted to tell next, Mrs. Cindy Entzminger, my fiercest prayer warrior on campus. As I walked into the Campus Store where she worked, she looked up and said, “You have big news don’t you!?” I guess she could tell by my expression. “Yes,” I said, “My Dad is cancer-free!” She gave me the biggest hug and gleefully proclaimed, “Oh! I’m so excited! Look,” holding out her arms, “I got goosebumps on goosebumps.” I ran into multiple more friends before I reached my apartment, and I couldn’t contain the exciting news, “Dad is cancer-FREE!”

Finally, I got to my room in my apartment, started playing some songs on YouTube, and wept! Tears of joy streamed down my face. I was so amazed by the goodness of my Heavenly Father. Shortly after Easter, God gave me the greatest gift ever (aside from giving His only Son to us), and that was the gift of a SuperDad who can now wear the label of “Two-time cancer SURVIVOR!” I still remember one song in particular as I spent that afternoon weeping tears of never-ending joy, and that was “Worthy the Lamb” by the Gaither Vocal Band (see video below)…

Hear the cries of the shackled from the onset of time,
For the chains of defeat there’s no key.
See the tears of the broken, the cries of the slaves:
Is there no one worthy to set us free?

Then the crying is stilled as the chorus rings out,
The shackled released from their chains.
And thousands of voices are swelling the song:
Worthy the Lamb that was slain.

Worthy, worthy,
Worthy the Lamb that was slain (x2)

Then all the archangels, the saints of all time,
Holding their crowns in their hands,
Fall down before Him joining the song:
Worthy, worthy the Lamb!

Worthy, worthy,
Worthy the Lamb that was slain (x2)

Praise Him, praise Him,
Praise the Lamb that was slain (x2)

As I listened to this song, I knelt on the floor, weeping, thanking God, singing, “Praise Him, Praise Him, Praise the Lamb that was slain! Praise Him, Praise Him, Praise the Lamb that was slain!” As I listened to that song and others, I couldn’t help but cry out, “Lord Jesus, Thank You. Lord Jesus, Thank You.” Emotions overwhelm me even now as I type these words, and I can’t help but say, “Lord Jesus, Thank You!”

A week later, during Revival, with the theme, “Mountains and Valleys,” I felt as if I were at the top of that mountain. I had every reason to celebrate. Life was going great for my family and for me. Sure, I still got emotional, but those were mostly tears of joy. How awesome it was crammed in a large tent with fellow believers as we proclaimed that Christ is King. We ended the three days with the Digital Age singing “All the Poor and Powerless.” And my oh my did we shout and sing at the top of our lungs, leaping, with our hands held high, “Shout it! Go on and scream it from the mountains. Go on and tell it to the masses. That He is God!” (All Sons & Daughters)

Those few weeks I felt like I was on top of that mountain. Yet as my life unfolded, I went back down into the valley. The last few months for me was beyond stressful. With papers, exams, projects, and so much more, there were nights where I only got a few hours of sleep. And in that time, I became depressed. Depression is something that I have always struggled with. Even in its mildest form, depression is something that no one wants to deal with. I couldn’t understand why I had feelings of loneliness and brokenness, yet those feelings were there all the same. I’ve asked God before to give me the strength to not feel the way that I do, and it’s then that I realize that God is already making me strong in Him. Through every single weakness, God is able to move me to be strong in HIM.”

It is then I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)…

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.

For when I am weak, when I feel broken, when I am in my lowest valley, then I am strong. THEN I AM STRONG!

I have had plenty more “mountaintop” moments since my last blog post. I got to go to Spring Formal with my awesome friends, Michael and Katie, and my wonderful sister, Paige. I made all A’s, maintained my career 4.0 GPA, had lunch with my best friend Cody, whom I hadn’t seen in almost a year, and I got to enjoy a visit from my Aunt Karen and Uncle Michael and their kids from Indiana. I also got to enjoy hanging out with all the freshmen Alexa, Katie, and I had been mentoring the past year. A few weeks ago, my best friend, Michael, led worship for the youth group at my church, FBC Florence, and I shared my testimony. It brought a smile to my face to see my friend lead worship as so many young middle and high school students raised their hands praising our Heavenly Father. They all cheered and got excited when we began to sing “Oceans: Where Feet May Fail” by Hillsong United.

These past several months, I have been in the valley, but I’ve also been on that mountain. And no matter where I am, there God is with His arms wrapped around me. He is reminding me that wherever I go, He is there!

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Picture 1: A picture with my Superman who has beat cancer twice!

Picture 2: A picture with the Digital Age after Spring Revival 2016

Picture 3: A picture with Kneeland Brown, this year’s speaker at Revival

Picture 4: A picture with Michael, Paige, and Katie before Spring Formal

Picture 5: A picture with my best friend Cody (best friends since the 1st grade!)

Picture 6: Selfies with Katie, Alexa, and our awesome freshman group

Picture 7: A picture with Christopher, Shayla, and Michael after a night of worship at FBC Florence


All Sons & Daughters. All The Poor And Powerless. By David Leonard and Leslie Jordan, 2011. allsonsanddaughters.com. Web. 30 May 2016.

Gaither Vocal Band. Worthy The Lamb. By Bill and Gloria Gaither, 1974. LyricWikia. Web. 30 May 2016.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 30 May. 2016.


Worthy The Lamb by The Gaither Vocal Band

All The Poor And Powerless by The Digital Age