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A Servant’s Heart

December 17, 2013 — 4 Comments

servantWhat can I say about my friend, Mark Thompson? He’s a great guy! Everyone that meets him loves him pretty much straight away. I met Mark my first day at OBU, in 1988. I think it was September – it was hot that’s all I know. I was walking out of the GC (student center) and he was walking in. I don’t know why we started talking, except for that’s kinda what Mark does – he just strikes up conversations with strangers, and it’s like you’ve known him all your life.

I found out that my youth pastor who just left my church had gone to his church – so we had something in common right off the bat. Then we talked more and had a lot more in common and just became friends. He has been a blessing to me for the last 25 years, and I hope there’s 50 more coming.

Mark is a hospice chaplain – has been for about 10 years. He helps those who are dying, and those who are left behind. I know this because I’ve seen it – he grieves with them and for them and guides them through every bit of it. He’s been there for me, as a minister and a friend on two occasions – once with my Grandmother, and more recently, when my Dad died.

So what more can I say? Mark’s been a youth pastor, senior pastor, chaplain, professional wrestler, and a missionary. He’s a husband and a father. And he’s awesome at all of it. He’s knocked me out cold twice with folding chairs, which is a whole other story. He once ate a bowl of the foulest stuff I could put together at the college cafeteria, for $10. He loves Jesus, he loves people, and he loves serving both. Mark has a servant’s heart.

Recently he wrote a letter to those who are grieving this time of year – and there are many. The following words shout hope from the highest hills – they cry out, “God loves you, no matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’ve done.” They proclaim that God has a plan and that we are His and that He delights in blessing and caring for those who are His – Please be blessed as you read the following -

April 21, 1997 – a day in my family’s life that will be remembered for all of our lives. Betty Lou Thompson passed away at 11:33 PM. Many people in Tulsa, Oklahoma weren’t aware. Most of the state of Oklahoma didn’t know. But we did. A husband did. Children did. Grandchildren did. A mother did. Friends did.

I was 27 years old when my mom died. 27 is too young to lose your mom…so I thought. Yet in 25 years of ministry having conducted hundreds of funerals, I have seen families struggle loosing a parent of 95, 98, 101.

My mom was 54 years old when she died. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer 18 years prior, and two years before she died, she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Why? I had prayed for her healing. Our family prayed. We begged God for her healing. Why would He not hear our prayers? Did He even hear our prayers? Did he even care??? Real hurts, real questions. God gave real answers.

You, like me, had people offer well meaning anecdotes. She is in a better place. She isn’t suffering any longer. Time will heal your pain and wounds.

I didn’t care. I didn’t want her to be in a better place! I wanted her with us!

People are well meaning but sometimes their words can hurt. Sometimes silence would have been better.

I had a group of friends from Oklahoma City drive over to Broken Arrow to spend some time with me. We played basketball. We sat on the couch. We talked, we cried. We went to lunch. I still hurt. I still hurt….with all of their well meaning words. But…I didn’t hurt like I did when she died…I had been able to laugh and smile.

Psalm 30:5 tells us “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Joy. Joy is a a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

In the greatest teaching ever – The Sermon on the Mount – Jesus shares these words with us – Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are they who mourn…for they will be comforted.” That word blessed in the Greek language means happy. HAPPY? Happy are those who mourn? YES…why? Because they will be comforted! Comfort is defined as a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint. I have the hopes of being freed from my pain? Yes!

Years ago we went to my uncles house to visit. He had a stone retaining wall. We had a habit of walking on it when we would visit. After many years, it began to deteriorate and the stones and concrete cylinders began to become loose. We had been warned not to play on it. But we did what kids do…we did it anyway! I was walking along and as I put one foot in front of the other, it happened. I fell, and a large cylinder fell on my knee and gashed it open really bad. For some reason, the adults heard my cries for help. Mom began to clean my wound. It hurt…bad. But she had to remove the gravel in my knee. Then she poured 4 bottles of hydrogen peroxide in the wound, and applied Neosporin and a gauze pad. My knee hurt bad and did for several days. Then the healing became more obvious. I developed a scab. Then the scab gave way to a scar. I still have those scars on my left knee. They are a reminder of that day in Stonewall, Oklahoma. I see it….and I remember.

For many of you today, your hurt is still fresh…it still stings. For others you are dealing with a scab. Yet others have a scar. You are reminded when you see it. For some of us, it’s everyday.

Isaiah 9:6 tells us, “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Prince of peace!

Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel – meaning God with us. God promised to never leave us and he won’t.

He didn’t leave me…He was with me…He sent friends to support me in the days following my mom’s death. Not only that but He has used my life to help others. He wants to use your hurt. God never wastes a hurt. Today, understand that God loves you, and He knows, and He cares. He really does. You may feel all alone, but you’re not.

I remember that first Mother’s day after mom died. I hurt worse and cried harder that I did when she died. Then Thanksgiving, then…..Christmas. The first Christmas without mom. It was weird. We tried to keep some of the same traditions. It is strange to go shopping and not shop for your loved one who is gone. We ate Christmas lunch, through tears. But we did it….we made it through the first Christmas.

Joel 2:25 tells us, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” God has been faithful. When my mom had died, I was single. I am now married  to an amazing woman with 3 amazing boys, ages 4 1/2, 2 1/2 and 9 months. God has brought so much joy back into my life! He has restored my hurt.

He cares about you!  He loves you! This year you may hurt more than you thought you had the capacity to hurt. Take it day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Don’t just listen to your heart….the Bible tells us our hearts are deceitful…listen to the spirit of God. Zephaniah tells us “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  Just like when I walk in to watch my boys sleep and take delight in them, God, your Father watches over you. Take courage. Take a breath. Be loved. You will make it. It will hurt….the pain is real. Hold on to Jesus, He is holding on to you!

Song by Dennis Jernigan

It’s gonna be alright, child

Even through the darkest night, child

I’ll even use the darkness

To teach you how to hear Me

 

It’s gonna be alright now

Even if you don’t see how

I’ll even use your failure

To help you to draw near Me

 

Hear Me. I am calling,

“Child, come falling deeper in love with Me.”

Trust Me, you must let go

Or you will never know any deeper love in Me

 

It’s gonna be alright here

If you will let Me hold your heart near

I’ll even use your sorrows

To teach You how to love Me

 

It’s gonna be alright, child

I’ll hold you really close and tight child

I’ll even use Your woundings

To help you know more of Me

 

Hear Me. I am calling,

“Child, come falling deeper in love with Me.”

Trust Me, you must let go

Or you will never know any deeper love in Me

 

Why do you hold on to the things of your past

Let go and cling to Me and love that will last

How can you know Me if you do not trust My love

Let go! You’ll find My love is more than enough

 

Facebook Friends

December 13, 2010 — Leave a comment

I just went through all my Facebook friends and deleted a lot of them. That wasn’t my goal. My goal was to see who all was there, if I know them, if I interact with them in any way. I don’t play games on Facebook – anymore – but when I did I would get requests from all over the planet and just say yes to all of them.

As I was looking, I began thinking, “why are these people on my list if I never have anything to do with them?” So, I deleted them. I also deleted people who are in their underwear in their profile pic, most people whose names I can’t pronounce, and accounts set up just for playing games (sorry ZoMbIeFaRmEr_1287). It was most refreshing to refresh the screen and see that I had a lot less friends than I did just moments before.

Now I think you all know that, even of the ones that are left, some of them I don’t know. I’ve never met them and will never meet them. Some of them are friends just because they’re famous or say funny things or have information that I need from time to time. Others I felt sorry for – one guy has like 12 friends and nobody said “happy birthday” to him, so I kept him out of pity I guess. But overall, yeah, my list is lighter and I’m happy about that.

Sometimes my life seems to get cluttered like that. Sometimes I feel like I’m carrying around a lot of excess and need to offload before I collapse – mentally, spiritually, or even physically.

Sometimes I feel that way because my attitude stinks and I need to do away with wrong thinking. Sometimes I have some kind of habit that I need to drop, or some way of doing things thats wrong that I need to correct. When make I the proper adjustments, I feel lighter, more free, like I can do anything. Maybe that’s the point.

This whole process reminds me of John 15:1-5 – read this – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

God does 2 things according to these verses. The first thing is, he cuts off branches that don’t bear fruit. What that means is, if you’re a Christian and are self absorbed and only focused on your own life issues, watch out. God is forgiving, and in fact if you’re saved, you’re already forgiven, but if you’re of no use and you’ve been given ample opportunity to change your ways, He may just go ahead and bring you home.

The second thing is, if you are bearing fruit, He will prune you. I worked in a peach orchard one summer. Part of the job was pruning trees. Trees are pruned for 3 good reasons – safety, aesthetics, and health. Sometimes a branch is broken and in danger of falling off – so we go ahead and prune it to keep it from falling on someone’s head. Sometimes, the tree grows rapidly on one side and looks out of balance, so we prune it to make it look symmetrical. Sometimes, there are dead or diseased branches, so we cut those out to restore the tree to health. Doing all of this allows the tree to focus on what it’s supposed to be doing – bearing fruit.

It’s the same in our Christian life. Have you ever been shocked to find out that a Christian friend has a foul mouth when driving in rush hour traffic? Or maybe you saw the leader of your small group bible study light up a giant cigar and just couldn’t believe it. Maybe there’s some secret sin in your life that you just don’t know how to deal with, and you feel like it’s destroying you on the inside.

That’s where God comes in. He cuts all that stuff away, and the result is, a leaner, lighter, freer you. A you capable of doing what you’re suppose to be doing – bearing fruit.

So back to Facebook. It’s not like it runs faster because I have less friends. I just never got anything out of being friends with them, and as far as I know, they never got anything from me either. So, I let them go. They will never show up on that little list on my profile, I’ll never get another invite to play Texas Hold ‘Em from them, and their birthday won’t pop up anymore. Less overhead. Less distraction. Now I can focus on the rest of you. I want to learn from you, interact with you and hopefully I can teach you something as well.

As for the rest of you, thanks for being my friends!