Eight years of lost laughs.
Eight years of silent stories.
Eight years of mourning and moving on…of missing and making do.
And yet, the pain never truly heals.
Here I sit eight years later, and still the finality of it all strikes me like a hammer, crushing my fragile heart with its mighty heft.
I can still see him lying in that hospital bed…barely a shell of the man I once knew; a mere shadow of he that raised me.
That last night still burns in my mind:
Those haunting words…”He’s going. If you want to make your peace, now is the time.”
My mother, too hysterical to drive, and me barely keeping it together myself.
The hollow feeling in my stomach as I approached his room.
The shock that stopped me cold in my tracks.
His empty stare…
And the terrible silence. That awful, unbearable silence…
Veterans’ Day, 2007. The bitter irony.
He survived Vietnam, but could not survive his battle with cancer.
No more silly jokes or beautiful songs. His powerful voice forever silenced.
No more hugs or pats on the back. No more advice. No more meals together. No more house plans. No more Star Trek or Doctor Who. No more family trips. Nothing.
“Please, son, whatever you do, don’t get angry at God about this.”
His final request. And I intend to honor it. I will continue on this path until my Lord sees fit to call me home as well.
As always, I still “love ya bunches and gobs,” and I’ll see you again someday.
Terry Austin Morgan (5/22/46 – 11/11/07).
This is one of those nights that seems darker than most. My mind overflows with images: little slices of heaven with my father by my side. I see him holding my hand as a child running down the beach. I see him chasing my bike down an empty sidewalk as the training wheels came off and I rode on my own for the first time. I see him leading us on those nature trails he so loved to take us to. I feel him lift me over his head and swing me around, his grip strong and firm, but not harsh.
I see him helping me with my baseball swing, math homework, and offering small praises with each new picture I drew for him. I see us all sharing our dinners in front of the tv as the theme song to Stargate SG-1 plays, and I see all of us crowding around our little computer to play Roller Coaster Tycoon or that minigolf game we used to love. For one brief and happy moment, we’re all a family again.
I hear him singing with his gospel quartets and church choirs. He had such a powerful voice. I see the joy in his face as he shares special songs for communion, chief among them being “My Tribute,” and I wonder if he’d be proud of me if he could hear me every Sunday morning leading the church in worship. I hope so.
I see him sitting in his chair wearing those ridiculous blue shorts he always wore, holding that giant blue coffee mug he was constantly sipping on. I see him on the back porch caring for the plethora of plants that turned our place into a jungle and talking to the birds as he dropped new seed on the ground for them to eat.
Then, I see the horrors the cancer visited upon him. I see how it made him waste away, sapping his strength, crippling him, then killing him. The music stops with his heart. Those arms I trusted in and relied on so much as a boy lay limp at his side. My father, my superhero, was gone.
Life was never easy for us, circumstances being what they were, but he never lost faith. He never doubted we were held in God’s hand and He wouldn’t let us fall. “Whatever you do, son, please don’t get angry at God for this.” His words burn in my mind like the cancer that destroyed his body.
And here I sit, silently sobbing in the dark. I wish I could see him just once more…just sing one more song with him, laugh at one more of his corny jokes, share a cup of coffee as we stare at the stars. I wish I could feel his strong embrace one more time. He always gave the best hugs. I wish he could meet my future wife and children…but it will never be. Not in this life.
Nevertheless, there is hope. All is not lost. He is one of the redeemed of the Lord, and when I pass from this life to the next, we’ll be reunited. So I’ll pick up and keep going. Now is not the time for tears. That time has passed, and my mother needs me. “So I’ll try my best, and lift up my chest, to sing about this joy, joy, joy.”
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like seabillows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.”
IS MY VISION REALLY THAT SMALL?! I’ve been given so much, yet I still get hung up on the small things. “Surely God cannot use me. I’m not good enough…” I MUST look beyond my failures. I MUST look to Christ alone. I MUST get past this complex I’ve got before I can be as effective for the Kingdom as God desires me to be. And you know what? I feel like I can finally do it.
Something broke tonight. It wasn’t glorious. It wasn’t a voice from heaven or a sign in the sky or writing on a wall. It was the remembrance of who I am. I’m not talking about my personal identity. I’m talking about my identity in Christ. Just the words “I am a co-heir with Christ.” And I wasn’t even cognitively trying to remember it. The Spirit brought it to my mind. And it wasn’t in the midst of some spiritual high. It was immediately after I fell again. God has a strange (but perfect) sense of timing sometimes.
I’m glad He said it when He did, though. I wasn’t in a “spiritual mood.” I wasn’t praying some super religious prayer for forgiveness. I wasn’t listening to worship music or reading the Bible. I was sitting in the bathroom of all places. I was in just about the most undignified place possible, and it was there that God decided to speak to me. Sometimes, that’s His FAVORITE place to speak to us.
And BOY, did He speak. Not a lot. But it was enough. He even used my own voice just to show off.
“Though I may stumble and fall, I can stand tall knowing You’ve paid my ransom and given back the royalty my sin stole from me. I’m a co-heir.”
There is SO much theological talk that could be unpacked from that simple phrase, but this is not the time for it. This is story time! I can’t even explain it. I wasn’t particularly looking for a touch from God, but just out of NOWHERE, BAM!! faith started to rise up in my spirit. All of the accusing voices were silenced. All of the regret was destroyed. I just felt God rush in and love on me. He called me His child. Then I did a bit of spring cleaning.
This week has just been amazing. My church is hosting a YWAM (Youth With A Mission for those who don’t know) team and God has just been moving in amazing ways through them, not just in the lives of all they meet at the RNC, but in my life as well. One of the staff even got a vision for me (If you’re reading this right now, and you know who you are, I just want to say thanks for being obedient to the prompting of the Lord, because I feel like what you said is spot-on).
He told me that he saw a dog gnawing on a bone that had long been licked clean, feverishly trying to get more meat off it, and he felt like God was telling him that was representative of me. That I’ve been clinging so long and hard to past encounters with God that I’m struggling to move on. He also said that God has “more meat” for me elsewhere. And you know what? He’s right.
I’ve grown stale in these past few years. Yes, I love the Lord, and yes, I’ve been ministering in my church as the music director for about four or five years now. But, I’ve also been slacking in my relationship. I’ve been letting certain temptations and sinful habits to create a sort of imaginary wall between me and my Father. I’ve been so concerned with other things that God got gradually pushed to the back burner, and it’s in the midst of that vacuum that I’ve been trying to pour out my ministry from. Talk about vain repetitions. Yet, despite that, God STILL chooses to use me to bless people. It just blows my mind.
This staff member then went on to tell me that God has great things planned for me and wants to use me in mighty ways. And I know we hear that all the time in the church, but this time it seemed…different. Then, yesterday, and I don’t know if this is a confirmation from God or something else, the speaker basically stopped in the middle of his message to take a detour and tell us, in essence, that he felt that God was calling some of us to “stand before princes” and be an instrument of (godly) change, but first, we had to lose that sense of “Oh, I could never do great things for God…I’m not good enough…I’m not spiritual enough…” Sound familiar?
So now, here I sit again, as I have so many times before, wondering what God has for me, and once again reassured of the fact that God hasn’t forgotten me or forsaken me like I sometimes feel He has out of the depths of my insecurities. I’m not pursuing fame or popularity. I’m not looking for some grand exaltation of my spirituality or personal holiness. I’m not dependent on accolades. I’m just looking to serve the Lord in any way possible. I’m looking to go wherever He would lead and bring about transformation through His power.
What does that look like ultimately? I have NO idea. All I know is that I need to get on my face before Him and stop treating Him like a hobby or a genie in a lamp. All I know is that I need to get to KNOW Him and the sound of His voice. All I know is that I must make Him the all-consuming passion He desires to be in my life. Lord, give me the strength to do it.
“Adopted, healed, and lifted.
Forgiven, found, and rescued.
I am not the same, I’m a new creation!
I am not the same anymore!
I am not ashamed! I will not be shaken!
I am not the same anymore!
You have overcome!
It is finished, it is done!
Now, my heart is finally free!
Every chain undone
By the power of the Son,
Risen Savior, reigning King!”
“Our hearts they cry:
Be lifted high above all names!
For You, our King,
We will shout forth Your praise!”
Why do I waste so much time on those things that are fading away? I spend hours, barring sleep even, playing video games, yet I barely ever acknowledge God’s constant presence here when I’m alone. I’ll spend hours satisfying the base lusts that my heart conjures up, yet I can’t be bothered to open the Word of God half the time. Why am I so selfish?
Just recently, one of my facebook friends had several life-shaking experiences happen in rapid succession, and as I was praying for him, I realize just how much I focus on things that don’t matter. My heart breaks for the broken, but half the time I don’t see them because I barely ever look beyond my computer screen. I hurt along with the hurting, yet I know more about the intricacies of fantasy worlds than I do about my neighbors. I have an empathetic heart, but I doubt many would be able to tell if they looked at my hum-drum day-to-day living. Why do I find it so difficult to get outside the walls of my apartment? Sure, I don’t have a car at the moment, but that’s a very poor excuse.
I like to think I’m an approachable person, but I can’t be approached if I’m never seen. Sure, the congregation at my church sees me as I stand up on the platform and scream into a microphone, but how often do they see me outside of that context? The youth group sees me on Wednesday nights, but that’s the ONLY time during the week they see me. If I plan on making a difference, if I plan on speaking life into their lives, I need to spend more time with them. Even just saying “hey” every now and again on facebook could be a good start. After all, I’ve got over 900 “friends.” The sad reality, however, is that I only really have any sort of intimacy with a handful of them. I could certainly be doing more in that regard, but I just don’t want that to become the accepted limit of my interaction with others.
My music is another issue entirely. God has put the gift of music in me for more than just my benefit. He’s given me a certain knowledge of chords, harmonies, and lyrics that far too often goes unused. This is not to say that I’m any sort of musician to be renowned for my eloquence, nor do I imply that I’m spinning gold with my songs or poetry. As far as most art is concerned, it’s probably pretty close to garbage. That doesn’t matter, though.
It’s not about becoming famous. It’s not about signing a multi-million dollar record deal and selling out shows all over the world. It’s not even entirely about having fun. It’s about praising the Lord. It’s about making His gospel known. It’s about furthering His kingdom in this world. It’s about edifying the Body of Christ and encouraging them to pursue a deeper relationship with their King, a deeper understanding of His Word, and a greater heart for the lost.
Forgive me for my unfaithfulness, Lord! You’ve spoken many words to me, and I’ve only shared a few. Please give me the strength to pursue You and share You with others. Please give me the drive to put away the distractions and live my life for You. You are the only thing worth pursuing. You are the only Person worth praising. To You be the glory forever.
Looking back over my life, it’s scary to see how long I’ve been stagnant. It’s terrible to see how far I’ve come without moving anywhere. It’s dishonorable. It’s disdainful, even. Yet, even after posting this, I’ll probably have a tendency to continue skating forward as if I’d never written anything. God, give me the strength I need to change that. Give me the strength to start pursuing You more passionately, to start serving You more wholeheartedly, and to start praising You more loudly.
It’s amazing how much easier this becomes without the burden of a title. Of course, by the time I end this little tirade, it may very well have one. Funny thing about creativity: It never bites when you want it to, but when you slather on the repellent, INSTANTLY every mosquito in a five-mile radius is out for blood. Ok, maybe that’s just those annoying bugs, but it’s still a valid point. Another valid point is having too many blogs will spread you thin. Case in point, I have this one, another one on WordPress that holds my fictional tale, a tumblr that recently opened, a Twitter that sprouted wings a few months ago, the Notes I post on Facebook every now and again, AND the MySpace blog (that I haven’t updated in YEARS). At what point does it become “too much?”
I must confess, I was late to the online journal scene, but after establishing myself in all these outlets, I’m wondering when the stream will stop flowing altogether. It’s already been a great many years since my creativity has truly sprouted. There was a time when I’d crank out upwards of ten posts a month here alone, and for each post, there were the token five or six who’d respond. Now, I barely get any feedback at all. Not that it’s altogether a bad thing, but it kinda leaves me wondering if I’m actually doing any good by sneezing all over the Internet like this. Furthermore, is my sense of belonging and/or identity found in these faceless blocks of text? Is my sense of self-worth determined by how many people who enjoy reading what I post? Am I starved for all that impersonal attention I became accustomed to when I started blogging?
I also wonder what my vision is for each of these outlets. For a long time, this blog was my outlet for EVERYTHING. Then, it became an open mic for the poetry I heard in my head. Then, it became a soapbox with which to purify the world and proffer wisdom to the open-minded. What form has it taken as of late? A journal. A place to store my memories and memoirs. What do I want it to be? Then again, what’s wrong with it having multiple hats to wear? I’ve heard that MySpace was mainly for music before the social scene took over. Should I relocate my songs there (Then again, MySpace has stagnated quite a bit)? Twitter is for quick little updates and the occasional picture. Easy stuff. Tumblr is good for multimedia posts. Yet now it’s more of an introspective place for me. Then there’s Facebook. The side of me that everyone sees. The side of me that keeps in touch with friends and family. Perhaps my memoirs and memories are better suited there?
So where does that leave this little blog? Perhaps where it started. Perhaps a new place. For now, it’s a bit unclear. Where does it leave me as a blogger? Only time will tell, I suppose.
I was just jamming out to some of my favorite tunes on my computer and the song “To the Ends of the Earth” by Michael Gungor began to play. Being the musical person I am, naturally, I began to sing along. Then, I got to the chorus.
“Jesus, I believe in You and I would go
To the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
And I just stopped singing. Then I started thinking (something which never fails to be dangerous for me). “Would I really be willing to go to the ends of the earth for Jesus? Could I really see myself in some remote jungle or desert preaching the gospel to those who need it most?” I’d like to answer a resounding “YES!!” to those questions, but when it comes right down to it, I’m not sure what I would do.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE going on short-term missions trips, and to date, I’ve been to three countries outside the U.S., but, it’s only ever been short-term. And it’s only ever been to [relatively] safe places that have already received quite a healthy helping of the good news. What would I say if He called me to stay longer than a couple of weeks? How would I react if He sent me to, say, North Korea? What about Istanbul or India?
I can’t help but think of Abraham. He left his pampered, comfortable, familiar surroundings for an unspecified location. I’ll give you a second or two to mull that over in your heads. God just said “go,” and offered no hints as to where he was going, and no revelation of what to expect when he got there. He simply said “Go to the place I will show you.” AND ABRAHAM PACKED UP HIS STUFF AND WENT!! (Yes, I know his name was Abram before he left his home. That’s irrelevant to this discussion)
It seems like every day there is some form of new tragedy or another. I see all these videos and hear all these horror stories of places like Sub-Saharan Africa and its battle against AIDS, war-torn cities like Juarez and Darfur, and countries that have been hit hard by natural disasters in recent days like Haiti and Japan, and my heart just breaks for those people. Add to that the over 2 billion who have absolutely no chance of hearing the gospel, and the need is just staggering.
Ah, but those aren’t the only places the need exists.
- “Well, of course not! The whole WORLD is broken. You only listed a few examples.”
That’s not what I meant.
- “Oh? What DID you mean, Brian?”
I’m glad you asked! When was the last time you said “Hello” to your next door neighbor?
- “What? What does that have to do with anything?”
Just answer the question.
- “Umm….about that….”
Sadly, many Christians, myself included, barely know the people living next door to them. Call it American Individualism, Right to Privacy, or what have you, it doesn’t matter. The simple fact is we focus the majority of our attention on those people suffering halfway around the world, being perfectly content to ignore the person right next to us who just went through an ugly divorce. Or the distraught mother across the street who just lost her child in a terrible accident. Or the small business owner at the end of the cul-de-sac who had to lay off several employees due to financial strain. Do we even know our neighbors’ names? Have we ever taken a few moments out of our day just to introduce ourselves? If you answered “no” to the above questions, you may want to adjust your habits. (“Hear that, Brian? Get off your lazy butt!”)
Jesus told us to preach the gospel not only “to the ends of the earth,” but also to “Judea” (Our neighboring cities/counties), and “Jerusalem” (Our own neck of the woods). In fact, He mentioned those first. What’s wrong with our method? What happened to preaching the gospel to “every living thing?” Granted, not everyone will respond favorably to the message, but wouldn’t you rather rest easy in the fact that you offered them the solution and they denied it than allowing them to perish in their ignorance by never once trying to explain it to them?
Some plant the seeds, some water them, and then God Himself brings the increase.
We are not guaranteed our next breath. So why do we waste so much time debating amongst ourselves about musical styles and carpet colors in our churches while the world outside our four walls is tumbling headlong into Hell? Shouldn’t we be a little more concerned about our role as Christ’s hands and feet in the world? Shouldn’t we be a little more concerned about the guys we watch the games with or the ladies in our crocheting class? This is eternity we are speaking of, after all. We have no excuses that will hold water when we’re face-to-face with the King. I just pray the Lord will see fit to blow my mind with the ways He uses me. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want a lot of money. I just want to love on God and share His love with the world. Father, please give me an outward heart.
Once again, I find myself in a strange place. But it’s not a bad place. It’s that place of reckoning, that place of release. Like something inside has been sleeping, dormant, ineffective. However, something’s different now. It’s a quiet awakening, a quiet resolve. Like I don’t wanna stay here, but it hasn’t registered in my members yet. But there is a stirring. It’s not much, but it’s good. No longer listless, no longer content. There is more, and I want it. I’m tired of the same old thing.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 – “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
So now I am at a crossroads. I can choose to do nothing, ignore this feeling and let it pass. Or I can choose to listen. I can choose to let Him change me and bring me back from my complacency, or I can return to my routine. I can seek His face, turn from my sin and the demons of my past and allow Him to rekindle the flame inside, or I can keep wasting time on things that are worthless. So what will I do? Will I listen? Or will I continue down this destructive path?
“Lord of glory, make us worthy to possess Your name.”
“Lord of glory, make us worthy to possess Your name.”
My life is not my own. I gave that up a long time ago. So why do I act like it’s mine? One might say it’s our natural inclination, and, while true, our natural inclination is toward death. Toward destruction. And we don’t just drift toward it, we run our legs off trying to get there. For what purpose? Don’t we care about our lives? Don’t we realize what we’re doing to ourselves and those around us?
My life was bought with a heavy price. The heaviest possible. Christ, in His great love, gave His life for me. He died to open my eyes and cleanse my heart. He died to rectify the relationship between us and our Father. Why have I reduced it to a trite blessing? Why do I behave like a thankless, spoiled brat instead of a child of the King? A co-heir with Christ? It’s not all about me. It never was. Yet, it’s so easy to treat it as such. Since God chose me for a purpose, why in God’s name do I feel like I can just grind away wasting my life on other things? Why do I act like God owes me ANYTHING?! Don’t I realize how FOOLISH and SELFISH that is?! We’re so arrogant at times.
Ezekiel 36:22-23 – “…Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight…'”
So am I truly worthy to possess His name? No one really is. Nothing we could ever do in a thousand lifetimes could MAKE us worthy to possess His name, because it’s not about “being good,” it’s about GRACE!! God, in His infinite wisdom and power, CHOSE us. He called, and His sheep heard His voice. He revealed Himself, and we responded. He not only snatched us out of the very mouth of Hell, but He gave us a commandment. We are not called to just “get saved.” Getting saved is just the first part. It’s only the awakening. He calls us to spread His kingdom to the far corners of the world. To preach the gospel to every living thing.
What will we do to show God that we are thankful, not just about our “Get Out of Hell Free Card,” but about our privileged role in His kingdom? When will we rise up out of our comfortable pews and get our hands dirty? When will we seek God above all else? What will it take to unsettle us? Will it take another tragedy to get us to move? May it never be, Lord!! We’re eager to help when tsunamis hit. We’re eager to collect food for the hungry. We cannot stand by when terrorism rears its ugly head. But, what about when everything is more or less breezy? We’re not so eager to move then. We can’t even be bothered to knock on our neighbors’ doors and tell them that Jesus loves them. So what’s wrong with us? As we spend hours arguing over what color our walls should be and what kinds of music we should allow in our services, MILLIONS die and go to a hopeless eternity.
We have the answers the world is seeking, yet we hoard them for ourselves. We hear the truth on a weekly basis, but we just store it away in our little notebooks for when we need some encouragement or direction. How irresponsible. Believe me, I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. What happened to pursuing God and seeking HIS glory above all else? What happened to being His hands and His feet? What happened to our holy mandate? What happened to our will to stay the course, even if it would mean giving up our own lives? Did we ever see God’s will as being so important?
“…And when we speak life, life happens. And when we speak healing, healing happens…And when we go and take what we found to a dead world, we’ll see it come to life again. When we take what we’ve found to a hopeless world, we’ll see hope come back. We’ll see the heart of our world start beating again, and we’ll see the color come back into people’s faces, and absolutely nothing will ever stop that. Mountains will move before us, and oceans will part before us, and the dead will raise before us, and the world will know that our God is a God that heals, that our God is a God that lives, and our God is a God that loves unlike anything anyone has ever felt before…”
The ONLY hope the world has is Christ. The only way they will hear is if someone tells them. The only ones who know the truth are those who have been redeemed by the Immortal.
So what will we do?
“Lord of glory, make us worthy to possess Your name.”
“Lord of glory, make us worthy to possess Your name.”
“I have given you a new life. Don’t waste it.”