Lessons from Teddy


Tuesday and Wednesday after work this week, I went and visited my friend Teddy in the hospital. Teddy was a regular customer at the cigar shop I work at for years before I started working there. He had MS and was confined to a wheelchair. He would come in like clockwork from noon to 2:00pm.

His MS progressed to the point where he was having trouble holding his cigars. So the guys all got together and made a gizmo which attached to his wheelchair that held his cigar and caught the ash. You should have seen his face when they presented him with it. It was amazing. He loved his cigars!

When I saw him Wednesday night, in spite of his family’s attempts to rouse him, Teddy was unresponsive. They assured me he was just sleeping, that it just took some doing to wake him up. Then I had an idea. I took a cigar from my jacket pocket, removed it from the cellophane, and held it just under Teddy’s nose. “You smell that, Teddy?” I asked, smiling.

He did, and his eyes popped wide open, and this little smile came across his face. I tell you that cigar worked better than smelling salts, only with a much more pleasant after effect!

We had a good talk after that, though he dosed in and out. I think my favorite part was when he asked me to lift his left hand up to his face so he could scratch his nose. I enjoyed serving him in that way. I prayed with him and for him. In the end I told him that I loved him, that all of us at the shop missed him. And then I whispered in his ear, “But I will see you again.”

I don’t think I will ever forget the look on his face. He knew exactly what I was talking about. His smile said it all. Yes we would see each other again. And then he would no longer be hindered by this dreadful disease. His body would no longer be fighting against him. All the pain, heartaches, and suffering that he endured here would fade away in the healing that heaven brings and in joy of seeing His Master, Jesus. He knew that moment was coming, and he was longing for it. And though it hurt, I longed for it for him.

Teddy knew that there is not a single disease that Jesus cannot cure. And he also knew that He does it one of two ways: He heals you here, or He bestows on you the “Ultimate Healing,” and brings you to that place where He will wipe every tear from your eyes. Where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4 NIV). When the Father chooses to bring a son or daughter home, it does not mean that He failed to keep His promise. Heaven is the ultimate fulfillment of that promise.

Jesus said in John 14:1-3:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

This morning, Jesus Made good on that promise, came into his bedside, took Teddy by the hand, and led him Home.

I am now filled with a heavy happiness. I am glad his suffering is over, but I am not glad that he is gone. The hard part is that we are not always ready to go, or see people go, when Jesus comes to bring us home. Even though we could see this one coming from a mile away, when it happened, you find that you are not nearly ready for it, and that is hard.

Yet, my sadness is not one without hope. This hope is not some desperate wish that something might come about. No, this hope is an assurance of something that will come about. Jesus came to give us hope. He came to free us from hopes that don’t live up to the hype so we could be set free to live and run and dream with a hope that cannot be stolen, that cannot be broken, that cannot be lost, and that cannot fail.

God wants you to know, you can put your hope in Him because He has not held back anything from you, and has committed all that He is to insure that his promises of help, healing, and hope will come to pass.

This is the hope that allows us to press on, to go through the hard times. Jesus is totally in love with and committed to His family and He was willing to sacrifice everything He had, even His life, so that He could guarantee every person who comes to His Father through Him has everything they need in this life and the next.

Because of that hope, because of Jesus, I know that Teddy is whole and healthy again; and that with each breath of heaven’s air he realizes he is more alive and full of joy than he ever thought possible. And I am willing to bet he has already enjoyed a few heavenly cigars with Jesus (yes I am serious). One day, perhaps sooner than I would like to think, Jesus will take me Home too, I will have the joy and privilege of sitting and smoking with him again.

Lessons from Mrs. McCarthy


A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35, NIV).

My wife and girls like this BBC show, Father Brown. It is a mystery show based off of The Father Brown Mysteries written by the famed by G.K. Chesterton. As the title suggests, the sleuth of the series is Father Brown; a Catholic Priest with a penchant for solving mysteries and murder.

One of Father Brown’s “sidekicks” is one Mrs. McCarthy. In the TV series she is excellently played by Sorcha Cusack.

One of the reasons I say she is excellently played by Cusack is that I can’t stand her! She drives me nuts! Cusack’s performance totally nails the persona of the quintessential old church lady. Prim, proper, and excellent at baking. She sees herself as being kind, pious, righteous, and as a woman who should be respected. But the reality is that she often comes across as very self-righteous, judgmental, and given to gossip, and she has no problem jumping to negative conclusions about people who don’t live up to her expectations. If the elder brother in the parable of the Lost Son of Luke 15 were a sister, she would be it.

To me she represents what many think of when they think of what a “Christian” is. One of the reasons that perception exists is because there are more than a few Mrs. McCarthys in the church. I know. I have run across many myself. I tell you, sometimes I have wished that these people who tell people that they are atheists and help us in reverse!

It is next to impossible to expose one of these Mrs. McCarthy types to themselves. They are often so convinced that they are right they can’t see their hypocrisy.

What can you do?

You need to show them some Father Brown.

No, I don’t mean the TV show or the books, I mean you need to treat them like Father Brown treats Mrs. McCarthy.

Father Brown loves her and is friends with her knowing full well who she is, and loving her anyway.

He does not always respond to every jab or dig or insinuation he makes. But when he does it is never a put down.

He is very forgiving of her.

More than once when Mrs. McCarthy was in the wrong because her wrong thinking or conclusions, or attitude, she nevertheless led Father Brown to a break in the mystery and so he responds by thanking her for helping him so much.

In a word, he does not give up on her. He loves her in spite of her blemishes and failures. Not because he does not see them. But in spite of the fact that he does. He knows that he can’t change Mrs. McCarthy. But he knows that is not his job. That is God’s job. His job is to love her as best he can….and to solve the disturbingly high number of murders that take place in the tiny English countryside village of Kembleford!

Father Brown represents what we Christians should be. Out for the truth, but to build people up and bring them closer to God, not to simply show them how they fall short or to expose them when they sin for the sake of exposing them. It takes no special talent or spiritual acumen to do that. But to do what Father Brown does? That takes spiritual maturity! We could all do well be channel a bit more of Father Brown…including myself.

Lessons from the ER


Sunday night I found myself at the hospital with Anna again. Her feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger have been uncontrollable. She was at the point where she did not trust herself to not hurt herself again and wanted to go to the hospital. I went with her. I was there with her until Monday evening. It took that long to find an open placement for her. But against the odds she got one.

What a way to spend Memorial day weekend right? But I learned a lot over that 21 hour wait:
Again I learned what a privilege it is to be with Anna and to advocate for her and stand with her when she is weak.
I learned that I can still do all-fighters and/or function on very little sleep.
I learned that being there with Anna meant everything to her.
I learned that when I am punch-drunk tired, I can be very funny.
I learned that you can be both amazingly strong and beautiful and extremely fragile and broken at the same time.
I learned that the prayers of friends and family are effective and necessary to keep me going.
I learned that Anna loves to play with hospital bed controls… especially if they are yours and not hers.
I learned that I do love being her dad. =)
And I learned that right now I can’t be in formal pastoral ministry. Family needs me too much. I can’t give the kind of time and energy to Anna and the rest of my family and also look after a congregation. I need to focus on them right now, and for the foreseeable future. So I have decided to switch gears and stay at Two Guys Smoke Shop and not consider fulltime ministry positions at this time. I will still take advantage of speaking and preaching opportunities, and I will still write and post on my blog here.

Ironically, twenty years ago today, I graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando. I was set to go from there into a lifetime of pastoral ministry. Now it looks like I may never go back. When I decided to go to seminary, I went with the attitude that there was no downside to it. At best, I would have the necessary academic credentials to pursue my calling into pastoral ministry. At worst (if you an say worst) I would be well educated in my faith and that would set me up to excel in my own faith and in practice as a husband, father, and worker in Christ’s kingdom.

You see, there is no not being a worker in His kingdom. I don’t see myself as having been demoted or benched. In some ways I feel promoted! We sometimes are guilty of thinking that pastors and missionaries are the ultimate Christians. That, my friends, is not at all the case. In truth the most influential Christian leader, mentor, and spiritual father I have ever met was an insurance salesman! That man loved Jesus better than anyone I know… and that includes all the pastors I know. Never confuse a degree or a title or a position as necessary things to possess in order to do “real” work in the Father’s kingdom. Most kingdom work happens in the everyday, common, and normal places of life where none of those things really come into play… like spending 21 hours in an ER with your anxious and hurting daughter.