Bishop
Short Stories

Bishop

Wynn hooked a mostly clean fingernail under the chrome tab of the tape measure. The internal spring tack-tack-tacked as yellow inches emerged. Six, eight, ten, twelve. He stopped, had an idea, but let it go. The metal strip zipped back into the case, rocking his hand with a thwack. He did it again, careful not to cut his already dry and cracked fingers. Tack-tack-tack. Zip. Thwack. He waited. Nothing.

The click of the punch clock on his wall told him he had just wasted another half-hour of his day. In his mind, the woman from last week’s self-development seminar accused him of “activity avoidance.” Boy, there was three hours of activity Wynn was never getting back. No avoiding that. As a rule, he did the hard things first, paid the bills before he bought the boat, mowed the yard before he hit the lake. But what he had to do now, well, how do you start a thing like that?

Read the whole story at The Eunoia Review.

The Red Brick
Memoirs

The Red Brick

“I see Claire signed your cast.”

“Yup. Hey, Dad. Help me find a red, four-by-four brick.”

“I’ll try. There are a lot of legos here.”

“Dad, it’s not that hard.”

“Okay. So, did you ask her to sign it?”

“No. She likes to sign casts.”

“She does?”

“Yeah. That’s what she said.”

“Oh, I see. Hey, I found a red brick.”

“Cool. Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome, son.”

Sermons

Moses Called

February 18, 2018 | “Moses Called” | Exodus 3:14-15 | The Church at Station Hill

In dramatic fashion, God begins to reveal His evacuation plan by calling Moses to be His mouthpiece to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God wants Moses to be sure to communicate exactly Who it is sending him and Who it is that will rescue them: I AM. God has been their God. God will be their God. God IS there God now.

Watch the full series, Exodus: The Evacuation Experiment.

I Am Clay
Devotions , Short Stories

I Am Clay

Becoming a believer in Jesus Christ can be earth-shattering on a number of levels.  But even then, it is just the beginning. What follows is a long process of being formed, conformed, and transformed. And it takes more than fifteen days, to be sure.  But for some of us, it might look something like this.

Day 1

I am Clay, and life is good. The lights are low, and so are the expectations. I have nowhere to go and nothing to do except to hang out in my cool, comfortable, carved-out cubby. All I need is to be.

This is my world. The only one I know. And I can’t imagine a world any better than this.

Day 2

Something isn’t right. I feel unsettled. I’m starting to hear rumblings and feel pressure. Not used to that. I keep thinking it will all go away, that soon things will get back to normal. But now, I’m beginning to wonder. In fact, I’m wondering about a lot of things. Like, what if there is something else out there, something I can’t see from here?

Wait. Forget I said that. It’s just paranoia. I need to stay grounded and trust in what I can see and what I can feel. That’s what’s real. Anything else is just – wait, what was that? Whoa. It’s happening again. Rumbling. Crunching. Okay, am I going crazy? I think my walls just moved. Forget paranoia. Something is definitely wrong here.

What am I saying? No, it’s not. Hold on to what I know. Hold on to what I know.  There is nothing else. I am Clay. Life is good. I am Clay. Life is good.

Okay, it’s over. See? I knew it was nothing. I’m making more of this whole thing than I need to. No use in cracking up. I just need to relax. It’s all over now.

Or is it?

Day 3

Crisis! The sky is literally falling! The floor is shaking, and so am I! What is happening? I’m starting to – I don’t know what this is. It’s like I’m – moving! I’ve never moved before. Oh, I’m dizzy. I don’t like this. Who are you? What are you doing to me? Put me back! Put me back right now!

Gasp. What is that? Is that – air? I thought that was just a fairy tale. You mean that stuff is real? How do you, cough, do this? I can’t, what do you call it? Breathe?

And now my eyes. Oh, they’re burning. Those lights are so bright. Where’s the darkness? I can’t see it anymore. I can’t see anything anymore.

Day 4

I can see everything from here! Look at this place. It’s amazing. I had no idea any of this was real. My eyes don’t burn, and now they actually see things. THINGS! Sun and trees and grass and THINGS! Things are everywhere.

And so is the air. It’s all around me. And it’s not heavy. I had no idea how much pressure I was under all the time. But not anymore. It’s like a huge weight fell off.

I can’t imagine a world any better than this. I am Clay, and life is good.

Day 5

And I’m bored. Don’t get me wrong. I love the freedom. I love the view. But that’s just it. My view is full of things I don’t understand. Did you know I’m not the only one out here? No joke. We’re everywhere. One day, I just started looking around, like really looking around. And then I noticed them. Other Clays, just like me, all around me.  But they’re not just like me. Some of them actually move.

Well, they don’t move. They get moved. Something comes and picks them up. But that’s not all. They also get pressed and pulled and (you won’t believe this) cooked. Yeah, I know. Creepy. The first time that door opened and the heat hit me from across the room I was so glad it was them and not me. Does that sound bad?

At first I thought they just went away after that. Like, just gone. But now I’m not so sure. Check this out. I’m seeing more things, new things sitting around. And these things get picked up all the time. Sometimes they get filled with water. Sometimes they hold food. Sometimes they even hold other Clays, like me. And that’s not all. I noticed that one of those new things looked a little like the Clay that was next to me before.

Do you think it’s possible? Could it be the same Clay? It looked so different, but kind of the same too. How does that happen?

Could that happen to me? I’m a Clay. Could I be a thing that gets used like that other Clay? I have to say that would be better than just sitting here. Why am I still here on this table? Is there something wrong with me? Oh no. I’m corrupted Clay. Why else would I go through all that mess before just to just stay here with no shape and no purpose? Surely there’s another reason. This is so frustrating. The more I know, the more I don’t know.

Day 6

I’m so – touched. And moved. Is this it? Is it my time? I’m definitely not on the table anymore. Yes. Yes. I’m not corrupted Clay after all. This is what I’ve waited for. I wonder what thing will I be? I have so many great ideas. When do I get to choose? Oh, I can’t wait.

That feels good. Oh, not so hard. Yeah, that’s better. I guess I’m a little stiff from sitting still for so long. Okay, Clay, just relax and settle into the warmth. Things are going to be different from now on. I’m going to be great at this. No more sitting on a table and waiting. I’m going to be the best new thing ever.

Hey! That’s frigid! And wet! Was that necessary? A little warning would have been nice. Brrr. And hang on. You’re making a mess here. Look at me, I’m in pieces. I think we need to just go ahead and clean all this up and let me rest a bit. As exciting as this experience is, I’m feeling a little . . .

Sore! Wow, that’s hard. Okay, that stopped feeling good a long time ago. You can quit whenever you’re ready. Really, I’m not kidding here. That’s, ouch, enough. I think we should – um – I don’t think I can stretch that far.  No, I definitely can NOT stretch that far. Too much. Please stop before I – oh, now look at what you’ve done. I’m completely broken! Never mind the water now. I’ve got it coming out my eyes. What have you done? I don’t even look like the same Clay anymore. Is this why you took me from my dark little hole? To rip me to shreds? This is not what I wanted. I wanted to be something. To be useful. But no one can use this mess. Not now. Worst day ever!

Day 7

Hey, I look good. Nice work. I mean, I know what I said, but that wasn’t doubt as much as it was anxiety. It wasn’t easy. And I’m still wondering if perhaps there was a less painful way. But in the end I have to admit that I see what you did there. (I’m still glad it’s over.) At least I didn’t have to go through that whole cooking thing. Good to know I didn’t need that much work.

But, can you do me just one quick favor? I’m feeling a little weak. Can you just prop me up? Thanks. Listen, I can’t wait to get started. I know it won’t be easy, and I know sometimes things get broken. But if you’ll just show me what to do, I’m ready. More than ready. Just prop me up a little more, right there. Yeah, that’s better. Thanks.

Hey, is it me? Or is it getting hot in here?

Day 8

Shut that door! No way! I thought we were past this. Is it not enough that I gave up my hole in the ground for you? Are you not happy that I let you pull on me and tug me and rip me apart? Come on. Look at the sacrifices I’ve made. Why is this necessary? I’m a perfectly workable thing. You just have to use me. Go ahead. Give it a shot. I won’t let you down. PLEASE!

Ouch. Hot! Look. Surely there’s some other way. No, wait! I won’t survive this, and you know it! Ahhhh. Really hot! Stop it, please. I’m begging. Is that what you want? You want me to beg? Think of all we’ve been through together. Don’t you care about that? HOOOOTTTTT! Get me out of here. Put me back in the ground. I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. Pleeeeaaasssee, noooooo!!!

Day 9

Most of the heat has gone away now. But it didn’t happen all at once. And I still smell like smoke.

Day 10

Wow. Things are busy today. Lots of activity. Not sure what’s going on. But we need to be careful, or someone’s going to break. Another Clay banged against me earlier. Not fun, but luckily I didn’t crack.

So, what’s going on here? All this work must be for something, and I want in. In fact, I don’t even care how anymore. (You may not realize I never got to choose what thing I wanted to be after that whole fiery furnace episode. But that’s okay. I know mistakes happen.) Honestly, I’m not even sure what I could do. I just want to be part. You know?

Day 11

Water again? I thought we were past – wow. This is different than before. Not over me, but inside me. Filling me. And staying. This is incredible. This is my purpose, to hold this water. There isn’t a part of me that isn’t touched by it. Finally. I am a thing. I love this.

I am Clay, and life is good.

Day 12

Hey, I know you. I remember your hands from, well, glad we made it through all that. Thanks for the water. I’m digging it. I knew you were up to something. But I never realized it was all about holding this water. I have to say, good call.  I could hang on to this water for like, ever. So what’s up? Me? What do you mean I’m up? Um, what are you doing? Whoa, careful. If you tip me too far, you’re going to spill my – WATER. Wait, that’s my water. You’re spilling it. You’re spilling my purpose. I love that water.

Well, would you look at that? When you turn me upside down, I can see more. And I just watched you just pour my water on that Clay on the table. That’s funny, he kind of looks like me before . . .

Day 13

So I’ve been thinking. When you poured the water over me, were you using the water you put inside some other thing? That’s pretty cool. And one more thing. Did that water make it easier for you to shape me? No? Oh, to make the stretching easier on me. Got it.

Day 14

More water. Hey, thanks. I was feeling a little dry. But back to those questions. So, the thing you used to dig me up, was that a thing you made too? A thing like, yeah, that one, the one that’s going into the fire right now. Did it use to be a Clay too?

Okay, I have to process this. It’s all starting to come into – whoa – there goes my water again. Another busy today, I guess. It’s almost like the more tools you have, the more Clays you can  . . .

Wait. So can I ask one more question? How many Clays are actually buried in the ground? And are they stuck like I was thinking that’s all there is? Yes, I know that’s two questions. But look, what if they don’t know there’s more? We have to tell them what’s up here. They’ve got to know. We’ve got to get them out. Like right now!

Time? For what? Listen, this is serious. It is dark down there. And cold, and heavy, and you’re talking about time? To do what?

Oh, that’s right. The drenching and pulling and pressing and (help me) cooking. So this Clay I’m pouring water on right now, he’s going through that same thing isn’t he? And you’re going to use him too, aren’t you? To dig or hold or pour.

I took time. And so will he.

Day 15

Good morning. I am ready. Fill me. Tip me over. Let me see all the different things you’re making and all the different ways you’ll use them. Rescue some Clays today, then pour me out over them. Over, and over, and over again.

I am Clay, and life is good.

The end

The Wind and the Waves
Devotions

The Wind and the Waves

Daily Reading:

[biblegateway passage=”Ephesians 4:11-16″]

 

Key Verse:

[readolog_blockquote ]14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.[/readolog_blockquote]

Devotion:

As I write this, I am at the beach. The sky is clear, the breeze is light, and I might stay all afternoon.

Yesterday, however, was a different story. That’s when a wall cloud the size of Texas appeared out of nowhere and sent hundreds of beachgoers scrambling to shelter. First came the wind, then the sand, then the flying tents. Panic poured over us as we scrambled like ants in a thousand directions, not sure what to grab and what to let go. Eventually, we were able to dodge fugitive umbrellas and boogie boards and wrestle ourselves and our gear to safety.

Later, I opened God’s Word and read, “Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” Thanks, God, for the visual aid.

Perhaps very soon, the evangelical Christian church in America might have far more in common with the church of Ephesus than we ever have had before. No longer is the sky clear and the breeze light. A wall cloud of culture looms above us and forces us to make decisions. Why do we believe what we believe? How do we love a world that no longer loves us? And how do we make the Church effective in this culture?

Paul describes the church not as a collection of individuals worshiping and carrying out ministry programs, but tied together as one body. This body has arms and legs and muscles and bones. Every part of this body is created to function together. We’re not meant to wander in aimless confusion. We’re not meant to crouch silently, paralyzed from fear. Instead, we’re meant to act and go where our head, Jesus Christ, takes us.

And so God gives us all special gifts, spiritual gifts, to help us function as this body. He gives us leaders (apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers) to train or equip us for work in ministry. Ministry is our job, not just theirs. Everyone gets to play.

If together we use the gifts God has given each of us for the building up of one another, we then cease to be like children and become mature, a body of believers exercising discernment and knowledge and (above all else) love. We are unified in our mission and our efforts, because we are one body acting solely at Christ’s direction.

It is this body with Christ as its head that God intends to accomplish His work on Earth. We are not a collection of passive believers who lean on the “resident experts” to do God’s will. We are not a group of individuals who go to church to simply to have our needs fulfilled. Instead, we each have a part to play for the good of the whole.

Then when the storms come, and they will, we will find our strength and our purpose in the One who uniquely gifts us and pulls us together. He will direct our path, and we will go there together.

Reflection Questions

We often pray that God will help us as individuals: God help me with this, or God help me do that. How often do we pray for God to help our church?

Do you know your spiritual gifts? Do you know the spiritual gifts of those around you?

Should we explore our spiritual gifts when choosing a service role in our church or our community?

How are spiritual gifts different than Christian roles (i.e. things we are all called to do in the course of our walk with Christ)? How are they different from natural talent?

Oh How He Loves You and Me
Devotions

Oh How He Loves You and Me

Daily Reading:

Luke 7:11-17

Key Verse:
[readolog_blockquote ]Just as He neared the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. Luke 7:12[/readolog_blockquote]

Devotion:

Mom once told me how she’d stay up all night crying, worried how she was going to buy groceries the next day. She would sit in a rocker and hold me in her arms. I was her center, her reason to try again tomorrow. To this day, my mother is my best friend.

So when I read about a widow who was crying in the street as they ushered her only son’s body out of the city, this stopped being just another Jesus story for me. I thought about my mother and how she might feel. This could just as easily be her story – MY story.

I can’t imagine the grief of losing a child. Naomi lost her sons, and she expressed her grief passionately. “Call me Mara,” she said, “for the Lord has made me bitter.”

In 1 Kings 17, the widow of Zarapeth had already accepted the inevitability of death from starvation for both herself and her son. But by providing for Elijah, she miraculously maintained a supply of food, only for her son to perish anyway.

“She said to Elijah,’Man of God, what do we have in common? Have you come to remind me of my guilt and to kill my son?’ ” (1 Kings 17:18). But Elijah prayed, God listened, and the boy came back.

“Then Elijah took the boy, brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. Elijah said,’Look, your son is alive.’ ” (1 Kings 17:23).

And so now, in Luke, we have yet a third widow grieving over the loss of her son. But this time, God is there in the flesh. The text says Jesus “had compassion on her.” The original word is actually “splagnizod,” which is a turning over of the insides, a visceral, physical reaction to what He saw.

“Don’t cry,” He told her. What an incredibly touching moment this must have been, even if the widow didn’t fully understand why. Here was her Creator coming to her in a very real way during a very real time of grief. He was right there, in the midst of her pain to wipe away her tears. “Don’t cry.”

Why was Jesus so moved by this woman and her circumstance? Did it invoke images from the ancient days of Naomi or the widow from Zarapeth? Or maybe when He looked at this woman, He saw His own mother in the days to come.

The whole thing shows a beautiful side of our Savior, the Creator side. We’re His people. He loves us, deeply, splagnizod. And while that particular word may never be cross-stitched on a pillow (and for good reason), the ability of the one who was fully-God and fully-man to relate to our suffering in a very real way is permanently etched across our hearts.

This Jesus who approached a widow in her time of need is the same Jesus who no doubt wrapped His arms around my weeping mother in the middle of the night as she held her only son and waited on God’s faithful provision. “Don’t cry.”

I love this Jesus, and I know that He loves me.

Reflection Questions

  1. How has God loved you this week? It may be hard to see Him through the crowds. But perhaps He was right beside you.
  2. What loss are you grieving? A loved one, a relationship, a job, or maybe even a dream?
  3. How honest are you with God (and yourself) about your feelings? We’re not told the widow asked for Jesus’s help, or even that she believed. He was moved by her grief. Whatever our answer to question 2, how have you expressed that grief to God?

Have Mercy On Me, A Tax Collector
Devotions

Have Mercy On Me, A Tax Collector

Daily Reading:
Matthew 9:9-13  |  Mark 2:13-17  |  Luke  5:27-32

Key Verse:

[readolog_blockquote ]When the Pharisees saw this, they asked the disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Matthew 9:11[/readolog_blockquote]

Devotion:
Next month, I visit my accountant to file my 2012 tax return. He’s very good at his job, and he seems to somehow enjoy it, which I can’t help but find a little strange.

Each year, I sit across the desk from this guy and wonder how he does it. Not that my taxes are that difficult. But there’s no way around the fact that he’ll have the unenviable task of telling someone (hopefully not me) that Uncle Sam needs more from them this year than they anticipated.

If beautiful are the feet that bring good news, how ugly are the ones that deliver a big, fat tax bill? Consider, for a moment, what it might be like if those people had to pay him directly for their taxes. Better yet, what if he raised the amount so he could keep a little (or a lot) for himself?

To take it one step further, what if his very existence was their constant reminder of an occupying government that took their freedom and used him, a traitor to his own people, to make their lives as miserable as possible? That would make next month’s appointment much less enjoyable.

The Bible tells us about a guy just like that. His name was Matthew. And he was a disciple.

It’s not at all unlike God to use the most human of people to do the most heavenly of things. In our weakness, His strength is made perfect. So He uses people who are at the end of themselves to begin the things that only He can do.

The Pharisees in this story didn’t get that email. They were all about their own strength. And they had lots of rules to prove it. Spiritual acts like sacrifice were less about obeying God and more about showcasing their knowledge and capacity to keep the law. They were spiritual rock stars, not at all like that slacker guy Matthew and his sinner friends at the tax booth. Boo!

I guess that’s why, in Matthew 9:11, they thought it strange to find Jesus kicking back and breaking bread with half of the Roman IRS. Matthew was throwing a dinner party for Jesus. He’d even called a few buddies over and introduced them to his new friend.

So the Pharisees asked the disciples (not Jesus directly), “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

In all three Gospel accounts of this story, we see Jesus offer a fairly straightforward response when the Pharisees question his association with these people. “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do,” Jesus said.

Okay, fair enough. The Pharisees could sort of get this one. To say the tax collectors and sinners were spiritually sick was not out of bounds with their way of thinking. But in Matthew’s account, Jesus takes it a step further. “Go and learn what this means,” he begins. “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

This is my new favorite part of the story. “Go and learn what this means” was what a rabbi of that time would say when he quoted a text. In other words, “Take what I say and go think about what God is telling you.” By saying this to the Pharisees, Jesus was speaking to them as an authority.

What text was he quoting? Hosea 6:6: “For I desire loyalty (mercy) and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

So why does God value mercy for a sinner over the sacrifices of a saint? Perhaps it’s the same reason we might rejoice at the healing of someone who is terminally ill over the continued well-being of someone who is healthy. “Those who are sick don’t need a doctor, but the sick do.”

Enter Matthew, or Levi as he was known in Hebrew circles. Who better to tell us this part of the story than the one who experienced the miraculous mercy of Jesus first-hand?

Matthew most likely had no idea how his life would change when he left for work that morning. But what started out as just another ordinary day at the tax booth ended when Jesus uttered two words, the same two words that have been changing lives ever since. “Follow me.”

Jesus continued, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” The Bible says there’s no one who’s righteous, no not one. I’m guessing the Pharisees weren’t counting themselves among the tax collectors and sinners. But in reality, their question could’ve been rephrased to ask, “Why does your Teacher eat with us?”

Reflection Questions
Does mercy have a seat at our table? Or have we made our own rules about who can and can’t join us for dinner?

Are we prepared to accept others as Jesus accepts them, without condition? Or have we exchanged mercy for something more comfortable and less controversial?

Lastly, when He asked us to follow Him, did we consider the places He might go?

Where’ve You Been?
Memoirs

Where’ve You Been?

I’ve blogged about Ray and Hilda before. They’ve been married for more than 61 years. In that time, they’ve faced many challenges, met many struggles, and have overcome them all together. This week, though, fate threatened to do the one thing its never been been able to do before . . . keep them apart.

On Christmas night, Hilda was rushed to the emergency room. She had become unresponsive due to what would eventually be diagnosed as a combination of pneumonia, COPD, and congestive heart failure. At 79, her little body was simply worn out. Ray, the ever-devoted husband, never left her side through the entire ordeal. For 29 days he sat and slept in a vinyl hospital lounge chair right beside Hilda’s bed.

On one of those days, a routine check of his heart showed his pulse had bottomed out at 38. Though he felt fine, the number was great cause for concern, especially for an 81 year old man. Luckily, the ER was literally an elevator ride away. Within minutes, he was processed, evaluated, and admitted to a room three floors above and a world away from his wife.

After a day or so, his condition stabilized. Eventually, I wheeled him back down to check on her.

As soon as he walked in the room (he would not enter in a wheel chair) the usually-despondent Hilda lit up like the Christmas tree she never got to enjoy this year. Her first words . . .

“Where have you been?”

Instantly, my brain hit the play button on the Kathy Mattea song. Wow. Does life really imitate art?

“They’d never spent a night apart.
For sixty years she heard him snore.
Now they’re in the hospital
In separate beds on different floors.

. . .

“He held her hand and stroked her head
In a fragile voice she said,

‘ Where’ve you been?
I’ve looked for you forever and a day.
Where’ve you been?
No I’m just not myself when you’re away.'”

Excerpt from “Where’ve You Been
Kathy Mattea
Words and Music by Jon Vezner and Don Henry

 

As I write this, Hilda is getting settled into a rehabilitation facility while Ray adjusts to his new pacemaker and the discomforts that it brings. And while I haven’t talked with him this evening, I’m quite certain he’s already claimed his spot at the bedside of his bride.

Ray and Hilda only had one child, a saint of a woman who is frankly the only reason their both still with us today. And that woman had me. This week, she and I witnessed the purest, most precious gift God ever gave the world . . . true love.

Sleep well, Ray and Hilda. And get well. We love you very much.

[readolog_first_paragraph]Editor’s note:
We said goodbye to Hilda in January of the following year. She did actually get to come home before God called her home to stay. We all miss her, but not like Ray. Thanks to the pacemaker, his heart is still beating. But it is very broken. Sometimes I watch him stare out the glass door onto the porch, at the empty chair where she used to sit. Then he looks to the sky, and I know what he’s thinking.[/readolog_first_paragraph]

Walking Through the Door
Memoirs

Walking Through the Door

Just over 18 years ago . . .

. . . I heard one word that changed my life forever. The word was “yes,” and it came from the girl I loved when I asked her to spend the rest of her life with me. The days that followed were exciting and challenging.   They were filled with laughter, tears, lots of joy, and plenty of anxious moments.

Today, I was reminded of one such moment.   On the night of our wedding, my bride was determined to have her picture made in her gown on the steps of the Opryland Hotel’s Magnolia Lobby.   This would have been fine, except that our wedding took place at the First Baptist Church in Cullman, AL. That’s roughly 153 miles from church altar to hotel steps.   Since the complexities of getting into her dress prevented the option of simply changing clothes, we were stuck in our matrimonial attire for the duration of the two hour trip.

Furthermore, while we left the church in a spacious limo (thanks again, Mike and Melanie), the bulk of our journey took place in a two-door Nissan Sentra.   The train of Darlene’s dress alone contained for more fabric than the entire interior of this car.   Nevertheless, my two eyes peered through a sea of white satin as we made the perilous journey toward those fateful steps and on to the rest of our lives.

Now, I told you all of that to tell you this.   I dropped Darlene off at the entrance of the Magnolia lobby, along with all of our assorted bags, suitcases, and ancillary items.   Then I set out in search of a parking space, which I eventually found somewhere in the neighboring city of Hendersonville.   When I finally returned, I found Darlene in the lobby out of breath and frantically gathering our things around her.

Apparently, it was only after I left that she realized there was no good way to get through the revolving door in her dress.   And once she was in, how would she get back to all of our bags?   She saw no staff to ask for assistance. She was stuck. So she waited, and waited, and waited.   But since I was walking back from the next county, it took a while.

In the mean time, people began noticing my lovely bride in her sparkling cathedral gown. Even now, I can hear what they were thinking. “Oh look, Henry.   That poor girl has been abandoned on her wedding night, and in such a lovely dress.  What a shame!”

Eventually, a few well-intentioned bystanders learned of my wife’s plight. Suddenly and without warning, they grabbed our bags. They took Darlene by the arm.   They propped open doors. And in less time than it took us to say “I do,” they ushered my new wife across the threshold . . . without me.

She still talks about the fear and panic that set in immediately as all of those people, some she had just met, some who were total strangers, began swarming her and taking our things.   The flurry of good intentions left her disoriented and scared.

Almost 18 days ago . . .

. . . I heard a word that changed my life forever. The word was “cancer,” and it came from the girl I love as she suddenly wondered about the rest of her life.   So began the anxious moments. But this time, I found myself standing at the threshold.   It was my job to get Darlene, along with our children, along with everything in our lives, through that door despite the huge obstacle in our way.   There were so many things I was responsible for. And so I waited . . . and waited. I stood there not knowing what to do next.

That’s when it happened.   The people around me began picking up my stuff.   They began taking me by the arm and ushering me forward.   But wait! I don’t want to go through that door.   I’m not ready.   Put my stuff down. I can carry it.   I just need time to figure this thing out first.

Fear and panic set in as all these people began swarming me and carrying my things.   The flurry of good intentions left me disoriented and scared.   That lasted a couple of days.   That’s how long it took me to realize how to do what only I could do.   So I reached out and took my wife by the hand.   And with the help of our family and friends, we’re now walking across that threshold – together.

This is a special note of thanks to all those who have suddenly grabbed a bag or gathered a gown or opened a door.   There are so many of you.   And you are so good – so God.   Thank you for loving us during this time.   I can’t say that it’s easy to let you do these things.   But this is simply a journey we can’t take alone. We love you.