Last Friday night, my two-year-old son had a cold that suddenly started getting worse. He began coughing harder and harder, and eventually, he started wheezing. I normally would’ve deferred to my wife on something like this, but she was out of town, so I decided to wait it out. When his breathing became progressively shallow, I drove him to the emergency room in the middle of the night. They told me that a virus had provoked a severe asthma attack.
I wanted the job. I wanted it badly. And a few weeks after making it to the final round of interviews, I learned that I had just missed the cut. I called my friend Shon to share the bad news. “Is the door totally shut?” he asked.
I got my big chance to be a movie star in eighth grade when casting director David Rubin came to Petal, Mississippi, in search of a kid to star in an upcoming Kevin Costner film called “The War.” With great excitement, I got my brother-in-law to drive me to the local high school for my audition.
It was my worst Christmas ever, and it all got ruined by a pine tree, laundry detergent, and some really good intentions.
A few years ago, on Christmas Day, a friend was celebrating with her family when they heard a single, loud pop outside. They didn’t think anything of it, but soon the sound of sirens filled the neighborhood. Their neighbor had walked out to the back patio and shot herself.
I have a friend who will have an empty seat at his Thanksgiving table this year. That seat belonged to his father, who died recently. A few days ago, a doctor told another friend that his dad probably wouldn’t live to see Thanksgiving next year. I have yet another friend who was in a car accident and is in the hospital with serious injuries right now. He will be having Thanksgiving there.
Several years ago in my hometown, a man was driving down the highway with his wife when a tree fell down across the highway, landed right on the cab of their pickup truck, and killed them both. Later that week, I was in a church service in which the pastor referenced the freak accident and said, “Do you think that kind of thing happened by accident? There’s no way.”
I wasn't exactly sure what I was doing when, at nine years old, I was baptized by my father in a river – and I'm OK with that. There are people who think nine years old is premature for a person to be baptized. I'm actually surprised my parents didn't have me do it sooner.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” says Scripture. A lot of us feel sick with unmet hopes and unanswered prayers right now. I know people who are waiting on jobs, babies, marriage, healing, and restoration of relationships, among other things. The needs are as unique as the people and their circumstances. I’m in my own race right now, and yesterday I wrote some thoughts to put words to what it feels like. Maybe you can relate.
“Gross.” That’s typically not the word I think of when contemplating a miracle Jesus performed, but there’s one exception.
I have this one childhood memory that used to haunt me. When I was in first grade, a careless adult did a great deal of damage with very little effort and it seemed like the hurt from that incident couldn’t be undone.
One Sunday morning when I was in my early 20s, my mom came up to me after church and said something that stuck with me: “I notice you always pray to Jesus. You should think about calling God ‘Father.’” I thanked her for her input but it agitated me a little. I was more comfortable keeping things on a first-name basis with the Lord and starting all of my prayers with “Dear Jesus.” I didn’t like the way it felt to address God as my male parental figure. I already had a father-son relationship and it was complicated.
Ten years ago this month, I started the day by getting on my face before God and saying, “Lord, I’m getting down on the floor because if I get up, I’m afraid I’ll do something stupid.” I had good reason to be concerned.
One time I was at the bus stop and I saw a woman take her daughter by the ponytail, pull up, and force her to move down the sidewalk. As the girl walked forward, she tried to reach up and pull her mother’s hand away, to no avail. As the little girl cried and begged her mother to stop, a man standing nearby laughed about it, and the mother began laughing, too.
I was five years old when I walked into my mother’s bedroom and told her I wanted to give my life to Christ. We got down on our knees beside the bed and I asked Jesus into my heart. After that, I proudly told everyone that Jesus had saved me, but my pride slowly diminished over the years.