Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A church's long shadow

I spent some time today with a member of ClearView that feels God may be calling him to some kind of vocational ministry. I began thinking through those God is raising up in our church to take this same path. We have at least a half dozen who are currently studying for a ministry role of some kind. This is a great indicator of God at work through the church.

It has caused me to reflect on the church I consider my "home church" which is First Baptist Church Lilburn, Georgia. My dad was pastor of that church in the late 70's and early 80's. Only eternity will reveal the full impact of the ministry of that church during that time. The church grew rapidly and baptized many. However, I think her greatest impact is in the number of people sent FROM that church into vocational ministry.

When I was in seminary, I know there was at least a half dozen of us that were there at the same time all from FBC Lilburn. There are 4 of us I can recall quickly who are currently serving as pastors ... all in different parts of the country. Another is a seminary professor. Not everyone called into ministry through that church took off to seminary. There were at least three "older" men 'called' to ministry during those years (one a barber and another a painter). Two of those men quickly became pastors of churches. The third came on staff at FBC and now serves on the staff of one of the larger churches in Florida.

FBC Lilburn no longer is one of the larger churches in the state. The area around the church has transitioned dramitically and her ministry has shifted. But her impact stretches far beyond the geographical area where she is located and the decade of the 70's. If added together, the ministry of this church now impacts thousands through those serving churches and and teaching in a seminary.

It dawned on me the man I sat with today is in some ways a "grandchild in minstry" of a church he knows nothing about ... a church I call "my church home". Thank God for a church that saw it as her mission to send people out long before church planting was popular. May her ministry continue to multiply through ClearView as we make it our mission to "grow 'em up and send them out"!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

$44 Mission Trip

I need 50 people from ClearView to take a $44 mission trip in the next 2 weeks ... and you won't even have to leave home! I need you to take 100 envelopes and letters to stuff and stamp to help launch a church we are supporting in Hendersonville.

Ed Stetzer blessed us during my time of surgery and recovery. He is planting a church in Hendersonville, TN. Now we have the chance to walk alongside him as he did for us. The letters are to introduce the community to the new church he is planting. We will need to have them stuffed and stamped by the first week of December (something with eternal impact you can do while you watch football Thanksgiving day :-)).

I will go first. My family and I will do 100. Now I need only 49 more. We will have a sign up sheet Wed. night and Sunday. If you want to respond on facebook or at pastor@clearview.org I will get your name on the list.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guest blog from my oldest daughter

This is the third and final guest blog from my family. Tiffany is my oldest daughter. When I asked, "What did you learn from our experience?", this is her response ...

So I’m the one who gets to follow up behind Mom and Britt’s blog. I hope your expectations aren’t too high. 

Going into the surgery, I didn’t even begin to consider that Dad may not make it out of it. It’s like it wasn’t even an option. Even after the arteriogram scare, I just couldn’t even let the possibility of Dad not making it through the major surgery even cross my mind. I think that’s part of my personality. I am definitely a “don’t worry about it till you have to” kind of person. So walking into Vanderbilt the morning of the surgery, my plan was this. “I’m not going to expect anything but a good outcome, and if anything happens, I’ll deal with it then.” My job was to be strong for my family. I could deal with my emotions later.

After Dad’s surgery, they took him back to the ICU. Once he was settled, they allowed family to go back and see him. As I walked in the room, all of a sudden this wave of emotion welled up inside me, and I could no longer hold it in. I stood by his bed and lost it. He didn’t look like my Dad at all. He was pale, on a ventilator, and his head was wrapped up in a blanket to allow his body to warm back up from induced hypothermia. My Dad, my strong, invincible father was helpless. Logically, I knew he was ok then. He had made it through surgery. The worst part was over. But for me, it was just now all sinking in. My Dad, who I depend on so much, now had to depend on a machine to breathe. His life that day, under the ultimate authority of the Lord, was dependent on surgeons, nurses, and technology. I will never forget that moment. And I will never forget what the Lord whispered to me: “I will be with you.” (Is. 43:2) As much as I don’t like to admit sometimes, I depend on my Dad so much. I depend on him for wisdom, strength, and affirmation. As silly as it may seem to say this hit me AFTER his surgery, in that moment I realized that my dependence should only come from the Lord. All things on this earth, including parents and family, are temporary. It was a reminder to me that He is the only one worth placing my trust in. That is a lesson I’m continuing to learn!

I also learned so much about God’s character displayed through others. I could go on and on forever about how many people came around us and supported us through this whole process. First of all, I realized just how blessed I am to have the family I have. So much of my extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) are full of solid believers. We had family come in from everywhere to support us the day of the surgery. Their love and presence was such a blessing.

I learned SO much from my Granny. This Godly woman truly displayed His love, kindness, and patience as she poured her care over my Dad during his recovery time. Spending time with her for two months I truly saw what a woman of God she truly is. Seeing the fruit of the spirit so clearly evidenced in her challenges me so much. Granny, I pray I can be half the woman you are in my lifetime. I will consider that a true accomplishment.

I also learned so much from my church family. I saw grace in an entirely new way. Your prayers, gifts, and meals mean more than you can imagine. Every encouraging word spoken via social medial, text, or in church Sunday morning showed me the true picture of a faith family. You truly became the church as your wrapped your arms around us. Your kindness is true evidence of the Holy Spirit, and we are all so thankful for you.

I continue to learn so much from my Dad through all of this. Seeing him grow in his walk with the Lord is the neatest thing of all for me to see. Even today as I was sitting with him watching TV, I heard his heart thump from his mechanical valve. I asked him if it bothered him, and his response was, “I have nothing to complain about.” I continue to glean so much from his wisdom coming out of this. And I am so grateful that because of this my family is now closer than we have ever been. God is good.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My youngest daughter's guest blog

I had asked my wife and daughters to write a guest blog regarding what they learned from our recent experience. You will find my wife's below. This one is my youngest daughter.

My sweet Daddy has asked me to write a blog sharing what I have learned over the last several months as we have walked this incredible journey together. I choose the word “incredible” because that is what it has been. Looking back, this experience has made me rely on God like never before. I have been through various trials, but none like this one…none that have taught me more about God’s character. I have “seen” Him in a very real way (Job 42:5).

For me, the journey began at camp this past summer when I got the news that Daddy was in the hospital in Orlando. I wanted to be there more than anything, but I had to trust that God could take care of him and comfort my mom better than I ever could. Little did we know what the future would hold.

When Tiff and I got home from camp, Daddy had his follow-up with the cardiologist. We met for dinner that night and he told us the news. The following weeks would be full of fear and uncertainty.

I began getting ready to head back to school, cherishing every moment with my family. I pondered the thought many times of taking the semester off, but Daddy reassured me that things would be back to normal soon. Move-in day was the hardest day for me (next to surgery day, of course). Some amazing men from our church family helped me get settled in, as Daddy couldn’t lift anything. I held it together the best I could, but when my family left that day it was very hard. I would travel back and forth many times in the following weeks, but again had to trust that God could take care of my family better than I ever could.

A couple weeks later we would get the news that surgery would be delayed. Then came the day for the arteriogram. Mom and Dad had assured me that there was no need to come home that day. I got a call later that afternoon from my Pop telling me that all was well and there were no blockages. I didn’t even know about the cardiac arrest until the next day when Daddy called to tell me. They weren’t going to tell me until I came home that weekend, but he was afraid I would find out through twitter (oh the joys of technology). The logical part of me thought: “well, Brittany you’re talking to him now and he’s fine…so it’s no big deal.” But the more it settled in, the more real it was to me that this was a serious thing we were about to do. The heart is fragile, and one slip could change everything. I called my dear friend Shelbi Turner. She immediately dropped what she was doing and came over. She cried with me and prayed with me (that’s a true friend!) I have had many instances like that over these past few months where my sweet friends have walked with me. Thank you to you all.

The night before surgery was a sweet time for our family. Some dear friends of ours came to pray over us that night. This is when everything hit me. The reality of him not making it through became very real to me. I hugged him before going to bed that night and told him how much I loved him. I wanted him to know that just in case that was the last time I got to say it.

The next morning we woke up very early. Upon arrival at the hospital we found out that we would need to say our good-byes then because only Mom was allowed to go back with him for the surgery prep. Tiffany and I got the chance to pray over him and hug him one last time. This is when I experienced an amazing amount of peace rush over me. Part of the curriculum that Tiffany and I taught at FUGE this summer was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar threatens the men and tells them if they do not bow down he will throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. And he asks…”and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” They respond by saying that their God CAN rescue them, “BUT even if He does NOT, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” Little did I know how much that passage would speak to me. I knew my God had the power to save my Daddy that day, but even if He chose not to, I would still praise Him and Him alone.

That day was the hardest day of my life. I relied heavily on my family. My sweet sister was always checking on me and showing me scripture. I love that girl. My mom, as much as she was worried, checked in with us often to make sure we were ok. And the love of our extended family and church family surrounded us that day as well. I knew it was in God’s hands, but I also was unsure of His plan. The moment the surgeon came out and told us that the surgery went “perfectly” I felt 1 million pounds lighter. Thank you, God for sitting with us that day, while guiding the hands of the surgeon in the operating room.

A couple hours later we got to see Daddy, and though he looked like he had just had open heart surgery  I knew on the inside God had healed him. The next morning I went in to visit with him for a few minutes while he was sitting up in his chair. Mom had stepped out for a minute so it was just him and me in the room. He looked up and asked “are you okay?” I just laughed and said, “You’re the one who just had open heart surgery!” He then asked “were you scared?” To which I responded, “DUH! Yes! I’m so glad you’re ok.” So then, as any pastor/father would, he asked me what I learned from this. I shared with him what I have shared with all of you. He just smiled and nodded and closed his eyes again. Though he would not remember that in the days that followed, I will cherish that moment forever.

A few days later I had to leave to come back to Jackson. It was hard to leave knowing he would still be in the hospital for a while longer, but I KNEW and had SEEN how God would be with my family. I wasn’t worried one bit. I love sharing this story because I’m reminded how real my God is. I should not worry. Worry is a sin. The Bible tells us: “Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Why worry when God has it all planned out? Trials are inevitable, but so is God’s plan; and His peace surpass all understanding.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Guest blog from my wife

I asked my wife and daughters to share their perspective of the events of the passt few months by way of guest blogging. Here is Leigh Ann's ...

Mark asked me the other day what I learned through this experience. Wow…how do I put that in words and sum it up in a few brief paragraphs? Most people see this as something that just began in August when we found out that Mark would need open heart surgery. For me, this journey began back in June when Mark got pneumonia while attending a meeting in Orlando. Mark never gets sick…during our 26 years of marriage He has been with me through numerous surgeries for endometriosis, kidney stones (ouch!), premature labor with both children, two c-sections, a hysterectomy in my thirties, etc. He has always been right there beside me as my “rock”….I just assumed I was the “needy” spouse and He would forever be the healthy one. Then, one call from Associate Pastor John Duval telling me I needed to get to Orlando…he didn’t think Mark sounded good…changed the direction of our lives for weeks to come…we just didn’t know then how much….and how God would use a near death experience with pneumonia to make us aware of a more potentially life threatening condition that would require an extremely risky surgery in the future.

Before I go any furher, there a couple of things you may not know about Mark. He is the “stubborn” one in our relationship. (Couldn’t resist …He would argue differently!) As soon as he got sick in Orlando, I was calling every few hours begging him to go ahead and get to a quick relief clinic of some sort. Well, as most of you know, He did not listen to his wife’s advice (lol!) and ending up being taken by ambulance to a hospital in the Orlando area. He was trying to keep from me from realizing just how sick he was but thank goodness John Duval had the wisdom to put things in motion and get me on a flight to Orlando. When I arrived at the hospital in Orlando, I was met by a nurse who told me that Mark was being transferred to the Cardiac floor…his cardiac enzymes were elevated and they wanted to keep a close watch on him. We would find out later that this was really not even necessary, but was God’s way of opening our eyes to a life threatening condition which was discovered initially by the cardiologist and would eventually lead us to Dr. Prudoff here in Franklin who discovered the aneurysm and other abnormalities that would require a very complex and life threatening surgery.

One of the routine procedures that would need to be done before Mark’s surgery would be an arteriogram. I have seen both parents as well as Mark’s dad go through this with flying colors…so, no big deal, right? I mean, compared to the surgery he had coming, this was a piece of cake! I should have known something was wrong when the doctor came in and wanted to “pull up a chair” to tell me about a little problem they had…Mark had experienced a cardiac arrest, but they were able to “bring him back” and everything would be fine.

I remember a flood of uncontrollable tears which began at that moment and which unfortunately would stay with me off and on until after the upcoming surgery. The first compelling thought and question I had for the cardiologist was “How could this happen?” The next question was…”If this abnormality they discovered just caused a cardiac arrest during this simple procedure…how would he ever survive an eight hour surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm? Everyone around me was trying to console me, including my father-in-law who was trying to help me understand that Mark had a cardiac “arrest”, not a heart attack. At the time, the only thing I knew was that his heart had stopped and I had just been faced with the complex reality of Mark’s mortality. The man of my dreams that I thought I would grow old with just had a cardiac arrest of the age of 48! Mark’s Mom was there by my side trying to be strong for me even though she had just been faced with the reality of losing her only son. The cardiologist then looks at me, as if to reassure me, and tells me that what had just occurred is very rare and only happens in a very small percentage of the population Well, the surgeon that would be performing the upcoming surgery had already told me that Mark had a 10% chance of not making it through the operation. At the time, I remember thinking “10%”….hmmm….odds are WAY in our favor….but then another thought popped into my mind…..Mark’s newly discovered “abnormality” just placed him into a much higher percentage rate of potential complications!

You know, all these years I have watched people I love go through terrible tragedies and illnesses..but somehow, you think it will never happen to you. All of a sudden the little things that used to annoy me about Mark, didn’t annoy me anymore. (I know, none of your spouses have any annoying habits, right? I found myself watching him sleep at night and wanting to just make time stand still. I even tried to bargain with God during my quiet time….guess what, Leigh Ann was not in control of this. Maybe that was just one of the many things God wanted to teach me…that my hope was not in any earthly thing or person, my hope was in HIM. He would never leave or forsake me and He would never give me more than I could bear.

Shortly before the surgery, Mark and I had to take Brittany back to college. With the help of some church members, we loaded up a few cars and headed to Jackson. Mark and I were in the car alone for two and a half hours and boy, what an intense conversation it was. It was a conversation we needed to have…you know, the one about “what if you don’t make it through this?” I had been afraid to even talk about it but Mark knew we needed to talk about it…so, we did. We had a conversation that really brought reality home to me. With tears streaming down both our faces, we talked about the mighty God that we serve. Mark told me if God was ready to take him now…then He was more than ready to go. As much as he would miss me…once he got to heaven….there would not be one thing about life on this earth that he would miss. Ladies, I have to tell you…that was not one of the more romantic moments in our marriage…lol! But, you know…Mark was right! As much as I wanted to believe that He would miss me like crazy, I knew that he would be having WAY more fun there than he would be here with me. He wouldn’t have time to think about me…He would be too busy worshipping our Lord!

Well, I’ve already been too transparent, but there it is. I don’t know what seemed longer…the days we had to wait anticipating the surgery, or the actual day of surgery itself. The morning I kissed Mark good bye as they wheeled him off to surgery the day that followed was probably the longest 8 hours of my life. But there I was, surrounded by so many people that loved me…my precious two daughters, my Mom and Dad, my brother, my aunt and my best friend from Atlanta. In addition to them, Mark’s family was there…His Mom and Dad, his sister and his aunt and uncle. If you were looking at us from the outside you would have thought we were having a party in the waiting room. We had more food than we knew what to do with and took up half of the waiting room! But, we all made it through it together, with God right there by our side. I now know what It means to really depend on God. For those of us who think we really have it “all under control”….I’m here to share with you that God is on his throne and He knows what is best for us even when we don’t agree with Him!

Well, you know the rest of the story…Mark is back in the pulpit tomorrow and will be sharing from his heart what God has taught him through this experience …I can’t wait to hear his story! I’m also very glad that God has given me the “gift” of having Mark as my husband for a little while longer on this earth. I am truly blessed with a man after God’s own heart!