Reflections of a Traumatic Experience and Miraculous Outcome

LeviAs I type this, my wife and I are recouping from a traumatic experience. Yesterday, we had just finished wrapping up a T-Ball win over Sun-Drop, a very good team. We played hard and squeezed out the win in the last inning. We play for Sonic and traditionally we go to Sonic after the game to celebrate with free burgers and cokes. This day, Levi decided he wanted to stay at the ballpark and watch the “big boys” play. We grabbed some popcorn, burgers and drinks and made our way to the top of the bleacher stands.

Just as I had finished my burger and took a swallow of my drink to wash down the last bite, out of the corner of my eye I saw Levi go over the back-end of the bleachers. I shouted his name and ran as fast as I could down the bleachers to the backside where I found him laying on his stomach with a bloody nose crying. I immediately picked him up. I was frightened. I felt I had heard my son cry daddy for the last time as he slipped off the bleacher plummeting eight feet to a concrete pad.

My wife was immediately behind me and began talking to him while I prayed like I had never before. I didn’t know what to do but hold my son and call out for someone to call 911. Behind her was a friend who is also a nurse with pediatric experience. She insisted we lay him down. A gentleman gave up his coat for a pillow while she calmly talked to him keeping his attention and trying to calm him as well. My wife held his hand and I sat on the ground watching everything as if it were a movie and I had been cast as the father who stupidly took his family to the dangerous top bleacher.

I had a lady comforting me and trying to calm me down as well. Another friend came over who is an EMT to make sure there was nothing else that could be done. The crowd gathered and all the games stopped while we struggled to make sure my four-year old son was going to be ok. I could hear the sirens from the ambulance as it was making its way to the ball field.

When the paramedics arrived, I stood back while others made sure that I understood by his crying and moving that he would be ok. The paramedics put a neck brace around his tiny neck to stabilize him and I immediately lost all sense of togetherness. I didn’t realize it at the moment but a form of PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) consumed me.

When I was thirteen, I was practicing baseball with my team while a friend, Jonathan D. Hollingsworth was practicing with his team on another field. We heard sirens and saw the ambulance headed towards his team’s practice field. We all dropped what we were doing and ran over to the other practice field where we found Jonathan unconscious laying in a bloody pool. They were practicing turning a double-play when Jonathan missed the throw to him at second and the ball hit his neck bursting an aneurysm in his neck. They put a neck brace around his neck, put him in the ambulance and a few days later we were burying our thirteen year old friend.

I saw Jonathan when I looked at my son and wondered how his parents felt when they had to bury their own son while wondering if my son would be ok. I was scared. I didn’t know what to think. My little Levi fell eight feet and landed hard. They rolled him away while others were consoling me telling me he would be ok. My brother-in-law drove me to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville while my wife rode in the back of the ambulance with Levi.

For the next five hours, he would be tested, checked out, joked with and treated like a king by the Vanderbilt staff. I kept everyone updated on Facebook while the Little League’s Facebook page kept their followers updated. Everyone (so it seemed) was praying. No one wants to see such a young life hurt.

By the time the testing was finished, X-rays and CT scan, everything was coming back reporting no injury. By 1:00 am, we were being told the only thing he received was a scare, a bloody nose, and a scratch on his elbow.  They wanted to observe him over night so I drove back home to gather some clothes and refreshments to take back the next morning. Neither of us slept. We may have gotten two hours max. Every time I closed my eyes, all I could see was Levi falling and hearing him scream daddy as he went down. It was haunting to the point I began to feel dizzy and light-headed as I lay there.

The next morning I drove back to Vanderbilt and we waited till just after lunch for them to tell us he was going to be fine and we could go home. He entertained the nurses with his intelligence and amazed the doctors with his resilience. They said he should have never walked away from that fall without a major injury.

He did!

I have been reflecting on this whole situation and asking God to show me his glory through it all. But the most important reflection I can share is the goodness of God regardless of the tragedy. I could question where was God when Levi fell and why did he let him fall. If Levi had not survived, I’m sure those questions would be even more presentable in my heart but I just believe that not only God has a plan for Levi’s life, something I’ve prayed for since his birth, but also that this was a learning experience not only for him but us as parents.

I can’t say what Levi has learned from such an experience because he’s four years old and only he will truly know what he learned but I can say that I have learned to hold him a little tighter which might cause suffocation because I already hold him pretty tight as it is. I may be a softy but I constantly tell him how much I love him and hug him all the time. I’m not sure I can exemplify my love any more than I do. Plus there is a little more sensitivity to watching him walk, speak, and laugh. Little things like those are most important.

I have learned that the top bleacher is not the safest place but we can not always be safe because life is and should be an adventure but we can be a little more aware of it. We can always look back and say I made a stupid mistake but mistakes are necessary for growth. So I’m not sorry for sitting that high. I just wished it wouldn’t have happened but it did and God gave us a heightened awareness of second chances.

So many sacrifices from people who made Levi’s experience a little better. From having a nurse and EMT immediately there to wonderful ambulatory service and the amazing Vanderbilt staff (all professionals) made us a little more calmer. I am amazed at all those who helped. If they weren’t there, I would still be holding him wondering what I should do. Probably running through the neighborhood with him in my arms looking like a complete fool of a dad who has no idea.

The community can and does come together. The collective prayers of the faithful lifted to God still does move God’s heart to acting in miracle fashion for those who love Him. I believe our faithfulness in him along with the faithfulness of those who were lifting up prayers on our behalf, which were many, potentially had the power to move God and he did by making sure Levi walked away with a scratch on his elbow.

God in all his goodness sustained us and protected our son. I will shout His praises from the rooftops and if I look like a fool before others, I don’t care because

  • “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33) and
  • the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18).

More reflections, I’m sure, will come out of this but the most important one is God’s goodness is incomparable. There is none that compares to Him and His faithfulness to us.

Lamentations 3:21-26 (NIV)

21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
Levi at Vanderbilt

 

 

What Is So Amazing About Grace

What is so amazing about grace?

 

You don’t deserve it yet God offers it. The person you love the most doesn’t deserve grace. The person you hate the most doesn’t deserve grace. That person could be you.

 

No one deserves grace. That’s why it is so amazing. God offers his grace to us simply because he loves us. For God to love us sounds cliche but it’s the truest of truths. Because of His great love, we have grace.

Locking the Doors of the Church Opens the Doors To Ministry

Imagine if we trashed our traditionalism and shut the doors on Sunday night and Wednesday night. Imagine the ministry that could happen if we released our congregation to live their lives rather than congregating for another sermon. Imagine a church who gathers once a week to scatter every day. Imagine a church who is not bothered so much with meeting with Christians but bothered so much with not meeting with those who are far from God. Imagine a family who gets to spend time together on Sunday nights before their week begins rather than going to the church building for another bible study they probably won’t remember.

Can you imagine or are you so lost in your traditionalism that shutting the doors of your church to allow your people to do ministry in their community and with their own family is too much to bear? Are you afraid of losing another offering? Are you concerned with them not getting enough biblical understanding and encouragement from the morning sermon? Does it squash your pride and your need for more stage time?

Read this story from The Call by Os Guinness.

“The story is told, for example, of two young Dutch priests who eagerly followed news of Martin Luther’s early reforms—brought to them by Guttenberg’s new printing presses. In 1520, they read the revolutionary paragraphs in The Babylonian Captivity. They were stunned. Their whole view of following Christ, and in particular their whole way of leading the church, was wrong. Their response was swift and decisive—the very next Sunday evening they locked the doors of their church.

“Locked their church doors? What on earth for? For security reasons? Or were they hijacking their premises and transferring them forcibly to another denomination? There were in fact no “Protestant” churches at this stage, let alone “denominations.” The priests’ point was theological. At a time when “church” was typically equated with “clerical” and associated with buildings, institutions, and ecclesiastical hierarchies, Luther’s rediscovery of calling blew apart the distortions of the medieval world.

“Yes, the church as a building is essential to worship and certain other aspects of the church’s corporate life. But to make it more is to fall for the perennial “edifice complex.” So the two priests locked the church doors on Sunday night as a statement that followers of Christ were to live their whole lives to God.”

Guinness, Os (2003-10-09). The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (p. 163). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Who Are You Today

When we were discussing moving to plant Village Church, I tried to find a way to transfer my job coaching skills. However, there were no job coaching positions where we were going. I was thumbing through Facebook and came across an article about a substitute teacher who was stapling his kids in class. I thought to myself I could do that.  Not the stapling part but being a substitute teacher. Upon doing a Google search to find the article, I found this is not an isolated case. It seems to happen quite often.

Fast-forward three months and I am always asked by other teachers, “Who are you today?” What they really mean is who are you substituting for. It’s like I don’t exist. I’m just a fill in, an authoritative figure or image with the same name. My typical response is the name of the teacher, not my own name. Just yesterday, the principle called the over the loudspeaker into my room for the teacher I was substituting for knowing well that she was absent. In other words, he called me by her name.

I can’t help to think in a small way that is the way we are to live our lives for Christ. We represent Him. We sacrifice daily for Him and His calling. When others see us they should see Jesus in our actions, our mannerisms, our love, and our speech.

That’s not to say that it takes away from who we were made to be. God uniquely created each of us with our own potential and desires. When we try to be who we are not, we are actually robbing God of the gift He gave us to be who He made us to be. It would be crass to slap God and say, “I don’t want the uniqueness you gave me.” I want to be someone else. I know I struggled with that for years.

But we do represent Him. Jesus never said we could be Him but he did say we could do more than he did (John 14:12), that we could have the same potential to make an impact just as He did and still does. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are Christ’s ambassadors. Therefore, everything we do in his name is a direct representation of Him. Let us therefore live worthy of that calling.

 

 

 

Shifting the Paradigm of Outreach

Outreach can be defined as any event that gathers the churched with the unchurched for the sole purpose of meeting a need. In my experience, outreach has always been a way for churches to meet the unchurched or dechurched and invite them to church. This is not a harmful motive because the gospel is preached when the people of God meet together. The gospel is experienced when the people of God gather. However it typically has an ulterior motive, that is baiting people for church attendance.

My experience has shown that outreach is more focused on the numbers game rather than being Jesus to one another. What I mean by that is Jesus said, “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 you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV). Three times in two verses Jesus said “Love one another.”

Notice the motive is love and not church growth. I know it may seem forced to say that church growth is not fulfilling the command of love but what I’m trying to say is the ultimate motive to loving others is because Jesus first loved us (1 John 4:19). Most outreaches are focused first with church growth then love. It’s backwards.

What if we had a paradigm shift?

What if we first focused on loving others by serving others just as Jesus served us. What if we viewed outreach in the sense that we are meeting needs for the sole purpose of meeting needs because that’s what Jesus would do. Instead of even having an ounce of thought in our heart that outreach might inform someone of our church, our gatherings, our worship, or our preaching, what if we focused primarily on feeding the ones who are hungry, loving the unloved, meeting tangible needs, and being an encouragement to the hurting?

We can shift this paradigm by seeing people as God sees them and not as business sees them. God sees people as His creation who need one another for maturity and not as a business who needs others for profitable gain. It is possible to do outreach with one motive, love.

What if we literally threw out the thought that if we reach out to someone (in love) we could get another church attender. What if we seriously considered helping someone, serve someone or give to someone for the sole purpose of seeing them become successful and blessed? I can’t possible believe Jesus would want it any other way.

Recently, here in southern Tennessee, we had ice storms that caused a lot of power outages and electric crews were out for many hours at a time to repair everyone’s electricity. That is their job. I heard testimonies from linemen’s families that they may have gotten four hours of sleep a day during a week of cold hard winter. They risked their lives to find electric lines down and repair them.

A Facebook page was set up to show our appreciation by providing them a lunch and to simply show our gratitude. It’s not a Christian event. It simply is people gathering to give a pat on the back and to thank men for their hard work. We could easily say that was your job. However, the encouragement and blessing to provide them with a small token of gratification does more than we could possibly imagine.

The Church should be doing the same thing. Reaching out to love on people simply because we are to love them. We were never called to build churches. We were called to love God and love others by sharing the gospel and make disciples. It really is that simple.

We can shift the outreach paradigm. We MUST shift the outreach paradigm and quit offering a bait and switch.

 

Being Faithful Says I Love You

When my son was learning to speak, he would tell us he loved us by saying, “I fay fo.” He couldn’t really pronounce I love you very well. It kinda stuck with us and at almost five years old now, sometimes, we say, “I fay fo,” to one another. It’s like our own language that we understand and no one else does.

Recently, while driving and listening to the radio, Chris Tomlin’s Whom Shall I Fear came on. This is one of Levi’s favorite songs. Everytime we get in the truck he wants to listen to it. As we were listening to it this time, Levi caught wind of the lyrics. It sings, “You are faithful, you are faithful.”

He quickly turned to me and said, Jesus love us because the words say “fay fo”. Yeah, fay fo and faithful sound a lot alike. Then I had an epiphany.

When we are faithful it’s as if we are telling God we love him. God is always faithful and he always loves us.

Here’s to being faithful and telling God I fay fo.

Building Community Through Effective Discipleship

 

 

house church

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This is more effective 

than this

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ElevationWorship-PIC

 

 

 

 

 

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