“Embrace the Life God Has Given You” | Dr. John Piper

I found this video by Dr. John Piper both interesting and thought provoking.

We do not always know how to respond to our sorrow. Because we are in the middle of our jumbled up thoughts, we struggle to make sense of what’s up or down. But, that does not mean that there is not a way to mourn that is explicitly Christian. That we can’t be reminded and encouraged in and through the pain and grief we feel.

I find Dr. Piper’s thoughts helpful. It does not matter what you are mourning, know that God is with you!

Remembering Col. Kenneth R. Wade | “The Crying Soldier”

 

Col Kenneth R Wade

July 21, 1945 – February 20, 2016

On Saturday, February 20, 2016, Col. Kenneth R. Wade stepped out of this world and stood at attention before his maker. I will not pretend to know what happened in that exchange. I would like to think, in my mind’s eye, that as Kenny reported for duty, God was ready with orders, for another of his soldiers had come home.

I would like to share some of my recollections of a man who I counted as a friend and some of the lessons I learned because of him.

The Meeting

When I met Col. Wade, I was a young man who had just begun attending Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Bulloch County, Georgia. I will never forget interacting with him in those early months. He had already retired from serving in the U.S. Army National Guard, but I could tell that he was a soldier. As an Army brat, I could see it in the way he walked and carried himself. I could hear it the clear and distinguishable way he spoke. He was man who know how to give orders.

I would later become an associate pastor and would serve that church for two years. During that time, I learned that I could count on Bro. Kenny. He was there to offer encouragement and words of wisdom to a young pastor. I enjoyed getting to know him and his wife, Linda, and his son Brian. I would meet his other son, Jason, later on, and we have now become good friends.

I did not know then, how important a role the Wade family would play in my life. But, God knew and orchestrated the meeting in a small, rural church near Statesboro, Georgia. As is the case, life pulls you in different directions and still, after all of these years, I hold onto the cherished memories made in a time now since past. They flood to the surface, as they often do when we are forced to remember by the tragedy of death.

Col. Wade helped me to navigate the early days of my journey in ministry in ways I did not understand and am still learning and that is debt I can never repay.

The Eagle

For those who may not know, the rank of Colonel is designated by a silver eagle. Sometimes called a “full bird” colonel to distinguish this rank from that of the preceding one, a lieutenant colonel. It marks a remarkable achievment in a military career. One of the results of the military life, if you have ever been around military personnel, is it is difficult to miss the distinct imprint of the military on a life lived by a clear set of rules. Col. Wade was no exception.

What most people do not understand, particularly if you were not a part of a military family, is the effect this has on the dependents. On a couple of occasions, I heard Kenny describe some of his regret for how his career had affected his family. This, too, is something I have seen as common among service men and woman across the branches. As I remember these moments of transparency, I also saw that there was something else, something not quite so easy to detect, that seemed to percolate underneath the surface. There was a growing realization that all of his training had not lent itself well to being a husband or a father—or so he seemed to fear.

He was not a bad man, by all accounts he was a good man. I don’t even think most people, if any, would have agreed with him on his alleged failures, and I remember wondering to myself, if such a good man struggled to be a good man, then I needed to be ready and willing to fight for my own family as well. I recognize now that this was a personal and internal struggle. One that I better understand today and only observed then. One that could be seen in and through everything he did. He had not failed his family. It seemed to me like he was overcoming some perceived failure in his own expectations of himself. His journey toward the eagle had taught him how to persevere and how to fight for what he loved and believed in.

I am not sure that he would have described it in this way. These are more my reflections on those conversations and his example over the years.

The Tears

If there was one thing that astonished me about Col. Wade, it was that the man could start crying at the drop of a hat. If you knew him for any length of time you would know this to be true. When he talked about his wife and family. When we talked about his cadets. When we talked about his faith. I have known passionate people. But, Col. Wade was one of the most compassionate men I have ever known.

When Kenny cried as he talked about those things important to him, it was not weakness. It was resolve. It was the physical expression of the depth of his conviction and faith and love. When he spoke about these things I wanted to listen. I wanted to glean as much wisdom as I could because I knew he was speaking from a depth of experience. There was so much truth. Not the kind of a philosophical nature. It was the truth of experience. The truth that comes from having walked life out in the real world.


As is the case with all instances of death, I am saddened by the loss. I do not feel the weight of this as deeply as those closest to Kenny. I can only offer these reflections and these words as a sign of solidarity in mourning.

I find hope in the fact that Kenny’s faith and my faith in Jesus can bridge the time between his departure and our reunion. I will miss the stories and the voice. I will miss the passion and compassion. But, I think most of all, I will the tears from the crying soldier.

“The High Cost of Love” | Remembering Frank Thompson

julie and frank

Frank LaDon Thompson

August 19, 1969 – October 14, 2015

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at home watching a baseball game when I found out that my friend Frank’s journey here on earth had come to an end. He died due to complications related to his heart and kidney transplant surgery.

The sensation of numbness washed over me like a wave. And then another came. And then another.

It is always surreal to hear the news of a death. There is the finality of it all. Knowing that the next time you think about them, all you will have are the cherished memories you made with them. Knowing that you will not be able to call or text or message them. Knowing in a way that, quite literally, takes your breath away. Where you voice catches in your throat and you experience that waves of sadness wash over you again.

It’s always worse at the beginning. The power and weight of the waves seem to not let up. You struggle to find your bearings or even catch you breath. You feel like you are drowning, even wondering if that would be better than this. Anything would be better, or so it feels at the moment.

I met Frank and Julie while I was serving as the youth pastor of the First United Methodist Church is Cordele, GA. I did not know them all that well. Cordele First was Julie’s family’s home church. I had known her youngest sister from college, something I found out later. And one day while at the church Julie asked me if I would be interested in officiating their wedding. Honestly, I cannot remember why they asked me to do their wedding. We had crossed paths at the church during their visits but, I don’t remember doing or saying anything that impressive or memorable. Nonetheless, they asked and I accepted.

We did their marriage counseling over Skype and I knew that these two were good people. The kind of people who make you feel accepted and cared for. The kind of people who know how to love. They loved deeply, sincerely. With every fiber of their being they gave of themselves to each other and to those who accepted what they offered.

I knew they were going to make it as a couple and a family because of the way they laughed, both individually and together. I have always been an observer of laughter. What we laugh at tells a lot about us. But, how we laugh says even more. And Frank and Julie knew how to laugh. Those laughs, both distinct and unique. Both memorable. Both true expressions of the souls that saw the joy of life and love.

When I found out about Frank’s heart problems I began to pray. Many of us who loved them did. We saw the changes. We knew it was serious. So we prayed. We prayed because that is what we are supposed to do. And through it all Frank remained positive. Burdened by the reality of his situation, and yet resolute to love and lead his family through it. This he did like the man I remember. He promised to be there for Julie through it all. I was there when he made that promise. But Julie made a promise too. A promise she made to which she has remained true.

It may be something bred into the Adams women because they are strong. In Julie that strength is more like a fire. It looks calm and tame. But look long enough and you will see it. In meekness she fought the fight for life with her husband. She fought with him and for him until the end. There was no surrender, no backing down, no letting go. Not until it was time.

This is the high cost of love. To give of yourself until there is nothing left. To give to those who have captured your heart and whose lives have become indistinguishably intertwined with your own. When you love like this there is a price to be paid. And we pay it gladly. We recognize the risk and accept it because we would rather feel the pain on the other side of our present joy, than to have never felt the love at all.

The depth of our mourning is a measure of the quality of our love. Frank is being mourned by his wife, children, family, and friends today (and for days to come). We mourn for him because he gave us a part of himself and, now that he is gone from this world, we do not want to lose what he gifted to us.

I will continue to pray for Julie and the girls. I will pray for all of us who knew him. And, in the midst of the sorrow, I will find a way rejoice because Frank was a man of faith. He loved others with the love he himself had come to know. So, while I mourn, I want to also rejoice and remember my friend, not just because he died, but because of the way he lived his life.

This post has been updated.

In Memory of Pastor Ray Burnette | A Shepherd has Fallen

The Reverend

Ray Burnette

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1953 – 2015

Yesterday I learned that Pastor Ray passed from this life into eternity. I served in the same community as he did for four years and interacted with him on a several occasions. I am grateful for his service to his family, the Crisp County community, and to the great family of faith at Penia Baptist Church.
Continue reading “In Memory of Pastor Ray Burnette | A Shepherd has Fallen”