“Every dream is created twice.” I can’t remember who to give credit to for that phrase but it stuck with me when I first heard it. The idea is this. The first creation is mental. Every invention, every business, every building, every art piece is conceived in the imagination first—our right brain. It’s just an idea at that point. The second creation is physical. You make it happen by doing something.  

Growing up, I pretty much always heard a particular scripture verse interpreted in negative terms.  2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  I understood it this way. Take sinful thoughts captive and keep them out of your mind. And that is very important.  But I love the flip-side.  The other half of a very important truth. How about capturing creative thoughts and keeping them in our minds? Why not focus on stewarding every idea inspired by the Holy Spirit?

  • If your dream is to write a book, you make it obedient with a keyboard.
  • If your dream is playing a professional sport, you make it obedient at the gym.
  • If your dream is starting a business, you make it obedient through one action at a time.

“Stairway to Heaven” – a recent capture by Dennis of the Milky Way and the Delicate Arch at Arches National Park in Moab, UT (See www.GingerichPhotoArt.com)

Your dreams will never exceed your imagination. You can’t achieve what you don’t believe. So idea generation is important. But idea execution is where the rubber meets the road.  I like dreamers. I love to hear visions of new and exciting possibilities. They make me think outside the box. And I applaud the dreamer’s ability to plot. But I love doers even more. They inspire me to action. And it’s the plodders, not the plotters, who make things happen.  It’s the doers who leave a legacy to be experienced by the next generations.

God isn’t going to say, “Well planned, good and faithful servant.” He won’t say, “Well thought, well said, or well strategized my child.” There is one commendation spoken of by Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant”(Matthew 25:21).

Dreaming is great.  Setting goals is good. Carrying them out is another story. Without perspiration to match your inspiration, your dream imagined will turn into a dream delayed.

What do you need to start?

What are you waiting for?

Maybe it’s a healthier lifestyle. Maybe it’s a graduate program. Maybe it’s a business or a new ministry?  Maybe it’s to write a succession plan?  Whatever it is, the hardest part of finishing is starting.  John Rampton gives 5 Ways Dreamers Can Become Doers in Entrepreneur magazine.  Start by reading and implementing these practical steps.

Going after a dream is like riding a bike—you’ve got to get a little momentum to really get going.  Consider this your push.

QUESTION:  What God-given idea do you have that needs to be acted on? Maybe your first step toward execution is sharing it with others in the comment section below. 


Next to Jesus, there’s a guy in the Bible who is one of my all-time favorites. Maybe it’s my season of life and ministry, but this guy is now at the top of my list.  When I was a kid, it was Daniel.  Spurred on by a Sunday School tune, “Dare to Be a Daniel,” I loved Daniel because of his bravery in the face of lions and more.  Of course, maybe it was because Daniel is my middle name. But honestly, my all-time favorite now isn’t Moses, Abraham, David, Daniel, or Paul, it’s a guy who is mostly known by his nickname, Barnabas.

About a year ago, I remember reading something that Jo Saxton wrote about Barnabas and it resonated with me as to why this guy is my hero.  His name was actually Joseph.   But he was so defined by his attitude and actions that they called him the “Son of Encouragement,” or Barnabas.


Jo Saxton’s comments were about Barnabas responding to the exponential growth in the first century church by constantly celebrating it through giving up money, control and even his own reputation so the growth was never hindered.  Saxton’s challenging question to leaders was, “can you celebrate what God is doing in others on your team or in another church in your community?”  My gut level response to that question was, “Usually!”

I think this Barnabas-like nature is one of the strengths God has developed in me over the years.  I’m grateful that I “usually” look for what God is doing and celebrate it rather than being so insecure I have to shut it down or highlight my past successes to “one up” someone else’s current victory. I’m confident it’s connected to the reason I planned and implemented a Successful Succession leadership plan 10 years ago at the church I founded.

But, back to Barnabas.  He first shows up in Acts 4 where he sells a field and gives the disciples the money and he doesn’t insist it gets used for a specific project.  In Acts 9, Barnabas risks his reputation on a newbie, named Saul, giving him access to other church leaders and asking those leaders to take a risk and give this new guy (later named Paul) a chance.  

A little over a decade ago, I had an “aha” moment when I discovered that Luke always used Barnabas and Paul’s name together (in that order) into Acts 13 and then switched it from Acts 14 and beyond to Paul and then Barnabas. It’s a picture of their changing notoriety.  I believe Barnabas understood that lighting another person’s candle didn’t blow out his own.  In fact, it never hurts us when we celebrate the potential and the successes of others. 

Barnabas willingly took a brash, bold, brilliant guy named Paul, and raised him up into prominence. We see it with Barnabas and John-Mark, (who completely messed up), and Barnabas personally coached him back to success. I find this fascinating.  There is no New Testament letter or book named after Barnabas. But the imprint of his influence is throughout the New Testament because, without Barnabas, would there be a Paul and would there be a Mark? 

I pray that my legacy as a leader is that I put this Barnabas characteristic into practice. This is what I know. It requires me to be generous and secure enough to share my life, my stuff, my gifts, my opportunities and my mission with others.  It requires that I give away without expecting anything in return. Am I ready for that? Can I invite people into leadership and help them get there, even if I become less and they become more? Can I invite people alongside me in mission? This always sounds lovely until you have to do it.  But then that person’s got something I don’t have or is doing something I may never do. Can I still celebrate that? I pray I will be known as one who lived up to the example of my favorite guy.

QUESTION:  How are you wrestling with this challenge of being Barnabas-like in your leadership? I’d love to hear more.

This day is memorable. On this day, 32 years ago, a ten plus year dream started to unfold.  That year, April 19, 1987 was on Easter Sunday, not Good Friday as it is in 2019. But that day, 32 years ago, was the launch of a vision, Cape Christian.  This year, this day, is the beginning of eight Easter weekend services. There were only 97 of us who gathered in a school cafeteria on this special day over three decades ago.  This weekend, there will be several thousand who will gather on a beautiful 14 acre campus.  So many things have changed.  So many things are exactly the same.

Here’s what has changed:

  • We used to speak about reaching hundreds and now it is about thousands.
  • We used to need a dozen volunteers to make an event successful and now we need hundreds.
  • We used to have overhead projectors, projection screens, analog sound boards and land lines and now we have video, computers, internet, smart phones, digital sound and LED walls.
  • We used to have one person who could oversee an event, now it takes a huge team of leaders to make it all work.

Here’s what hasn’t changed:

  • It’s all about Jesus.  It was then.  It is now. Jesus died and rose again.  For me.  For you.  For everyone.
  • Everyone matters.  Every life is important.  No one is just a number in a massive crowd.  Everyone’s story is significant.
  • We always bring our best.  Excellence honors God and inspires people.  Then and now.
  • We are faith-filled, big thinkers.  We dream big, celebrate big, and take big risks because we serve a big God.  Always have. Always will.

Much more could be added but I’m grateful for this day, this very special day.  A day to give thanks for God’s goodness and grace shown through what Jesus did for us on the cross and through His resurrection.  Happy Easter weekend!  And Happy 32ndAnniversary to Cape Christian!

NOTE: For more refections on Cape Christian’s history, check out past blogs at significant points in our history. For a Good Friday refection, go to this blog.

Six months ago, my wife and I were leading a “Footsteps of Paul” journey to Greece, Turkey and Rome.  We were walking out of St. John’s Cathedral in Rome (Bascilica de San Giovanni in Laternao).  We were on our way to the Vatican.  I asked our local guide one simple question:  If you had one minute to sit with the Pope and say anything you wanted to say to him, what would you say?  His immediate and passionate response was “Don’t tell me what to do.”  And then he unpacked that quick forceful statement with a plethora of examples: divorce, homosexuality, helping the poor and  much more.

Bascilica de San Giovanni in Rome

 

The day before while in Florence, we heard from another local guide that Michelangelo repeatedly said the same thing, “Don’t tell me what to do,” when the pope of his day gave instructions for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and other church-related projects.  In fact, Michelangelo would purposely include small variations and subtle digs at the papacy in his paintings as a not-so-silent act of defiance.

Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michaelangelo

Human nature hasn’t changed in 3500 years. When Moses went to Pharaoh and asked him to let the Israelites leave slavery in Egypt and go to the Promise Land, Pharaoh essentially replied the same, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go?”(Exodus 5:2).  Don’t tell me what to do. It doesn’t matter. 3500 years ago, 500 years ago, 6 months ago or a week ago.  Don’t tell me what to do is alive and well. 

I find it easy to look at people of the past and think they just weren’t committed enough to Jesus and His ways.  They are flawed.  Not very mature.  But the truth is, it’s not just them.  It’s me too. Last week, a volunteer monitor at a photography conference leaned over to me during a session (I was looking up the price of a lens on my phone that the speaker was referring to) and she told me the light of my screen in the dark room was disturbing her and others. I wanted to respond, “Don’t tell me what to do.”  But I complied.  Yet, for the next five minutes, I was internally screaming, “DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.” I was very tempted to lean over and tell this lady that her constant whispering to her friend was a whole lot more disruptive than my phone screen light.

This resistant refrain that invades our lives is rooted in human nature all the way back to creation.  Adam and Eve listened to Satan’s whisper, “don’t let God tell you what you can and can not do.  Go ahead and eat off that one tree He said to stay away from”(Genesis 3).  It’s still the same nature that deteriorates into domestic violence, road rage, assault and murder.  There is only one cure.  It is for me to be filled with the heart and nature of Jesus.  Philippians 2:5-8 says,In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very natureGod,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothingby taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himselfby becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Today, I’m asking Jesus to help me be more like Him. 

 

QUESTION:  How do you overcome the temptation to respond with “Don’t tell me what to do?”  

This past weekend, my wife and I spent 48 hours with seven couples that are the “Friends are Friends Forever”kind.  In 1972, during their freshman year of college, 8 young women gathered for Bible Study in the residence hall of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. Life-long friendships were forged.  Forty-seven years later, they are still meeting every year or so.  Sometimes it’s just the ladies.  Most of the time, their 8 husbands join them. This weekend, it was all 16 of us.

When Michael W. Smith released the “Friends (are friends forever)” song in 1987, it soon became a popular hit at farewell parties, high school graduations and even weddings. The two phrases, “friends are friends forever” and “a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends”always echo in my mind when I hear that three-decade-old song.  I used to believe it was true—once a friend, always a friend. That’s not necessarily true.  I’ve come to believe that only some friends are friends forever.  Some are for a season, or a specific time and place. 

Eight College Friends Back in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

In reflecting on this unique group of eight women who met while they were young, they are uniquely diverse: nurses, teachers, homemakers, college professors, bank tellers, township council members, housekeepers and more. They came from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Virginia. Their journeys over the last 47 years have taken them through the experiences of marriage, birthing children, adopting children, nurturing grandchildren, PhD’s, around-the-world mission assignments, retirement and more. One lost a husband to suicide, became a single parent and then remarried. Others have faced cancer. All have lost one or both parents.

The eight husbands are an interesting mix: two farmers, two pastors, a hatchery maintenance worker, a corporate pilot, a builder and a high school teacher.  Yet, all are uniquely bonded through their wives.  And, they too have become friends and look forward to connecting every year or two.

Eight Couples Together in Virginia

So what is it that keeps these 8 college friends connected nearly five decades later?  As I’ve listened to the conversations all these years, here are three observations:  

1). Shared Experiences—college, marriage, parenting, grand parenting, ministry and international travel.  Over the years, the themes of the conversations at their gatherings have morphed and transitioned as the experiences and seasons have shifted.  It used to be boyfriends, engagements, wedding plans, and the arrival of children. Then it was children getting married and having children, job promotions and travel experiences. Shared experiences of parent’s passing, health challenges and retirement plans are now a part of the current conversations. Whatever the season, there always have been updates on the shared experiences.  In the early years, it was a “circle letter” that made it’s way around the group each year between gatherings about every five years.  Then it was email and more frequent gatherings. Now it is a private Facebook group.  

2). Shared Faith—all attended a faith-based college where they connected horizontally with each other while joining a Bible-study to nurture their vertical relationship with God.  Each was raised in spiritual and church backgrounds that gave them a similar framework to express their faith. Every gathering over the years has been marked with shared spiritual journeys, prayer and worship.

3). Shared Purpose—each one grasped the concept of living with purpose. Parents, churches and a faith-centered university instilled this intentional living.  All have lived out their unique sense of call to a higher purpose. Each has lived a determined life. During the dozens of times we’ve been together over the years, I’ve heard the encouragement of the others to “keep the end in mind” when one of them was facing a difficult season. 

Some friends are friends for a season.  And we should learn to be grateful and okay with that. Some friends are friends forever. And that is a rare and highly treasured gift.

QUESTION:  Do you have a friend or two that are the “friends forever” kind of friends?  What would you add as to what makes them “friends forever” kind of friends?  I’d love to hear it below.


It’s now a couple weeks past the beginning of a new year and most everyone is probably done reflecting on the past and planning for the future.  Life has gotten busy again.  The weekly routines keep us on autopilot. Many of our New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside.  Well, I’m just getting started. 

I’m just getting started because I had a sister visit from Oregon the week after Christmas.  I had a wedding to officiate at Disney on January 2. We had our family holiday gathering. It was a very busy time.  Very little time for reflection and planning.

Captured this image while staying at an old castle along Lake Thun in Switzerland

So, I’m reflecting for just a bit on 2018.  Some major things happened in my world.  My father died.  We welcomed a new successor in the lead role of the church I planted.  Our board made some tough decisions about how to respond to the discovery of financial fraud by a previous successor of mine.  Our fifth grandchild was born, Ava Grace. Our oldest grandchild became a teenager. Our son finished up 6 years of hard work to get his nursing degree.  We celebrated 44 years of marriage.  I had a birthday that required me to sign up for Medicare. We had a complete personal financial review that included making some specific projections and glimpses about what the future might look like.  I developed a habit of walking two miles at least 6-7 mornings every week. The church we founded surpassed all of our previous attendance records.  I took some risks with my photography and changed my entire website after a decade or more of the same format.  I received a community-wide award for inspiring generosity in others.

Of the above.  It was mostly really good.  Very good.  Excellent.  Exhilarating.  Life-giving.  Some of it was “kicked in the gut” difficult.  There was laughter.  There were tears.  But that is life.  So here’s what I’m looking forward to in 2019.

  • More of the Same.  Laughter, tears, hard work, disappointment, victories, valleys, mountain-tops. That is life.  A mixture. Wins.  Losses.  Ups. Downs. 
  • More of God’s Grace.  It’s new every morning.  It transforms my life and the lives of others.  I’m thankful.  I’m abundantly blessed.  I don’t deserve it but He gives it anyway.
  • More Growing.  I love to learn.  But sometimes learning is through the “hard way.”  I grow when I face challenges.  Pressure strengthens my leadership muscles.  I look forward to growing in my relationship with God, with my wife, and in my leadership skills and capacity.
  • More Focus.  This year, I’ve gone back to putting the writing of this blog on my calendar. That’s not a brand new idea for me, but I’ve not done that for a couple years. I know it will help me to be more consistent.  More focused with my time.
  • More Intentionality.For the last decade or more, I’ve been learning that I have to be intentional if I’m going to live a life of significance and leave the legacy I want to be known for. More than ever, I’m choosing to place what I value most at the top of the priority list. 

2019 is going to be an amazing year!  

QUESTION:  What’s at the top of your priority list for 2019?  I’d love to hear it!

 

This week was special. I have received hundreds of congratulatory social media comments, some text messages, a newspaper interview and many personal compliments.  On Tuesday, I received a significant local award—The Elmer Tabor Generosity Award.  Here is what it represents: The Elmer Tabor Award was established by the Cape Coral Community Foundation with the purpose of recognizing outstanding philanthropists in our community, those who have a record of exceptional generosity, show civic and charitable responsibility, and demonstrate leadership that inspires others to a life of generosity.”  I was suprised just to be nominated and then honored to be named as a finalist.  I was very deeply humbled to be the one selected to receive this special award.

 

But here’s the real truth I’ve learned over my 40 year leadership journey. Legacy leaders understand that leadership is not about them, but it begins with them.  To me that means that I accept my role of leadership in inspiring others to generosity. At the same time, thousands of others could have been on the stage beside me receiving that reward. Let me name just a few:

 

  • Linda – my best friend and life partner for the last 45 years. My wife inspires me, encourages me, believes in me, challenges me, coaches me and more! We have been partners together in planting and building a thriving church over the last 32 years.  While she has never been a staff member of Cape Christian, Linda has had an extraordinary influence in shaping the church and leading from the sidelines. I wouldn’t be the leader I am without her.  The church wouldn’t be what it is without her.

 

  • Co-Leaders– During the description of all the reasons why I received the Elmer Tabor Award, many of the mentions were about ways Cape Christian has given back to our community over the years: A park built for the families of our city; a non-profit health clinic for the uninsured or underinsured initiated by Cape Christian; and involvement in food drives, community-wide events.  Successors, staff members, board members, congregational leaders and community leaders have all been instrumental in making the above examples happen.  They bought into the vision, refined the vision and did the hard work to carry it out.

 

  • Followers and Supporters– Leaders are only as successful as the many volunteers who follow and support the vision. So many people at Cape Christian have given sacrificially of their time, talent and treasure to accomplish some amazing things over the last three decades. Without that kind of generosity, there would be no award.  Thank you so very much to many more than I can possibly begin to name.

 

  • Family– My heritage has set me up for success. Grandparents and parents demonstrated the value of generosity and giving back to the communities in which they lived. Service above self was a top value in my family.  My mother is a woman of prayer and has prayed much for me.  My father always told me how proud he was of my accomplishments and impact I was having. (In fact I had a few tears this week because I wanted to call my father and tell him of the award, but he died about 7 months ago).  And, I’m grateful for my children who have always been my cheerleaders.

 

  • Pastor’s Small Group– I am blessed to have a group of fellow ministry leaders in our city who have mentored, inspired, supported, encouraged, affirmed, challenged, and prayed for me for over 22 years at our weekly lunch meetings. They help me to be a better person and a healthier leader. Thanks guys!

 

So thank you to all of the above and many more! I am a very blessed leader!  I wish I could give each of you a generosity award!

 

The whole world held its breath for days!  Ten days! The search was intense for 12 young Thai soccer boys and their coach. The world was captivated as they watched and prayed for this team—stranded by rising waters that drove them further and further into subterranean passages.  And then they were found. Everyone took a deep breath.  And then we all watched as frantic efforts were started to figure out a way to remove them  from over two miles deep inside a mountain. It took 8 more days to get the 13 safely out.

During the interlude between discovery and rescue, my attention was captured by a news network editorial by Dr. Marc Siegel, author of the book, False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear.  Dr. Siegel wrote his editorial about the trapped soccer team before the rescue began. He predicted:“I believe there are already several good signs that the rescue will ultimately be a success.”  Why did he have such confidence?  Dr. Siegel stated, “In the first place, the young soccer players are a cohesive team, already skilled in relying on each other, and are working with experienced divers to set up a well-organized, panic-free escape.” 

Dr. Siegel went on to give another key reason for his confidence in a successful rescue: “Consider that the trapped boys have already shown bravery and mental fortitude in the way they survived for nine days without knowing when or if they would ever be found. Yet when they were found they were calm, several were laughing, and they assured rescuers they were in good health.”  Here’s the main point Dr. Siegel was making. The above evidence “is a very good sign that the boys can control their negative emotions.”

Both fear and courage are contagious.  Dr. Siegel’s book is grounded in research that demonstrates both fear and courage are strong emotions that engage the same primitive centers of the brain.  However, they can’t both engage these brain centers at the same time.  Laughter is an antidote for fear.  As so is comradery. Both were clearly displayed in a video rescuers captured during the first few minutes of finding the soccer team.

I’ve been thinking about this concept of both fear and courage being contagious.  I’ve observed it and experienced it as a pastor, a board chair, a soccer coach, a police chaplain, a husband and a parent.  As a leader, my choice of courage or fear, was contagious. Sometimes I unintentionally chose fear and it spread through those around me.  Other times, I chose courage.  And those around me caught it and spread it. Both are contagious. Strong emotions.  Mutually exclusive.  Today, I choose courage.  What will be your choice?

 

QUESTION:  Do you remember a time when you saw the result of a leader choosing courage? Fear?  Would you be willing to share it in the comment section below?

 

 

 

 

It’s as natural to me as breathing. I instinctively look for solutions. Not sure why. But it’s how I’m wired. My whole life has been about helping others find solutions to moral, spiritual and relational problems.  And I confess, I really get annoyed when others don’t look for a solution to a problem.

Last week, I received a text while officiating at a funeral.  Our local rental car agency was informing me that two reserved vans through corporate weren’t made available to them for transporting our 15 team members heading to Haiti early the next morning.  In my mind, no big deal.  There should be an easy solution. When I finished the funeral, I contacted the rental company.  The reserved vans were not available as promised. They were apologetic. Had I caved, that would have been the end of it. No vans available. Period.  But leaders are solution-seekers. As Sam Chand says, “Every leader got into a leadership role because they were a solution or provided a solution to something or someone.”

Without a doubt, I knew I could find away to get 15 Haiti team members from Cape Coral to Fort Lauderdale airport the next morning. I called our regional airport location of the company because the local agency said they have a much larger inventory and just might have the needed vehicles. The airport agent couldn’t find any vans anywhere in the area. He told me that he had no solution and then suggested I call their competitors to find two passenger vans.

Seeking a solution, I called the corporate office because we are corporate members with a direct-pay account.  They quickly apologized and focused on the problem: the two reserved vans are not available.  My response: “I understand what you are saying, but let’s get on the solution side of things.”  I interrupted more excuse-making and asked the agent a simple question. Will you help me get 15 people and all their supplies from point A to point B?”  I politely told the corporate agent, I would like to see you as a rock star by the end of this conversation. You will make you and your company super heroes. I just need your help to figure out a solution to get a combination of vehicles together to move our team and their luggage from the church parking lot, 150 miles across the state of Florida, to the passenger check-in area of the Fort Lauderdale airport. If you can do that, we will continue to use your company as our preferred provider.  If not, we’ll have to seek out other solutions and other partners to provide our transportation needs.  Is that something you are willing to do?”  Finally, for the first time, I heard, “Yes, I will try.”

With that simple three-letter word, Y-E-S, she realized she had permission to find a solution.  We went to work.  We ended up reserving 5 large SUV’s to transfer a team of people and hundreds of pounds of supplies to their destination. As a consummate solution-seeker, I had my wife calling another local van rental company while I was on the phone making these vehicle reservation changes. As soon as I hung up with the rock star corporate rental agent, I called one of the mission team leaders because I wasn’t fully satisfied with the solution.  Two heads are almost always better than one.  He suggested using his pickup truck to transport the 30+ suitcases filled with supplies and then we could rent two SUV’s rather than five.  Furthermore, instead of driving 25 miles to the regional airport during evening commute traffic to pick up the SUV’s, we decided to check back with our original local rental agency and see if they could now provide a solution by getting the two SUV’s directly from them. Bingo!

Here’s what I learned.  Some people aren’t leaders.  They only look at the obstacles.  They make excuses.  Leaders are solution-seekers.  In fact, every leader’s trajectory is built on one thing.  They provide solutions.  In a business, a church, a non-profit, a government entity, solutions are needed above everything else.  Whether it is increased sales, more revenues, better customer service, refined training, projects completed, products produced or additional employees—discovering solutions—is the key.  It’s all about cultivating a positive-can-do attitude. Opening your eyes. Noticing. Looking. Vision. Creative out-of-the-box thinking. Listening. Collaboration. Leaders seek out solutions.

 

QUESTION:  Is your tendency more toward solution-seeking or excuse-making?  What is one thing you could work on today to grow your leadership by searching for solutions?

 

 

For nearly four decades, I’ve often been in the role of comforter—caring for those going through the death of a loved one.  As a pastor, I’ve been with hundreds of families before, during or after saying goodbye to a family member. But I learned something from Barry a few weeks ago that will help me be a better pastor.

When my father died several weeks ago, hundreds  of people expressed their condolences on Facebook, through emails, texts, phone calls and in person.  Some sent cards in the mail. Every single one of those efforts of extending consolation and care were deeply appreciated by our family. But Barry’s care touched me the most.

Barry is a volunteer in our church office.  For years, he has faithfully shown up twice a week to shred sensitive documents or insert offering envelopes in the weekly program handouts.  He always has his coffee in hand, a cheery smile on his face and a warm hug for all our church staff.

After I returned to Florida from our family gatherings to celebrate my dad’s life, I was back in the office for the first in a couple weeks.  Barry came into my office and told me he missed seeing me around.  I told him my father had died so I had been in Oregon. Then the unexpected happened.  Barry walked around the side of my desk, leaned over and hugged me. He said he was “so sorry to hear that news.”  But then it got even better.  Barry started praying for me. I couldn’t understand every word he prayed.  In fact, I often have to ask him to repeat words to me so I can fully understand what he is saying.  But I just listened this time.  It was a heart-felt prayer to God on my behalf. Exactly what I needed.  It made me cry. Still does.

The prayer-filled caring of my friend Barry, who has Down Syndrome, taught me to be a better pastor.  No fancy prayer is needed. Just pray from the heart. And, a spoken prayer on the spot is better than a promise that you will be praying for them.  No perfectly crafted words can bring greater comfort to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.  Simple words are enough. Even the mumbled words by Barry were understood because they were authentic and real.  And, a hug from a friend is always powerful.

In the future, I will seek to be more like Barry when I’m in the role of comforter.  I will never forget.  Barry is the Best. Teacher. Ever.

 

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