God has orchestrated many unexpected and painful changes in my life this past year. As a result, I have felt what St. Thomas Aquinas learned long ago—that “all that I have written is straw.” As Job learned through his time of suffering to shut his mouth and sit patiently, I have learned this year to be very quiet and very still. I have not spoken much in 2013 (as you who follow this blog will undoubtedly have noticed).
Now that I have arrived in California and am essentially alone, I have been able to look back and see that God has given my life clearer focus. In addition to focusing my attention on my wife, family, and church, the Lord (I believe) wants me to focus my attention on Christian pastors and persecution. So, the blog will become much more narrowly focused on pastors and persecution. My life will be spent encouraging pastors, training pastors, and explaining Christian persecution. I will speak more on these topics later.
For now, I want to share a personal episode which demonstrates God’s steadfast love.
Through tears, I left my Kentucky home and my Kentucky family behind, venturing with my oldest daughter westward on a quest through the grain-laden fields of Kansas; through the winding, rocky terrain of Colorado; and to the spectacular beauty of Utah, a state so rich with splendor that it ought to be required travel for every American citizen. We finally arrived in California—our destination state.
California did not leave a good first impression, which is really saying something considering we had been driving for hours through the Nevada desert before crossing its border. Oppressed by the heat and exhausted by the unrelenting isolation of the Mojave Desert, I broke into tears.
Everything in front of me seemed hopeless, barren–deserted. Behind me, there were green trees, literally and figuratively. Every fruitful harvest of my life seemed far behind. I had left my family—my precious wife and all but one of my beloved children.
My wife loves the Lord. My children believe. And I left them 2,000 miles behind. I left a God-glorifying family bearing good fruit—all behind me.
Behind me was a congregation of people at Cedar Grove who bear witness that Jesus is the Christ. Spiritual fruit was behind me in the lives of the people who fed upon my preaching and teaching—those delightful sheep who shared gospel life with me. God had prospered me in Kentucky. Why did I ever leave that place, that flock, or my family?
For this? For a desert?
It was just at the moment my heart was breaking (along with the water pools forming beneath my eyes) that I heard God’s unexpected voice. –I know it was not literally God’s voice. The voice belonged to Philip Phillips, winner of American Idol (Season 11). But God used this young man’s voice to give me hope and remind me that my Lord promised never to leave nor forsake me.
Here is what God said,
Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home