Catching Grenades – Dodging Darts – A Story of Pastoral Affliction – Part 1

He laid there in his bed, shaking uncontrollably. Like a tired, cold dog just fresh from his bath, Derek Stevens could not stop shaking. His wife, Patricia, held him and gently caressed his back. Derek felt momentary relief and true gratefulness for his wife’s compassion, but the shaking would not stop.

“You need to get some sleep,” his wife said in a gentle whisper. “I – just – can’t,” Derek said in a choppy and rhythmic pattern that mirrored the shaking of his body. “What are you going to do?” his wife asked. “I need to use the bathroom,” he muttered with frustrated overtones.

As Derek got out of bed, he stiffened his body, trying to stop the shivering and shaking. It didn’t work. He staggered to the bathroom that was just down the hallway from his bedroom. As he arrived at the bathroom sink, he began to dry heave. His belly seemed to convulsive violently, trying to erupt something from out of his mouth. Combined with his shaking, Derek felt woozy, weak, and (worst of all) humiliated. He made his way over to the toilet and hugged the porcelain pot, hoping to vomit. “Dear God, help me, help me, help me…”Derek pathetically prayed through spits and drools.

Indeed, Derek was overworked, overstressed, and overburdened. In a word, he was overwhelmed; and all of this stress was fighting back by means of destroying his physical health. There had been warning signs for many years, telling Derek to slow his pace and catch his breath. Warning signs like disrupted sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating at work, and increased anxiety, but he had ignored such signs, determined to keep on going. Don’t ever give up, he consistently thought to himself.

After a few more minutes in the bathroom, dry heaving and shaking, he heard his phone ring. A shot of terror ran through his body and his blood began to curl. Derek had begun to hate the sound of his phone. Someone was always calling with some concern, or emergency, or heartbreaking news. Rarely did anyone call with good news; and at 11:00 at night, this was most definitely not good news.

Just as Derek’s ringtone went off for the fourth time, he picked it up. Caller ID revealed the caller – Haddie Nobels. He inhaled deeply and blew out the air through flared nostrils, bracing himself for what awaited him on the other line. “Hello,” Derek answered with caution. “Yes, Pastor, I’m sorry for calling so late, but it’s kind of an emergency. Would you be able to come by the house for a few minutes? Jared and I really need to speak with you.” Derek analyzed the crackling in her voice, trying to decipher what dilemma he was about to walk into, but his mind raced in a dozen different directions. This could be anything, he thought to himself. “I’ll be right over,” he said reluctantly…

Patch the Pirate

Growing up in church, I participated in a variety of children’s programs. I loved them all, but perhaps my favorite program was my first program – “Patch the Pirate Club”! This club was organized around songs, games, stories/lessons, and an awesome uniform that included a white sailor’s hat and a crisp red sailor’s sash. Man alive, I truly felt like a pirate wearing that uniform as a kid! Such fun memories were made during my time in Patch the Pirate Club as I learned much about God and His Word…

Yesterday, I learned that the visionary behind Patch the Pirate Club, Ron Hamilton, had passed away into Glory. He was just 72 years old. This singer, songwriter, pastor, and leader will be missed by so many people, not the least of which is his beloved wife and five kids. He truly left an indelible mark in this world. He inspired generations of young people to know, love, and serve the Lord. He will be missed!

As a young child, I grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and attended Tabernacle Baptist Church. That’s where I was first introduced to Ron Hamilton’s Patch the Pirate Club. And I remember that one of the very first songs that we memorized together as a club was the song, “Rejoice in the Lord”. The memory of singing this song in front of the church congregation is burned into my brain because I remember seeing so many older adults shedding tears as all of us young kids sang the following words…

“God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man
Give thanks to the Lord though your testing seems long
In darkness He giveth a song

O Rejoice in the Lord
He makes no mistake
He knoweth the end of each path that I take
For when I am tried
And purified
I shall come forth as gold”

I confess that I barely understood the words of this song as I sang them at the age of 6 or 7, but there were some older saints in that congregation, on that one Sunday morning, that felt, understood, and believed those words. It sparked hope in their hearts; and the tears on their face were a visible expression of that hope. I look back at this memory and smile. This song was true back in the 90’s when I sang it, and it’s true now in 2023. Ron is now in the presence of His Savior. His testing is done. His darkness is gone. He rejoiced in the Lord in this life, and he will forever rejoice before the Lord in his new life with the Lord. But as you and I carry on down here, in this sometimes-heavy life under the sun, may we all continue to sing: “O rejoice in the Lord. He makes no mistake. He knoweth the end of each path that I take. For when I am tried, and purified, I shall come forth as gold.”

For Those Who Are Weary & Worn…

To the child who juggles school, dance, and sports, and feels so weary and worn, God sees you and God cares.

To the teenager who battles the rollercoaster of fear, worry, and anxiety, and feels so weary and worn, God sees you and God cares.

To the young adult who feels the pressure of mounting bills, expectations, and many different changes, and feels so weary and worn, God sees you and God cares.

To the mom of lots of littles who is pulled in so many different directions while caring for laundry, meals, and appointments, and feels so weary and worn, God sees you and God cares.

To the dad who is desperately balancing work life, home life, and church life, and feels so weary and worn, God sees you and God cares.

To the older saint who feels the pain of age, sickness, and disability, and feels so weary and worn, God sees you and God cares.

To the one who doesn’t fit any of the above categories and truly feels invisible, lost, and alone, and definitely feels so weary and worn, yes, God sees even you and God cares.

As the old hymn goes: “Often weary and worn on the pathway below. When the burden is heavy, my heart throbs with woe. Oh, there comes a sweet whisper to quell ev’ry sigh, ‘Do not faint ’neath the load, there is rest by and by.’ There is rest by and by. In the beautiful city there is rest by and by. Where the ransomed shall live with the Saviour on high. In the beautiful city there is rest by and by.”

“The Empty Tomb” by Paul David Tripp

The Empty Tomb

is a sermon

it preaches an eternal truth

without it

there is no hope

you are robbed of courage

you become captive to fear

your faith is in vain

you search for life

where it will never be found.

The Empty Tomb

is a sermon

it thunders down the hallways

of history

with truth that changes everything

for all who listen

no matter who they are

no matter where they are.

The Empty Tomb

is a sermon

preached to broken humanity

it tells everyone who hears

that we don’t live in hope

of victory;

we live out of the victory

won in that tomb.

The Empty Tomb

is a sermon:

we would do well to listen.