When I first entered the hospital I received an email from a young “buck” who loves God and is trying to decide the particular context in which he wants to serve God with his life. He has given me permission to print that exchange, and then I include some reflections.
Hey Mr Flowers,
I have a question for you that you might choose to turn into a blog post and keep your mind busy. Obviously you’re a pastor and have Christ at the center of your life. Because of this, you have helped establish a community of friends that support and love. Have you ever thought of what would have happened if you had not decided to go down that path? What if you had just stayed a counselor and possibly found some other job to make ends meet, never bringing the Wildwind community together? Would that have changed the support from friends you have now, would that affect how Christ worked in your life through a profession?
I can’t think that way. I did what I did! I really believe whatever I had done I’d have made a big impact on others. Most of my impact comes not from sermons but from a personal impact I have built through investing in people over the long haul, and I do this with clients, students, whoever I am fortunate enough to serve. So I don’t think about that much. Sure I’d have a smaller impact in some way, but probably not much. I hope this helps. By the way, the question is interesting but falls into the category of philosophical. I loved that stuff when I was a young buck like you, but as you get older time gets more and more precious, so that gradually philosophical things matter less and less, and only the actual contributions you have made (both for good and for ill) matter at all. I hope that somehow makes sense.
I understand, and appreciate your time to answer. It’s just something that you hear about a lot these days- “you don’t have to be a preacher to have God be at the center of your life and make an impact on others”. I was just curious as to what your perspective would be on it.
Heavens yes, I totally agree that you don’t have to be a preacher to have God at center of your life! Far from it! I often think my teaching at SAU and private counseling are far better vehicles for really communicating God than sermons, burdened as sermons are by the need for clear theology which, in the end, is always just more abstraction and philosophy.
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One of the first things we have to do when we dip into a depression or funk or mood is determine what is the right response. For me is it always a combination of quietness, reflection, and writing about it. I’m not seeking encouragement from anyone, I am writing only because the writing helps me and because I’m trying to give you the best “up close” look I can give you of as much of this journey as possible.
Tried to sleep for a while, but well-meaning nurses kept interfering, you know, by taking outstanding care of me. They have all been blessings. Sleep not coming, depression continuing to dance around the edges of my mind. When I listen closely, it says things like this:
“You’re washed up.”
“Why pretend you’re okay with this? You’re no hero.”
“You’re never going to be as good again as you were a week ago.”
“You’ve had your last good day.”
But rather than focus on the messages I am hearing, I hope you will think about the ones you hear. Because we all hear these kinds of messages at times. That’s normal. The big question is when you hear these voices, do you listen? Do you indulge these thoughts? Do you believe them?
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And so it begins again — the feeling that I am losing my daughter. That somehow, despite the glass being half full, and something about girls always loving and needing their daddies, and something about how I will always be the first man who mattered in her life, I am, once again, losing my daughter.
I have already lost one, and I was right. Though I love her as much as I always have, and I’m sure she feels the same, things have never been the same. Though she still sleeps here sometimes, it feels like she visits — even when it’s for months on end.
And so it was that I was sitting here last night watching television while my current senior in high school was sitting and doing her homework, I looked over at the table where she was sitting and that thing happened, where all the breath feels like it is suddenly sucked out of my lungs, and my eyes well up, and I instinctively look the opposite direction, which after 25 years of marriage and raising girls together, is a dead giveaway to my wife that I’m doing it again — looking at one of my girls, and loving her, and marveling over her, and mourning deeply that I am losing my daughter.
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I’m feeling better today than I have in weeks. I am back at the office and don’t have time to write a fresh new post, but hope this will at least marginally interest some of my readers. This is from a Facebook post I put up today, which in turn was based on an email I recently sent to a friend.
Tech I predicted would succeed/adopted early:
1. Palm Pilots. Early adopter and managed to get a lot of other people to buy them too, who in turn convinced others.
2. Smart phones. Early adopter again, buying what became one of the first broadly successful smart phones, the Palm Treo 600.
3. Microsoft Office. Long ago, there was a little old package called Word Perfect that looked like it might take over the world. Though I preferred it greatly to Word, and wish it had won out, I nonetheless switched to Word when I first saw Word in action, and predicted it would eventually be dominant in the market over Word Perfect, and certainly over Lotus Notes.
4. The web. I know this seems ostentatious, but hear me out. In 1995 I went to a conference for youth leaders in churches. Over 500 youth workers were there, and when the speaker asked for a show of hands, I was one of fewer than ten people in the room who had a functioning website set up for my youth group. That means I was in the first 2% of people in that room who understood that this was going to be important.
5. Facebook. Back when everybody was still on MySpace, a little company called Facebook started allowing people who didn’t attend Harvard to set up an account. I set mine up and my first friend was Kristen Hendricks, who was then a student at Harvard. I started telling everybody how cool it was and that MySpace was trashy compared to Facebook. It took another couple of years, but eventually people switched over and now, of course, the general response is “WhatSpace?”
6. Firefox. Though Firefox has lost market share to Chrome, I was an early Firefox adopter, using it when nearly everyone was still using Internet Explorer. The reason I eventually caught the Chrome wave is because my loyalty for products never extends even an inch beyond beyond what the product can do for me. The moment something else comes along that works faster or better, I scrap whatever I’m using and adopt what’s new.
7. Gmail. I got into Gmail during its overly-long beta phase. I received my invitation from my friend Carter Clark.
8. Chrome. I think I downloaded and began using Chrome almost the first day it was available. At that time it was very fast, but incomplete, and was sometimes frustrating to use. Now it has basically replaced Firefox as the go-to alternative browser. If you’re still using IE, Download Chrome and give it a shot.
9. Google Apps. I set this up years ago for my church when it was mostly being used only with huge organizations.
Why did I list all of these? Because I have a knack for being “early in” on a lot of tech things. Not sure why, but I do. Based on that, I have some tech recommendations for you.
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Have you ever been in that place where you seem to be surrounded with horrific things? As I write, two of my closest friends on the planet are fighting cancer. This morning I got word that an amazing young man with cancer, for whom I had done premarital counseling and then his wedding in 2010, succumbed to his disease this morning. I gotta be honest, it’s starting to get to me. I’m sick of cancer.
Jessica and Jeff on their wedding day
Yes, we pastors and counselors are the people frequently called on to do funerals, to talk/walk people through their darkest times. This is a deep privilege. Though I have never looked forward to officiating a funeral, I always find them to be one of the most valuable things I do. At the same time, I too have my moments where I just wanna scream, “ENOUGH!” I’m sick of the way people have to suffer. I’m tired of seeing cancer and death work their disgusting chaos in the lives of people I love. I’m sick of young lives cut short, dashing ebullient dreams against razor rocks. It makes me so angry, I just want to — do…uh…anything? That’s it. The helplessness. The sense that all there is to offer as you watch a loved one suffer is words which, let’s face it, everyone knows are totally insufficient. I’m really, really sick of cancer.
My theology doesn’t accommodate this.
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