Its hard to imagine when you go through a homecoming parade experience which has always been by design, so family oriented, like the one at Oklahoma State University was yesterday, ending in an unspeakable national tragedy. This afternoon, I am writing our blog from the alter at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Stillwater where John Dickey, the Senior Pastor for many years has led. This morning was different because we held a service of remembrance and mourning for the four who so far, have been pronounced dead and the four dozen others who have been wounded. We are praying for the families even now.
NBC Nightly News came this morning to cover the service and the memorial remembrance of yesterday and John and his family were powerful in their words, sadness and more. It was my honor to be the guest speaker and I preached on the POWER OF PRAYER to the congregation and they covered the service of remembrance to a community riddled in pain once again. The reporters even shared after the service that the four candles lit in remembrance of those who died along with the entire church family on their knees at the front of the alter arrested their hearts in so many ways.
Names of those who were stricken were read aloud as the people bowed in prayer today asking for hope. The crash on one of the largest intersections of Stillwater had created literally a war zone in a matter of moments for the families who were celebrating a beautiful weekend as the Oklahoma State Cowboys were only a short time from playing football. This was a homecoming celebration totally now shocked by what happened. What we know is that a woman who was obviously "challenged" drove in a high speed fashion into a crowd killing and wounding many people. We even prayed for her this morning.
At Oklahoma University, my Alma Mater South flew the OSU flag high in recognition of the pain being experienced just an hour away. Churches and people groups gathered on Sunday to remember in prayer the hurting families as we all were so arrested by the national news reporting the event moment after it had happened. So few times in our lives, does time stop and its always when there is something as traffic as this.
I shared an important word about how tragedy can turn into triumph and the key is to focus on God, His love, His grace and His forgiveness. Because of living through a stroke, I have seen miracles happen and we sure need one now. The scripture reminded us BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN, FOR THEY WILL BE COMFORTED and today, we needed comfort, assurance and hope.
People began to help others in need yesterday, Pastor John in a few moments showed up to the crash site and began ministering to family members. The church at Hillcrest is located almost in the shadow of the Boone Pickens Stadium. The congregation began to reach out, people began to carry survivors in the back of pick up trucks to the hospital because there were so many who needed medical attention.
Tragically, Dr. Stone and his wife, professors at OSU were killed. It was over eleven years ago they personally recruited one of the professors who was in the service this morning. The news reporters interviewed him and he talked about his pain and loss, something he new all too well. At lunch today John shared about his past and how this gracious man lost his child when they were eight years old from a drowning accident as he has certainly faced death in a real personal way too.
So many tragedies come into our lives and we often wonder why. Sometimes, we even blame God and become angry, want to give up or maybe worse. This can be so devastating emotionally, physically and spiritually when we succumb to the negations which can often surround us like a vortex. We have to remember God and God alone understands our hurt and pain. Think about what Jesus went through, his suffering, his beatings, his tortured body, the emotional terror and finally, the horrible execution of a cruel cross. He endured an elongated debilitating death and the disciples gave up through the process.
Jesus three days later arose from the grave. He turned the tragedy into triumph. He extended his powers to all of us who follow Him and changed the world. Let us remember when tragedy strikes, to go into our War Rooms of prayer and communicate to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whom we need comfort and find peace during times like these.
There are no words to say, but what we can do...is be available to those in need and pray. Take a place of holy intercession where others require a helping hand.
When you have a "call" to minister and to reach out to others, remember to "heed the call" and go when you are called to go. Do what has been prompted in the Spirit to do and just watch and see what God will do. He is a God who cares, who is interactive and will listen to the pain of each one of us. Obedience is a hallmark of our faithful hearts and we need those cornerstones in all of our lives.
Go Pokes, remember the sunset last night and how beautiful the orange was in the sky. Remember there is a world who IS praying for you and we will not forget. From the tragedies OSU has had to endure from plane crashes and more, we are with you, our hearts and prayers are closer than you know. May the Lord give you strength and remember you are, STILLWATER STRONG in CHRIST!
In His Love,
When you lose a huge rivalry, face a challenge which seems insurmountable and overcome "barriers" even in the supernatural, its an amazing testament to hope, faith and even love. Often, the loss can create a horrible season in your life reacting and filled with bitterness, anger, frustration, transferring blame and even quitting. You may find people just like the "friends of Job" who chime in and give you additional negation by saying, "Well I thought this might happen". The tsunami doesn't seem to stop for some, so what do we do.
Wendell Estep has such an irreverent and wonderfully funny sense of humor at times. He once shared in a sermon about a tombstone which read, "I told you I was sick". It was just like a Pigpen style of living combined with Eyore from Winnie The Pooh covered with a melancholy spirit of looming doom. Let's face it and agree together, loss of any kind can be devastating.
Some people seem to get an even bigger dose of "loss" than others, they fight larger wars, they can appear to have greater enemies than others. In fact, when it turns into an avalanche one might can wrongfully conclude it's a problem of character or it's even deserved.
So where does MERCY fall into the equation of a quagmire? When you you extend forgiveness, grace and a gentle understanding to those who are in the middle of the battle of "loss", you will discover true grace.
The Bible has more to say about the judgement of others than the punishment for murder. Why is that? It's really simple, when we take our time, investment of resources and energy toward extending grace to someone who is facing hardships, you will not have a crowd around you, Did you get that? You will even be judged by showing grace.
We need a culture which is different. This "crowd mentality" which crucified Christ, which cheered in Roman colosseums for the persecution of Christians was absolutely wrong. The same spirit can permeate us even when a public figure has a failure. Its easy to mention a group of names of people you know, who would immediately fall into the category of "Well, they probably deserved what they got".
Please never give into this kind of "stinking thinking". Take time to find people who need grace, forgiveness and mercy and invest in them. Don't fall into the crowd mentality of adding pain to other's loss, but rather do something positive, reach out and experience a freedom in giving which far surpasses a critical spirit. We have enough folks who seem to specialize in this sin, so let us ALL work harder to touch "the least of these" whose lives are facing a truckload of challenging issues for their lives.
While I was completing writing about this subject, Coach Doug and Coach Bob called me from Mercer University and I had the chance to talk to them about overcoming loss. Nobody understands the power of crowd mentality, the pressure of a horrible loss and focusing on the hope of future more than two great basketball coaches. They have learned to focus on a promising future, the hope of getting better, the encouragement of those in pain and more.
Let us learn from great coaches who "believe" in a new tomorrow.
One of the greatest states I have ever lived in was South Carolina. This year, they have gone through horrible tragedies like the shooting in Charleston, the floods in Columbia but they have also learned enormous lessons. One of the players at South Carolina was talking about going into Irmo to help others who had lost everything when waters were higher than two story houses. He told about the moment of catching a winning touchdown, but he said it dwarfed going to Irmo and giving a $200 gift card to a fifty year old man whose house was gutted. He said watching one of his players hug this man for thirty seconds was one of the greatest highlights of his entire life.
So start being a part of the solution and just watch how you can improve a world facing a great loss.
In the Spirit of Sportsmanship
Friends are such an important part of our lives. In Northwest Oklahoma City, I grew up with David and he was my best friend from 8th grade through 12th grade at Putnam City High School when I went to PC West. In fact, we were very different as he was a talented wrestler and I was average in the drama arena. We both loved sports but I was never the athlete David was because he could run fast, bench press more than I could and he quickly became a varsity wrestler pretty early as an underclassmen in his high school years. I quickly got leads in school plays as an under class man and David and I were different, but we both wanted to win.
The more we knew each other, the more fun we had together. When it came time to finally graduate from our two schools, even though we lived in the same neighborhood of Rock Knoll, I wrote something in his yearbook something very prophetic. I didn't remember it exactly, but it read something silly like this.
"Dear David, What a great time we had together all through junior high and high school, we will probably go our separate ways now to college, and like most adults begin to lose touch. I just wanted you to know, I have really enjoyed being your buddy and I wish you all the best, See you Later Kevin"
What was amazing was that I spoke a self fulfilling prophecy into existence. I basically said very selfishly I was going to be moving away, I would lose track and we had a great time, but those times must be coming to an end. After really thinking about this, what a doom and gloom kind of projection for me to share with a man I had come to love hanging out with. Only later in life did I apologize and tell him how much I missed our friendship.
Can you imagine if you said this to God?
"Hey God, thanks for all the great memories but we have spent enough time together and well, I am pretty busy and I won't be coming around much anymore. I really enjoyed getting to know you and wish you all the best! See you Later God" How would that make God feel, or even worse, what if God said that to you??
"Hey Kevin, I am sorry you feel the way you do about me, I guess I bored you. Well little man you just go about your own way and best to you too. See you Later Kevin"
Here is the sad part, God is and will ALWAYS be there for you and for me, so don't even think about leaving His love and mercy. It's sad when you live a life away from God and there are NO direct lines to the Creator, except through His Son Jesus.
I can't imagine living a life without His love, His mercy and His goodness. This would be very sad. You see, I have a responsibility to Him, to invest in His love, to communicate my adoration, to praise Him for all He has done, to confess when I mess up and yes, even to petition when I need certain miracles in my life. God is consistent, unlike me or some graduating high school friend.
David's wife communicated with me this week a horrible tragedy and on October 1, they lost their daughter to mental illness and addiction. The pain they are currently going through is unbearable. To lose a child I think would be the most difficult and challenging of all pains. For those of you who read this blog, please pray for my friends and their precious family. Please ask the Lord to guide them, comfort them, heal them and let them feel YOUR LOVE most of all.
Help us Lord to never say SEE YOU LATER GOD, because there are no needs for goodbyes to those we love. One day, we will see them again when we get to Heaven. There WILL BE great rejoicing and you can count on this because He promised this for all of us
I love you,
For many years praying for children and their future has been a hallmark of our lives because we realize how vital it is on so many levels. This is a highly specialized and very focused purpose adults carry when we consider how we pray for those who follow in our footsteps. There are people in need. There are family members and their are opportunities to make a difference, but it still requires time, talent and resources. Allow me to take a few moments to share how and what we pray for when it comes to immediate and extended family members.
KEY PRAYERS & ETERNAL INVESTMENTS
Long before we even had children, we asked in key prayers and eternal investments for the following young children and generations which would follow in our lives:
Lord help our children to be safe and grow up healthy in body, mind and spirit.
Lord guide our child, station angels about them and watch over them every day and night.
Lord keep their friendships and their relationships precious and very special, to the point of being sacred.
Lord help our children to one day come to a place they know Christ as their personal Savior.
Lord keep our children focused on your teachings, on your love and serving you in everything they do.
Lord help our children to meet the right people and one day find a soul mate they can marry and love.
Lord watch over the future spouses and future in laws of our children, so they may share the same faith.
Lord help us to always serve you, see you for your constant love and give glory to you.
All of these prayers may seem to some that they are "overly protective" but I can tell you something. our home is a better place because of the prayers we prayed for our children. Children can always choose the direction of their own lives and there are many roads, but only narrow is the path that leads to God.
When I think of ALL the children in my life, it brings me great joy. First, I think of my sons, daughters, godchildren, surrogate children and young lives whom I love with all my heart. I also think of the lives of my family members, my friends and neighbors and their children too. There is perhaps nothing as important and sacred as praying for your family.
Recently thanks to Dr. Clyde Rivers I have been praying for the children of Burundi Africa. This is a world with only 4% having electricity. It's one of the most poor nations int eh world. Yet, through my new relationship with the Ambassador, I am to "take up" praying for these children and what an honor it is.
All of us who have children, people who are younger than we are...have the opportunity where we can pray with a specific purpose, speak into their young lives and give of ourselves with the most eternal of spiritual investments. If you don't have "children" or young people in your life today, do something to go find them and start now. They are closer than you think, plus they need our help and are just waiting for your love. They need our time, talent and resources and they are longing we will find them more than you may even realize.
This week, I got to amazing and wonderful opportunities to spend time with my youngest son Matthew, I worked with Rebecca on her five year future plan, I got to hang out with my Godson Jordan Barnett, I focused my prayers for Grant Hoffman my Godson in Georgia and asked the Lord for his protection on him and Samuel Musser, my newest Godson.
Getting to go to my alma mater at the University of Oklahoma, I spent time in a college dorm room with young men who are collegiate, I loved getting to talk to young students about their lives. It was an honor to wrap my arms around so many young people who need love, support and more. God showed off for me in so many ways, because I realized that while I thought I was giving, they were in reality giving way more back to me.
Ron DiCianni is a famous painter, but in a meeting with him months ago, he shared with me something very important. He said, "Kevin if there is a way to use my painting to help children, I could be ALL OVER THIS kind of strategy. Do you understand how powerful it is when you start "giving your life away" as you work diligently to help pray for children and their future?
Larry Jones has spent his life helping children, praying for them and giving them hope. I admire people who take all their time, talent and resources to GIVE GIVE GIVE and it starts with prayer! What are you doing to stay focused on your prayers for children?
Prayer really works gang and people matter so take time to invest in others and just watch how God turns up, shows off and starts doing some amazing things for His glory. So I close by saying, PRAY FOR YOUR CHILDREN and just wait and see what God will do.
Kevin McAfee is a filmmaker who writes for the purpose of inspiring others to make a difference in the world through faith in God and using the visual language of film. His blog shares the hopes of impacting culture, because his heart is in media missions and the church.