11 years have come and gone since that morning.
Today we all seem to pause to remember where we were, what we were thinking, what it felt like, what we feared.
For me, as a dad, it was all and only about my daughter in those first few agonizing moments. When the first plane hit I was in my office busily doing my job. Morgan was at her pre-school. I wasn't watching the news and I heard about it like most people did, as a breaking bulletin. Like everyone else I thought it must have been a horrible aviation accident. A mechanical failure that rendered the plane paralyzed, or fog or something. Then I saw that it was as beautiful a day in NYC as it was in Nashville. But still it didn't register as an attack. Then reports of a hijacking started to emerge. Then I watched on the Internet in my office where I'd been going to work dutifully for 3 years, as the second plane hit the second tower. There was no doubt anymore.
I was stunned like everyone else. Shocked, afraid, angry. I instantly raced across town to get my daughter because...while I didn't know who this enemy was or how broad their plan...I knew my daughter would be safer with me. Her daddy would die for her and that is as safe as it gets.
I walked into St. Thomas day care and met a lot of parents with the same scared look in their eyes. The same fear, the same questions, the same bewilderment.
Morgan, and the other kids were all playing happily as if nothing at all had happened. This was as it should be. I had no idea how this would, in so many ways, be the last time in her life that there would ever be total innocence without the shadow of another horror laying in wait.
I could write more about that morning. How it felt, what we thought. But it would be redundant.
I was going to write, with great anger and bile, about the intrusion and frightening infiltration of Islam. And make no mistake...there is no "good Islam". There are merely some who are pawns and some who are bigger pieces but EVERY MUSLIM is of one mind where Islam's ultimate goal is concerned...among the basic tenets of Islam is world domination. One religion in the world and none other. Convert or die. The sweet, doe-eyed immigrants who we become friends with, are here with a purpose too. To break our will by softening our hearts. They probably don't even know their own role in the plan, but make no mistake, they play one.
Am I proposing Islamophobia or Muslim-hate? No. But I'm warning you to be loving but remain vigilant. They count on the generosity of the American spirit. It's factored into their plan. Dearborn Michigan was loving and generous to Arab immigrants in the 70's. The opened their hearts and homes. They hired them at the Ford plant. Now the city lives under the shadow of Sharia law. They took over without a shot being fired. Before anyone could say "It could never happen here" it already had.
Before this becomes an anti-Islam article...and that's not my intention...I'm going to go where I really wanted to go.
I have been awakened in the past 5 months. I was stirred. I was moved. I saw Isaiah's vision from chapter 6 and it became rooted in my flesh. I echoed his cry "“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty".
When I was 16 years old I stumbled across this passage in my daily Bible reading and it rent my heart in two. The average 16 year old doesn't get a verse like this, but for whatever reason I did. From that fateful day on, I knew what God's will and plan for my life was. But life interfered and I let it best me. 33 years of wandering and living near God's plan but not in God's plan was devastating to me. I never abandoned my faith but I wasted a lot of time missing the mark. It took homelessness, breaking in my spirit, and God's perfect timing for me to renew my vow to God and get back to the man who knelt in his bedroom at 3 AM and cried out those words. I would pray that prayer every day when I was in high school. I prayed it and I echoed his cry "Here am I...send ME!" Then I would pray the words of Ezekiel 22: 30-31 "I looked for someone who
might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I
searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn't have
to destroy the land, but I found no one. 31 So
now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my
anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins.
I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
I would pray that I would be the man who stood in the gap. I saw the gap. I saw the gap in the land and it broke my heart. Maybe that's what drew me to Liberty University and to Dr. Falwell. Doc saw the gap too and he devoted much of his life to standing in it and raising a generation of people to stand in it as well.
I carried that vision and determination in my heart all through High School. But my situation intruded and life threw me some curves and I didn't end up following that vision.
Until this past May.
God in His infinite wisdom and unrelenting will had been planning this thing all along. Losing my career...and ultimately my entire lifestyle including my home, my dreams for the moment, my desires...that was all part of His plan. After a year of lonely isolating homelessness I decided I was never going to find a job if I didn't rebuild my resume. I had two and a half years of Pre-Med biology under my belt. I learned the hard way that a Pre-Med biology degree is useless if you don't go to Med School. So I decided to finish my degree. I also knew I had to finish at Liberty because it was where my heart was. They offer the very best online program in the country and that made it easier. I considered a business degree, but in my heart I felt like I'd had enough of the corporate environment. I chose a degree in Religion, telling myself that since I wrote so much faith-based content, I should be better equipped in my Faith.
The truth was that God hadn't ever rescinded His calling on my life and it was time to finish what He started when I was 16.
I rolled through 6 semesters of study, 5 of which I lived in my car. I was in more than one classroom. I was in the classroom of higher education and the classroom of brokeneness. I learned from professors and from the Holy Spirit. I devoured every word of the former and kicked and screamed and railed against the lessons of the latter. But He was working on me. May 11, 2012 He won.
Up until the very weekend of my graduation I had no further intentions for my Bachelors in Religion except to be a better writer on religious topics. I had a grand plan in mind. I was going to become a motivational speaker in the mold of the great Zig Ziglar. I would regale people with stories of my own nationally recognized successes in the mortgage industry. I would encourage and inspire with my vivid, perfect word-pictures of my long, lonely desert experience in my car while I refused to leave my daughter and move to another town. I would bring them to the same tears of joy I felt when I had that moment in August 2011 when I realized I was really going to graduate and this year was my final year. I would make them laugh at the image of a man standing 6' 4" trying to sleep in a Volvo 850. I would change their lives and they would pay me handsomely and all would be right with the world. My speaking would assuage my deep burning desire to communicate a message that impacted people and I would be comfortable in doing so. Everyone would like me and letters would pour in, telling me how I helped turn their lives around.
Then I went to Graduation.
The hubbub on Campus and the blogospshere was about Mitt Romney delivering the commencement address. But the real big news to me was the night before. Luis Palau would be speaking at Baccalaureate.
I love Dr. Palau. Having never had the chance to see Billy Graham live, seeing Luis was a very close second.
He was remarkable in his simplicity. I guess this is what happens when God has truly anointed you.
His sermon was about faith, and vision and dreaming big dreams from a big God. Then he told the story of Art DeMoss and his personal burning desire to evangelize, literally everyone he ever met personally. Whether he reached every soul is doubtful...but he sure tried.
That service broke open a vault in my heart and revealed to me that God wasn't done.
All summer I wrestled with Him. I knew what He was saying but I didn't want to hear it. Not at my age and not after what I went through. But it turns out that I went through those things for this very reason.
About 6 weeks ago I surrendered.
I could write a lengthy volume on what that decision looked like and felt like and what it implies but I have written much already and I still have ground to cover here.
What has happened this summer is God returning me to the calling He placed on me at 16. And it could be that these past 33 years were simply my desert time where He honed the vision to a razor edge and a pencil point. Maybe I was in a cocoon where He was building a man from the wreckage. Maybe if I had followed the calling back then I'd be someplace else now. Maybe pastoring a church somewhere and too immersed in that job to exchange my suit for a camel-hair wardrobe. Maybe writing nice, sweet Christian books and living a nice sweet Christian life that was so comfortable as to be too hard to leave. When God began this process in 2005 I was trapped in a successful career that I loathed but did well in. I had a home and a life I liked. Had He not rid me of it violently, I would still be doing it, and still be waking up each morning begging Him not to let this be what the rest of my life looked like. Funny...every day I said that, not thinking He was going to roll up His sleeves one day and say "Okay..."
I have been convicted. I have been exposed. I am broken. And my life has been renewed and my calling redeemed.
My desire...and I think God's desire for me...is to live out the rest of my days (and I hope they are many) as a man of prayer. Of deep, burdened, broken, desperate prayer. For a world that fills Hell to the brim each moment. For lives so shattered and marked by sin that humanity is becoming unrecognizable. Brokenness for a world that searches like a blind man groping the back wall of a cave, calling out for someone...for anyone...to lead him out. I am broken for a group of teenagers who gathered themselves together to grieve their fallen friend, taken from them in as vicious a means as is possible. And yet who found NO answer from the religious poseurs who showed up to officiate the evening. For friends of my daughter who cut themselves because the physical pain relieves the emotional pain they feel. For girls who have no daddy telling them they are beautiful and who will fall prey to someone who will use that vacuum for nefarious purposes. For boys who have no dad to show them what a man looks like, acts like and worships like.
I am broken for a nation who has killed enough babies in the name of convenience and "Reproductive Rights" that the number now represents one out of every SIX citizens alive today in this country. One in six.
I am broken for a Church that has forsaken the altars of Evangelism and the urgency of Salvation for the expediency and ease of the "Fellowshipping of the saints".
I am broken over the intrusion and infiltration of a doctrinal mindset that says God has already separated all the jelly beans into His two piles. He already decided who is going and who is not. I am broken over pastors who can spend weeks on sermons about sex and preach from beds and Plexiglas pulpits while the world goes to Hell. Because they have not an ounce of urgency, since their God is capricious and contradictory.
I am broken over Christians who want to be a salt-lick that the world can come and droll on now and then when it needs a little pick-me-up, instead of the course, hard, often irritating salt that Jesus referred to. Salt that preserved, cured, healed wounds (however painfully at first) and scrubbed clean. They want to be flashlights when we were called to be beacons. The Light He referenced was not a lamp but the Sun itself. Chasing away darkness, disinfecting foulness, exposing corruption, and signalling safe harbor.
The Church has been having her 9-11's daily for decades now and she continues to ignore the attacks.
She continues to be lead by men who aren't broken over the condition of the world so they preach like it. You want to get rich, be blessed, promote yourself socially, have great coffee in the lobby? Go to most modernist churches, or turn on the TV. But if you want to have your heart broken and your conscience seared and the loving correction of Scripture applied to your heart. Good luck. If you want to find the lights on at 3 AM and the rows filled with Godly men crying out to God for their hearts, their homes, their nation and this world...you're backing up the line.
9-11 is here Church. It's been here a long time. This national remembrance should be embarrassing to us as believers. Because in 11 years we have so lost our voice and influence with God and therefore in this world that we stand to be shouted down by the very evil that perpetrated this crime on our country.
Maybe we'll cry out then.