Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"And some sweet day..."

It was 1982, and I was sitting in the youth section of Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce, SC. It was the first night of revival. I had been invited by a good friend, and I had no idea what was to come. Sitting at an upright piano in the middle of the platform was a man who looked just like someone out of my Mom's high school yearbook. He began to play and sing. He had such an amazing presence on the stage, I thought. For a moment, I could have sworn that the upright piano had started dancing! I didn't fully understand what this guy's deal was. He was happy and radiated a joy unlike anything I had ever seen. I had to know who he was.

In the printed program, the name of this captivating man read, Rev. Lloyd F. Brewer, Jr. I had no idea that I had just been introduced to the man who would literally shape most of my own ministry in the years to come.

For eleven years to follow, Lloyd Brewer was my Minister of Music. It was he and his equally amazing wife Joan who coaxed me out of my shell and convinced me to sing in front of the church. He played and sang at my wedding and reception. In the thirty years I knew him, he never changed. He was the same person in 2012 as he was in 1982. He was steadfast, and everyone who knew him became better.

He was a true keyboardist. I never heard anyone who could make the piano sing like Lloyd could. When he sat down and began to play and sing, it was a glimpse of heaven. I am sure of this. One time when Lloyd was singing in church, the sun shone right through the church's sunlight and right onto Lloyd as if God Himself were smiling down on what he heard. I sang in youth choir, adult choir, and anything else Lloyd directed. He was amazing to watch and had such a nurturing ministry presence. He was a musician extraordinaire with the heart of a pastor. You just had to love him. You couldn't help it.

In 1990, I accepted my first position in ministry as Minister of Music/Youth at a local church. Everything I did for these folks had been learned by watching Lloyd all those years. I was nowhere near the caliber of Pastor Lloyd, but he inspired me all the same.

In 2002, I had the privilege of serving with Pastor Lloyd at a local church. It was there that the dynamic of our friendship sadly changed. I will always regret how we ended things. I saw him now and again over the next 10 years, but it was never the same. Despite this unfortunate turn of events, Pastor Lloyd still inspired me as a Christian, as a minister, and as a man.

Today, Pastor Lloyd went to heaven. He had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks in the ICU. While I mourn the loss of this wonderful man, I am grateful to have known him. No man on this earth had as big of an influence on my ministry. I loved him very deeply and admired him right to the end. I always will.

Pastor Lloyd once said something that has never left me. He said, "Todd, I don't know about you, but the Lord means everything to me." That statement challenged me then, at 16 years old, and does so to this day. If you had the privilege of knowing him, you would know that what he said was true. Jesus was his life. Then his family. Then the music he devoted his life to sharing with us all.

He sang because he was happy, he sang because he was free. I would like to believe that upon arriving in heaven, Lloyd was greeted by the Lord he loved, who then showed him to the podium where he lead the host of heaven in a rousing chorus of, "Come, Praise the Lord with Me."

Pastor Lloyd, I'm sorry our friendship was tainted, and I know you have forgiven me. If I may ask a favor of you, sir, it is that you would play, "No One Cared For Me Like Jesus" when I get there.

Goodbye, my dear friend and mentor. I love you and I will miss you.

Monday, January 09, 2012

A Big Hug From My Father

Ever just need a hug? Yeah...me too. More often than I am willing to admit. I will admit this, however, I really needed this one.

It all began during my last post, where I likened myself to the prodigal son. If you have ever read the story, you know how it ends. The father sees the son coming home, runs to greet him, then lavishes love and acceptance and restoration. My story got as far as me coming to myself amidst the pig slop and deciding that I wanted to go back. So I started back home.

My first stop was on New Years Day. I went to my good friend Dan's church and made a public recommitment of my life to Jesus. To do this with pastor Dan was very special for me. He has nurtured me through two failed marriages and a lot of other things and never failed to tell me what I was doing wrong. Once upon a time, I did the same for him.

The journey back home continued with some personal inventory. There were things in my life that were dragging me down emotionally. Long story short, I made a hard decision, took a step of faith, and the Lord confirmed it that very day with some unexpected money in the mail. I know some people don't understand why I had to make the choice I made. Some people were hurt. I deeply regret that, and perhaps I could have handled some of it better. What's done is done, and I now pray for restoration and healing.

Continuing on, I reached out to some old minister friends and was so happy to reconnect and fellowship with them. One of them pointed out something that I should have posted about in my previous blog. He said, "From what I see (on FB), you have an amazing woman at your side." He was right. I do. Maybe for the very first time. I first met Laura when I was her pastor at White Knoll. She was a struggling single mom who somehow found time to be VBS Director! I respected her and her dedication. After a time, she sort of vanished from the church and I lost contact with her. Nearly 10 years later, a woman walked into Jamestown Coffee while I was at the register. She looked vaguely familiar but I couldn't recall where I had seen her from (not as sharp as I used to be). When she spoke, I immediately recognized her, except she was 130 pounds lighter than when I had last seen her! To my utter surprise, I felt butterflies in my stomach when I saw her. She was absolutely (and still is) beautiful! I'm not sure what I said first, but it wasn't long before I said, "So, uh,  are you married? Seeing anyone?" She said no, and so I less-than-smoothly gave her one of my business cards, and told her we needed to "catch up" sometime soon. I am SO not a ladies man! But I am certain that it was love at first sight for the first time ever in my life. Laura's love for Jesus was a big inspiration to me and she has been key in helping me get my head straight for the first time in a long time.

Back to the big hug. So far all of this wonderful stuff had been going on, but there was still no hug. The father had not run to me. Or if He had, I sure missed it. One thing I have learned over the years is that God never does things the way I expect Him to. Never!


This time was no exception. I recently picked up a book from my stack of books that I "keep meaning to read." It is a book by Steve McVey called, A Divine Invitation. Dr. McVey recounts a story of a man who had gone into the wrong part of town with his wife. He knew that the men in this place would want his wife. So rather than fight for her, he asked her to go with one of the men. She did. He waited. McVey then asked, "Would you trust this man as a spiritual leader?" Hmmm.

Then McVey let the cat out of the bag. The story was about Abraham and Sarah from Genesis 12. Then I read the following paragraph,
It's an amazing (and sometimes confusing) aspect of God's grace that He will indeed use a man like Abraham. Not only was he used by God, but in Hebrews 11, as if He has completely forgotten that He already gave us the lowdown on this man in Genesis, the Holy Spirit lists Abraham as a hero of our faith. Most people wouldn't even recommend Abraham as Husband of the Year, but God lists him as a man of great faith. Apparently there is something about the way God judges people that is very different from the way most of us view others or ourselves. He looks PAST behavior and into the heart more readily than we can even imagine (page 27).
Then came my hug from the Father. His embrace was tight and hard. I didn't hear Him audibly, but I heard Him speak this to my heart, "My Todd, welcome home! I'm so happy! You just don't know! I know you have messed up, but I am NOT finished with you. All is not only forgiven, but forgotten. As I did for Abraham, I have done for you! The best is yet to come! I WILL finish what I started with you! I love you soooo much!"

He has yet to release that hug, by the way!