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Archive for January, 2012

As a worship pastor, it’s not surprising that songs run through my mind a lot. Add to it the fact that I’m not really sleeping since dad died, and there’s even more opportunity for this.

The words to “Clinging to the Cross” were running through my brain just a minute ago.

“My soul is weak, my heart is numb, I cannot see. Still my hope is found in You. I hold on tightly, You will never let me go. Jesus, you will never fail. Jesus, you will never fail”.

I’m struck by how those words describe how I’m feeling right now. I am unquestionably weak. My heart is numb, and my only source of real hope and strength is gonna have to be in Jesus. Lisa is doing her best to comfort me, as is precious little Chloe. She’s given me more hugs in the last few days than I can count. She told me yesterday that she thinks that “maybe she has some sort of hug telepathy, since she sorta just knows when I need one. Too cute.

But in the midst of this, the most difficult situation I have EVER had to face in my lifetime, what has compounded it is the fact that my dad is the person who I could always call out to in my hard times, and now he’s suddenly unavailable. But my heavenly Father is always available. I know that sounds a bit corny, but it’s true. The harsh reality is that EVERYONE I love and care about is going to someday cease to exist on this earth. I just looked up a current statistic that says a little over 150,000 people die every single day. That figure is pretty staggering. Since my dad passed on Tuesday, almost 3/4 of a million people have followed. The one and only thing that makes this situation for me not want to drive my car off a bridge right now is that my dad’s life didn’t end – it just changed. It got a lot better. His hope was in his Lord and right now he is in the presence of God.

So as I cry and cry and cry and cry (a lot of tears being shed here) for the loss that is created in my dad’s sudden exit from earth, he isn’t crying at all. He’s rejoicing and finally singing on key! He can hear for the first time in ages. His back and hip don’t ache anymore. He won’t need his bi/trifocal glasses to see.

My oldest son, Parker has been asking all sorts of questions about how heaven works, such as: “Okay, so if Grandaddy is in heaven, how old will he be. If his own mom died when she was around 50, will he be older than me? What about the fact that when we all grow up we’ll look different? How will he recognize us? What does a glorified body mean? Will we even have bodies like we do here?” This from my 11 year old.

I wish I could answer him definitively, but I cannot. I just told him we can’t really know, except that God tells us there won’t be anymore suffering or pain and the truth is, it most likely is way cooler than anything we can imagine. I do believe that we will know each other. God speaks of knowing us and welcoming us “home”, and if we’re all made in His image, it stands to reason that we too will recognize and be reunited with our loved ones in heaven.

But the truth is, we don’t need to worry about the details. I know that God is working His plan out constantly, and part of that plan was my father’s death. I am not happy about it, and am not looking forward to the lingering pain that will accompany it as I grieve, but I do accept it. And I do believe that God will be strong in my weakness. He will, because I won’t make it unless He is. My dad was a strong man, and he found his strength in his faith in God. If you knew him, you know that. He was close to God and it was evident in how he lived. And that doesn’t come by chance or accident. It comes from loving God and cultivating your relationship with Him. I’d like to share with you a little about the last hours of dad’s life:

Mom tells me that Monday night, she and dad stayed up till about 3am watching TV. Truthfully, that’s not surprising. Anyway, they finally headed to bed and dad stayed up to read his new One Year chronological Bible for about another hour before finally dozing off. That was the last thing he read: his Bible. When I heard that, it made me love him even more. He died in his sleep, in his own bed with the Bible on his mind.

This morning, I opened the Bible to where his bookmark was. It was the passage where God is telling Moses to go and speak to the Israelites and Moses is trying to get out of doing it. It’s a bit ironic for me, since I’ve had quite a few conversations over the last couple of days about why I shouldn’t sing or speak at dad’s funeral. Some of my reasons were:

“I’m a basket case right now and will totally fall apart.”
“I physically won’t be able to do it.”
“Someone else will do a better job.”
“I’m liable to ramble incessantly and make no sense.”
There were others, but I can’t write them here. haha.

Here’s what Moses was telling God in his situation as found in Exodus 4:10-12:
But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”

So, for one last time, dad was a help to me. Opening his bible to this passage spoke so profoundly to me in my situation. I know God will hold me up and give me the right words to say and the right songs to sing. I also know beyond any doubt that dad would want it that way. He believed in me- my gifts and abilities, way more than I do in myself. He was my champion and would be saying “Don’t worry, God will get you through this”. So, my should is weak, my heart is numb, and the fog in my mind combined with all these tears make it hard to see, but my hope is in the Lord and He never fails.

Hope to see you all today at the service at 3pm. If you can’t make it, please pray for me and my family. I thank you all so much for lifting us up and ask you continue to do so.

God bless!

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I have been inundated with calls, emails, posts to my Facebook wall, etc. on the impact my dad had on so many. The outpouring of love, prayer and concern is both needed and appreciated. Our “family road trip” (Chloe named it for us) has been really uneventful, which is quite nice. After leaving much later than anticipated, we began the 1400+ mile trek to the holy land (Texas) and have landed to rest for the night a little more than halfway there. The rest of the crew is crashed in our deluxe Econolodge digs while I’m in the lobby using the wi-fi. Apparently the in-room wi-fi didn’t specify WHICH room – note: always read the fine print! They say it should be working, but after 20 minutes of being frustrated with no signal, I have wound up on the sofa out front and I think I’m making the desk clerk a little nervous (maybe it’s the PJ pants). I digress, sorry.

So the title of this post is all about trying to figure out what it is that made my dad the man he was…I’ve had over 700 miles to ponder this question, and I’ve come up with a couple of ideas I’d like to share about R.U.P.E.R.T. that tell about his character.

Resourceful – My dad could rig things in such a way that he’d have Macgyver scratching his head. Mind you, his “inventions” weren’t always works of art, but they never failed to get the job done. I can remember umpteen times helping him fix something on the car as a kid, and we never failed to end the job without at least a handful of screws or other parts left over. He didn’t mind and I thought nothing of it. He was also resourceful in finding ways to help other people. It may not always be money, since he wasn’t wealthy by the world’s standards, but he often gave of his time to lend a hand to someone in need. If you needed help, Rupert would always “find a way”.

Unforgettable – There’s no denying that Rupert made a lasting impression on anyone he met. Just this past month, when he and mom came for a visit to see us in Virginia, this fact was proven over and over again. Over a dozen different people told me how much they had “enjoyed my father”. They actually used those words. They didn’t really know him, having only been around him an hour or so. But somehow, he had lifted their spirits in a unique way – in a lasting way – in a real way. For those of us who knew him well, his corny jokes and silly smile were a reminder of the gentle spirit and genuinely caring, fun-loving, endearing person he was.

Positive – I consider myself a positive, upbeat, glass 2/3 full person. Many people would agree. But I have my days, trust me. I’m not what you’d call a steady, even keeled personality like good ‘ol Rupert. When Romo blew game after game, I was ready to fly to Texas and do something about it. Dad would just take it in stride and say, “Well, he’s still getting used to the system…yada yada yada”. He most often found the silver lining, I guess you could say. This character trait was attractive to others. If you were having a bad day at work and Rupert showed up, you’d be smiling soon thereafter. He looked for, and found, the best in people. He would loan money to folks who often didn’t repay him. When asked about it, he would defend them like they were his own kids. Definitely the kind of guy you’d want as a friend, right? A number of times, he would talk me down off of the ledge when things got tough in ministry. He was an encourager and brought out the best in me.

Evangelistic – My dad was the quintessential evangelist. He wasn’t the guy with the bullhorn, passing out tracts on the steetcorner. He was the guy who came into PepBoys for years, got to know the guys behind the counter, and invited them to church enough times that they finally came – and gave their lives to Christ. He was the guy who gave a Bible to my sister’s boyfriend (a story he has recounted to me in how it impacted his life). Rupert loved people and saw them in their humanity as individuals loved by God. I believe this is what drove him to be so friendly – he knew that his love would reflect Christ’s love to them. He epitomized lifestyle evangelism. He was also overt about his faith.

Real – What you saw was what you got with my dad. He put it all out there for the world to love or hate. Most often, he was loved for be the unique, fun, kinda quirky and silly, very sincere man he was. These days, often people are anything BUT real. Folks are worried that if they “just be themselves”, somehow that won’t be good enough. So instead they try to be something other than who they really are. Anyone who knew Rupert Gayle can attest that he never even ATTEMPTED to be somebody he wasn’t. Occasionally his candor might leave you scratching your head, but in the end I am so grateful to have a role model in my life who was the same person one-on-one as he was at work, church or anywhere for that matter.

Thoughtful – Dad was always going the little extra to make sure you felt loved. His regular Sunday afternoon phone calls to debrief the Sunday services were always nice. He’d call if he knew I had been super busy at work, just to check on me. He would routinely check on folks in the hospital, drop by the church to visit the pastor, pop in the local pawn shops – not to buy anything – just to visit. He and I talked on average a couple of times each week, if not more. He knew I was typically quite busy with work, school and my own family, but he also knew I am loved by words of affirmation. So he would make the extra effort to talk with me and encourage me in my life and all my endeavors. When mom was recovering from back surgery last year, he always did the little extra something for her, just so she knew she mattered to him. He really loved mom so much and it showed. Their 48 1/2 years together is a testimony to their love and friendship.

So…was Rupert flawless? Heavens, no. He was human like the rest of us. But God somehow took a shy, introverted farm boy and grew him into an outgoing, funny, sweet man that blessed many lives during his time here on earth. I can still see that silly grin, even as I’m finishing up this post. And right about now, he’d be saying “Son, I appreciate this and all, but don’t you think you should get to bed? You’ve got a long day ahead of you tomorrow and you’re carrying precious cargo with you…”. You’re right, dad. Good night…Love you too.

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Legacy of my Father

Legacy of my Father

Thanks to everyone for the kind words to my family and me in the midst of this great loss of my father and best friend.

To those of you who have posted stories and memories of Rupert Gayle Brown on facebook, thank you. They are a reminder to me of just how much of a difference the life of a simple, humble son of a share cropper has made. For those of you who didn’t know him, you would’ve liked him if you had. Thanks to you for lifting my family up in your prayers.

A little about my dad:

My dad loved people, and it was evident if you were ever around him. He truly never met a stranger. He was also always on the ready to share a joke or story too. So, you have him to blame (or thank) for my sense of humor.

I cannot begin to count the ways he has impacted my life – they are innumerable. I cannot begin to thank him for what he has done as an example to me in my life, although I tried to put it into words in a previous post last Father’s day (in the June 2010 folder).

As a pastor, I have travelled the path of loss with many people. I have seen tragedy strike the lives of so many, and watched as parents have buried children in the face of illness or other untimely deaths.

This loss, while sudden and unexpected, is not tragic in that sense. My dad passed away in his sleep, resting in his own bed. He spent the last night of his life doing one of the things he loved most – watching TV till the wee hours of the night with his bride of almost 49 years. Mom said he was feeling fine and in a good mood (he was almost always in a good mood).

It’s true he didn’t live to see the Cowboys win another Super Bowl, but then again, none of us may live that long. I did have the blessing of watching the last 2 Cowboy games of this past season with him on the couch of our family room. And he played the last round of golf (his favorite pastime by a long shot) here in Virginia with me. God gave us the gift of an unseasonably warm December day, and we were joined by my 2 boys. It was so sweet. Thank you, God.

He and mom got to come out for our Christmas program and see their grand babies sing and share their love for Jesus. It was a great visit. I am blessed to have spent Christmas with my dad this past year. Another gift from God.

Anyway, all throughout the visit, dad kept telling me how proud he was of me – how much he loved my family and how he knew I was making a difference with my life…always the encourager.

So, for me there will be no more Sunday afternoon phone calls to see how church went. No more days of “pawn shopping” with no other goal than just hanging out. No more corny jokes or great big bear hugs. But I’ll be okay. As the tears pour down my face, I know I’ll be okay. He’s in the presence of God as I type. I can only imagine what that’s like for him. He’s seeing his mama right now and getting reacquainted. Whatever he’s doing, I’m sure he’s doing it all out.

Now it’s my job to continue the legacy he began – to be a man of God like he was. To be the guy who was always on the lookout for someone in need. The guy who could brighten your day just by showing up. The man who demonstrated servant leadership and shared his faith with no apologies.

Here’s to you, Rupe Dog!

You are missed, but we celebrate your life!

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I wish the new year didn’t come January 1st.

For starters, I’m usually exhausted from a hectic season of multiple Christmas services, hosting relatives (or traveling to be with relatives), shopping, traffic, and so on. Add to that the fact that this it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon, we have to endure bitter cold temperatures and barren trees with little real signs of life and it’s no wonder that I actually spent $85 on a “happy lamp” a couple of months ago.

For me, I’d much rather start the “new year” on Easter. Doesn’t it make more sense? Signs of life are literally popping up everywhere with amazing displays of color melding into the green all around. The temperature lends itself to being outdoors to enjoy the beauty given to us by our Creator, and the whole point of Easter to me is the amazing true story of God giving us all a new hope, a new future, and new life.

So, let’s wait till April 8th to celebrate New Year’s day, whadaya say? If you’re in, I’ll throw a party and we’ll do it up right. Maybe we can call it Easter Eve or something? I’m open for ideas. I can’t imagine a better way to kickoff the celebration of our risen King Jesus this Easter. Mark your calendars for the evening of April 7th…but no black-eyed peas, okay?

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