Our Stories

Overcoming Hardships & Finding Joy

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Recently, a dear friend of mine passed away.  His wife was killed in a house fire three years ago, and they leave behind an 11-year old son.  And it breaks my heart that he’ll never truly know his parents.  I was able to play my guitar for him in the hospital before his passing, including a song I recently wrote:

I know that my spirit’s on fire when I’m void of all earthly desires and when the freedom that breathes through my bones has made me whole again.

The songs, the prayers, and the tears were strong, but my friend died the next day, and we laid him to rest the following week.

Making sense of tragedy and wondering where God is in the mix of it all is something we struggle with. For the past 18 months I have been on a life-changing journey of reinvention, creativity and healthy living.  I was coming out of a very difficult season, and the Lord worked on my heart through my wife, my kids, my friends, and through my community of believers.  Over time, their act of being there for me brought back my hope, my laughter, and my joy.

A key moment of healing came for me in Honduras in 2018.  I was slain in the Spirit in a Spanish church service, with God breaking through the language barrier.  Earlier in the day while hiking with the SPW mission team, the Lord healed my body, mind, and spirit of past wounds.  That evening God’s love for me physically manifested through the prayer of 100 Honduran Christians.

The Lord has stood by me, His loving call constant in my mind and in my heart.  He’s given me words, music, and songs.  I was able to record 12 of these songs which are a snapshot of the past 18 months and will be releasing this album on Good Friday with a celebration concert.  The album is called Count it All Joy, which comes from the Bible verse that has most impacted me this past year.  I’m grateful for where I’ve been and where He’s leading me, and I’m learning to count it all joy.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
- James 1:2-4

Posted by Steve Rodgers

Seeking Jesus in the Journey

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My name is Christopher Clanton.   I’m married to Ester, my wife of almost 25 years.  We have two amazing kids. My daughter is a sophomore at the Univ of Michigan, and my son is a freshman at Wake Forest.  I’ve gone to church to my whole life but have been a Christian a little over ten years.

Now that I understand what to look for, I can see that God’s hand has been on my life since the beginning.   In some seasons His hand was heavy and clearly directing my every move. In other seasons his hand has been light, offering small corrections to keep me on track day to day. In my current season, I see Jesus at work in a number of small ways in my life…

My wife.   Ester and I share our faith.  As of last year, Ester and I have spent over half of our lives being married to each other.  What a blessing to be able to be married to my best friend. 

  1. My children.   Our kids are transitioning to new chapter in their lives.  They have highs and lows as they make their way, but it’s comforting to know they have been raised in faith and will turn to Him in both good times and bad.
  2. My commute.   I found a Christian music station called KLOVE about two years ago.  I listen every morning on my commute into the City.  I look forward to that hour of “lazy worship” with a cup of coffee and a chance to start the day with the right perspective.  
  3. My friend.   This will sound weird to some, but I have had long stretches of time in my life without a true friend (other than Ester).  There have been acquaintances, work colleagues, etc. of course but the gift of a genuine friend is a blessing indeed.
  4. My contractors.   Another weird one!  We are on the move in 2018 downsizing and restoring an older house in Westport.  Like any project, there have been highs and lows.  The group of contractors we are using are largely Brazilian and most go to the same church.  It is a real blessing to stop by the house and hear Christian music (English, Spanish, Portuguese, whatever!) blasting as the men worked.   ‘

In closing, I want to pass on one of my favorite images from the Old Testament.  As the Israelites were finding their way out of Egypt and eventually to the promised land, God’s presence led them by a cloud in the day and a pillar of fire by night.  How amazing it would be to have God’s will for our lives so obvious!  The cloud and pillar of fire don't seem available anymore, yet He wants His will for our lives to be known.  Some verses that help bring that to life for me;

Proverbs 3:5-6
Romans 12:1-2
1 Peter 4:10
John 10:27

King James Version

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Christmastime is as much a retelling of past memories as it is an annual memory-in-the-making opportunity. I must have been in third or fourth grade when both the original Christmas and my own collided, leaving me these many years later to still marvel at the work of the Lord in my family.

My elementary school had begun planning for a Christmas Holiday pageant. The role I was given was to orate the Christmas story from Luke 2 ala Linus in the “Charlie Brown Christmas” story. Back then, Judeo-Christian themes easily mixed as both cultures held each other’s traditions in kind respect.

The whole idea of the “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…” soliloquy was actually my mother’s, and she spent the weeks leading up to the pageant helping me memorize and shape those precious Luke 2 verses.

I remember all the details from that night:  The very bright fluorescent lights of the cafeteria turned theater; whole grades noisily climbing onto risers to sing “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and “Dreidel Dreidel”; and the unwieldy mic that I would hold to read from a heavy, blue family Bible. It was a wonderful night:  a chance to dress up and perform and eat cookies afterwards. All really wonderful memories for a young school girl.

But mostly, I remember my mother, and how holy she approached that pageant assignment.

Now decades after both elementary school and having my mother on this earth, I hold that Christmas memory very dear. My mother – whether motivated as an evangelist or as a parent – seemed to understand the magnitude of the moment and was compelled by the Lord and perhaps also by Isaiah 55:11: so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  What I did not comprehend then but now do, is that God never wastes a moment. He orchestrates all detail on heaven and earth to represent His saving grace before mankind. He can and will use anybody at any time to show His love. He used my mother in that moment. And He used me. But mostly, He just showed up that night in His amazing word to a mixed crowd of people who all desperately needed Him.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

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