Following Jesus after Camp

Summer is here! And that means students from all over the country will be attending church camp. New friends, crazy games & competitions, times for worship, bible study & prayer – all this combines and intersects with the work of Jesus in students lives and create an incredible experiences. Thousands will make decisions for Christ over the next few weeks, but what does that mean? How will they move forward in their faith when they go back to their ordinary lives? That’s what this post is about.

The decision to follow Christ is not just a decision. It’s a commitment. I would say this decision is like a wedding. (and I believe I can show that Jesus likens it to a wedding too, but that’s another post.)

Before Miranda and I got married we lived separate lives.  We lived in different homes. She had her job and bank account and I had mine. Although there were some who had in common, we had our own sets of friends. Our own habits and routines, our own lives. We were separated. On our wedding day, we stood before almost everyone we knew and proclaimed the decision that we had made – a decision which was a clear reflection our relationship. From that day forward, we were choosing to live differently. . . . . to live “with” each other. . . . . to live together.

This is what the decision for Christ is. It is a reflection of the relationship you have with Him. It is a decision to live “with” Him. . . . . to live together with Jesus.

At our wedding the pastor asked us a few questions. You probably know the questions.

He said, “Steve, will you take Miranda to be your wife, to live together in a holy marriage?  Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her, for as long as you both shall live?”

Notice how the questions are worded. “Will you take. . . . .” Will you love. . . . .”  In our pre-marital counseling, the pastor explained that the answer to those questions would simply be, “I will.”

What would have happened if I had said, “I will,  if I feel like it?”

The crowd would have gasped and Miranda probably would have slapped me across the face. “If I feel like it” isn’t a commitment.

The correct answer is simply “I will.” There are no ifs. When we make a commitment, we are saying that we’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. We’re willing to make sacrifices and do the right thing even when things look bad. I will choose to act in love for Miranda even when she treats me bad –  even when I don’t like her – even when things are tough. Love is not a feeling. It is a choice. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross. He chose it in spite of how He felt. (Remember, how He asked God if there was another way, but then committed to God’s will? Check Mt 26:39) “In sickness and health, for richer or poorer,” no matter what, Miranda will receive my love. I will choose to love her. That is commitment. There are no ifs.

Our relationship with Jesus is like this too. If we want a real relationship with Jesus our answer is also, “I will.” Unfortunately, I see people adding many “ifs.”

– I’ll spend time with Jesus if I don’t have to get up early.
– I’ll go to church if my friends are going to be there.
– I’ll do what He asks as longs as it doesn’t cost me something.
– I’ll read the Bible if I have time.
– . . . . if it won’t be awkward.
– . . . . if I can still hang out with my old friends.
– . . . . if I don’t have something else going on.

NO!!! The answer to the question is a simple, “I WILL.” If we’re committed to Jesus, we must make time. We must be willing to put Him first. We must make sacrifices. We must be willing to follow Him even when it’s awkward or uncomfortable.

Church camp is great in many of the same ways as a wedding. Miranda and I had an incredible wedding. The people who surrounded us mean the world to us. That day we hung out with friends. We laughed. We read Scripture. We cried. We worshipped. We prayed. We ate. We danced. And then we left. Our family and friends threw stuff at us as we ran to our cars. Miranda jumped in her car and I got in mine and then we drove off and went our separate directions.

. . . . . . . Hold up.

. . . . . . Wait.

You did what? Separate cars? Separate directions?

NO – of course not. We rode off together in one car and began our life together. There’s sort of a crazy story, but we actually had a friend who drove us. The commitment that we had just made was starting and from that day forward, we have been together. Scripture says that the two of us “became one” that day, and since then, our lives have never looked the same. It’s been 17yrs and our commitment has grown over time. It’s a beautiful relationship.

Unfortunately, I think church camp decisions for Christ often look the other way. Students have incredible experiences at camp and decide to follow Jesus and live differently, but they don’t really understand the commitment side of it. The church camp experience has offered them all the things my wedding did:  Friends. Laughter. Bible Study. Worship. Tears. and incredible joy. Students begin a relationship with Jesus, but on the last day of camp, they leave in separate vehicles.

Charles Spurgeon (Mark 4 Commentary) says, “There are many more, whose religion must be sustained by enthusiastic surroundings. They seem to have been baptized in boiling, water; and unless the temperature around them is kept up to that point, they wither away . . . the religion that is born of mere excitement will die when the excitement is over.”

Friends. Don’t let this be you. Don’t leave camp in your car. Get in Jesus’ car and let Him drive you home. Allow Jesus to be in control. Remember that if you have committed to following Him, then you are “one” with Him. He also gives you the Holy Spirit to empower you to make the right decisions. Recognize that He is always with you. Allow Him to shape your daily schedule and calendar. Find time – be intentional about doing all the things you did at camp. They will deepen your “oneness” with Him.

– Hang out with Christian friends
– Study Scripture
– Worship
– Sing
– Pray
– Laugh
– and find ways to serve others.

I understand that none of these things is probably as easy to find as it is at church camp, but they are all important in deepening your relationship with Jesus. Your relationship with Him IS absolutely worth it. The effort you put into these things is a reflection of your commitment to Him – that means that your effort in making these things happen is actually an act of worship. By working behind the scenes to deepen your relationship with Jesus, you are honoring and valuing Him and that is what worship is all about. The effort alone will draw you closer to Him.

Oh – and by the way. You’re not alone. God has given us the church (His people not the building) to help us. Find someone else to help you with these things or to walk you through the process of starting your relationship with Jesus. It could be a friend or someone more mature in their faith. Youth ministers and youth leaders usually love this sort of thing too so they’re usually easy to ask. There are also some great books that can help. Here’s one from the guys at YM360: New: First Steps for New Christ Followers


PS – I just spent an incredible week of Church Camp with a bunch of really fine people!  Although I spent more than 20yrs in ministry, this was my first time back with them in over 10yrs.  It was great! Everyone was wonderful! Shout out to:

      •  The YM360 staff (rec leaders, bible study leaders, drama team, administrative team, and I’m sure there are others I’m missing)
      • the band (Logan Walter)
      • the speaker (our own pastor, Chad Poe)
      • the Louisiana College staff who housed and fed us
      • the youth leaders and volunteers who brought their students

God used this team to stretch our students in their spiritual lives. He used them to draw them closer to one another and to help them see the bigger picture of the body of Christ outside their own church walls and even into other parts of the world. God used this team to strengthen relationships in people who have attended church together for years, but have never really spoken to one another. God used this team to convict us of sin, to direct us to the forgiveness found in Jesus, and to begin to think about new ways of living in light of the Gospel. Thank you for serving. Thank you for allowing God to use you.

Our students won the volleyball tournament!

 

A Teacher Prayer for the End of this Year – 2021

Lord,
Like Moses standing before the Red Sea with Pharoah’s army at his heels, last August we stood before a school year with Covid restrictions and virtual students and we were overwhelmed. We were trapped with an ocean of obstacles ahead and Covid at our heels. “Impossible,” we thought. But you Lord. . . . but YOU LORD, have brought us through. As we bravely determined to march ahead, You moved the waters. You went before us and made a way where there was no way. Digital technologies made virtual learning possible. Masks allowed students to return to regular classes. Teachers worked together to find good strategies for teaching in this new learning environment. We see Your hands at work in all of these things.

You LORD brought us to THIS DAY! Today we celebrate You for guiding us through the depths of destruction of Covid and the barriers to teaching that were literally strapped to our faces. In the desert, You miraculously provided manna and water for Israel. As we marched through our educational desert, and in spite of the odds, we had virtual students who actually grew and learned new concepts. You refreshed us in those moments. Now, at the end of this long trek, today we celebrate how You brought us to the promised land of summer break and we remember the depths from which we came.

You provided everything that was needed for Israel to be free from slavery in Egypt so they could become the people You had called them to be. . . . . your people. . . . . people who would represent you to the world. As teachers, you have brought us through our struggles for a purpose too. You are calling us to represent You as well. These struggles have shaped us. They have brought us together and strengthened our relationships. They have forced us to let go of some of our own burdens and begin leaning on one another. You have brought us to this place today so we will be “better together” . . . . . so we will be able to represent You to our students. Lord, continue to guide us to become the people (and teachers) that You have called us to be.

Lord, today we are excited for summer break, but we also remember all that You have done and we celebrate You! You are worthy of all our worship, not because You brought us through this crazy year, but simply because You are God and because You have loved us so greatly. Your son, Jesus is the full expression of Your love and for Him, we give You thanks and praise. It’s in His name that we pray.

AMEN

Broken Cups

Personal Story:
This issue of emptiness was one of the biggest factors that drove me to the place where I gave my life to Christ and eventually chose to follow Him. Up to my years in Jr High, I had lived a pretty normal, suburban, middle-class lifestyle. My parents were married and remained together. I always had food, shelter, etc. I had never really lost anyone in my life. By all accounts, everything looked great from the outside. However, on the inside, I was dying. I felt empty. I felt like I didn’t really matter. During those years, I tried several things to fill the void inside of me. I tried popularity and hanging out with all the “right” people. As much as I could at my age, I tried money and bought cool stuff to fill the emptiness. I tried sports and accomplishments. I got good grades and did well in sports. I did well in all of these things and learned much from those experiences, but none of them satisfied the emptiness that I felt. No matter how I filled myself up, I had a leak. The satisfaction never lasted long.

When I finally came to Christ, all of that changed. No matter what my circumstances were, I could trust in Him to settle my heart. He filled me in places that I didn’t even know were empty. Today, sin still creeps in and I have leaks, but He forgives and makes me whole. Over the years Jesus has mended many of my cracks and the places that I leak have grown smaller. He has not only become my waterfall, but also the potter who repairs me and molds me into His own likeness.

Steve’s Advice:
We are all broken. We are sinful and broken. We are broken in different ways, but still broken. If we were cups, we’d have cracks. Some would even be shattered into splintered pieces. When we realize this, we can have compassion on people. We can love those who may not treat us very well. When we love one another, it’s amazing, but we can never truly fill each other ’cause as we pour ourselves out for others, there’s a crack leaking out the other end. Our only satisfaction is in Jesus Christ. He alone can satisfy and fill us to overflowing. He is the unending “waterfall” whose complete and perfect love was poured out upon the cross.

The song, “Break in the Cup” by David Wilcox describes what I’m trying to say.

Famous Words:

Break in the Cup – David Wilcox lyrics

I try so hard to please you
to be the love that fills you up
I try to pour on sweet affection
but I think you got a broken cup.

Because you can’t believe I love you
I try to tell you that there is no doubt
but as soon as fill you with all I’ve got
that little break will let it run right out

I cannot make you happy
I’m learning love and money never do
but I can pour myself out ’til I’m empty
trying to be just who you’d want me to

I cannot make you happy
even though our love is true
for there’s a break in the cup that holds love
inside of you

Now I begin to understand you
as you explain the fear you feel
It’s when you see me fall into that sorrow
that makes you doubt the love is real

because the lonely wind still blows through me
I turn away so you can’t see
but now how can I still be so empty
with all this love that you pour on me?

I guess you cannot make me happy
and that’s a money-back guarantee
but you can pour yourself out ’til you’re empty
trying to be just who’d I want you to be

You cannot make me happy
It’s just the law of gravity
and that break in the cup that holds love
inside of me

So if you’re tempted to rescue me
drowning in this quicksand up to my neck
before you grab my hand to save me
why don’t you ask me if I’m finished yet?

You cannot make me happy
not when there’s empty inside of me
but you can pull yourself right in here with me
My misery’d love to have your company

We cannot trade empty for empty
We must go to the waterfall
for there’s a break in the cup that holds love
a break in the cup that holds love
inside us all

Song:
Break in the Cup – David WIlcox
I Leak – Mike Briscoe

God’s Word:
Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Ephesians 2:1-3 – “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Steve’s Advice:
When Scripture says “All have sinned and fallen short,” God means “all.” No one has escaped the pull of sin and the death of sin. We are all sinners (even that person you think is so perfect), and so no one can fill us up or make us feel “full” except for Jesus. There is a classic movie called Jerry MacGuire, where the main character says to his girl, “You complete me.” This is not even possible. No man or woman on earth can complete you. Only Jesus can “complete” you. . . actually, that is exactly the work He continually does in our lives once we choose to follow Him. Just remember that you will not be satisfied in anyone or anything until you are fully satisfied in Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him.

God’s Word:
Ephesians 3:17-19 – “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth , and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Colossians 2:9-10 – “For in him [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”

Matthew 12:334b – “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

John 16:33 – “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Famous Words:
“You fill me with all I need, if only I didn’t leak.” – Mike Briscoe, Song – I Leak

 

Be Saved

Steve’s Advice:
The first and foremost piece of advice that I can give to anyone (This series is written for my kids in particular, but this one applies to everyone) is to BE SAVED!! We are all drowning. We are all killing ourselves with our selfish actions, our sin. You can’t “earn” your way to heaven or out of hell, but JESUS has done ALL the work!!!!

 

Personal Story:
My friend Scott Crenshaw used to say, “Can I tell you something that no one else in the church will tell you? It’s sort of like a secret. Ready? Here it is: You don’t need Jesus to go to heaven. It’s true. Everyone always says that you’ve got to have Jesus if you want to go to heaven, but they’re wrong. You can go to heaven without Jesus if you live a ‘perfect’ holy life.” Scott always goes on to explain that if you don’t have any sin, you won’t be separated from Him and so you’ll go to heaven without Jesus.

 

Steve’s Advice:
That’s the problem though. Right? Sin. None of us is sinless. None of us is perfect. We are all guilty. Some sins are practically universal – lying, selfishness, pride, lust, hate, and the list could go on and on and on. The only way we can be in the presence of God is without sin – without even a hint of sin and we carry it everywhere we go. We can’t “change our ways” enough. We can’t willpower our way to holiness. We all fall short of perfection – short of sinlessness – short of holiness. This is why we need Jesus. His blood covers us. He paid for our sin on the cross. His blood covers us.

 

Personal Story:
My friend Scott also tells a story. His young son wanted to take the family out to lunch after church one day. They went and ordered as they normally would and enjoyed their lunch. When the waiter came over and handed them the check, his son reached into his pockets and pulled out everything he had. After all the coins had collected on the table, they counted out less than 3 dollars. It wasn’t enough. Although his heart and intentions were good, it simply wasn’t enough……. But someone had to pay. Right?!?! Someone had to pay. My friend Scott paid the price for his loved one’s meals that day ’cause he was able.

 

Steve’s Advice:
Jesus is the same. The price for sin is death and He paid the bill for us.

 

God’s Word:
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Steve’s Advice:
Jesus paid the price for us because He alone is able. We will never be enough. ‘Cause we are sinful. We don’t earn His love by doing “good” things either. It is a gift. My friend “covered” for his son because he was able to give him that gift. Jesus’ blood covers us and he chose to give His life for our benefit.

 

This is the kind of thing I must admit that I lose sight of. I’ve lived as a Christian for many years and continue to forget that I can’t earn His love. I still find myself thinking that because I have done this or that for God, that I will somehow receive His blessings. I catch myself thinking, “Oh my kids will be alright. I’ve raised them to believe in Jesus.” However, my efforts don’t guarantee anything. It’s only by the grace of God that my children will know the Lord and serve Him with their lives. Of course I have an influence, but ultimately, the best thing I can do is pray for God’s intervention in their lives. I can’t earn His favor with my “good works.” As a matter of fact. My “good” works aren’t really that good at all.

 

God’s Word:
Isaiah 64:6b – All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

 

Steve’s Advice:
Even the things we think are good are still polluted by sin in one way or another. Even with a subtle sinful influence, we bring impure acts to the Lord. Our “good” works are still not “holy” works. God doesn’t owe us anything. ‘Cause we can’t do enough to earn anything.

 

God’s Word:
Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Famous Words:
“We cannot be so bad Christ might abandon us… because we never did anything good enough to cause Him to love us.” – Chad Poe

 

“Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat out denial of the Gospel of grace.” – Brennan Manning

 

“Sin does not make us bad. It makes us dead.” – Scott Crenshaw

 

Song:
Saved by Grace – Jadon Lavik

Arrows – Be Brave

Steve’s Word:
I am very blessed to have my children. God has shown immense and undeserved favor to me in bringing my kids into my life. I feel humble and inadequate for the task of raising them to know Him and to bring Him glory, but by His grace, empowered by His Spirit, I will. Notice, I did not say “try.” Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” And that is very appropriate here. “Trying” is not good enough in this monumental endeavor. It’s not enough to “try” to raise them as God has called. I must “do.”


God’s Word: 

Psalm 127:4 – Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

Steve’s Word:
According to this verse, my kids are my arrows, but what does that mean? What do arrows do? Answer: They are launched into the world by the archer (the Father) in order to advance His army into enemy territories. It is my prayer that their young lives will be spent “becoming” arrows and that as they grow, they will be launched into the world to “take ground” from the enemy so that God’s army can be advanced. The arrow’s purpose is to help Him with His purposes for His Kingdom and His glory. Arrows also go into dangerous places – enemy territory. They take risks for a greater purpose and penetrate the darkness with light. Arrows are aimed at specific targets, not just thrown out randomly. The archer “plans” his shot. God is a skilled archer, He has a plan and is able to place you in the exact place He needs you to be.

My children are the only arrows I have and I pray that they will be all of these things. It will take bravery, but they are children of God who I pray will be empowered by the Spirit of God when one day they choose to honor Him and give Him their lives.

God’s Word:
Romans 8:31b – If God is for us, who can be against us?

Psalm 45:5 – Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.

Famous Words:
“With God, you are stronger than your struggles and more fierce than your fears. God provides comfort and strength to those who trust in Him. Be encouraged, keep standing, and know that everything’s going to be alright.” – Germany Kent

“Playing it safe is risky. The greatest risk is taking no risks.” – Mark Batterson

“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” – Khalil Gibran

“Life is like an arrow. The farther back you are pulled, the farther forward you will end up.” – Unknown

“A single arrow is easily broken; a quiver of ten is not.” – Japanese proverb

“Jesus didn’t die to make us safe, but to make us dangerous.” – Mark Batterson

“You must not only aim right, but draw the bow with all your might.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” – Billy Graham

Personal Story:
I haven’t had the pleasure of launching my children out into the world just yet, so the only story I can tell is about some of my students from when I was in youth ministry. One of my greatest joys is watching my ex-students who have grown up and continued to follow Jesus into their adult lives. I have old students who have done mission work all over the world. Off the top of my head I can think of students who have served in Egypt, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Liberia, Scotland, South Africa, China, and Thailand. I have also been able to download sermon podcasts from some of my old students who are pastors. Others have been involved in youth ministry, music ministry, church planting, and other local church ministries. I can think of at least 15 of my ex-students who have served in ministry in a full-time role. There are countless others who are serving in other ways. I even have connections with a couple of my old students who are living out their faith in Hollywood. One is in the modeling/acting world and another is a musician. Both travel all over the world regularly and share their faith in each of those places.

One of my favorite things is when there is some sort of event that brings these people back together. A couple years ago, we got to attend a retirement party for our friend Jon Godbold and we had the chance to see and catch up with a lot of those students. It’s truly a joy for me to watch how they are serving the Lord and to know that God was working among us during our times together to lead them to those places. If that’s how I feel about ex-students, I can’t imagine how great it will be to watch my own children grow into the people that God has planned for them to be. I’m excited to watch as they are launched into the world and take ground for His kingdom. As the verse says, I am blessed to have some arrows in my quiver.

Not the Place

You may see a group of cabins and a firepit, but I see people too. . . . friends gathered around that fire singing songs and sharing some of the deepest parts of their lives. The sound of that door springing open unleashes thoughts of 80’s hair bands blasting through a jambox and floods my heart with joy and the emotions I experienced in those cabins. I can smell the wind as it carries laughter through the trees, and in spite of my attempts to describe it, you will never be able to hear that laughter. And how could I blame you? You weren’t there.

I love being in certain places. There are places that conjure deep emotions for me and some that make me feel light and free. Each of these places is filled with memories.

As much as I try, I have found that I can’t really ever go back to those places though. I mean. . . yes. . . I can be in the same space and I can enjoy being there and remembering, but it’ll never quite be the way I remembered it. What I remember is not just the place, it’s the people who were with me and the circumstances around my life that shaped the way I experienced that place. Even if the place has by some miracle stayed the same, the people and circumstances around my life have changed and so I experience it differently.

David Wilcox says, “The measure of that place is the pleasure on your face.”

It’s not the place that makes it special – it’s the people and it’s God. What makes certain places stand out and become memorable to us is God’s hand stirring our hearts and guiding our thoughts/emotions as we interact with others in the space that we’re in. (By the way, even if you’re alone in the space, God is still with you.)

 

Eulogy – Jerry Allen – Roger’s Friend

The family has allowed me the opportunity to talk about the man I knew and loved and I am so thankful.

When I started reflecting on all the fantastic experiences we have had with the Corn family;  the family vacations, the amazing camping trips (Roger was an avid camper), or just simply hanging out at each other’s home.   I always come back to how those days ended after getting everyone tucked in and safe.   Roger and I, either alone or with many of you in the audience, sitting around a fire pit, looking up at the stars, and talking about the importance of family and how proud and blessed we were to be able to give our family these experiences.

Looking at Facebook and the comments about Roger – everyone is talking about how even keeled and calm he was every day.   And he was.    But not everyone was lucky enough to see behind the scenes efforts that gave him the confidence to say things like “Oh, It will be FINE”….  or “Yea… It’s all gonna work out”.   Roger would pour endless amounts of hours and work into researching and planning and mapping everything out so that it would be the perfect experience for his family and specifically his boys.   He was very meticulous about that; and every planned vacation or outing revolved around his boys getting that perfect experience.

Whether it was,

      • Skiing in Angelfire or Sip Pa Poo or Colorado
      • Scuba diving
      • Camping in a KOA in the back of Circus Circus in Las Vegas when it was 120 degrees
      • Having pine cone wars at the Grand Canyon
      • Eating ice cream in Lake City after going on the Jeep trails
      • Going to Yellow Stone and seeing Old Faithful and herds of buffalo
      • Taking the kids out tubing on Lake Texoma and finding the importance of not letting Shawn drive the boat….. Thumbs down means slow down Shawn.
      • Going on fantastic hikes in the mountains of Arkansas that ended in the most spectacular waterfalls and those amazing Dutch-oven pecan rolls….
      • Or playing football on the white sugary sand beaches of Gulf Shores because we could see sharks in the waves.
      • Not to mention the countless weekend trips to Cleburne State Park or Benbrook Lake for a quick camping trip and a few rounds of kick ball….

He planned all these trips so that his boys would grow up with shared family experiences of togetherness.   Remember these times fondly boys as he would want you to repeat them with your family when you have one.

Losing your father at such a young age is one of the toughest thing you will ever face.   There will be other chapters of your life where struggles will present themselves to you and your family, but you will make it through them.   In those times you are going to think… “I wish I could call or ask Dad about this …  He would know what to do.“ Look around this room boys…   Every man in this room carries a piece of your dad with them…   Pick up the phone…  Call… We are all better men for knowing Roger Corn and we will help without judgement or question, just as he would have done for our family.

That’s the Roger Corn I knew and loved… That’s the Roger Corn I will remember.

Eulogy – Tyler Corn – Roger’s Son

My dad had a procedure to take fluid out of his body on Thursday December 19th, he did not feel right after that and went to the hospital that following Saturday morning. He fought hard these past few weeks and I know that he is at peace now. The Wednesday before he had his procedure done me and him went to eat at a restaurant he picked out, we then went to get his mom a Christmas present. I will forever be grateful that I got to spend this day with him and eat one of his last good meals with him. I am also very happy that he got to see me graduate college this December.

For a few months he had been telling me how much I was going to like my Christmas present to that he got me. He seemed really excited for Christmas. His mom and sister also told me how much he talked about how excited he was for Christmas. The Sunday before he passed me, my brothers and my mom went to the hospital and opened the presents that he got us. We also got him a blanket that he used until the day he passed. I am very thankful that the last memory he has with me and my brothers was opening presents together.

I have many great memories with my dad and in the past 6 months he has been back to his old self. My dad played a very big role in making me the man I am today. He taught me how to live my life and although he had a few bumps in the road he was a great dad to me and my brothers and there was no doubt that he loved us. One year we were camping in Colorado and on the way there we heard the song simple man. Later that trip me and him were sitting around and he told me that he wanted me to live my life like the song simple man explains. I will always remember this moment and try my best to live this way.

Eulogy – Steve Corn – Roger’s Brother

As his brother, I don’t really have childhood memories that don’t include Roger. We were only 16 months apart so we shared everything – a room, clothes, and even friends. In my memories, he is in every scene. He is part of the furniture, one of the things that always remain. Yes, everything else changes around it, but he was always there. Always pushing me, challenging me, and making me better.

Yes, I was the older brother, but most of the time, it was Roger who would go first. When we were really little, I remember a swimming pool with a large diving platform. I watched all the adults and big kids jumping off the rocks and wanted to join them, but I was scared. So. . . as any good big brother would do, I convinced Roger to go first. I wanted to see how it went before I did it myself. Roger didn’t hesitate. He jumped off the rock, added a little spin move and landed safely in the pool below. I jumped after seeing him. His courage gave me courage. Without trying, he pushed me, challenged me, and made me better. This story sort sets the tone for how things would go for the rest of our lives.

Roger was almost always the first to do the daring things. He was the first to ride a roller coaster, the first to jump from the roof to the trampoline, the first to climb onto the sled when it was tied to the back of the motorcycle (mind you, there was no snow and sparks were flying all the way down the road beneath your butt). In his early years, Roger was the daredevil of the family. If you consider a trapeze artist, he was the guy flying through the air flipping all around. Me?? I was the guy watching in the stands and wishing I had the courage to try it. Roger waited ‘til his Jr year in High School to start running track and went to state. He tried out for the school play his Senior year and got a lead part. Brave doesn’t begin to describe Roger. He tried it all and found success in almost everything. He may have had some fears, but he didn’t let it control him. He walked on at Texas Tech and put in the work to eventually make the team. Roger was the first to get married (and by the way, that’s one of the most daring things he did). He was the first to have kids (even more daring.) These are the acts of a man who was confident. A man who is willing to take some risks. A man who had found something worth giving his life to.

As he grew older, and had more responsibilities, Roger became more like the catcher for the trapeze artist. When his family needed him, he was there to catch them, to support them, and to bring them back to safety. At work, he did the same thing for his students and his coworkers. As I have read comments online over the past couple of days, I’ve seen story after story of Roger’s impact on the people around him. He was a catcher. He may not physically be catching anyone, but he caught us all when we were struggling. On the day when we were kids and I convinced him to jump from the rocks into the pool, he was catching me – not physically, but my fears were overwhelming me, and his bravery caught my fears and encouraged me. When we laughed together, Roger was catching my insecurities and bringing me hope. When he told funny stories of stupid things students had done in his school, (and by the way there are a ton of those) When he told those stories, he was shedding light into the darkness that creeps into all our lives. Roger caught us. When our inner struggles were raging or even creeping in on us, when we felt like we were flailing through the air and out of control, Roger’s presence was a calming presence, a reassuring presence. He was catching us.

Some of you may not know, but back in June we almost lost Roger. He was in the hospital for several weeks and we didn’t know if he would make it. I spent quite a bit of time with him in those days. We had many conversations. We laughed. We cried. We remembered. We looked to the future. We talked about the things that were important to him. And at the center of it all were two things, his faith and his family. At that time, Roger made a decision to be very intentional about both. He knew that he had been given a 2nd chance and he didn’t want to waste it. In one of the quiet, sorta awkward, hospital moments, Roger shared a story with me that he had read. It was about a trapeze artist from a Max Lucado book called “Anxious for Nothing.” Here’s the quote:

“The secret is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe (my catcher), I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron. . . . The worst thing the flyer can do is try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.” 

After explaining that story to me, he said, “Steve, that’s what I’m trying to learn to do.” He wanted to learn to trust the catcher, God. He understood that for his whole life, he had been flying through the air flipping around all over the place. Yes, it looked pretty sometimes and he masked it well by being a catcher for all of us, but he knew that on the inside, where it really matters, he had never really trusted God. That day, he decided to be different and he began a new journey. It’s not that he didn’t know the Lord before that day, it’s just that he knew there were more ways he could learn to trust Him. With this decision, Roger proclaimed an eternal truth: The catcher can be trusted. God can be trusted. On that day, Roger stretched out his arms, released the tension in his fingers and trusted the catcher. He fully trusted that Jesus would be there.

And isn’t that the Gospel? Jesus is the catcher. Jesus swung down into our world and reached into the muck and mire of our sin. He sees us flailing around in the air pretending that we have everything under control, and he rescues us. In spite of ourselves, he rescues us. Like the catcher, Jesus stretched out His arms too. The cross was the tool He used to reach us, to rescue us. And here’s the thing: He can be trusted. He is fully capable of catching us. No matter what ways you have twisted your life around or what ways the world has tossed and turned you, He can catch you and He can save you.

After that day, Roger was different. He had a new purpose. He began rebuilding his physical body, and his spiritual life, as well as his relationships. He read his bible more. His body was fragile, but he pushed it. His body was tired and worn out but he was motivated by his love for God and his love of his family to push through. In between medical procedures, he worked hard at loving the people around him. He was the Roger I had always known – pushing me, challenging me, and making me better. Roger actually started returning phone calls!! He even made some pretty long trips to show his appreciation for the people he loved! He may not have known it, but these last 6 months have been a gift to us. They allowed him to “set things right.” And they allowed us to see him as the man God intended him to be. It’s truly been a blessing. God is good.

Although Roger wasn’t perfect and certainly made some mistakes, He loved you all. Fiercely. He spent his life looking for ways to love you. He wanted to guide you boys and lead you to be a “Simple Kind of Man.” In the end, and in spite of his own physical suffering, Roger sacrificed over and over again to love and support you. And me too. Even up to the very end, he fought to live for the sole purpose of being able to give more of himself for us. This is love.

At my own wedding, Roger quoted something from a book called “Wild at Heart.” He said that every man longs for 3 things: an adventure to live, a beauty to rescue, and a battle to fight.

Roger has lived all of these things. He lived an adventure, he rescued the beauty, and he certainly fought some battles. He has had a full life and He has lived it well.

So what would Roger say to us? Roger always “went first.” Now, he’s done it again and left me behind watching as he goes on another adventure with Jesus. As the risk taker that he was, this is what I think he’d say.

When you get to the end of your life, it’s not the things you did that you regret. It’s the things you didn’t do: You didn’t get right with God. You didn’t catch the people in your life or you weren’t there for them in the times they needed you the most. You didn’t try that thing you always wanted to do. Whatever it is for you. I think Roger would say, do it. Do it now. Try it. Forgive them. Take the risk. Make it right with God. We don’t all get second chances like Roger did. . . .

Just a few days ago, on the morning of January 8th, Roger let go of the trapeze, stretched out his arms, and he completely surrendered to his faith that Jesus could catch him. Time stood still and everything slowed as he hung in the air, but even now, I sense the relief and the calm assurance that Roger must have felt as Jesus grabbed his arms and brought him safely over the apron. I can hear the echo of Jesus saying, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Well done.

The Sword of Gratitude

Darkness closes in. The silence is deafening. My vision is clouded. I can’t see a way out. Death marches on, threatening, intimidating, and piercing the very depths of my being. There is nothing I can do but wait. . . with heavy breathing and an anxious spirit, I wait for the inevitable. These are dark times. I shovel the darkness out as fast as I can only to discover that another onslaught of more darkness has already arrived in its’ place. I just keep shoveling, but I don’t seem to be making any progress. I am overcome by the throng pressing in and I can’t seem to find a footing.

What should I do? Or maybe the better question – What did Jesus do?

Luke 22 describes the events right before Judas’ betrayal – right before the crucifixion. When the darkness had amassed its’ hordes and was preparing to destroy  Him. . . when death came knocking, with the cross just ahead of Him, Jesus sat down to a Passover meal with His friends. There, He took bread and gave thanks.  Jesus took the time and gave thanks right before His ultimate battle with darkness.  Think about it. He could have done anything He wanted, but He chose to hang out with friends (disciples), remember all His Father had done (Passover meal), and give thanks. The sword Jesus wielded that night was gratitude. And make no mistake. . . gratitude is a sword. It pierces the darkness with light!

Think about it. Gratitude is worship. It’s a recognition of who God is and what He has done. This is worship. Even when we are grateful for a kindness of another person, those things are ultimately a picture of the Gospel. A “thank you” is the acknowledgement of an undeserved kindness, and that’s the Gospel – an underserved kindness. When we are surrounded by darkness, we can choose to try to shovel out the darkness or we can choose gratitude. When we thank God, we remember who He is and what He has done and we begin to reflect the glory of the Gospel. Jesus’ light pierces that darkness as our gratitude remembers, and praises and talks about His work and His character. Darkness trembles at His name. Darkness flees. There isn’t even a battle between light and darkness. Light wins every time. With even an ounce of light, darkness hides it’s face. Gratitude is the sword that defeats the darkness. Gratitude shines the light of Christ into every circumstance. Since it brings light, gratitude always wins in a battle against the darkness.  (nerdy sidenote: Gratitude is probably more like a “Light Saber” than a sword.)

Here are a few Scriptural examples of God’s people remembering and being grateful before a battle with darkness:

        • 2 Chronicles 20:22 – Jehoshaphat and his men praised God and then the LORD set an ambush against the horde.
        • Daniel 6:10 – When he found out He would be thrown into the lion’s den, Daniel thanked God.
        • Psalm 40; Psalm 69 – David thanks God and praises Him in song over and over again in the book of Psalms.
        • Joshua 5 – Israel’s priests and trumpets lead the army around Jericho before the walls crumble.
        • The Passover meal itself (instituted by God) is a thanksgiving remembrance of what God has done and who He is intended to give His people strength and reassurance in all their circumstances.

Thanksgiving/gratitude are also good for us ‘because they reframe our thoughts about our circumstances. When I spend time reflecting on all my blessings, the things God has done for me, the things He has given me, I enter life with a willingness to give and to be a blessing to others. On the other hand, when I’m not mindful of my blessings, I’m more likely to fall into the trap of comparing myself to others. In those moments I feel inadequate and sometimes even cheated. I enter life looking for what I can get out of the situation or what I can take for myself. Gratitude allows me to see the truth that in Christ I am “more than a conqueror” and He is “all that I need.”

Ann Voskamp has done some studies in conjunction with her book, “1,000 Gifts.” She asked people to write down 3 things they are grateful for each day for a year. In the end, they will have collected a list of over 1,000 gifts. Her theory is that this practice changes our outlook, our attitudes, our choices. . . in short, it changes our lives. Here’s a quote:

“If they wrote down just three things a day they were grateful for, they were less depressed, less suicidal, less apathetic, than those who didn’t practice lifestyle gratitude. . . . Research indicated that recording those blessings was cognitive training, a way of reorganizing your brain to focus on goodness. It increases an individual’s positive focus by 25%. . . . Those who practice this type of lifestyle gratitude have higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, optimism, attentiveness, energy, they were more motivated, likeable, other-oriented, forgiving, generous, helpful, more likely to volunteer, and more likely to give back. Giving thanks and giving back are ‘Siamese twins.’ They move as one.” – Ann Voskamp

Here’s a link to download a sermon I preached on this topic: