Filed under: God, life, parenting, relationships | Tags: anxiety, david herndon, Easter, fear, God, illness, jesus, john 16:33, phillipians 4, prayer, sickness, worry
I awoke suddenly to the incessant beeping of the IV machine, letting the entire hall know that it was time to change the bag. Luckily the patient did not wake up since by now I knew how to work the buttons better than the PM nurse. I settled back into the plastic covered recliner that was my bed and tried to go back to sleep, knowing that in 90 minutes I would be up again, helping take vitals with the nurse. I was exhausted, but sleep did not come easy.
I was worried. I was anxious.
This was my life for most of last week. My son woke up one morning with a stomach ache. A doctor’s visit, a hospital stay, and then a transfer to another hospital. It could be appendicitis. I could be colitis. It could be a parasite. “We’ll have to run tests to be sure.” Tests meant drawing blood, among other things. Lots of pricking and prodding tended to weary the patience of the strongest 6 year old I know. Doctors, nurses, needles, oh my. He was scared. So was I. My son was sick and I didn’t know what was wrong or how to fix it.
So in the early hours of the morning I sat in my plastic recliner and prayed. Then God reminded me of this scripture:
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).”
I get it. I’ve heard like a million Christian talks on how “worry is the opposite of faith,” and how “worry is a sign that we are trying to control God,” and blah, blah, blah. I know that I shouldn’t worry about making a good impression on the new neighbors. I know that I shouldn’t worry about that red light when I’m already running late. I shouldn’t worry about affording to pay for one more Disney trip. That’s first world problems. That’s the small stuff. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the big stuff. What if I can’t afford to pay for all three of my children to go to college? What if my daughter gets pregnant as teen? What if one of my sons gets a girl pregnant? What if one of my children becomes a drug addict? What if I get cancer? What if one of my children gets cancer? What if my wife gets cancer? What if its not appendicitis or a stomach bug? What if its something worse?
When you love someone as much as a parent loves a child or a husband loves a wife… how do you not worry?
When tragedy strikes and your whole world turns upside down… how are you supposed to be thankful?
Abraham worried about fulfilling God’s call so he had a child with a woman who wasn’t his wife. Noah worried about finding land after the flood, so he kept sending birds to their deaths as they flew across endless water. Gideon worried about battle so he often tested and challenged God. Paul writes in Philippians 4 the famous “do not worry” passage, but just 2 chapters before he talks about his own anxiety concerning one of his disciples, Epaphroditus. And even Jesus, the night before his death, sweated blood as he prayed, “If there is another way, let this cup pass from me.” The bible doesn’t really give instructions on how not to worry.
I hashed this out with God, the beeping IV machine, and the plastic recliner all night. As I watched my son sleep I couldn’t help but think that my love for him is but a fraction of God’s love for us. “I would give my life for his health,” I said. “So would I,” God replied, “and so I did.”
In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
This next sentence is difficult to write and perhaps more difficult to read.
God is not as concerned about our health and well-being and general comfort in life as we are. I’m not saying that He’s not concerned. Its just that the things we value most are not as valuable to Him. On the cross, Jesus could have died so that we would never experience illness or disease. He could have died so that we would never experience poverty or hunger. He could have died so that we would never experience injustice or hate.
But he didn’t die for those things.
Jesus died so that we would never have to experience separation from God.
God is most concerned with our relationship to Him. The only thing that ever threatened our relationship with God, and thus our eternity, is sin. Through the cross, Jesus took care of that problem. So we don’t have to worry about it anymore. We’re cured… if we want to be.
The truth is that any anxiety I feel is evidence of being more concerned with this life than the life to come.
I may or may not be able to afford three college educations. My children may or may not become drug addicts. My son may or may not have a parasite that makes his stomach hurt. God does not require us to have a college education in order to understand His love. God does not require us to be clean and sober in order to receive His grace. God does not require us to be healthy in order to live in His ways. God does not value us based on our checking account, our car title, or the title on our office door.
In the end none of that really matters because none of these things determine my relationship with God. None of these things determine my eternity.
I still worry, especially about my family. I probably always will. I don’t understand how to prevent anxiety anymore now than I did last week in the hospital. But I take great comfort in the fact that my eternity has nothing to do with my abilities (or lack thereof) or my wealth (or lack thereof) or my success (or lack thereof) or my health (or lack thereof).
My eternity has everything to do with Jesus’ victory over sin in His death and resurrection. I can be thankful for that. No matter what happens (or doesn’t happen) today, my sins are forgiven and my eternity is secure in Jesus Christ. Come illness, come trouble, come injustice, come hardship… nothing can take that away.
I can be thankful for that.
And that is one less thing to worry about.
Filed under: life
If you’ve ever seen “Field of Dreams” you know what that title is all about. The whole movie is about a son forgiving his father, and it has all of these simple phrases whispered throughout the film. We’ve all heard “If you build it, they will come.” The “ease his pain” phrase is not as popular, but recently it became quite essential to me.
I’ve been researching rather heavily the word “forgive,” and what I’m finding is changing everything I believe about relationships. I’ll try to share what I’m learning in detail but also be brief at the same time – however, please allow my thoughts to inspire you into a lifetime of thought on this subject.
When we commonly think of forgive we tend to think of pardoning a person, letting something slide, we may even consider it a way of forgetting a wrong that was done. We view…
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Filed under: leadership, life, people, relationships | Tags: anger, appetite, christianity, contentment, david herndon, drunk driving, ephesians 4, fruits of the spirit, gossip, lust, news, people, relationships, self-control, sxsw, sxsw accident, time management, words, youth ministry
“Suspect in deadly SXSW crash charged with capital murder.” That was the headline I read on USA Today. I usually follow the SXSW headlines hoping to catch wind of a new band about to break or a new film I need to see. This story stopped me in my tracks. A drunk driver plowed through a crowd of festival attendees, killing three and injuring dozens more. How does this happen? How does a person get this out of control? More importantly how do I protect myself from losing control?
He can explain himself. He can justify it. He can make excuses. But it doesn’t matter. The damage is done and the headline is written.
Drunk driving through the crowd. Three people dead. That’s his headline for the rest of his life.
One more drink, one more TV episode, one more word in the argument. Our all-you-can-eat buffet and reality TV society even seems to encourage a lifestyle of losing control. Lack of self-control brings down our politicians and religious leaders. It takes the lives of our party-hard teens. It costs us our jobs. It hurts our friendships. It makes us the most obese country in the world. It passes around STD’s. It breaks up our families. It ruins our lives. Yet when life gets tough and we get frustrated, our instinct is to lose control.
Rough day? Have a few drinks.
Arguing with your spouse? Use a few expletives.
Feeling unhappy? Put it on the credit card.
We might not drunk-drive through the crowd, but when we lose self-control the results can be just as harmful.
Depending on the translation, the word “self-control” appears roughly 74 times in the Bible. Self-control is about social responsibility and personal holiness. Paul says it is a fruit of the Spirit – evidence of Christ at work in our lives. Self-control is the root of the Great Commandment. We express love to God by expressing love to others. Self-control is more than just new age self-improvement. Self-control is about caring for others by caring for yourself.
Self-control speaks more of our devotion to God’s kingdom than any other discipline in life.
Self-control is not just about refraining from (insert vice). Self-control is about being human. Self-control is about reflecting God’s image. Self-control is about thinking of others first. And since we really don’t have any control in life, its really about depending on the One who does.
We need self-control in our WORDS. Mike Foster wrote a fantastic article about refraining from gossip. You should definitely read his blog. Ephesians 4 further encourages us to think twice before we speak. There are many things we can say for many reasons, but the heart of the matter is why we are saying them. If your words are not beneficial for those who hear it (including yourself), then perhaps you should stay quiet.
We need self-control in our ANGER. The bible is clear (also Ephesians 4). Anger is not a sin, but what you do with your anger could be. Self-Control draws the line between reasonable frustration and savage brutality. Knocking the chair over now relieves stress, but later you have nowhere to rest. Yelling now feels good, but later no one is listening to you at all.
We need self-control in our LUST. Sexual sins carry bigger consequences because they are against your own body. Our society isn’t doing us any favors in this area, but when we objectify others for our personal pleasure we have failed humanity. We cheapen our own lives by devaluing others. If we cannot exhibit self-control in our own purity, we will certainly be a pollutant in others’ lives.
We need self-control in our APPETITE. One more drink, one more bite, one more dollar, one more rep, the newest car, the nicest restaurant – these things are not evil in themselves. But when we begin to love things and to pursue things with a majority of our time, energy, and passion we are in a dangerous place. Most likely the ones who get caught holding the check are those around us.
Finally, we need self-control in our TIME. On one hand we are a society of 80-hour-work-week execs, and on the other hand we are 24/7 gamers and Netflix autoplay. Rest too much and you’ll be constantly discontent. Work too much and you’ll never be satisfied. You will know when you find someone who lives the balance between work and rest. They are productive and successful and yet they still know how to enjoy life. They don’t have the most/best, but they have what they need… and are content with it. A one-dimensional schedule produces a one-dimensional life.
Perhaps the problems we have in our relationships are less about how others treat us and more about how we treat ourselves.
If we can have self-control in these 5 areas our faith, our families, our lives, and our world will be drastically better for it. We all have seasons of frustration, discontentment, loneliness. The temptation is to go a little crazy until you feel better. But God is not a God of extremes. He is a God of control and order, and He calls us to be people of control and order.
Self-control is about depending on God. Self-control is about loving others.
Without self-control we are just drunk driving through the crowd.
That’s not what I want my headline to be.
Filed under: life, people, relationships | Tags: christian persecution, christian politics, christian solidarity international, church decline, corinthians, csi-usa, david herndon, gay rights, hebrews, jason collins, Paul, peter, post-moderns, the middle east, tim tebow
I grew up with 2 older brothers who could, on occasion, be very good at being older brothers. I was scrawny and a little under-confident when it came to conflict, so I didn’t have a lot to play when it came to holding my own in the “brotherly love” department. But one thing I could do very well – play the victim card. Tears. Exaggeration. Screaming & Yelling. I had it all. Once I slapped myself in the face and blamed it on my brother just so I could watch TV by myself. It is a powerful tool… unless you overplay it.
I discovered this powerful truth: The victim card only works if you are actually a victim.
Eventually my cries and woes became a nuisance to my family. Instead of getting what I wanted, I was labeled a crybaby and sent to my room. I had overplayed the victim card. No one cared what I had to say anymore. The only choice I had left was to mature, become responsible, and start standing up for myself. I had to stop being selfish and start thinking about the other people in the family… even when I disagreed with them.
I saw this cartoon floating around the internet last year, and I saw it again last week when a student shared it with me.
In true over-confident teenager form he followed up by saying, “This is what’s wrong with our world. Nobody cares about Christians anymore.” Really? This cartoon is all that is wrong with the world? He’s half right I guess.
Sometimes I don’t think anyone cares about the Christians anymore either… at least not in America. His use of this cartoon is a good example of how (American) Christians play the victim card. Someone or some group is doing something we don’t like, no one is listening to us, so we whine and cry and point fingers at the mean old non-Christians (which often really aren’t non-Christians, they just don’t “do christianity” the way we do).
Today its a cartoon about Tim Tebow being shut out of the media and gay rights. Yesterday it was about Target not saying “Merry Christmas” when you go shopping at 3 AM on black Friday. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but American Christians will probably find something to complain about. Some judge okays it for two guys to get married or a Christian film gets bad reviews and we all scream “Persecution!”
Really? Persecution? Even if it were true, no one is listening.
Remember: The victim card only works if you are actually a victim.
A lot of Christians do a lot of whining and crying because they think they are victims. I am not saying they are wrong for believing what they believe. I am not saying they are wrong for wanting the world to look differently than it does. I am saying they are wrong in playing the victim card, because quite truthfully, American Christians are anything but victims. Christians in America have more freedom and rights as a group than anywhere else in the world.
Christians in the middle east and other parts of the world woke up this morning wondering if they would be martyred as a part of mass genocide. Christian Solidarity International puts up a map of current attacks on Christians and genocide warnings. I don’t see America on this map. When you visit the CSI website you don’t read about Tim Tebow. You read about people being murdered. You read about people being stolen from their homes and forced into slavery. You read about real persecution.
I almost find it hysterical that Americans play the victim card so well considering that Christians who are truly persecuted, both in the past and present, hardly ever play the victim card. And they really are victims! Just consider some of the things people like Paul and Peter said about persecution. When the apostles write about persecution they don’t use words like “boycott” or phrases like “write your congressman.” They use words like “endure” and “rejoice.” They use phrases like “so the world will know Christ.” Peter and Paul (and probably Mary too) knew that the victim card is not a powerful card. They understood that to truly defend faith in Christ, you simply have to display faith in Christ… especially in times of persecution.
There is no stronger evidence of the power of Christ than acceptance in the face of rejection, love in the face of hate, and faith in the face of attack.
It is no secret that the American Church is in decline. I believe a large part of that can be attributed to American Christians playing the victim card. In a country of 80,000 member mega-churches, multi-million dollar progam budgets, Christian movie studios, and… oh yeah… freedom of religion, no one feels sorry for us. No one feels the need to come to our defense. Rather, they want to distance themselves from us and send us to our room for a permanent time-out. They see us using our resources and freedoms to complain instead of using them to serve a hurting world. Sometimes they can’t see the love in us because of all the agendas being pushed at them.
What a hurting world needs is to find a loving body of believers who empathize them and a group of people who are ready to come to their defense. We encounter people “different” than us and all we think is “don’t engage, don’t empathize, don’t be influenced.” What we should be thinking is “engage, empathize, influence!” John Wesley said it best: “No one cares what you know until they know that you care.” We are so worried about having something taken from us that we have forgotten to freely give of ourselves.
We have a wonderful message of hope that this hurting world needs to hear. But how can we win anyone to Christ when we fail to display His love?
It is time that we, the American Church, decide to mature, accept our responsibilities, and start thinking about the rest of the people in our family. The acceptance card is much more powerful than the rejection card. The love card is much more powerful than the hate card. The communication card is much more powerful than the screaming and yelling card. The empathy card is always more powerful than the victim card.
We are not called to be victims. We are called to be defenders, to be peacemakers, and (above all) to be reflections of Christ.
I am challenged more than ever these days to make sure that I complain less and display faith more, that I judge less and that I accept more, that I whine less and that I rejoice more… especially when it is difficult to do so. I hope you are too.
We are not victims. Let’s stop acting like it.
Since we are no longer victims, now we can be defenders. Try taking one of these steps this week:
1. Pray for the Christians, both American and foreign, who are facing persecution in foreign countries right now. Visit CSI often and find out how you can help to defend the people who need it most.
2. Reach out to someone who is different than you in their beliefs, their lifestyle, or even their neighborhood. Look for ways to accept, embrace, love, and help them. Invite them to church or to share a meal. An easy way to do this is to find a local outreach and get involved.
3. When you want to complain this week or you are tempted to play the victim card… Don’t.
*Please note: If you want to comment on this post, I encourage it. However, this is not a post on anything controversial. It is not a post defending any one position. This is a post addressing the need for the American Church to regain its potential at reaching a hurting world through love and grace. If you would like to talk about that, please comment. If you only want to “attack” another side or criticize any particular group, please do not comment.
Filed under: God, leadership, life, marriage, parenting, people, relationships
Recently under the influence of one of my students, I’ve been hooked on an iPhone app called “Eden.” Its basically a building-block game in which you can create your own world, from mountains to canyons to seas and even trampolines, water slides, and houses! For the creative types like myself it can be pretty exciting and highly addictive… especially in the beginning. There is such a thrill in creating. Or maybe the rush is in having full control of my own little world.
One day, I did not feel the thrill or the excitement. That’s pretty normal when you play iPhone games. The usual entertainment factor wears off after a few days. Remember when everyone used to play Words with Friends? This was different though. There I was – creating, building, doing what ever I wanted to in my own little world – and a strange though popped into my head:
“I wish I could create people. I wish I had someone to share this with.”
This world is so cool and fun, yet I have no one to share it with. I had created a whole world that no one could really live in or enjoy or benefit from in anyway. While it may seem a little ridiculous considering I’m talking about a video game, another thought popped into my head. This one is much deeper and much more challenging:
“Life is not meant to be alone.”
I can’t help but think of Genesis 1 when I play this little game, and I think I am beginning to understand a little more of God’s logic in creation. The existence of the world, in all of its wonder and intricacies, is more than enough to glorify God’s greatness. Yet, He still chose to create human beings because life is not truly lived until it is lived in relationship with others. God is not satisfied and He does not rest until He was someone to enjoy His creation, to benefit from His grace, and to share in His love.
We all spend a great deal of time in “our own little world.” We may not be playing video games or organizing the cosmos, but we do create for ourselves – for our benefit, for our enjoyment, for our pleasure. We look for how others can benefit us. We look for how we can use circumstances to better our situation. We look for how we can make more money, make more time, and get more things for ourselves. Everything and everyone around us becomes nothing more than building blocks we use to construct what WE want out of life with no concern to others. But there will always come a point when we discover we are so unsatisfied and so restless. Could it be that we are living our lives the wrong way because we are living and striving and creating for no one but ourselves?
God is not satisfied and He does not rest until He has someone to enjoy His creation, to benefit from His grace, and to share in His love. We are created in His image, so why should we expect our lives to be any different?
A life is not truly lived until it is lived for others. The question for today is not “what do I need?” The question is “what do they need?” Be God’s provision for someone else today. Create a world that benefits others!
Filed under: God, life, relationships | Tags: adversity, cedar point, chicago, david herndon, indiana, ohio, optimism, perseverance, romans 8:28
Over the summer I’ve had the opportunity to travel a good bit, which is always good fun. One of the best parts of road trips, especially youth group road trips, is getting to meet new people. One one trip I had the pleasure to meet Bobby and Chad, a couple of guys from Indiana. They were curious about life on the Georgia coast and we talked about fishing and kayaking and beach-bumming and golf and the overall multitude of activities that come when someone asks, “So what is there to do down there?” Of course, after I shared I returned the question: “So what is there to do in Indiana.” They both quickly said, “You can go visit Chicago in Illinois or go to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio.” How hilarious? Their answer of what to do in Indiana is to LEAVE!
Its been a very enjoyable season for me the past year. I feel like I’ve had way more highs than lows and a lot more wins than losses. I feel blessed by what God is going in my life, in my family, and in my ministry. Of course its not all roses. There are moments when I think I’d rather be anywhere than where I am right now. There are those times when things go wrong and people are disappointed and somehow I find myself in the crosshairs of it all. There are those times when, despite my best effort, I receive criticism, constructive or just plain whiplash. There are moments when I’m just worn out, weary, and dry. The downside of having a good season is that it makes the less desirable moments a little harder to take.
Another new friend I met over the summer said this, “Any situation in which you are tempted to complain is a situation when God can use you the most.” There is a whole lot of truth in that statement if you take the time to think about it. When I’m at my lowest… When I try my best and things still don’t work out… When I flat out fail… When others let me down… When I have every right to be dissatisfied and to grumble and to be angry and to be bitter and to complain… Those are the moments when God can use me the most. I can rise above the negative. I can respond in a Christ-like way. Even better – I can let Christ respond for me! Life is not really made up from the moments, situations, or even the relationships we live through. Life is made up from how we respond to the moments, situations, and relationship we live through. When you find yourself in a situation and you think, “I’d rather be anywhere but here,” chances are God has you there for a reason! Instead of complaining about it or trying to fix it or trying to escape it, maybe we should find out why we’re there and what God wants us to do.
Romans 8:28 tells us that “God works all things for the good of those who love Him.” It doesn’t say that if we love God, everything will be perfect. It doesn’t say that if we love God, then everything will be easy and enjoyable. In fact it doesn’t say anything about the “things.” But the bible is clear on the outcome of the things. In the end, if we love God and if we trust Him and if we surrender to Him and follow Him in faith – the outcome is GOOD! You might not be where you want to be right now, but if you hang in there and keep trusting God, you might just find yourself somewhere better than you could ever imagine.
So I’ve had a good season with some challenging moments. At first glance I want to credit the “good” times as the blessing. But if I’m totally honest as I look back, its not the “good” times that made it a blessing but rather the growth that came from persevering through the “challenging times. God does work good in all things.
I wasn’t satisfied with the answers Bobby and Chad gave me, so I pressed them a little harder. They started sharing some special moments they had experienced with family and friends. Despite Indiana’s lack of natural entertainment and big cities, these guys had some strong families and strong friendships. God has done some cool things in their lives and continues to work in their lives through those relationships. Maybe Indiana isn’t so bad after all.
So where are you today? What are you going through? Are you thinking, “I’d rather be anywhere than here?” That could be just the beginning of something really special. Find out what it is!
Filed under: God, leadership, life | Tags: david herndon, experience mission, melisa peebles, missions, prayer, summer, wesley united methodist church at frederica, youth ministry
Its been a busy summer for me (i.e. I haven’t posted in a few months), but I’m thankful for the busy-ness and a little sad that things are about to slow down. I’ve had the privilege to do a lot of really fun things with a lot of really fun people in the name of ministry. Not a bad gig at all.
It hasn’t been all fun though. The truth is, I have had to do a good bit of hard work. Our youth group took on two fairly large mission projects this summer. Right here at home we helped repaint two inner city churches. We fought heat, humidity, wildfire smoke, and orange thieves the whole time. Yes – one day someone on the street stole a bag of oranges right out of my hands. His exact words were, “Gimme ‘dem oranges.” I guess vitamin C is a hot commodity on the street. Despite the citrus set back, we were able to do for these churches what they could not afford to do on their own financially or physically.
We also traveled to McDowell County, West Virginia. McDowell, in the height of the coal mining boom, was the richest county in West Virginia. Now it is one of the most impoverished in all of the United States. We repaired a couple of homes, but the real work was hosting a Kids’ Club each day for local children. Our skits were not the most entertaining, our songs were not the prettiest, and our crafts didn’t always look like they should have; but we loved on some kids who seldom feel, see, or hear love.
At the end of both projects I heard something amazing that has forever changed the way I view prayer and Christianity. Pastor Newberry, whose church we repainted, said that he had been praying for 8 years that God would send someone to help him restore his building. Being a Pastor is not his full time job. In fact, it doesn’t pay at all. So repainting the building has never been an option for him. So for almost a decade he has prayed everyday that God would send someone to help. As he told our students, “I had no idea that God would send a bunch of teenagers to help me!” We laughed at that remark and then he made a profound statement:
“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
In West Virginia we were lead by Experience Mission and our Kids’ Club coordinator, Melisa. Melisa shared that the previous weeks had been a little tough, that the groups didn’t seem to be focused on the kids and that the love just wasn’t there. As a result they had more discipline problems, lack of interest, and lack of participation. Before we arrived she asked her prayer team to pray for a team that would love the kids and be excited about ministry. She shared all of this with our students (who did a very good job) at the end of the week, and let us know that we were the answer to her prayer.
“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
I’m not sharing all of this to pat myself or my group on the back. In fact, when I hear these kind of statements I am extremely humbled. I even want to run away from it. Me? An answer to prayer? Impossible. I didn’t really do anything. It wasn’t even that hard or that grandiose. How could someone like me be an answer to prayer?
I am learning very quickly, however, that we have the power and ability everyday in every situation to increase or decrease the faith of others. We have the ability to be an answer to prayer. We may have to do things that are uncomfortable and put ourselves in situations that are less than desirable. We may have to look downright foolish. We will definitely have to put our own desires and needs aside and place others above ourselves. But if we are willing to be used, we could be the answer to someone’s prayer.
I’m learning that prayer is answered, not necessarily in earth-shattering miracles or in divine displays of heavenly authority, but in community. Pastor Newberry’s prayer for his building was answered. Melisa’s prayer for a good team was answered. The children of Gary, WV pray for love and they received it. The real kicker is that I asked God to teach me about prayer this summer and He has flat out blown my mind on the subject. It didn’t happen in any other way than by living in community, loving each other and serving each other.
“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
So look around you. Who are the people around you? What is happening around you? Where can you go into action answering prayers?
That simple conversation I shared with Pastor Newberry and the look of relief and joy on Melisa’s face will always be with me. God used me to answer someone else’s prayer. God could snap His fingers and take care of everything, but yet He chooses to use us to serve each other and love each other. He uses us as miracles and answers in each others’ lives. He uses us to increase one anothers’ faith!
The real joy is that once we realize this truth and live in it, our faith grows exponentially! I hope that you will strive to be the answer to someone’s prayer today, that someone might even say, “Because of you, my faith is stronger.”