Day 29: Speaking

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 29:  SPEAKING

Public speaking is not my jam.  I have never done well with it; I’ve gotten better at it, but I still struggle.

In 2013, three years after losing my brother, sharing publicly about the loss of my little brother seemed like a crazy idea, but I volunteered to do it anyway.

July 21, 2010, I lost my little brother Jeffrey to suicide.

It was two days before the 2010 God Has Not Forgotten You, Jesus Loves You Celebration, a yearly outreach by our church.  We invite people from every walk of life, from all over our city.

Three years later, I knew God wanted me to share.

I knew how hard it would be for me to keep my thoughts straight and share about such a horrendous event.  I knew I would be nervous and possibly distraught.  I decided to to write out exactly what I wanted to say, and I stood at the microphone and read it.

Here is what I read:

I’m Jennifer Lane. My husband James and I have been at Citychurch from the beginning. I was a naive girl in college when James’s Dad, Don Lane started piecing together this ministry to the inner-city of Amarillo. I was so blessed to be a part of the learning stages of this ministry, and not many people can say that their father-in-laws were one of the most influential people in their life, but I had one heck of a father-in-law. Every year I like to wear this t-shirt from the very first Jesus Loves You celebration, because it reminds me of how proud I was of Don’s idea for the event. I was so excited to minister to Amarillo at an event called the God Has Not Forgotten You, Jesus Loves You Celebration. That name is gold. We miss Don, but I know we are doing exactly what he would want us to do tonight. Three years ago, I had to miss the Jesus Loves You Celebration. Two days before the 2010 JLY Celebration, I got a phone call from my dad at 4 in the morning. My little brother Jeffrey had shot himself. He was only 24 years old, just a kid, and he ended his life. My dad was getting ready to drive into Houston for work and had found him in the bathroom dead. My body went through motions of packing a suitcase, finding the first flight to Houston online, taking care of Baby Gabe, who was two months old at the time, and going to the airport, while my head tried to catch up to what had just happened. If you ever wonder if James and I are committed to the mission of Citychurch, I want you to know I left my husband James here to make sure that the first Jesus Loves You Celebration without Don Lane went off without a hitch, while me and my two month old flew to Houston to sit with my parents while my dad’s family tried to clean blood out of my parent’s carpet. If ever I had a reason to think, ‘Hey, has God forgotten me? Does Jesus love me?’ It was at that moment. Watching my father cry and morn my brother was excruciating. It was completely unbearable. But I had faith. I knew God had not forgotten me. I had no reason to be mad at God. I knew that this wasn’t the plan God had for my brother’s life. I knew God wanted better things for my brother, and my brother had turned his back on those plans to pursue his own plans. God was there to comfort me. And God had not forgotten my brother. Jeffrey was meeting Jesus. Jeffrey was finding the comfort of his Savior and his creator. I want you to know that Jeffrey had accepted Jesus as a young boy. He was sold out for the Lord at a young age. His kindergarden teacher was convinced that Jeffrey would be a church pastor. Jeffrey was a fun person to be around. He loved to laugh and joke. He could make a dozen friends a minute. Everyone loved to be around him. As he became a pre-teen, he attended Child Evangelism camps and helped run Bible clubs for kids in parks of the Houston suburbs. But something happened as Jeffrey grew older. His friends, which he made so easily, became focused on parties and cars and video games and alcohol. My family went trough many years of trying to figure out how we could get Jeffrey to grow up and do things like go to school or get a job. He just didn’t take anything seriously. So it made no sense to me that someone so fun and light-hearted would make that decision to end his life. I will never understand why. The police took 6 months to give us any information. It wasn’t until Christmas that we finally had a better picture of what happened. It turns out that Jeffrey had four different drugs in his system. He had been at a party the night before (on a Monday mind you.) Who goes to a party until 2 in the morning on a Monday? Kid’s living off their parents, I guess. His friends who at first said, ‘he only had one or two beers.’ Began to change their story to a more truthful, ‘Jeffrey would take any drug that anyone would offer him.’ I can’t tell you how much guilt I have waded through. How did I not even know that my brother had a drug problem when he was at the level of anything goes? So why am I sharing this with you? Why would I get up here and tell you this tragic story? I want you to know that if your sitting here with drugs in your system, even four drugs in your system. It’s not too late to change. My brother doesn’t have that option, but you are here, you’re alive. God sent me and Citychurch to intersect your path, and tell you “God has not forgotten you. Jesus loves you.” You can do something we call, repent. Which means stop, turn the other direction, and follow Jesus. 1 John 1:9 says, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ And I want to tell you that Jesus is worth following. I have been following Jesus, wholeheartedly since I was 13 years old. I gave my life to Jesus, and I have never regretted it. Does that mean my life is perfect. No. Obviously you can see that I still have good days and bad. I still have life hurts and loss. But I have the joy of the Lord through all those days. Nehemiah 8:10 says, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ If you want to talk to someone about receiving drug counseling or receiving the Lord as your savior, please come talk to me or Pastor Donnie, or find someone in a staff shirt. If the Holy Spirit is calling you to repent, don’t ignore it. If Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart, answer. Revelation 3:20 says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me.’

God used this testimony.  At the end of the night, I prayed with a girl named Misty.  She was about the same age as my brother had been when he ended his life.  Misty was struggling with drug addiction, and wanted to ask God to help her.  Praying with Misty was a blessing because I knew, if it was only this one thing, something good was coming from this tragedy.  The last thing I want is nothing good to come from the loss of my brother.  It has been my prayer from the day I learned of his death.

God put a new calling in my heart in this last year, and that calling is to share my stories, mainly the story of losing my brother.  I believe God can use stories to heal hearts and change hearts.  Jesus spoke with stories, parables, because He knows the power of a story.

Sharing a story takes faith.  Putting out something tender and vulnerable into a rough and tumble world is scary.  Will it be trampled or will it grow?

I’m following God’s calling to share my stories.  I’m taking that faith adventure right now.

 

 

I love music, and I like to share a song with each blog post.  Chris Bell died young in a car crash.  I watched a documentary about him, and his sister had taken the job of preserving his memory and music.  Watching her share about her little brother, I knew some of her pain.  I admired her strength in sharing her story.

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