This very easily could go down as the best writing I’ve ever done. No, that doesn’t mean I’m a great writer. It doesn’t mean I’m arrogant and think God has already pulled out so much potential from me that I can write so well… Come to think of it, this has nothing to do with me at all and has everything to do with this picture.
To you, this may just be another picture you would see on someone’s Facebook page. It’s not super professional (sorry to whoever took it). But I like it that way.
Now, stop looking at my Hitman shirt and faux hawk. It’s not nice to laugh.
This picture, is my favorite picture that I own. Gosh I sure hope my wife doesn’t read this. I’m sure she would expect my favorite picture to be one of her and me. But all joking aside, this picture means the world to me.
This picture marks the first time I ever baptized anyone. That was a great day. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever felt. Now, looking back, it isn’t the reason why I love this picture. Of course I love Jesus and I love doing baptisms. But this picture is special to me for another reason… It’s special to me because of the man I’m standing with.
My grandfather, Doctor and Pastor Stan Morris, is the man I’m standing with in this picture. He is the greatest man I’ve ever known. And 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have said that. In my selfishness, I hated almost everything he taught me. You may say, “that’s harsh” but I’m trying to be real here. He was tough. He’d pick on you, embarrass you, call you out in church for texting girls, ask you to come up to the pulpit and share what God’s placed on your heart, he’d even have to bring out the belt a few times. I know right? Tough!
But as I look back now, I wouldn’t dare wish it be any other way.
See, while my grandfather would pick on me, he would do so much more than that. My parents divorced when I was 9. We moved in with my grandparents after that for a little while and I got to see more than just how good of a butt whooping he could deliver. Now, being too far away from our school bus route and my mother working, he took me to school almost every day. And every day he would pray over me… He’d pray that I would excel in my studies and that I’ll change the world. Every single day the exact same prayer. At the time, I was more concerned as to whether or not his eyes were open while he was driving than what he was praying over me. He would take me to breakfast every single Wednesday and now, that is a family tradition. Whenever my wife and I go back home to visit, I look forward to that time the most. There’s nothing like family.
But there’s more to him than just an awesome prayer and paying for my meals (thanks grandpa!). I remember one day specifically when we lived with him. At around 6am I woke up for school as grandpa was pulling in to the driveway. He had been out all night comforting a family who’s loved one just killed themself. As a fire chaplain, that’s what you do. I came to find out that this was normal. He would go on these calls consistently. He’d wake up, give up sleep, drop everything including his family and go love these broken people whose lives have been turned upside down. I remember one Sunday morning he didn’t show up to preach because he had been on a call and was with a hurting family. My aunt spoke at church that morning.
The love that this man shows to people even goes much deeper than this. There’s a book out there called Leading on Empty by Pastor Wayne Cordeiro. It’s a great book. In it, he talks about how draining ministry can be and how pastors need to take some time for themselves. My grandfather, full of conviction, would rip that book up, throw it away, and call it heresy. See, to him, there is ministry and there is death. Every thing he did was ministry. We could not even go for a cup of coffee at our local Starbucks without being interrupted numerous times by people who knew him and needed someone to talk with. His daily schedule would be booked up with people in need like that. And often times, he’d be blunt and honest with them to the point they didn’t want to come back. But I am so thankful that he never compromised his message and what Jesus had called him to do. I have never met a man more consumed with people than him.
I’ve always told people that we can strive for that unconditional agape love that God shows us, but no man will demonstrate Christ’s love like my grandfather. He just loves. Everything he does is out of love. Looking back, I’ve used my grandpa to get a lot of things that I wanted in my life. As a kid I would ask for many things that I didn’t need. Superficial and spoiled wants. My grandpa knew it to. He could read right through me. Yet he still gave, knowing that I didn’t care to even say thank you. I’m not saying he spoiled me. He was very hard on me. But he gave, knowing I would never repay him… Just like Jesus. And he did this for so many people. Always the first to give. I remember one time I asked him what was the largest tip he’d ever given. He said he gave $100. In disbelief I said, “that must have been some great food!” His response… “It was terrible. The food was bad, and the waitress was grumpy. I gave her a $100 bill and told her to smile because she didn’t have anything to complain about.” That’s him… That’s my grandpa. Many times he would pick out another family in a restaurant we were at and pay for their meal before we left. My favorite thing about it was that we never saw their reaction. He did it so humbly and lovingly, he didn’t even want the people to know who paid for their meal.
I look back at my youth. A broken, stupid, arrogant teenage kid was I. Growing up, I never noticed the things my grandpa taught through his actions. I just heard the yelling and felt the whippings (it wasn’t that bad). All I had ever known was church and I hated it. Growing up, I just wanted to be as far away from church as possible. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I would think to myself why me? Why did I have to grow up in this weird family? Why did I have to pray? Why did I have to be at the church whenever I wasn’t at school? And honestly, it turned me off from God. I hated the church.
Then one day, at 19 years old as a college athlete, it hit me. I suddenly wanted Jesus. It wasn’t this magical epiphany that I had. God didn’t show up at a burning bush. But through a process of messing up enough, I thirsted for Jesus. I said yes to Jesus as a young boy. I was saved. But at age 19, I dedicated my life to changing a generation. I went all in. I suddenly didn’t care about sports like I did before. And if you knew me before, you know how baseball was my god. I finished my collegiate career as a ball player, but it was never the same. I began to use my platform as Jesus’ platform.
Soon after, God really began to give me influence and favor. I began teaching high school and junior high students. Only two years older than most of these kids, I was teaching them about Jesus. I would preach maybe once a month. That once a month became twice a month with a high school discipleship once a week. I began to love it deeply. I loved seeing the stagnate transformed by Jesus. Eventually I was given the opportunity to preach a Sunday night service at my home church. I remember it distinctly. My grandfather, as stubborn as ever, set the stage. The week prior, he told everyone to be there. He wanted to see if I was called, sent, or just went. He then, in the middle of his sermon, told the light technician to take next Sunday off. He didn’t want a show, he wanted me to preach. He wanted to know if I could do it with just my Bible, my anointing, and Jesus. Obviously, 21 years old, that was a lot of pressure.
I’m a preparer. No, I’m an over-preparer. Every night, before I’d go to teach and preach, I’d go to the church. I’d pray over every seat in the place. But I’d also preach. Yes, that may seem weird, but I’d preach my message, to myself, with no one around. That Saturday night before I went to speak, I did this same thing. But this time, I lost it. I began to think that same question I thought as a young boy. “Why God? Why me? Why did you choose me? Why did you give me such influence? I’m just a kid. These people have so much more life experience than me and I’m suppose to teach them about you? Why? I’m not deserving of this. I’m a mess up. I should’t have this favor.” And in that moment, God distinctly, brought me back to my youth. I remembered the moments on my way to school with grandpa. That prayer that he prayed every single day came to mind. “Lord, let him excel in his studies and use him to change the world.” That day I learned that I was right. I didn’t deserve this opportunity. I didn’t deserve this favor. I was inadequate, by myself, to preach this message. I learned that night that it wasn’t about me. It was about Jesus. It was the inheritance I would receive from my grandfather. All that praying he did for me. All that time he spent showing me what a man of God looks like. All the love he spread across his city was my inheritance. He was passing this down to his children and his grandchildren. This generational blessing was too strong to miss.
I left the church at 2am that night. Just going over the time I had spent learning from my grandparents even when I didn’t know I was. I got lost in time. That next day I preached and taught, with conviction, the best message I ever have. Now, I know I haven’t taught much in my life but the Spirit came over me in that moment. I felt God’s anointing. By the end of the night, I had prayed for over 100 people. I remember looking over to my mother… She couldn’t stop crying. She was so proud.
I don’t tell you any of this to boast in how good of a teacher I am. I tell you this because I’m proud. I’m proud of my grandfather. And I’m thankful. I’m thankful that he gave his life to the cause of Christ. I’m thankful that his blessing poured down to me. I’m reminded of the story of Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh. On that day, the undeserving child received the right hand of blessing. On the cross, you and I received the blessing we didn’t deserve. And today, I walk around knowing that the right hand of blessing, the blessing that I don’t deserve, is mine.
Many of you know that my grandfather, after 30 years of ministry has retired. I’m so proud of him. He has taught me so many things about ministry. He’s taught me so much about life and what it means to be a man and I can’t help but to reflect. From starting out as a punk kid living in Colorado with a fast car, to planting a church that has lasted over 25 years (and is continuing), to the Kitsap County Fire District Lead Chaplain, my grandpa has led his family so well. And grandpa, if you’re reading this, please know how proud we are of you. We’re so thankful for you. You’ve blessed this family so much.
Pastor Kevin Gerald of Champion Centre in Tacoma, Washington says, “We honor up, we honor down, and we honor all around.” I love to honor people. But there is a special place in my heart for my grandpa. One day, I hope to look back and know that he is proud of me too. That I served God with honor and integrity.
I’m so blessed because of the example of Christ in my life. I’ll always have this picture. I’ll never forget it. To you it still may be just another picture. But to me, it’s everything. It’s the launching pad to my anointing. It’s my grandpa. It’s overwhelming. And I’m thankful.