Psalms 27:1-5 is about peace, it's about protection, and it's about guidance. When you talk about "The Lord is my light.give me guidance." When you say "My enemies stumbled and fell" give me protection and when you say, "one thing have I desired that I may dwell in the house of the Lord"--that's peace. And when you pray along those lines, you pretty much have covered the waterfront of what you may have to go through that day.
Who's your favorite Christian?
Wow. That's a hard question. My favorite Christian would probably be Mrs. Inez Strickland who has gone home to be with the Lord. She was about a hundred and something years old when she died, and she was my Sunday school teacher when I was a little boy.
This was in West Virginia?
Yes. And she was amazing. She was a lady who taught us our Bible scripture. She used to have an old raggedy piano and only half of the keys worked and used to teach us all of these little solos to sing when we were little kids. She spent great time with us. She really walked with the Lord. She loved the Lord. She took care of her children that were ailing and she took care of the community, she went to see everybody when they were sick and she's probably my favorite Christian to this day.
Have you ever experienced a moment when you were absolutely convinced you felt the divine presence? Was there one lightning bolt?
I have never seen anything as holy as holding my mother as she died. I've never seen anything as holy as holding her as the last breath went out of her body surrounded by her children and people who loved her and the grace and the dignity she had as God took her home. It was just an answer to prayer--not convulsing, not riveting in pain, but a peace and a calm and a tranquility, almost like a pronouncing of a benediction in this world and the birthing in a world to come. It was just.it took us a moment to realize that she was dead because it was stunning, the grace with which she exited the room. It left us awed for a moment before we realized what it really meant.
Wow.It was unlike anything I've ever experienced in my life. And when I came to myself, I missed her, I wept like anybody else, but for a moment I was just awed with the grace with which she exited. I had never seen anybody leave like she did. She left like a queen walking out of the room.
How much suffering do you see on a daily basis in your work?
I see suffering all around me. I pastor in the inner city, at a church with over 30,000 members--so a lot of times, you're dealing with crisis after crisis. We've got 350 people on staff, and anytime you're a CEO over that many people, you run into a lot of challenges. I'm the father of five children, and that certainly takes me from crosses to crowns.
You aren't kidding.
And two of them are teenagers, so you can imagine what that's like. And I'm just a human being. When you're a public figure, I think that amplifies and intensifies the process and that's my message to celebrities. I am increasingly aware of the fact that celebrity status or vast income does not exclude us from having adversity. We still are burying our parents and raising our children, dealing with life and dealing with marriage, just like anyone else. And sometimes we have fewer streams to draw from than other people.
Why is that?
Because you are so public and you are so scrutinized and you don't have an opportunity to take care of yourself. Sometimes caregivers are so busy taking care of everybody else that they don't take care of themselves. Often the carpenter's house is the worst house on the block.
Is that how you feel at times?
Not necessarily. I don't know that that's a description of how I feel at this moment. I've certainly seen days that I felt overwhelmed, I won't deny that. It's not how I'm feeling today. But I have had those opportunities and I think that my ministry is borne out of the fact that I have been a patient and a physician, so it's almost like the hair replacement commercials, where the guy says, "I'm not just the owner, I'm a client." And that's the great thing about being a Christian-preachers and teachers are not excluded from the medicine they dispense to others. I'm grateful for that, because I need encouragement from time to time. I need meditation, I need prayer, I need direction like anyone else.
When your father gets sick when you're 10, and he dies when you're 16, and you grow up with a kidney machine in your house, you become a caretaker. And you see life differently from kids who grew up playing basketball and football and tennis matches and white-water rafting. There's a certain sobriety, there's a certain seriousness, there's a certain compassion that exudes out of your speech and out of your character.