I remember that morning so vividly. I woke up to a phone call from my mom. She sounded shaken and shared the news about my dear friend Paul. Early that morning, the morning of April 5, 2013, he had been overcome when a fire broke out in his home. He was gone. And I sat on the floor and cried.

We’d just had band practice a couple days prior. Paul was his usual beyond-talented self playing his guitar that he lost picks for almost weekly, singing with a reckless abandon that could leave a sanctuary full of people speechless or in tears and cracking jokes at just about well, everything.

And then he was gone.

I wrestled for a long time with the fact that Paul had just gotten to the place he was always destined to be. He was talented and smart and had started to embrace some pretty big dreams. And most of all, he was the man his family needed him to be. So why? Why now? And why in this tragic and unexpected way did he have to leave so abruptly?

But Paul had wrestled too. He had wrestled with some pretty heavy stuff that not unlike all of us with pretty heavy stuff required that he lay down his own desires in order to find true healing and a life of abundance. And he’d overcome.

Paul’s personality was bigger than life so his absence was felt deeply. I watched as people burst out of the woodwork to draw near to his family; to supply the things they needed immediately because in addition to Amy losing a husband and their four kids losing a father, they also lost their home. I had the humbling honor of singing with an extremely talented group of vocalists and instrumentalists at his celebration service and when we practiced the night prior, we saw how throngs of people came out to express their sympathy to his family at the visitation. And at the service, how our sanctuary was beyond capacity to honor such a wonderful human being.

And everyone that knew Paul was proud of what he’d achieved. It is not something that can be easily overcome and unfortunately for some, it’s not something overcome in the course of a lifetime.

But Paul did it. And he made me want to as well. I feel ridiculously blessed to have had a friend (brother) in Paul and more than anything today, I hope his family can smile through the tears. While none of us will ever understand why the Lord chose to take Paul at such a beautiful stage of his life … just months prior to becoming a grandfather, we can celebrate that he had the opportunity to choose to live with the time he did have.

Paul’s battle cry song, if you will, seemed to be the popular ‘10,000 Reasons’. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear it on the radio or when we attempt to sing it as well as Paul would in church when it gets to the verse that’s become such a heart song for me:

“And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
10, 000 Years and then forever more”

I have absolutely no doubt Paul is singing and playing with the best worship team today and always. And I’m also quite certain he has a million makeshift picks that he giggles about every time he picks one up.

You overcame, my friend. Thank you for the example. I still miss your stupid face.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” john 16:33

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