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Testing will surely come. Why is it that you have despised the rod?I never perform this kind of juvenile excercise. And normally, you might think that this would strike fear in the one reading it. Not me. In fact, it had the opposite affect. My reaction was immediate: "You're right! I'll submit!" Ever since I can remember, I have been prophesied to, have had dreams, have been told my future, have received messages from all kinds of sources... and all of them concur: your vocation will be your cross. Adversity and sorrow will accompany you always, but you must submit to it. This is not to say that I won't know joy or happiness, but that there will always be a deep current of testing coursing through my life. When I was 17 years old I was working as a security guard. My boss, who was east Indian, told me he could read my palm. As a joke I gave him my hand. His eyes opened wide. He looked at me and said, "You are going to be a religious... a priest or something... and it will not be easy for you." I pulled my hand back. He was way off! I was an artist and a musician, and that was my goal: to become just that! And I forgot about his nonsense for years. The next year I went to a college and got three years towards a music degree. Until I switched to theology in my fourth year. Ever since then, I've had complete strangers come up to me and tell me basically the same thing: the only crown you will wear is one made of thorns. You will never succeed, though you want to and though you try, you're efforts will be constantly frustrated. Your call and vocation will always be cloaked. You're going to be continually crucified. Hidden. Concealed. Underestimated. Trivialized. Dismissed. Countless words like this that have been given to me choke my journals. Then, most recently, two Sundays ago: the only robe of authority you will ever wear is like the hide of a moose! That one struck home in a way I can't even explain. So, when I was admonished last night... why do you despise the rod?... it brought me a strange sense of comfort and assurance. Funny. I was watching the movie Bottle Shock earlier in the evening. A vintner says don't give the vines too much water or fertilizer. Keep it sparse because the best wine comes from vines that struggle against adversity. Vines that have it easy produce a lazy taste in a lousy wine. I struggle against my own adversity. I realize someone might say, "Quit your whining (excuse the pun). You've got it easy!" And in many ways I do. Some think that I fulfill my own prophecies. And I know some accuse me of holding my own pity-party. Yes, my adversity is intangible. I don't even understand it. But my sorrow is real. That can't be denied. Forgive me for this. It's not really a pity-party. In fact, it's something I feel I can boast about. It makes sense of my life. And to know this brings me peace. I just wanted to share with you what seems to be a persistent theme in my personal and vocational life. Who knows! I might be a very fine wine. The fine art photograph is the creation of my friend Mark Hemmings. I like how this fine wine, even wrought in adversity, is still concealed beneath the cloth.