Restoring The Years

SAM_0160My friend, Billy Brazell, passed away five or six years ago. He had been a homeless man and an alcoholic and he struggled for a long time with all of this. Billy lived in a half-way house beside Ridgecrest Baptist, where I was on staff for four years. He began coming to church and we became very good friends. His family refused to support him in any way and completely cut ties with him, but our congregation accepted him and loved him.

Billy was a slender, bearded guy, always wore a suit to church and spoke with a strong Southern drawl. “Mawrnin’ brawther Jawhn,” he would draw out with a big grin. He attended Alcohol Anonymous because he was required to, but didn’t agree with their procedures and always asked my advice how to cope with it. Billy was a committed Christian that had gotten off the path and was desperately trying to regain his footing in society.


Billy would come to church even when he had done some serious drinking the night before. You could certainly see the weariness in his eyes on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night of misery. One Sunday morning in our Sunday School class I could tell Billy was so sleepy and hung over that he was barely present at all. He was sitting beside me at the table and he lost it, dozed off and fell out of his chair onto the floor. He was very embarrassed and apologized, but no one criticized. We understood and desired the best for him.

After I moved on to another church, Billy continued to struggle, but remained faithful to the fellowship. He had moved to another place of residence and church members took turns dropping by his place and picking him up for church.

This particular Sunday it was the Pastor’s turn and he knocked, shouted and called Billy’s phone, with no response. No one had heard from him and they all feared the worse. Billy was found in his apartment deceased that day – a tragic ending to an embattled life.

But, just a couple of months prior to his death, I spoke to Billy Brazell on the phone for the last time. It was a very timely conversation for me. I had been contemplating my ministry, thinking and regretting the past and desiring to go back and repair all the stuff I had messed up along the way. I felt that God had been so good to me in allowing me to be in the Gospel ministry now, but was deeply regretting that I had not surrendered to Him sooner. In other words, having a pity party. (You know, the only ones that attend one of those parties are “me, myself and I.”)

I don’t remember much of what Billy and I talked about that night, but I do remember vividly one thing he said to me. He probably did not mean it for me, but God surely did. Billy was a prophet in my life that evening, even though he probably was speaking about his own life. He said, “Brawther Jawhn…, God says that He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.” He was referring to the passage in Joel 2:25, spoken by the prophet to Israel.

bb3But that night it was for me. That night God confirmed in my heart that the place where I was, was exactly where He wanted me and that He was taking care of all the trash I had been responsible for and expanding now what His desire was for me. It is good to have your life’s work confirmed and that is how I felt that night.

I thank The Lord that He gave me Billy Brazell as a good friend of encouragement when I needed it. I miss him, but I believe I will see him again one day.

So, I suppose one point I am making is to realize how important your words are. You may never know how the words you say have affected someone – positively or negatively.

bb4The children’s song from our youth says, “O be careful little mouth what you say…for the Father up above is looking down in love, O be careful little mouth what you say.” Simple, but profound advice.