It was just a few weeks ago that we were sitting next to his bed, holding his had while eating grilled cheeses and listening to him telling us some of the biggest life lessons we could ever learn. “You don’t stop until you’re released. No matter how hard it is, how painful it is, how many people abandoned you guys… you don’t stop the calling God has on your life. Look at me, I’m on my death bed and I’m still counseling people. I'm still being obedient to God. And I will until He says it’s over. And when it’s over. It will really be over. That’s when you’re done. That’s when you’re released.”
One week ago Bernard passed away. I’ve known Bernard for about 7 years now. He was someone I had heard a lot about from my friends back home but wasn’t introduced to until the week of mutual friend’s wedding. I’ll never forget the moment we met. I was bringing things out of a van into the house and up comes this salt and pepper haired, sassy little man with a dragon shirt on and a big smile. “Oh, so you’re Liz?” …. insecurities ran through my mind as I automatically assumed he had dirt on me, haha. But he quickly killed those insecurities, like he’s been doing the past 7 years , when he sat down on the bed of the truck and started asking me questions about my life no one had ever been able to get me to open up about…. oh you little weasel, I know you’re up there now chuckling “gotcha”.
It was instant friendship. Over the next years Bernard became one of the most important and strategic people in my life. He was my mentor, a father figure, a butt kicker, a marriage counselor, a ministry advisor, a pastor to half my friends over here, a late night ice cream eater while skype talking friend. I would not be the woman, friend, leader, daughter, sister or wife that I am today without this man. We'd see each other once or twice a year. I'd go there, he'd come here to Germany, we'd skype weekly and facebook chat almost daily. He was my B.
I have learned and been reformed by so many of the lessons Bernard has taught me. But if there is one thing that Bernard has taught me that has been incredibly relevant to my life now, it is that when it’s over… it’s over. We have to let it go. God is, and always will be a forward thinking and loving father that desires to move past hurt, anger and destruction in order to move into love that is vacant of regret and sorrow. When I first met Bernard I had recently gotten a tattoo on my foot of a white feather. He was intrigued by this tattoo and wanted to hear my story as to how white feathers came to be so important to me.
It’s a long one, for another time, but basically it’s a reminder to me that no matter what we’ve gone through, no matter what pain or sorrow we have carried, or have had to bare, God will always use our pain to bring us closer to Him. That even fallen feathers, ones that have been shed, plucked or broken off of us, can be used to guide us directly into the father heart of God who is never short of restoring us with hope.
I had shared with Bernard how God use's feathers to speak to me, answer prayer request or simply remind me that He is always with me. Of course Bernard just loved this concept. One of the first emails Bernard had ever written me was one with this poem he had found and wanted to share with me.
"I found this poem. It reminded me of you and what you shared with me."
The Path of the Feather
To follow the path of a sacred life, To see the beauty of a feather...
Within a sacred space...for just one special moment
Pausing long enough to find yourself, Pausing to pick it from the ground...
It sings to you of the legends...it makes you alive
A gift to make your soul come alive...
Following the trail of little bread crumbs sprinkled about
It whispers you are on the right path, It speaks that your life is sacred again
I kind of knew at this movement this guy got me in a way that people desire their whole lives to be got.
Over the years Bernard helped me see that God not only wants to guide us through our pain, but he wants to restore us completely. He desires to give us new hearts, new spirits and new bodies. I remember a beautiful moment at Bernard’s house that perfectly explains this lesson and is one of the most defining moments of my life. I'd like to publicly share this with you because Bernard was always publicly sharing personal things God had done in his life. He did this because he believed in vulnerability. He believed if we lived in a world where people felt comfortable enough sharing their pain, struggles and victories, then we'd live in a world of freedom. I don't believe everything needs to be shared through all our social medium platforms (nor did he) but I've also seen the fruit of a man who used facebook to lead hundreds of people into healing and freedom and I'd like to believe that legacy can continue on some how. Perhaps through his son Adam : )
So. Uli and I at the time were engaged. We had gone through marriage counseling with Bernard and felt ready to take the next step into marriage (dun, dun, dun). About a month before our wedding we were at Bernard's house in Florida and we decided that we wanted to have a blessings time over us as a couple. We only invited close friends and asked Bernard to lead it. Everyone was going to read scripture out over us and pray a blessing. Right before we started he looked at me and said “what’s your biggest fear with this marriage thing?” And I remember telling Bernard that I was afraid that all the things God had healed me from (over the past months we had gone through a lot of healing), would come back again in our marriage one day and destroy it. Bernard took this fear very seriously and so he, like he always did, had a creative idea on how to handle it.
He asked both of us to write down all the terrible, awful things we were afraid we would take into our marriage. You know, all those lovely insecurities you convince yourself are the reasons no one could ever want to stick with you until the end when you don't got your beyonce lush anymore. (Not that I ever had Beyonce lush...) I cooperated. Wrote it all down. Gulp. I thought we were going to just burn them right away, but nope, Bernard made us give them to each other…. like eeewwww. I was still trying to seem like a desirable princess bride here, thanks B. Well, we did it. Uli smiled and laughed in a gentle way as he read through the list and made me feel so loved and secure. Bernard then did something that I wasn’t expecting. He said “let’s really let these things go!”
He had us pray forgiveness and life over each other for the things we were carrying in our hearts. The past sin we had allowed to effect our present and the fears we had about marriage. And there he reminded me that God desires to cleanse us of all the shame we carry. All the dirt we’ve allowed to become our identity and to cover us in a blanket of water that will cleanse and relinquish us from the chains we’ve been captive to. He reminded me that most importantly, when God says it’s done… it’s done. And then he then invited me into the pool. Yup. The pool.
He and Uli then did the most beautiful thing. They baptized me. Not a traditional baptism of spiritual rebirth, but a baptism of all the fear I desired to get rid of before I entered marriage. Having the man I was going to marry and the man who helped me get to that place baptize me was one of the most beautiful things I've ever experience. It helped me get to a place of completely security and trust in the marriage I was about to walk into.
As they both held my hands and dunked me like a donut I heard angles sing over me “hallelujah, it’s is done”. And as my body came back up and my eyes opened, and I’m not kidding, a white bird flew across the sky above me.
The first thing I did was scream “BERNARD! GET YOUR CHECK BOOK WE’RE GOING TO GET A TATTOO!!!” He was cracking up and said “ok… of what?!” And I screamed “Hallelujah!…. because IT’S DONE!” I don’t think the blessing time was even over, but I didn’t care. I felt so much freedom and excitement that I just wanted to go and remember this moment for the rest of my life in order to remind myself to live out of that freedom. We all piled into his mini van, headed down to the tattoo parlor and stamped that baby right on my foot next to my feather.
As Bernard paid the man for branding his “daughter” he chuckled at me and said “my sweet heart, one day I will be gone, and you will always know I am with you by looking down at your feet.”
Well B. You are gone. You are up in heaven singing with the angles “Hallelujah… it is done.” Maybe one day you’ll fly back over my head, you’ll drop a feather on my foot and say “wanna come up and fly?” Until then, may you soar with the eagles. Giggle with our Father and know that your time here is done. We love you B. We love you very much.
Bernard's memorial service will be held Today at Discovery Church 4400 South Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL 32806, January 10th at 1 pm (EST). For those of us who would like to be part of this but live in various parts of the world, the service will be Live Streamed and you can join via cyber space at
www.discoverychurch.org, in the upper right hand corner click on Watch Live Now.
If you’d like to support Bernard’s family with the medical bills they have been carrying please donate at: