I just have a lot to say.
February 12th, 2014 by

When the Roof Caves In

I met Laurel at church, but I got to know her in Jamaica.

(That would be a good opening line for a murder mystery, wouldn’t it?)

For several summers, the youth group from our church went to Ocho Rios, Jamaica to teach Vacation Bible School for local churches. Laurel had gone once before. I heard all about that trip.


Jack's River Baptist Church

Laurel’s group taught up in the mountains at Jack’s River Baptist Church. On Monday, about 50 children came to VBS, but each day the Good News spread and more and more children came. By Friday, there were 200 children in a one-room church with no ac or sound system and very little wiggle room. It was loud and sweaty as Miss Laurel yelled that day’s lesson to the children.  Afterwards, she wanted to allow the children who were interested in Jesus to have an opportunity to learn more. She hollered and waved her arms in different directions, “ALL YOU WHO WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN, FOLLOW MR. JIM. EVERYONE ELSE CAN GO TO CRAFTS WITH MISS KIM!”

I doubt those words were written in the lesson plans.

What if someone wanted to do both? (I’m thinking 10-year-old Celeste would have gone home with a brightly beaded necklace that day.)

It was on the next trip that I got to know Laurel. She went back to Jack’s River and the atmosphere was worse. There was much-needed construction taking place on the roof of the church, so in addition to the 200 sweaty kids crammed into the church, the Bible story was punctuated with hammering and falling ceiling tiles. The adults wouldn’t let the kids go outside to play for fear of the nails that covered the ground. (I’m not even going to mention about the roof caving in on a leader while she was tinkling in the bathroom, because it wasn’t Laurel—but it should have been.) It was crazy and chaotic and fantastic. I imagine they let the kids talk about going to Heaven AND make crafts!

I was at nearby Hamilton Mountain Baptist Church. My envious friends called it Hamilton Mountain Resort, because we had a bathroom and a kitchen (albeit without running water in either).



So, it was on the bus rides to and from our churches or back at the condos as we prepared for the following day or over shared stories during dinners and delightful desserts at Glenn’s across the street or in the evening Bible studies by the Caribbean where I learned to love Laurel.

I loved her quick wit and loud laugh. I loved her wild, curly golden locks (about which her grandmother told her, “I don’t have much, but I’ll give you everything I own, if you’ll do something about that hair.”) I loved that she had the wisdom of a mom who had raised three godly young men and was willing to share it with the mother of a preteen boy who was thirsty for her knowledge.

Now, almost four years later, I find I am still thirsty for her knowledge. Fortunately for me, she has written a book.

Laurel asked me to write a review of Lean Forward  for Amazon. (I still haven’t done that!) She emailed the book to me on October 31st. I pulled it up on my laptop just to skim while the trick-or-treaters came and went. Except for answering the doorbell, I didn’t get up for several hours. I nibbled on bite-sized Snickers and read the whole book in one sitting. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t reading it for the Amazon review. I was reading it for my sinking and struggling and seeking soul. She didn’t know it, but she had written the book for me.

Or maybe she did know it. She told me, “We spend most of our time trying to make the pain go away: we eat, we hide, we take drugs, we shop, we drink, we get really busy and try to feel important. The list of what we do goes on forever.  But all those things are just symptoms of the problem. The problem is the human condition. Life hurts for many reasons. We need to experience God on a moment by moment basis.” 

(I’m not going to tell you the means I use to escape life, because that’s too personal. Just leave me alone and pass me the Cheez-Its.)

In 2011, Laurel and her husband, Jim, faced an unexpected and unwelcome move. Once the boxes were packed and later unpacked, with her three boys all grown, she had time on her hands to write down what she had learned through the difficult experience. Much of it, she had already learned just by living and striving for godliness most of her life.

“Sometimes a wilderness experience is not dramatic at all.” She readily admits in the book, “Our problem faded into insignificance when compared to what many people endure; however, I have come to this conclusion: whether a circumstance is desperate or merely difficult a believer must make a choice.”

Truth is Truth, regardless of whether we are surviving a move or drowning in the grief of burying a loved one.

“This book is neither a formula nor a set of religious rules,” she writes in Lean Forward .

She emailed me, “The disciplines (that this book is about) are biblical ways, proven-through-the-centuries ways, to encounter God. My prayer is that my experiences help others. I think that is finally what the pain is all about.” 

My favorite line from the book is “When you don’t know what to do, go to church.” Not because “the devil will get you,” like the sign says on I65 north of Montgomery, but because a commitment to church brings connection and companionship and, occasionally, a casserole.

Are you weary or fearful or angry or depressed or lonely or despairing (or all of the above)? If not, chances are you will be at some point.

Let my friend Laurel Griffith share with you how she learned to Lean Forward .

(Now, I’m off to write that Amazon review!)

The kindle edition of Lean Forward is available on Amazon for $2.99. The paperback is $8.99.




3 Responses to “When the Roof Caves In”
  1. janet martin says

    loved working at HAMILTON MOUNTAIN BAPTIST CHURCH. Remember Vinnie?

  2. janetmartin says

    Another funny story when Gary was working on the roof @ Jack River Baptist Church . This reminded everyone of the “road runner” cartoon when Wiley Coyote cuts a limb off tree he is sitting on. Eric Gross was on top of roof removing nails that was holding the damaged metal roofing sheets.He was removing nails not realizing he was removing the nails holding sheet he was sitting on. When he took out last nail the sheet slid off and Eric did too. Only his pride was hurt TTL

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