The porch doubles as the pastor’s office and his sanctuary. It’s where he writes sermons, studies philosophy and wrestles with everything from mass shootings to the violence inherent in pro football. It’s early September, the Florida heat sticky, bugs swarming the lights. Gold Terrible Towels hang above the pastor’s desk, next to the rolling book cart stuffed with self-help volumes, both tucked against the house, protected by the awning overhead.
Youthful, bespectacled and clean shaven, the pastor wears Steelers flip-flops and a T-shirt with SHALIEVE splashed across the front. He clutches a Cuban cigar in his right hand, pausing for the occasional puff. The NFL season kicked off the night before, but he didn’t watch one play—he hardly watches football anymore. Instead, he retreated to the porch, hoping to find peace. And if not peace, then wisdom. And if neither peace nor wisdom, then at least a break from searching for both.
The pastor twirls the cigar as he laughs about porches. He’s not sure why, but in his 49 years on Earth, in his various incarnations—Navy veteran, engineer, pastor, team chaplain for the Dolphins, football dad and anguished parent—he has found being outdoors more conducive to contemplation. That’s why, five years ago, he bought this house in Coral Springs with the expansive space out back, and why he outfitted it with lounge chairs, speakers that pipe in jazz and notebooks to be filled.
Most people, the pastor says, should spend more time thinking about issues that don’t impact them directly. It’s difficult, though. He spent a good portion of his adulthood helping others overcome their problems—counseling, encouraging, simplifying. Trust your convictions, he’d tell them, until the day when he couldn’t fully trust his own. A new football season is here, making the weight of it feel a little heavier. “The last 20 months,” Vernon Shazier says, “I’ve wrestled with my faith more than I ever had in my life.”
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