Breakfast with Sherwood – Lessons from the Wilderness

Amen! All By MyselfThis morning I sit at the dining table where my husband, Phil, and I often sat with our dear friend, Sherwood Carthen – or “Bishop”, as many called him.  As I enjoy a cup of coffee and a scrambled egg, I can almost see Sherwood, sitting across the table, rolling his eyes as he tells the story of some “nonsense” that happened this past week as he struggled to be the pastor, husband, and father God called him to be.

Sherwood’s stories were always colorful and animated by his larger-than-life personality.  But the most engaging thing about his stories is that they were real.  Sherwood wasn’t a perfect man, but he was real – allowing others to see his vulnerabilities and his tender heart.

This morning as I sip my coffee, I think about the impact Sherwood made on my life,  and I miss him.  His leave-taking was sudden and unexpected.  This friend, who went home yesterday to be with the Jesus he adored, will be missed by many.

This morning my heart is hurting.  But also hopeful.  I can almost hear him saying, “Alright, ya’ll – don’t despair.  God is still on the throne today – I know because I’m with him right now.  And you will be soon, too.  In the meantime, when you’re at the end of your rope, that’s the beginning of God’s hope.  So hang in there, sister.”

After more than forty hours sitting at our table, interviewing Sherwood for the first book we wrote with him, I find comfort in remembering his words from that book, Amen All By Myself:

“This journey is not for the faint of heart – it’s for those who are ready for more of God.  I speak from experience.  I’ve been to the wilderness and it’s tough – but necessary.

“God takes us there because it’s the place where we see Him most clearly.  It’s the place where His life takes root in us most deeply.  And it’s the place where the desert heart burns away the junk in our lives so we’re ready for the new work God has planned for us.

“The good news is that the wilderness is not some random event happening in our lives.  It’s not the result of the devil grabbing the steering wheel of our lives and taking control.  God is at work and He has a purpose for each of us in the wilderness.  And if God is behind our wilderness experience, we need to cooperate with Him, not resist Him.  We need to pass the test so we’ll have a testimony.”

Sherwood, you definitely passed the test – and now your legacy leaves an amazing testimony.  Thank you, brother, for the joy and privilege of walking part of the journey with you.  Can’t wait to see you again on the other side.

If you have been impacted by Sherwood in some way, please share below.  It would bring me and others great encouragement during this tough time.


  1. Linda, what a beautiful tribute. But more than that. What a beautiful legacy. His words touched many hearts. My husband still talks about the messages Sherwood gave at a men’s retreat many years ago. It’s difficult to remember what we did yesterday so to remember with clarity what someone spoke years ago is nothing short of miraculous. It speaks to the not only the life-giving quality of the words, but also the life-giving quality of the man.

    • Rebecca – one of Sherwood’s amazing legacies is the impact he had on men. Praise God for how he worked in your husband’s life. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Patty Licata

    I heard the news this morning as I was getting ready for work, and fell to my knees. Not so much because of grief (although that was there too), but to give thanks to God for filling this man with the fire of the Holy Spirit, and allowing us to see fruits through his unique style of preaching. Although I did not know him or his family personally, nor did I ever sit across a table from him, I always looked forward to hearing Sherwood preach when he was on loan to Bayside Granite Bay, and I thoroughly enjoyed his books…even when they challenged me to take a cold hard look at my walk with God. I’m so thankful to have been touched by this man. His family is on my heart today, knowing that his passing is bitter sweet, and pray for God’s comforting, loving arms to wrap around them during this time.

    • Patty – your feelings upon hearing the news are familiar to many. His death was a shock to most of us. But at the same time, it’s hard to think about Sherwood and not be encouraged, or convicted, or both. Thanks for sharing the ways he impacted you.

  3. Thank you Linda (and Phil!) for listening to God and getting this book out. Sherwood understood the wilderness I was in and he and Charlene took personal time to be with myself and Sandi to help us and heal us. He prayed and sang over us. We cried together. I can’t explain in words what a caring man he was. He was truly being the hands and feet of Jesus for me at that moment. I’m angry that God took him away at his prime, but I now His plans our to help us, not harm us. May all of us be inspired by a leader that lead from the heart to bring unity to a greater community and let the Light of Christ shine at all times.

  4. Steve – all I can say is “Amen and amen!” If Sherwood were here, he would be saying “Amen all by myself” (although he wouldn’t really be by himself because we would all echo what you just wrote). God used Sherwood in so many ways – thank you for giving us a peek into the ways he spoke into your life, especially during a particularly tough part of your wilderness journey.

  5. Judy McNulty

    Linda, my prayers with you and Phil also. I read Sherwood’s book just about a year ago, it helped me through a difficult time. I could hear his voice in the pages… Bless you both and thank you for blessing others. Judy

    • Judy, I’m so glad to hear that the book was encouraging to you. I love that it gives a peek into Sherwood’s difficult journey and how God helped him stay strong in the wilderness. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Linda: Thanks for the beautifully written tribute to an amazing man. He could bring people to their knees, and have them laughing the next minute. What a gift! I know he will be missed by many. I’m sure he helped change many lives as the Chaplain for the Sacramento Kings, too!

    • You’re right, Susan – his impact had a broad reach. I know there are professional athletes out there who have been ministered to and encouraged because of his mentoring and friendship.

    • You got to push it-this esientsal info that is!

  7. I only had the privilege of sitting down with Bishop a couple of times, but I always went a way feeling like a good friend. Sacramento will miss him.

    • Dean – that was definitely one of Sherwood’s gifts. He could make anyone feel like he was their best friend. It wasn’t a show, it was for real. He genuinely cared about people and connected with them. So glad you had the chance to experience that.

  8. Bishop Sherwood Carthen was a powerful man. Powerful in the sense that he courageously spoke truth into all lives – not just those who believe in Christ. He was a warrior – fighting for people to see their need for Christ; his words penetrating the soul to the very heart of issues. What a gift for you, Linda, to sit across the table from him and soak in the messy wisdom that he bled out by being simply Sherwood. His death, for me, is a call to action. We lost one of the mighty that we worked alongside, and I need to step up and speak plainly like he. I know the truth, I know Jesus, and now I, too, must be fearless in my approach and execution in the places God leads me to. Bishop, thank you for your life, and now may your passing be a catalyst for us to act in your stead.

    • Yes, Vicki! I agree that to honor Sherwood best means to be fearless, bringing light and truth to a world filled with darkness. May God give us all the courage, strength, wisdom and love to follow in his footsteps.

  9. Susan Vickers

    As I lost my house, cat and car in a matter of 3 months and had health issues which left me hemorrhaging and in much pain Bishop helped me keep the right attitude through words in messages he heard from God. I had moved into a living situation that was difficult at best. Full of accusation, judgment, and unkindness, I learned to walk in peace under much fire and heat. I could only control me and Bishop helped me be accountable and responsible for this. I was worshiping one Sat eve at Bayside and was dancing. He threw me a t-shirt and said, “That’s cause you are getting jiggy with it.” I am thankful for Bishop encouraging me to be thankful and praise God regardless. He is greatly missed. The Lord gave me Psalms 116:15 as I grieve the loss and heart has been heavy for his family. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of the godly ones. He gets to see face to face the eyes of God looking down on him and feel how precious he is in the Lord’s sight. He has done well.:)

  10. Linda Sommerville

    Thank you, Susan, for sharing how Bishop Sherwood impacted your life. He was definitely a worshiper – and I love thinking about how he is not fully before the face of God, able to worship without any restraint. May God continue to bring you comfort as you worship him. Blessings to you, sister.

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