Hello again folks!
I have much to be thankful for. I was challenged in seminary by this thought: what if every time we failed to be thankful for a blessing from God, He took it away. I tend to take things for granted, and not be as appreciative as I ought to be. Most of you know at this point, that my father’s father passed at the end of October. Perhaps more stressful than getting through the funeral, were the logistics of getting to and from Florida for it, haha! My family and I were so glad that he had moved assisted living facilities back in the spring, allowing us to visit him a bit more freely. I spent three days with him in early August while vacating. My father was able to get down to Florida before he passed. Being 92 years old, and in declining physical health, we have little about which to complain. Rather, we have many blessings to begin to count. In 1968, he retired from the Air Force to Orlando, so as a child, I only ever saw my father’s parents two or three times per year. He was a tough old guy, and I tended to perceive him as a bit of a grumpy curmudgeon [perhaps that’s where I get it from!]. Being a poor graduate school student, visiting family in Florida over spring break was the closest thing I could afford to a real vacation. It was during this season that I got to share man-to-man conversations. I heard about his childhood, his military career, his struggles when my grandmother got sick and had to go into a nursing home, and his sustaining faith. He told me about getting baptized alongside my father, and he told me how proud he was that I was becoming a pastor. In 2018, he happened to visit North Carolina around his birth day. It was the only time I was able to be with him on his birth day. One of the great joys of my life was when he and Pastor Jim got to meet one another over breakfast during that trip, what would be his last trip home to North Carolina. I shared a bit of his military feats during our veterans’ recognition evening this-past month. I am so grateful for God’s many blessings during this season. You didn’t start reading this article to read the biography of a man you’ve never met; I know. There’s a point, I promise!
Through this season, I am also thankful to the love I have received from my church family. I have been overwhelmed by how many cards I have received from you. I have received notes from individuals, families, small groups, and our dear Choir. It’s a heart-warming reminder to me that I am not just a “hired gun” around here, but a true part of your family too, and I thank you. I haven’t even suffered losing a first-degree relative, and you still have been so kind to me! I am so proud of how we care for one another. I look at the recent passings of U.G. Miller and Anthony Brown’s father (William). Whether a member of our church or not, we work hard to care for each other. We put our money where our mouth is when we practice the biblical principle of rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. As a first-hand recipient of your love, let me first brag about how proud of you I am, and second, thank you for it.
Several months back, I wrote about the three key components of biblical discipleship: learning, fellowship, and missions. Roy Busick expressed the same three principles when it comes to what makes a healthy group/class. True fellowship is rooted in living life together. When we walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ, we naturally find ourselves bearing one another’s burdens. These can be physical, emotional, relational, financial, even psychological. When we care for one another, share our struggles, lift one another up in prayer, hold one another accountable, and encourage one another during difficulty, this is the kind of high-quality relationship that godly discipleship builds. I am so thankful that we do these things well, and I very much hope we can make it even better. It’ll be better as we grow in quality and quantity. May more and more souls want to be a part of the love that we share as a church family!! I hope many more will be blessed in the ways that I have been. Thank you again!
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills in this world and the next!