About a week ago, I gave my last official report to the pastors and congregations I have served for the last eleven years. I entered pastoral ministry in late 1981 and, forty-one years later, had the opportunity to say goodbye and thank you. I was once again reminded of how many people helped me along the way.
It all starts with God. His grace, mercy, and blessings have attended me all of my life. “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 106:1)
“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” (1 Chronicles 16:8).
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:1-2)
All of my life, He has been faithful! He is a good God, and I will praise Him indeed!
Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life is only understood looking backward, but it must be lived going forward.” As I officially retire, I pondered my life and call to ministry. There were hard days and difficult circumstances along the way, yet looking backward, I can see the Hand of God. Regardless of what was transpiring in my life, everything was an opportunity for growth.
I have experienced many mountain top experiences when God’s presence seemed so near, and everything was positive, and the blessings were evident and many. There have also been times when I was in the valley; it seemed I was stuck in a hard spot. Trials, discouragement, and disappointment were my attendants. I enjoyed the mountains and longed for those times, but my confession today is that I grew more in the valleys than on the mountains. It was in the valleys where I learned to really trust the Lord, and it was in the valley where my faith was grounded in the Word of God, and I learned to hold onto His unseen Hand.
God did show up. Mostly,He came through others, family, friends, pastors, strangers, and at times through critics and adversaries. I have to testify that I have learned far more from my critics than from my friends. My friends usually have told me what I wanted to hear; my critics did not so much. As we live through events in our lives, it is often difficult to see the point of how it all fits together but ‘upon further review’ it begins to come together in your mind and you see the direction of God all along the way!
On my way out the door I would like to pause and say thank you!
- My family
- My friends
- My pastors
- My spouse
- My son
- My colleagues
- My professors
- My parishoners
- And many, many more
Transitions are especially great times to reflect. At this point in my journey I remember the good and refuse to dwell on the negative. I choose to embrace the blessings, and let go of the complaints. I am glad for the people who crossed my path for just a short while but have left inedible imprints on my heart. My friends and acquaintances who passed through my life as quickly and quietly as they came in, you are remembered and appreciated.
I have had a lot of help down through the years. Incredible people who have shaped and directed my life. People who picked me up for Sunday School, the person who gave me $500 to apply toward my tuition at Olivet Nazarene. That was back in the day when $500 was a lot of money! Pastors who mentored and District Superintendents to took a chance and gave me a place to serve. The men who took turns adopting me and taking me to the father and son banquet at our church. I remember their names though they are passed from this world. They have no idea what that did for a boy without a father and I was for ever changed by this small act of kindness.
I have received far more than I have ever given. Been more blessed that I have blessed. I have received an embarrassment of riches in friends and things I have been allowed to do in my life. Because of all of these things I have determined for the rest of my life to do the following:
- Learn something new daily
- Look for someone daily that I can make a difference in their life
- Enjoy the moment
- Trust God and seek His will
- Seek to make the world a better place one day at a time.
In closing I heard someone say something that I want to be my motto in this part of my journey.
“I want to be an elder not elderly”. I do not want to become “that guy” who complains, who only remembers and reminds everyone how great the good old days were, I want to live and be a blessing today!
I hope our paths will cross in the days ahead. If I never have an opportunity to speak with you I want you to know that I appreciate you and am thankful for your influence in my life.
I have decided to keep writing this blog….so stay tuned!