Twice as the special date rolled around through the years Janelle and I hosted luncheons for the purpose of expressing gratitude to fairly large groups of people who had blessed our lives in special ways. Each time the guests arrived not having a clue as to the reason for the occasion. It was fun to observe their asking each other "Do you know why are we here?"
Twenty years ago in June of 1993, I wrote in this column the following:
Thirty-five years ago last week (June 8, 1958), I was introduced as the new associate minister for Brentwood Church of Christ in Austin, Texas. Still in the midst of a collegiate program in the field of music, little did I realize how consequential that summer ministry would be in shaping my life. My senior year at Abilene Christian was like a leave-of-absence from Brentwood church, for I returned the following summer to take on additional responsibilities which further sealed my career destiny.
For the next few years, I continued to fight the idea of giving in to ministry over music, as I had fought from childhood the persistent pressure of some who pestered me toward a preaching career. To make a long story short, I went into the ministry little by little and with much reservation, apprehension, and anxiety.
As this personal milestone was passed last Tuesday, I found myself in serious reflection. Our family and some friends were spending the week in the Frio Canyon of Uvalde County, and it was so peaceful there under some oaks near the cold and clear river. As I sat alone and allowed the video of my mind to race back through the years, I was continually hitting the "pause" button as significant persons came into view.
My heart swelled with gratitude as I recalled so many who have made a difference in my life. It would have been an impossible task to write and thank each one, even if I had access to addresses, but I made an attempt to write some. Often when we cannot do everything, we wind up doing nothing.
As I wrote each note, I came to realize that I was really thanking God for blessing me through the lives of folks who through the years have loved me and allowed me to love them. In this process I became overwhelmed with an awareness of how rich I am in relationships. As a minister I am committed to following Jesus who, according to his own words, "...came not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). Last Tuesday, I do not recall remembering a thing I did for anybody else. All I could remember were the incredible contributions others have made to me, my family, and my work.
Today, I am again extending great thanksgiving to God for what is now 55 years in ministry. I thank Him for surrounding my family and me for the last 42 and-a-half years with folks in this wonderful, loving, and caring community. I thank you and those who have gone on before who have rejoiced with us when we have rejoiced, and wept with us when we have wept. When we were strangers, you took us in and gave us your friendship and your confidence. You have allowed us to serve as best we could, and you have ministered to us in myriad ways.
Jesus said that loving God and others is the greatest thing we do in this life. To love and be loved means everything to me.
To God be the glory.
"We love because he first loved us."--1 John 4:19