Recently, I have thanked God for my life. This has not always been the case. Yes, thankful for my wife and children. Yes, thankful for my health and well being. Yes, thankful for the ways in which God has used me to be a blessing to many through ministries I've participated in or led, but not thankful for my life. I've always thought there was more to do and see. I'll thank God for my life when I reach our destination. We're not there yet. Recently, however, I've thanked my heavenly Father for my life, right now. This is a shift in my thinking and thanking.
While I've expressed thankfulness for my life as it is, the reasons to be thankful have been challenged. People and circumstances and my reactions to all of them have manifested in formidable challenges. Am I still thankful for what my life has become? Its felt like a case of piling on a ball carrier after the whistle has blown. Personal difficulties and irresponsible actions by others have created unnecessary stress. "Get off of me! The ref's blowin' the whistle!"
This is all too real. At the same time, I've been reminded of what a good God our heavenly Father is, and how he's chosen to remind me that I'm loved. That's really the purpose of this and, maybe, all my posts.
We're attending church on Sundays, right now, instead of leading a congregation or a ministry. This is restful for us. We're not having to present the will and thoughts of God for a portion of the Body to digest. We're restfully seeking environments in which to worship the living God with other seekers. We're listening for the voice of the Lord to direct us without the responsibility of teaching and preaching what we hear. We know our destiny is to minister to the world the amazing grace of God in Christ. We're not in that formal setting or under a mantle of responsibility. We are where we are, and I thank God for my life.
In recent weeks, I've openly accepted my place of rest and ministerial inactivity. In this state of acceptance, I've rejected a sense of failure associated with our recent attempts in implementing what we believe was God's will for us. While there's an acceptance of being set aside, I've encountered the Lord in freedom. We are where we are, and I thank God for my life.
We attend worship at Word Alive in Oxford, mostly. A few Sundays ago when worship ended and folks were filing out, I grabbed the man who sat behind me by the sleeve of his shirt. His name was David. Kent, the pastor, asked earlier for everyone to pray for the persons sitting beside them by putting their hands on each others' bellies (. . . I know.). As we stood at the end of the row and impeded another man from leaving, I asked David if I could pray for him. He agreed excitedly. I know I was supposed to. I sensed it earlier (April had even said I should pray for him immediately after Kent gave the directions to pray), but I also sensed that feeling of maintaining anonymity because we've been set aside. Regardless, I wanted to pray for David.
I looked at the other man who I thought wanted to leave. I asked him if he'd prayed for David already. He said he hadn't. He went on to say it was his first Sunday back in worship after being in the hospital with fluid around his heart. I said, "We're going to pray for you, too." I prayed for the two of them. Other folks gathered around us as we prayed. It was terrific. Is my life to be a mere walk in the crowd into an auditorium as we all assemble for worshiping the God of our salvation and orderly retreat after the benediction is given, or is it to be marked by the risky grasp of a stranger's sleeve because I believe the Lord has told me to bring heaven into this person's experience? I thank God for my life.
Sunday morning, along with Anna who was home from Auburn, we worshiped again at Word Alive. There was tension among us as we found our seats prior to the service's beginning. It had been a difficult weekend due to family issues and unspoken discernment of spiritual realities perceived. Yuck. . . My tension was ultimately manifested prior to worship in a very rushed drive on my part that caused April to encourage me to slow down and my angry response, " just let me do what I want!" I parked on the lot, and no one spoke as we entered the church. It was all my fault.
Jason Upton led worship. We stood and engaged in the moment with praise as Jason began to play and sing. The second song he played was familiar to me. He sang it at Bethel Atlanta when we worshiped with him there this summer. The refrain was, Whisper, whisper, whisper in my ear, tell me words I thought I'd never hear; show me, show me, show me what you see; illuminate what's right in front of me.
I was under conviction in the midst of worship. I embraced willfully anger toward family members all weekend as a legitimate emotional reaction. I was wrong, and I couldn't justify it any longer. At this juncture of praise and conviction I sought mercy and experienced grace. I went to my knees in the aisle and bent over until my head was on the floor. I wept with sorrow for sin. Within a few moments a woman knelt with me with her hand on my back and her voice in my ear (Whisper, whisper, whisper in my ear . . .) praying in tongues. As has become my behavior as I encounter God in holy moments, I cried AND laughed. The woman then shifted to English, anointed me with oil on my head and wrists and said, "You are loved, you are loved; regardless what you've done, you are loved." It was a wonderful encounter with God. The burden of sorrow from the weekend left me. Alleluia.
I am thankful to God for my life. These recent months have not been easy. God has spoken to us directly and through friends, family and strangers many promises of what we're to see and experience. While we wait and trust, difficulties have amassed and piled on us. It hasn't appeared to us that the promises were any closer to being fulfilled. Despite the challenges, I've encountered God in grace and truth. Regardless of what has not happened, I've prayed something that has not crossed my lips until these days - I thank you, God, for my life.