Last night and this morning, I read through the archives of my blog. It was interesting to relive some of the good, bad, and horrible times of my life from the last couple of years.
Sometimes, in order to move forward, you have to look back at the milestones which brought you to where you are today. My blog indicates that I am quite good at this. Nevertheless, it has been healthy for me. I have finally been able to come to terms with my more painful memories, both recent and past. Some of these memories were hard to relive, and my moods have been up and down like "The Hurler" at Carowinds. But I have finally made peace with my past.
I have discovered that God is leading me to help my wife and church do the same thing. It is easier to help people with things that you have been through. There's not much I haven't done, or at least tried.
This Sunday there will be two major things happening at church. First, I am going to roll out our renewed vision. Second, I am going to be officially installed as Pastor. Both of these are major for me AND the church family. From reading my blog posts, I realized that a year ago, I wouldn't have been in the right frame of mind to lead a church much less cast a vision.
By no means have I "arrived." There is still much more growing to do, and much more work. But I honestly believe that for the first time ever, I am moving forward with no baggage. What a time it has been getting to this place!
When I lost my first marriage and my ministry, I told the Lord, and I quote, "&%#@ You! I will never step into a church again, and I will never preach or teach Your word ever again." A far cry from Job's reply to losing everything, "Though He slay me, yet I will praise Him." Despite my poor choice of words (I meant them, too, by the way), like Job, I have experienced restoration and grace. I have a fresh start with Tracy and with Evergreen.
Before I became a permanent fixture at Evergreen, my dear friend and "compass," Rickwell, admonished me, "If you're gonna do this, do it with your whole heart, and cut ties with the past. Otherwise don't do it." When that advice was given, I couldn't do it. I wasn't ready. It has been a process of three of the most horrible years I have ever spent to bring me to the place where I can totally heed the wise words of my friend and brother.
This past Sunday, I challenged the church family, "Either pay the price for growing, or pay the price for not growing." In all my years as a Christian, I have never paid such a price as I have these last 3 years. But I believe that I have grown as a Christian in ways I never dreamed of.
In the Bible, 3 years or 3 days always represents a transition from punishment to restoration. I hope to NEVER experience anything like these last three years ever again. But I wouldn't change them. Things don't always happen the way we want them to.
The other day, Tracy, myself, and six of our kids were riding home late from the WFJ television taping. It became apparent that the van was not going to make it home. The transmission was doing some weird things. We were only able to go about 25-35 mph on a dark country highway. The kids were scared, Tracy was praying, and I was mad.
"Lord, I cannot believe that you are going to leave us out here in the middle of nowhere. You can do anything. You are a God of miracles, and yet you won't make this transmission catch the last gear so we can get home quicker."
That still, small voice then spoke to me, "The van is moving, just not like you want it to. I will get you where you need to be, but not always the way you want Me too."
What a summary of the last three years! Yes, we made it home that night. As I sit here typing, I am humbled by my lack of faith and trust in the Lord. I am more humbled by the fact that God even takes the time with someone like me. Though I griped the whole way here, and never actually thought I'd get to this place, here I am. I am ready to grow deeper, and I am ready to move forward.
Before I do, a few "Thank Yous" are in order:
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for never giving up on me. Not for one single moment. Even when I gave up, You didn't. When I quit, You were just getting started. I love You, and I will preach Your words forever.
Thank you, Tracy, for hanging in there through all the difficult times. I know that this marriage has been a lot harder than we both thought, but you have really stuck by me. I really believe that our best days are still ahead.
Thank you to my children. You have sacrificed so much for Daddy to be a pastor. The Lord sees it, and He will reward you for all you do. I am so proud of you, and I love you. I will always be there for you, no matter what.
Thank you to my stepchildren. Putting up with my moodiness cannot have been easy. I really do love you guys, and I hope that the man you see in church is the man you always see at home. You all deserve that.
Thank you to Rickwell. Over the last year or so, you have challenged me with some very strong words of rebuke and encouragement. You have always been a "compass" for me. Our friendship means more to me than you can know.
Thank you to Dan Rabon. You are true and steady, and I wouldn't have made it at all without your friendship.
Thank you to James. Though we are a whole country apart, Caycee Cussum remains close to my heart. Yippie Kai Yay!
Cube Rev, you da man!
Thank you to T-Money and WFJ for giving me a place to belong and to serve.
Thank you to Pastor Dave Phillips and the Chapel of Redemption for nurturing and preparing Tracy and I for ministry again. The church really lived up to her name.
Thank you to the Evergreen Christian Church, for believing in me, and for taking a chance on me. I have never felt as loved by a church family as I do here with you. Great things are coming!
And with that, another chapter of my life is closed. Time to begin writing the next one.