As I began to write about thankfulness, I was encouraged by my wife Nancy to pull back the curtain and share a bit of my personal testimony. I recognize the challenges this year has brought to all of our lives and know it is easy to get bogged down by the struggles. However, it should be just as easy to pause and be thankful, not for these challenges but ‘in’ them. I have much to be thankful for and hopefully through my unique story, you can find unending gratitude and thanks in your own life.
So what am I thankful for? I’m glad you asked! I am thankful for my heavenly Father, for the family I came from, and America. I am very grateful for Nancy, our three godly children, their exceptional spouses, and six amazing grand-children. I am extremely thankful for the way God has led me through the ups and downs of life. Like many of you, His presence has enriched my life and brought much understanding of His ways among us.
I am extremely thankful for the way God has led me through the ups and downs of life.
You may be surprised by some elements of my personal story. Bear with me as I elaborate.
My dad and mother married during the World War II era. While just 16 years old, my mother was managing her mother’s yarn shop, giving lessons in the art of crochet, and was becoming a skilled musician. At 19, I became her second born son. Two years into my life, a divorce left my brother Kip, dad and I, as a family of three. Within 6 months, dad met and married a mother of 3. We suddenly became a big family of five boys between the ages of 2 and 7. A big change!
I was young enough to form a bond with my new mother. She showed a love and care for me, as some would attest, beyond her own children. While I soon forgot my birth mother and had no clue where she was for 66 years, I never felt unloved. Nancy however, felt a part of my life and our children’s history was missing. So, through Ancestry.com and other sources available on the internet, she was able to track down my natural mother 6 years ago. Today, I am the only survivor of the family I was raised in but enjoy great fellowship with my godly natural mother.
God was always at the center of our family focus. During my early years and into my mid-twenties, I traveled with my dad and (step) mom all over the country. Since this was before the internet and TV ministries, we went to many churches and ministries, some well-known including A.A. Allen, Jack Cole, and William Branham. We wanted to see the revivals and miracles, and hear what God was saying.
In one meeting, the minister repeated, “You don’t have to understand, just believe it” at least three times. I wondered why God gave us a mind to reason and understand if we were to ‘just believe’. Following that meeting, I committed myself to understanding all God desired to reveal. I developed an ability to listen, read the materials, and consider without arguing or swallowing the full teaching. I became a strong student of Scripture while allowing fresh insight to adjust and improve my perceptions.
I wondered why God gave us a mind to reason and understand if we were to ‘just believe’.
Through my childhood and into adulthood, I was raised without a place to call home. We continually moved from place to place. My high school years were spent in two and three different states and school districts. I was not able to have youthful friends because we were there one day and gone the next. Despite this challenging lifestyle, God taught me to value every connection during the time allotted.
At 27, I sensed God say, “Stop traveling and allow what you’ve learned to drop a foot, from your head to your heart.” So, I settled in Dallas and became an intimate part of a small church that accepted me into their family. This adjustment greatly enhanced my perception of God’s relational ways and the values they bring.
Nancy was from Pennsylvania. We met during a church conference and within six months we married. This vagabond settled down. When I sensed God wanted us to raise our kids among her family in Pennsylvania, we moved. Now 43 years after God spoke, I’ve only changed towns once. Our children have married wonderful spouses in the area and have blessed us with six delightful grandchildren. What a blessing! The reason to be thankful just keeps increasing.
God taught me to value every connection during the time allotted.
As a teen, I listened to amazing testimonies of conversions. Turning to God, I questioned if I was missing an important part of my own experience with Him. So I asked Him, “Should I walk away, so I can know the thrill of a graphic conversion?” His answer was very clear, “You have chosen the better way.”
I’ve seen God intervene in my life many times. I served in the Army during the Vietnam War, yet by His grace, I was spared from the terror of the war. In another instance, one evening, while driving down a highway with almost no traffic, suddenly an oncoming car jumped the divider. Airborne, it literally flew directly toward me, went over my car, and landed on all four wheels behind me. I thanked God that I was driving a bit fast.
As an early teen and once again as a 40 year old, I was hospitalized for excessive bleeding through the bowel. The first time, they told me I’d lost so much blood that I should have gone into convulsive shock. Both times, however, they were unable to discover what caused the bleeding. Each time, I left the hospital and was healed without any ill side effects. These are just a few of the many times God has been faithful.
Unending Love and Care
As you can see I have not lived what most would consider, a normal life. I have experienced more than a few difficulties and close catastrophes, but God has always brought me to a greater place of trust in His love and care. Because of my beginnings, I have learned to be teachable, adjustable, considerate, and dependable. I’ve never wished my life was different; instead, I remain studious and thankful!
As we approach the holidays, let us remain thankful and aware of all the great things God has brought out of this world’s good and bad times. Let’s shift our hearts and minds towards gratitude and trade our anxious thoughts for thanksgiving. Enjoy these key scriptures of thanksgiving and encouragement that continue to impact my journey. I hope they bring you comfort as you walk your own path and enhance your personal interaction with God.
I have learned to be teachable, adjustable, considerate, and dependable.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything, give thanks.
For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
If God is for us, who is against us
Who will separate us from the love of Christ
Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution
Or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life
Nor angels, nor principalities
Nor things present, nor things to come
Nor powers, nor height, nor depth
Nor any other created thing
Will be able to separate us from the love of God
Which is in Christ Jesus our Lord
Romans 8:31, 35-39
‘As’ those who have been chosen of God…
Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…
With thankfulness in your hearts to God
Colossians 3:12, 15-16