As I began to write about thankfulness, I am stirred to share a bit about my personal testimony. I rarely talk about myself, but will take a few minutes to share how I’ve been blessed and why I am so thankful. Hopefully through my unique story, you will discover more reasons to be thankful in our own life.
Scripture encourages us to: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; ‘in’ everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
I recognize the challenges these recent years have brought to all of our lives and know it is easy to get bogged down in our struggles. However, during our difficult times we want to maintain an attitude of thankfulness, not ‘for’ our challenges but ‘in’ them. When we maintain an attitude of thankfulness, the enemies of our soul remain defeated. This is God’s will for us.
So why am I thankful? I’m glad you asked! I am most thankful for my lifelong fellowship with our heavenly Father.
My personal story is unlike most. My dad was an ordained minister entering the Coast Guard when he met mom. At the time, following her mother’s mental breakdown, she was managing her mother’s yarn shop, giving lessons in the art of crochet, and becoming a skilled musician. They married at the end of World War II when she was 16. At 20, I became her second son.
When I was two, divorce left my dad, brother and I a family of three. A short time later my dad met and married a mother of three. We suddenly became a big family of five boys between the ages of two and seven. I was next to the youngest of the five. A big life altering change!
I was young enough to form a bond with my new mother who showed a love and care for me, as some have attested, beyond her own children. While I soon forgot my birth mother and had no clue where she was for the next 66 years, I never felt unloved or as though I did not belong.
As I learned to read, many times, the Bible was placed in my lap. I fell in love with God and His written Word. Through my youth and early adulthood, we moved continually, so had no place to call home. Each of my high school years was in two and three different states, making a formal education difficult. I had no youthful friends because we were there one day and gone the next.
Despite this challenging lifestyle, I learned to value each connection and appreciate the time allotted. These years taught me to be alert and flexible while maintaining thankfulness. After decades, I can say God was with me through all the ups and downs of life. I’ve been enriched with much understanding of God’s heart and ways among us. From my early days, God was the sure and unshakable foundation for family life.
God was the sure and unshakable foundation for family life.
The Importance of Early Relationship
God was always at the center of my focus. During the early years and into my mid-twenties, I traveled with my dad, step mom, and a few brothers all over the country. Our belongings had to fit into the trunk and in the roof-rack of our pre-owned Cadillac. Beyond basic necessities, we had a record player and several LPs of Christian groups to continually encourage focus.
Once during my early teens, after hearing and reading about many amazing conversion testimonies, I began to wonder if I was missing an important aspect of my relationship with God. In one of my meditative moments on a walk, I asked God: “Should I walk away, so I can know the thrill of a life altering conversion?” His answer was immediate and clear – “You have chosen the better way.” I realized in that moment the greater value of an early relationship with our heavenly Father.
These years were before TV preachers and the internet, so we visited many churches including the well-known Jack Cole, William Branham, and A.A. Allen. We wanted to hear the fresh things God was saying and see the miraculous things He was doing around the country. Dad was often asked to be a part of the ministry team. We spent a lot of time sharing with believers and since God remained my central focus, I stayed in the discussions, observing and learning.
In one meeting during my late teens, the minister kept saying: “You don’t have to understand, just believe it.” I began to question why God gave us a mind with the ability to reason and understand if we were to just believe. I soon committed myself to understanding all God would reveal and became a stronger student of Scripture. Instead of accepting or rejecting a teaching, I focused on discerning what God may be saying about different issues and dug into the Scriptures. I allowed fresh insight to adjust my perceptions and improve my understanding.
God was always at the center of my focus.
Setting Down Roots
There were years when we moved eight to fifteen times. At 27, I sensed God saying “it is time to stop traveling and allow what you’ve learned to drop a foot, from your head to your heart, in relational experiences.” I settled in Dallas and became an intimate part of a small church that accepted me into their family. These years enhanced my perception of God, His relational ways, and the enabling values they bring to our natural lives. I was literally saved from death’s door at least three times; once within seconds of a head-on car crash, once from a deathly internal bleed, and once from an attack that announced I was dead but dad did not accept it.
Two years later I met Nancy during a church conference and within six months we married. Five years later, I sensed God directing us to raise our three children among Nancy’s large family in Pennsylvania. We moved and joined her former fellowship. I eventually served as pastor. I also accepted a position with a Christian publisher as acquisitions editor, eventually becoming an associate publisher. After seven years I left and began to function as a literary agent.
A few years into our marriage, Nancy felt a part of my life and our children’s history was missing. After many years of sleuthing, she finally tracked down my natural mother and we renewed a family bond. Today, I am the only survivor of the family I was raised in.
Today, I’m extremely thankful to God for Nancy, our three godly children, their wonderful spouses, and six amazing grandchildren. I am also very thankful for my country, America. I served in the army during the Vietnam War years and was spared combat duty.
As you can see I have not lived what most would consider a normal life. I have experienced many difficulties and close encounters but God has always brought me through them into a greater sense of trust in His love and care. I have learned to listen, consider, and be flexible toward improving insight. I can honestly say I’ve never wished my life was different!
As we experience this holiday season, let us keep our minds and hearts grateful and trade our anxious thoughts for thanksgiving. Let’s remain aware and thankful for all the great things God has done and is accomplishing in our lives during this world’s good and bad times.
Let us keep our minds and hearts grateful and trade our anxious thoughts for thanksgiving.