One of the habits Diana developed in recent years was listing in a notebook as many of the gifts she perceived God gave her each day. I believe it was a habit she read about in a book called One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, a book some of you have read as well.
Long before Ann Voskamp, the Bible said to think along those very same lines :
“It is good to give thanks to the LordAnd to sing praises to Your name, O Most High ;To declare Your lovingkindness in the morningAnd Your faithfulness by night.” Psalm 92:1-2
Here’s a list of gifts Diana wrote down back on August 26, 2011, at a time when she was having to sleep downstairs in the recliner due to difficulty breathing :
- waking up to see Samuel next to me on the floor
- hearing Tom open the door to let in fresh air first thing in the morning
- candles lit by my chair
- long talks with Tom
- hearing from Annie
- talking with Billy heart-to-heart
- beautiful salad made by Betsy
- Tom cleaning back room
- squeals from all after seeing a mouse
Those were gifts # 137 – 145 in her ongoing list. (Isn’t it funny how God sends animals into our lives to create situations we weren’t expecting, … and, seemingly, to prompt a response from us ? I would love to explore more about the relationship between humans and animals in God’s economy. Our family seems to never tire of making a big deal out of a mouse.)
What gifts has God given you this week ?
We spoke last Sunday about bread being a symbol of a giving God. He gives physical, spiritual, and eternal life (John 6). Each of us could have a list such as Diana had. Some of the recent gifts I’ve received from God include just being able to do a few of the myriad of things Diana used to do to care for our household :
- As of today, all six of us living at home have appointments at the dentist !
- After a year’s break from piano, a new set of piano books are ordered for Samuel, Esther, and Evan !
- After an afternoon of wandering around Columbia Mall during a rainstorm on Memorial Day, we finally found much-needed tennis shoes for Samuel and Evan ! I even asked the manager of the shoe store to explain to me what seems to be a crazy transition between kids’ shoe sizes and adult shoe sizes !
- I’m learning all the little systems that make life work (plus I know how to do the laundry now), so watch out !
The Gift of a Good Book
Another gift has been a second good book on grieving. It’s called I’m Grieving As Fast As I Can : How Young Widows & Widowers Can Cope and Heal. I’ll share below a few one-liners from that book that really echoed what I’m feeling :
- Your world has stopped, and you can’t make yourself get going again at other people’s pace.
- You resent the weeks going by, because each week takes you further away from the person you loved and still love.
- If you are a parent, you are now a single parent family. You have officially joined the rat race of those who work all day, take care of the kids all night, and have no time for anything else. There is nobody to even say thanks for all your hard work and exhaustion.
- You are a walking reminder to people of the worst thing that could happen to many of them – death at an early age. Through you, people are reminded of their own mortality and the mortality of the people they love.
Ugh, what kind of a gift is that ?! I’m at least glad God created people who are able to put such thoughts into words. God is dealing in eternal issues, and so must we.
The Gift of Mentors and Fellow Sojourners
I’m grateful for men who are kind enough to pour into my life :
- Larry Shoemaker took me on his intense walking circuit through Hermann and across the Missouri River bridge the other day. Man, was I winded afterwards ! Probably from us two widowers talking up a storm.
- Bart Larson invited our family out for a hike and a hot dog roast at his house. We’ve been trying to do it all spring – finally happened. The kids enjoyed getting acquainted with Bart’s wife, Phyllis, and we were all encouraged in body and spirit.
- My hospice chaplain, Van, called and spoke into my situation when I told him I was having trouble waiting on God for direction and help. He reminded me about a promise in the Bible that says those who wait upon the Lord will have their strength renewed (Isaiah 40:31).
- On a day when I had planned an agenda for myself that was obviously going to be far more than I would be able to accomplish, I received a newsletter from my good friend and missionary colleague, Dale, which started out with these words from a man in Senegal : “Americans have watches, but Africans have time.” A good reminder for me.
I’m glad for men who are willing to support other men. My heart still beats for men’s discipleship. I’m praying for a time and a way to make that happen with some of you.
The Gift of a Good Church
I am sometimes amazed when I stop and consider the level of spiritual maturity God has brought together in all of you at Emmanuel. We have godly servants and leaders … people who sincerely want to walk with Jesus in an authentic way. We have good teachers at Emmanuel, good relationships, a shared vision for a life with the Lord that is authentic, not just a part of our “religion.”
I feel certain that if someone comes to Emmanuel they can find – without too much hard work – someone to pray with them, or someone to help them grow, or someone who will at least point them in the right direction. That’s a gift from God – a wonderful resource we all have access to, and to which we all can and should contribute.
As I am “forced” out into the community in ways I hadn’t been while Diana was alive, I have been struck at seeing how your relationships with people in this town — your smiles, your actions, your involvement — really do make people’s lives better and make Hermann a better town. You’re rubbing off ! I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians : “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians15:58).
I was encouraged by a presentation Pastor Jeff made to the youth ministry team recently in which he outlined how he sees us deepening our ministry to young people, primarily through an emphasis on our Wednesday night activities and an expansion of those activities into the elementary age groups. I noticed two other local churches were advertising “youth events” this past weekend. Two thoughts came to my mind :
- Praise God, if something we’re doing at Emmanuel is prompting other local churches to take a greater interest in ministering to youth !
- Praise God, because at Emmanuel we have youth “events” practically every week !
Jeff is going to be recruiting you to help with the expanded ministry he and his team are envisioning. Will you be prayerful in your response ? Is God calling you to help in some way, … and might you be willing to accept some responsibility from Jeff and the team ? Our young people deserve our involvement.
I’m personally looking forward to leading a basic discipleship course for those middle school students who were baptized recently, plus maybe a few others from the JAM group. That will be a challenge and a joy. Others of you will be serving in, and bringing kids to, Vacation Bible School, July 15-19, in the evenings. Be sure to contact Jeff, or Laura Maddox, or Jennifer Walker, for details and information about ways to serve at VBS.
I appreciated Chris Neale’s message two Sundays ago and his challenge to us to involve ourselves in the lives of people who are “not here” — people beyond our walls who need the life God offers through you and me. We must identify needs in Hermann and then take steps to meet them, acting in a way that gives credit to God.
What are some gifts God has given you recently ? And, what are some of your personal and ministry-related prayer needs ? I would like – if you will provide me with content – to put together a summer prayer guide for the church to help us pray our way through the rest of the summer. Would you help me with that project by sending me a list of some of your gifts received and your prayer needs ?
Let’s remember in prayer some of those with special needs in our church family :
- Rebecca Gaus, her parents, and her extended family
- Georgia Jordan
- Kate Talley and family
- Amy Houston, and Paul
- Scott Moody
- those from Emmanuel serving in the Armed Forces (Tyler Gloe, Matt Miller, others)
- teachers needing rest and refueling
- those in transition
- expectant parents, … and new parents !
- those new to Emmanuel
- others …
Hope to see you Sunday ! We will try to answer the question, “What is God saying through rocks and stones ?”