Thankful for You

This morning I am thankful for you – yes, you.  I sat down with a good friend today who is not part of our church, who has never attended any of our services, who is probably the polar opposite of me on the political spectrum in many areas and yet when I saw this friend the first thing they did was hug me tightly and tell me how much they love me.  We sat down for almost two hours and most of that time I got to talk to this friend about the incredible God we serve and about many, many, many of you!  So thank you; thank you very, very much.  And I want you to know why today I am so especially grateful; it is something that Sue reminded me about and I wanted to share it this way.
From the time I was 5 years of age I have had the privilege of being a part of the Body of Christ.  Because of an automobile accident at that time my parents decided that our family needed to be involved in a church, and I am so very glad they did.  The first Sunday after that accident that all of us were able, we started going to church at the Los Altos Church of the Nazarene in Albuquerque and that began a lifelong habit that I am still grateful for.  I began my journey to Christ in that Church.  It was because of my parents first, some great, great pastors and lots and lots of men and women who poured their life first into a child, then a teen, and finally a young man who needed a Savior and many, many times needed lots of grace.  I had Sunday school teachers who braved teaching children week after week; Children’s Church workers who missed out on a sermon many weeks that they would have loved to hear because kids like me needed to hear the gospel.  
I had some incredible youth pastors but more than that, some lay men and women who gave time to teenagers who were probably less than grateful at times but they loved us and gave to us week after week because they loved the Lord and they loved us.  And pastors who preached the Word of God to me and others and more importantly, lived it in front of us.  And then there was a District Superintendent who took a chance on a young man who felt God’s call on his life and gave me not just my first church to pastor, but another one years later showing confidence and trust in me.  He is still a great mentor and friend.
But that then brings me to you – many of you are people who have allowed me to be called your pastor.  That is a privilege beyond almost anything that I’ve done in this world, only behind being husband to Sue, dad to Shannon and Brandon as well as their mates Scott and Ashley and grandpa to George and Arlo and in September this year to Stella!  So many incredible people who have allowed me that privilege and have loved me and continue to love me.
I have half-jokingly made the comment that some day I want to go back to Shattuck OK, the place of that first church I got to pastor, and apologize to those people for all of the mistakes I made.  I was so young and so inexperienced and I’m sure there were lots of sermons that were excruciatingly hard to listen to.  But then I realize that maybe I don’t need to JUST go back to Shattuck, perhaps I need to go to each and every group at each place where we’ve lived and apologize in person for the dumb things I’ve said, the sermons that were about half-a-bubble off, the mistakes I’ve made and the times that I’ve just blown it.
I’m human; I know you know that but I wonder how many times I’ve left the impression that I’m more than that?  I don’t have a corner on the truth and I’m not the final authority.  There have been times when people have been kind and loving enough to speak to me and “correct” my innocence (or is it stupidity?) in a more loving way than perhaps I preached.  There have been times when people, (some of you even) have left the place where I’m pastoring and moved or gone on to another place because we’ve had differences and yet so many of you are still friends and I still love you and you love me.  And there have been times when I’ve hurt people with something I’ve said or done and they’ve left under not-so-good circumstances – and if you are one of those, I’m sorry I honestly have always tried to be respectful, kind and gracious and yet once again, I’m human and it might not have looked that way.
The Body of Christ, for the most part, and folks, I mean for the most part meaning way more than not, is made up of people who are good people; people who aren’t perfect; people who make mistakes; people who sometimes, in spite of the best intentions, have messed up.  The Body of Christ has loved me, prayed for me, cared for me, blessed me over and over and over and over and over and has shown me love more often than they have not.  
So thank you.  I mean that from the bottom of my heart, thank you.  Today when I was with my friend I told you that I got to tell this friend about the incredible God I serve and love and the incredible people who make up the Body of Christ.  I talked to this friend about the miracle after miracle after miracle that God has done in Sue’s and my lives through this automobile accident Sue had.  I got to brag on God and tell them about all of His miracles.  And I also got to brag on you; how you, the Body of Christ, have loved me, have loved us way, way, WAY more than we deserved.  Your gifts, your time, your calls, your texts, your chats, your posts on FaceBook, your emails and your prayers, OH YOUR PRAYERS that you have given to us.
Thank you for loving like that.  Thank you for giving grace, not just to me, but to others too.  Thank you for sharing in my life and showing me what God looks like.  Thank you for the way that you have shown the love of the Father to others; for the times and for the ways that you have realized that no one is perfect, that we all miss it from time to time, some more publicly than others, and for the ways that you continue to show your love, your support and grace.
I love you!

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