This morning seems rather unique, even in a “born again” kind of way! I was awakened early as usual, but with a tremendous sense of gratefulness; far more than that, an abiding “new-start-like” refreshing; a gift of grace perhaps? I don’t know how it happens, but grace comes in moments like this, and thus the name.
I am hurriedly trying to capture the moment in this digital journal of mine, while not losing the joy that seems present with this early morning aha!
This amazing sense of abiding grace and childlike joy, present since my first thoughts, seems similar as I recall, to being awakened on Christmas morning. I had rested well, after a long weekend in the mountains with two wonderfully successful couples, now lifelong friends, all gathered in a setting of some four hundred exquisite acres of Virginia fall artwork, with colors straight from heaven; almost iridescent as the sun rose each day.
As my Sunday morning ritual began, with coffee brewing while I made the walk down our driveway to retrieve the local newspaper, my first glance upward toward a clear starry sky seemed only to further accent this wonderful awareness that had now possessed me. Where did this overwhelmingly joyous attitude come from, and why me?
Why was this now 66 year old kid born into a family with a Dad who understood the pleasure of being alive, the love of family and the reward of hard earned pay? Why was I given a Mother who was faithful to that husband, changed the diapers of her four kids, and did the laundry for her college freshman when he dropped it on the floor after a week of school that he could not afford, made possible only by a loan of money from a local foundation, through people who could not possibly know him?
Why when he had almost ruined his young life with alcohol, did he have a serendipitous moment of redemption in his Dad’s living room at age 25; with a God he did not know, through the prayers of that same Dad, who had learned to trust that God as a young teen, while he and thousands of others fought for the freedom that I now enjoy; in fact, a lifetime in a land far more privileged than any other on the globe?
Why did I end up in a classroom teaching Science of all things, where I would providentially meet others, just after my experience with God; folk who had come to know this same Christ by way of their own life experience? How could it be possible that I would then be invited to attend a Prayer Breakfast, which I had no clue was occurring, even allowed at some point to lead that endeavor? That leadership opportunity would introduce me to a pastor who happened into the community where I taught. That man would become a mentor in my life, and later would invite me to serve as an assistant pastor at a small church I had never heard of to that point, answering a long forgotten calling spoken into my life at age nine. Through him, I would meet a denominational Superintendent, who would further invest in me as a leader.
Given a few statewide and even national recognitions by my denomination, that seemingly sovereign denominational placement would be sufficient to attract the attention of a national leader who would be called to take a church in my hometown, and would then invite me back home to serve on the pastoral staff of a growing congregation, almost as if my somewhat shady past had never occurred.
Why would I have just earlier than that appointment, felt led to return to college, directed toward a degree I had never heard of (Resource Development), having no awareness of opportunities that would follow? I would complete that degree and later another, which uniquely prepared me for future municipal positions I knew nothing about. Why was that Public School leadership position as a community advocate, even to the personalities and superintendents served, so custom by design, preparing me to impact a city for Christ through a large church that would I would never have known existed were it not for that early prayer breakfast assignment. That positon with the Public Schools by the way, was disbanded by the state of North Carolina shortly after I left the school system, almost as if its temporary nature was solely for my learning?
Now that same church has grown in its awareness of the needs of its city, even changing its name to WS First, somewhat fulfilling the answer to a promise made by that same “living room” God to whom my Dad earlier introduced me. That promise was that if I would follow “Him”, I would impact cities.
Parenthetically, should my reader perhaps misinterpret this morning’s sense of awe and celebration as some arrogant boasting, I can assure you that I am as amazed at God’s involvement in my life anyone! Remember, I am the prodigal, not the priest.
I now hold three earned degrees, have a phenomenally gifted wife, who manages to seasonally adorn a beautiful property tucked in the woods of Clemmons and all debt free; though my professional life has been quite different than any career minded person might have planned! Our property has become a place of encouragement and celebration, from the new kitchen just completed as means for furthering my wife’s gift of hospitality, not to mention our almost ten year old cabin, tucked just inside the Village that even granted me three terms as their mayor!
Now we share this property with a daughter, son-in-law and new grandson, John Luther, who have settled just walking distance across the creek. John Luther perhaps will watch and learn of this God, as we spend these next few years together, the Lord by grace, further unfolding the life of his Grandpa and a special dog named Coach, on the very outskirts of that hometown to which I was called in 1990.
Yes, a hometown for which I have now spent over twenty-five years praying; four of those years, from a lofty perch in an office overlooking the city, made possible as a gift from another brother now deceased, who believed in my calling. I have known the privilege of serving on the planning board, networking with scores of others who share that love for this city; even chairing Leadership WS, a privilege usually reserved for those far more successful them myself. This awareness also reinforced this a.m., almost as if a set-up for this amazing morning of gratefulness, as the local paper celebrated new facilities recently afforded Leadership Winston-Salem. To review the list of names involved, and know that these fine folk are my now my friends, is an amazing thing also.
As my first superintendent, Dr. Thompson used to remind me: “When you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you know it didn’t get there by itself.” How did this humble but grateful “turtle” find his way atop this fence post? Grace and the help of hundreds whom God has introduced him to since the night this prodigal visited his Dad’s “living room” in 1973!