Saturday, November 15, 2014

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ― Marcel Proust

I have never been particularly good at expressing my gratitude to others.  I have no difficulty expressing my gratitude to God because my very life has become one of demonstrating my gratitude to Christ for lifting me into the life I now lead.  However, I was both humbled and awed by the number of birthday greetings I received on Facebook, Google+, in emails, by ecards, by actual birthday cards, phone messages, and the way my wife, son, and our staff showed me their love yesterday.  The quote by John Milton in the picture at the right says what I feel.  I had many, many special moments yesterday because of what was written on the cards and written in my heart at the moment I read them.  Words from former parishioners who remembered little things I had done (and forgotten) that were very big things for them.  Those very few words became big things for me, yesterday.  I have written before about how big little things can become if you will just free yourself to do them.  There were people yesterday who quoted from a sermon I had preached two decades ago.  I was stunned.  To a pastor who has to preach every week, sometimes several times on the same day, a sermon can easily become something that you just have to do.  Nothing special, just an obligation to complete.  Some of the cards yesterday reminded me that sermons are God’s way of speaking to those who need to hear.  Happily, God’s truth does not depend on the skill of the person preaching, or I would have failed over and over.  I remember my very first sermon, preached at Centerton United Methodist Church in 1985.  I was so worried that I wrote out every word and filled about 23 pages of text.  I was so nervous when I delivered it, that I completed reading all 23 pages in about seven minutes—the shortest sermon that congregation had ever heard.  Yet, I am sure there was something there for someone, in spite of my poor attempts.  I have forgotten almost all of my birthdays, but yesterday’s will live in my heart for the rest of my life.  Many of you wrote some small things that touched me and filled me with the presence of the Spirit.  God bless you all.  I pray that my poor attempts at expressing myself and keeping you informed of what we are about here in Bunda, Tanzania, by writing a daily blog succeed in spite of my limited abilities.  Sometimes (rather frequently, in fact) we have power and internet problems, but as long as I am able, I will write something every day with pictures for those of you faithful readers and for those who just happen upon a blog every now and then.  I did want you to know that you touched me, humbled me, and lifted my spirit.  I consider the ability to do that a true gift from God.  I pray that you do it for everyone around you.  As Fred Rogers used to say, “I love you all, exactly as you are.”  God bless and may there be more birthdays to mark our service here.
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