Over the last few weeks and months, our youngest child Declan has been asking more and more questions about faith. Anita and I have tried to handle these questions with hope, optimism, and a healthy share of reality.
After decades of ministry, we have seen far too many families passively or over-exuberantly allow their young children to follow through the public expressions of faith without carefully discerning the sincerity or genuineness of the child’s claims. Conversely, we have also seen parents so concerned with whether the child truly has come to faith, that they delay his/her opportunity to step forward publicly and share what could actually be his/her surrendered life to Jesus.
Thankfully, we have an amazing family and church family that has walked with us in partnership as we have been raising our children to know, love, and be loved by the Lord. From grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, and brothers; pastors, ministry leaders, small group leaders, volunteers, and friends, our children have seen and heard what it truly means to follow Jesus.
Tonight over dinner, Declan asked if we could pick up the conversation we were having after Grace Kids this Sunday at a program called Jumpstart. Our incredible Children’s Ministry Director Randi Gilbert led the gathering of several families through a clear and concise presentation of the Gospel.
Over chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, and green beans, we asked Declan the questions we felt were most important and revealing of his motivation and understanding to have these conversations. His answers not only met the doctrinal bar, they were his words, and his belief. We then asked if he wanted us to help him surrender to Jesus; he said yes, and so we did.
All my life I’ve wanted to be a dad, and from the moment God chose to bless my life with children, my greatest prayers have been that each of my children would come to a life-changing understanding of the Gospel. Tonight my greatest prayers have been answered.
Declan, there is nothing in this life you could do to make me more proud of you than I am tonight. I love you, my son, my brother in Christ.
Thank you Jesus, for your love, grace, mercy, and kindness. I am the most blessed man to have ever lived!
Every hope and dream, fear and insecurity are magnified with every decision you make as a father to a son. You replay many of your landmark moments of your youth. While simultaneously growing painfully aware of all the significant words you wish your father would have taken the time to say to you. At least that’s the case for me.
Several years ago my understanding of what it means to be a man changed. I felt a strong desire to embrace the masculinity I was created to embody. I also wanted my life to match up with how God describes a man in His Word. All of this impacted how I raise my children.
My daughters need a strong yet accessible father; protective while approachable; firm and friendly. My sons need all that and more. Most American men today have missed out on a life-shaping moment. At some point we realize that the people around them are expecting us to suddenly act like men. No one told us we were men, much less how a man is supposed to behave. There’s an old African proverb that says, “If we do not initiate the boys, they will burn the village down.” I’m afraid I’ve seen and felt the flames enough to be moved to action.
November 11, 2022 my eldest son Steven Phillip McCart, III (Mac as we call him) turns thirteen years old. I’m incredibly proud of all he has accomplished in his life to this point. He is more compassionate, thoughtful, kind, and honest than I could have ever hoped to be at his age. (He’s also much taller!) As he reaches this milestone birthday, I want him to understand and embrace the challenge of moving from childhood to manhood. I also want him to know that he is a young man now.
This new season of life will be more challenging than he can imagine right now. Tim Elmore says, “We must prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” It’s not my job to make his life easier. My job is to help him prepare for the life God has for him. At this critical point in that journey, Mac needs to know that more is expected of him, but he isn’t expected to do it all alone.
Last weekend, I asked some key family members and friends to participate in a rite of passage for Mac. Starting with his grandparents, Mac began a trail up Crowder’s Mountain in North Carolina. He was expected to hike this 1.8 mile trail on his own. From trailhead to summit, Mac encountered family and friends approximately every 1,000 feet. At each stop Mac was encouraged and prayed over.
He heard from four generations sharing wisdom about Family, Loyalty, Honesty, Humility, Perseverance, Strength, Self-discipline, Courage, Compassion, Generosity, Friendship, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, Integrity, Selflessness, Sacrifice, Love, and Commitment. He saw person after person waiting to stand with him. Each person sacrificed their time and made the climb in order to tell him that he and she believed in him and would stand alongside him as he continued his journey as a young man.
As he reached the end of his climb, his mother (Anita) and I were waiting for him. We read Scripture over him; we prayed for him; we shared how proud we are of who he is and our confidence in who he is becoming. Finally, I looked at my son and told him, “You are now a man.” While he still has a lot to learn, and a long way to go, Mac will know what is expected of him, and he is not expected to do it alone.
Thank you to my parents Steve and Sylesia McCart; Anita’s parents Doug and Billie Bishop; Jon Cate, Kris Quate, Brian and Aiden Martin, David and Haley Weil, Mike Grunder, Randi Gilbert, my daughters Savannah Grace and Rylee, my youngest son Declan, and my incredible wife Anita for making this happen.
Happy thirteenth birthday Mac. I love you and I am proud of you!
I surrendered to God’s call on my life in the mid 90’s.
Not long after, my church endured an ugly split that tore our fellowship apart.
Undeterred, I began my ministry career as a summer camp counselor and eventually went on staff part-time with a church seventy miles away from where I lived. Those years were fruitful and educational. However, at no point did my pastor or church leaders feel led to take steps to formally recognize me as a minister of the Gospel through licensing or ordination.
I should say that the normal ordination process of the churches in which I was raised and serving was as follows:
Individual senses call to ministry.
Individual shares with his/her spiritual leaders (pastor, elder, deacons).
Individual begins working in or toward ministry opportunities.
Home church recognizes call on individual and begins process toward possible ordination.
Individual is licensed to ministry. (a kind of prerequisite/observation period toward ordination)
Home church invites individual into formal ordination process.
Individual submits requested content (written content on conversion, calling, personal theology).
Home church and individual hold an ordination council.
Home church formally ordains individual.
Since my “home church” somewhat imploded my senior year of high school, I never felt like I had a true place there once I went off to college.
My first full-time church staff position resulted in getting me back in the pipeline toward ordination as they licensed me to ministry. God was kind in giving me an opportunity to work at a church I genuinely thought I would never have the chance to work.
This church had a very different culture and perspective on the ordination process. In fact, they didn’t even use the phrase ordination. The leadership of this church viewed my licensing as the only needed step in being an official pastor of the church (the US government also shares this view).
Over the years I would watch, celebrate, and even participate in the ordination services of friends and fellow ministry partners. In the back of my mind I always felt like I had been left behind or missed out on this special time of affirmation, celebration, and recognition.
Fast forward to September 18, 2022.
Tonight I arrived at Grace Collective Church for our Night of Worship. A wonderful gathering I helped plan.
Enter Anita Bishop McCart (my wife). Knowing about my secret insecurity and disappointment, Anita had been working for months with the elders of our church to put together a surprise ordination ceremony for me. I had absolutely no idea. Our church, family, close friends, mentors, former students, and ministry partners had all been contacted and invited to attend, send a video, or letter as a part of this wonderful honor.
Twenty-eight years after surrendering to the call to full-time vocational ministry; twenty-five years after my first ministry job; nineteen years after being licensed to ministry; eight years after planting a church, this amazing gathering of brothers and sisters in Christ gathered to celebrate God’s work in and through my life.
So this not-so normal journey to becoming a not-so normal pastor would of course result in a not-so normal ordination. I am honored, overwhelmed, and incredibly humbled. Thank you to my amazing wife who, despite all evidence to the contrary, has been a never-ending source of love and support; to my children who see the flawed reality of me more than anyone else yet still respect and love me; to my parents and in-laws who have rallied to our aid both physically and prayerfully in more ways than I will ever possibly know; to my church family who continues to trust this broken blind guide as we travel the path God has given us together; to the countless number of friends who have carried the weight of my fear and insecurity throughout the years and provided the framework of confidence I needed to push through any adversity.
Finally, thank you to my Father in Heaven, my Savior Jesus, and Holy Spirit, my ever-present help. You have preserved, protected, rescued, restored, endured, empowered, equipped, and qualified me to do your will. I will never understand your ways, and I will never be worthy of your blessing. I will always be thankful.
If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I have been on a sabbatical this summer. Today is the final day of those two months.
While June seemed to creep by, July has flown! After my time at Ridgecrest Conference Center, the whole family loaded up and went down to Charleston for the trip we intended to enjoy in June (see previous post for further explanation). We had a great time at the beach, visiting family and old friends.
We returned to Rock Hill and immediately jumped on a boat with some dear friends to celebrate Declan’s upcoming birthday. Tubing, swimming, sunset, and a little lightening show resulted in a wonderful night together.
The following week, we took a whirlwind trip to Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been a Braves fan all my life, so going to a game following a World Series championship season was a must. Our AirBNB was within walking distance to the Braves stadium (highly recommend), which made the whole experience that much cooler. The next day brought a morning at the Georgia Aquarium and an evening cheering on Atlanta United at Mercedes Benz Stadium. As if that wasn’t enough, Anita had the fun idea to float the Chattahoochee on our way out of Georgia. If you ever go up to Helen, GA for tubing, definitely opt for the pushing sticks (Thanks for the tip Clara!).
An unexpected change in my friend Kyle’s calendar gave me the chance to spend an evening in Clemson. Kyle Richardson has been a close friend for nearly ten years. We’ve walked through a lot together, both in his life and in mine. His encouragement and support has been invaluable. After every conversation I have with Kyle I am more assured of God’s call on my life, confident about who I am as a friend, and more knowledgeable about football. Despite his insanely busy schedule, Kyle always makes time to check in with me. This means more than you could possibly understand.
If you know the history of Grace Collective Church, you know that the very first gathering of people to talk about starting a church happened in the home of the Wentworth family. David, Anne Marie, JD, Jake, and Grace are one of my favorite families in the world. In fact, a random comment after church one day by Dave was one of the catalyst God used in calling me to plant a church. I’ve had the honor of baptizing three out of the five of them. Not long after we started GCC, the Wentworths moved to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. Despite the distance, they have loved and supported our church consistently. They even joke that they are GCC…C (Grace Collective Church Coastal). Over the years their home in SSI has been a refuge for Anita and me. We have a tradition of going down to SSI at least once a year with Kris & Kristin Quate (our besties as my kids would say). Due to a number of circumstances, we ended up making a trip down with all our kids as well. While it wasn’t the super restful experience I usually enjoy while in SSI, it was a memorable one for sure. We enjoyed the beach, some incredible food, and Declan became a bonafide fisherman. In the course of two days, he not only caught his first fish, but went on to catch a total of seven different species of fish. Yep, I am pretty proud and excited for future fishing trips.
Along with all the trips and activities, I told the kids that each of them would have a “Dad Day.” They get a day alone with me doing whatever they want to do. Mac was up first and chose to spend the day at the Whitewater center. We had a great time enjoying the ropes course, climbing wall, and rafting. We even got a bonus when we ran into Haley and David Weil along with David’s mom Ruthie. We even got to raft together. Declan was next. He wanted, and I quote, “Waffle House, Mr. Putty’s, and the pool.” So we did just that. Declan sank his first hole-in-one on hole number seventeen. He was so excited! Savannah Grace wanted to go kayaking. An unexpected request, but easy enough to fulfill thanks to some generous friends. We went down to Andrew Jackson State Park and had the place to ourselves. Rylee’s dad day is coming up next week. I’m still working on a couple of things since she has “no idea” what she wants to do.
You might be wondering what I’ve been doing on Sunday mornings. It’s an odd feeling having to choose where to go to church after decades of having that decision kind of made for me. It’s been a mixed bag from church in Montana, online, St. Simons, and some fantastic churches here in Rock Hill. One of my favorite Sundays was going to Rock Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC (yes, Greenville). Their pastor was not only the camp pastor for our students this summer, but he is also an old friend. Travis Agnew was on Centrifuge staff with Anita and I back in 2002. For years I’ve described him as the closest thing to a true disciple that I’ve ever met. It’s hard to understand unless you’ve met him. I am extremely grateful for the time he and his family made for us in the middle of a busy weekend of ministry.
One other detail worth mentioning that made my sabbatical possible. My wonderful wife Anita had the foresight to understand the challenge of finding rest over the summer with a house full of children. She asked her employers at Westminster Presbyterian if there was any way to augment her work schedule to help with our sabbatical plans. They were extremely understanding and thoughtful in making accommodations for our unique situation. It’s a beautiful thing to see churches working together even in the behind the scenes kind of stuff. Thank you WPC.
So there it is. My first sabbatical comes to an end. I’m so thankful for the time off, and that I’m so eager to get back to work. I was a little nervous about how I’d feel at the end. Now I’m just nervous about getting back to preaching. I’ll be sharing some of the insights and reflections God has pressed on my heart during this time. I hope you’ll come to a Sunday morning to hear it. I’ll be a GCC Sundays at 10:15am. See you soon!
It’s been over two years since I’ve written, yet suddenly I feel compelled to express through the written word what has been happening in my life over the last thirty days.
Last year my church approved a sabbatical policy, of which I am the grateful guinea pig. Beginning on June 1st, I entered a season of rest, refreshing, and refocussing. In order to accomplish this, I had to remove as much of my ministry life as possible. I imagine it is incredibly difficult for anyone to step away from his or her vocation. Such is the case for me. I love being a pastor. The ease with which I typed that last sentence is honestly a bit surprising.
Over the last seven/almost eight years, I have experienced more joy, pain, encouragement, hurt, confusion, learning, and growth than I thought possible. I’ve had the honor of officiating weddings, preaching at funerals, celebrating births and adoptions, grieving deaths, seeing God rescue marriages, helping families persevere through the end of marriages, make new friendships, lose friends, experience the miracle of new life in Christ, baptize many as they make their faith public, lament as some walk away from not only church, but faith in Jesus.
This has left its mark on me. Sadly, I’ve allowed it to leave its mark on my family as well. After hearing of the alarming number of pastors taking their own lives, self-destructing through poor decisions, or simply leaving ministry after burning out, I asked our leadership to start a sabbatical conversation. My desire is to humbly serve the congregation God has entrusted to me as long as He sees fit. I don’t want my actions, due to poor health or poor decisions, to disqualify me from leading.
So here we are, thirty days into a two month sabbatical. I have no idea if I’m doing this properly, but it’s the first time in twenty-five years of ministry that I’ve had the chance to pause without having to look for another job.
You might be wondering what I am doing, or you don’t care at all. In any case, if you’re still reading, you must be at least a little curious. It’s been an eventful thirty days. I knew that in order to lean into God most, I needed to be away from all ministry related activities as much as possible. That meant making sure all my usual responsibilities were covered (no problem, our staff and volunteers are amazing!), over communicating my schedule and expectations, distancing myself from social media, and creating a loose structure to the days and weeks ahead. I knew that I wanted to focus on my time with God, with my wife, and with my children.
With all the details of work and ministry covered, Anita and I started with a week in Montana and Wyoming. This is the first time either of us have been in that part of the country, or visited her sister and family who live in Billings, Montana. Michael and Christina were incredible hosts. I told them I wanted to fly fish, ride a horse, buy a cowboy hat, and shoot some guns. We did all that and more. Visiting Yellowstone and seeing Wyoming was icing on the cake. Turns out our timing was incredible having visited a week before the terrible flooding that closed the park. Unfortunately, Anita got rather ill on the third day of the trip. We would discover later what exactly was going on.
After returning to South Carolina for a few days, our oldest three children left for Centrifuge, and I left for a week in Charleston, South Carolina. Along with time alone with God, there were three intentional conversations I felt I needed to have while in town.
Curt Bradford has been a sage and mentor for me over the last fourteen years. I’ve known him since I was four or five years old. As usual, Curt’s gentle and joyful spirit were a great encouragement. There are people whose voices, no matter how much or little time you’re able to spend with them, seem to be saturated with wisdom and insight from the Lord.
Mary McCart is my ninety-eight year old paternal grandmother. Her prayers have carried me far more than I will ever truly know. This matriarch of our family set a standard of devotion to Jesus, and humility in Jesus that I’m still trying to live up to. My life has been exponentially blessed by the prayer, conversation, and challenge God has provided through her. That fact that I have spent nearly half a century of life under the cover of her love and spiritual guidance is one of the greatest gifts God could have ever given me.
Joseph Leviner is one of my most trusted and unlikely friends. Joey and I met in college. There’s no reason other than the sovereign orchestration of God’s plan that we are friends. Despite our innumerable differences, differing opinions, and the general oddity of our appearance together, we are brothers. Joey’s friendship is fierce and generous. God has and continues to use Joey’s and his wife Amanda’s voice to provide perspective, challenge my assumptions, and encourage my calling in the Lord.
Almost perfectly timed at the conclusion of these three conversations, we were informed that the dreaded COVID had finally found its way into our home. Thankfully, our experience with this virus was little more than a cold that lasted a few days combined with a twenty-four hour fever and stomach bug. As three of our four children successively contracted the virus, several of our planned trips had to be scrapped.
The first of our interrupted plans was a family trip to Charleston. Since I was already there (along with our dog Georgia), we planned for Anita and the kids to join me for five days or beaches, family visit, and time with old friends. Instead, I came home to a melancholy household grasping with the reality of an unknown timeframe of seclusion from the outside world.
Despite the good health of Rylee, Anita, and myself, our second (and much more challenging) trip to be impacted was Rylee’s sixteenth birthday cruise. Apparently, if anyone in your household tests positive for COVID within fourteen days of departure, no one may travel despite individual health conditions. By the way, the three of us (Rylee, Anita, and me) have been perfectly healthy and COVID free for well over fourteen days. Everyone in our house is now healthy and testing negative. We were supposed to board the ship on July 1. Yep, tomorrow.
Through God’s kindness we were able to get nearly an entire refund for our missed Charleston AirBNB, and rescheduled the cruise for late August (pray against hurricanes). Everyone got healthy just in time for Mac, Declan and I to see Dude Perfect in Charlotte last Sunday. The first scheduled activity not to be impacted by our brush with the pandemic.
Our interrupted schedule lead to an unplanned few weeks. I decided to steal away to the mountains of North Carolina and stay at Ridgecrest Conference Center for a few days. I’m spending a lot of time reading, hiking, and fishing. What I’ve found so far is that I don’t like being alone, but I do like be a bit unknown.
I’m reading. A lot. Well, a lot for me. So far over the last thirty days I’ve read Proverbs, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 3/4 of Psalms. That isn’t super impressive, because it takes far less time each day than you’d think. I’m pacing myself through these texts and asking God to help me see each letter in a deeper and fresh perspective.
I’m also reading a variety of literature along with Scripture.
A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis
The Eight Paradoxes of Great Leadership – Tim Elmore
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
St. Francis of Assis – G.K. Chesterton
Sabbaticals – Rusty McKie
The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
The Secular Creed – Rebecca McLaughlin
Geronimo – Geronimo
Currently, I’m reading The Pastor, by Eugene Peterson. I’ll be honest, that’s why I’m writing today. His reflections on a life in ministry as pastor has me longing to be back with my congregation, and to be a better husband, father, son, brother, servant, and friend.
As I read Colossians, Paul’s words to the believers at Colossae resonated with me in a way I don’t think I would have ever felt had I not been on sabbatical.
“For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.” – Colossians 2:5
I shared this with a few people via text, and I share it now with any of you at GCC. I am grateful for this time you have given me, and I am eager to be with you all once again. Thank you for your support and prayers.
Let’s see with the other half of this sabbatical brings.
In that time I have easily learned more than in the combined previous seventeen years of ministry. My list of teachers and mentors over the course of those years would be the source of envy in many fellow ministers. However, not one of those brilliant men and women can teach like the grandmaster…experience.
It’s also important to state that the challenges I have faced would be a welcomed change for many in my vocation. That truth is not lost on me.
Over these fifty-nine months of learning, there is one lesson of which I feel I’ve gained absolutely no grasp. You see, soon after I experience what for the sake of this conversation we’ll call a success, am I confronted with a litany of details, interactions, and tasks that steal my attention; and with it, my disposition.
I have found that with the longevity in ministry I am aspiring to achieve, brings with it a host of sorrow and confusion. Yes, I have much to celebrate. God has done and is doing a remarkable work in and through the life of our church, but my flesh seems to be distracted by the desire of an event that has never been promised…arrival.
The journey of ministry seems to be just that, a journey. Just below the waterline lurks an expectation that if we work hard enough, care for people well enough, pray enough, preach faithfully, that at some point we will find the end of the river. Each time I think I’m nearly at that much desired destination, I find not the shoreline, but an eddy allowing me a moment to catch my breathe before the current once again carries me away to navigate the rocks and rapids lined up in my path.
My goal in sharing these thoughts are not to vent my frustrations, or seek your compassionate encouragement. I’m simply working through them. As I write I sense the Holy Spirit comforting me and challenging me to lift my head. I am reminded of the Apostle Peter’s words to “cast all my anxieties on Him because He cares for (me).”
If I allow these thoughts to remain in my heart and mind they gain a false strength. So here tonight I’m reminding my enemy and myself of the power of my God. I’m remembering that I’m the blessed man who travels this river without fear. My guide not only knows what lies ahead, He’s the one who gave shape the waters.
I joined Facebook in July of 2007. My first post proved to be most appropriate for this blog post. Over the last year I’ve been bothered and burdened about my role in the epidemic known as social media.
To start, I feel as though I have contributed to the negative impact it has had on my life along with the many people called “Facebook Friends.” I take responsibility for venting frustrations, using humor at the expense of others, and caring far too much about what reaction or response my posts would receive.
In a more positive light, Facebook has connected me with family, friends, coworkers, and former students in a way that would have been impossible without this platform. I’ve enjoyed sharing the beauty of my growing family and seeing the same in the lives of others.
However, Facebook is not what it once was. Today Facebook has become a soap-box for every would-be politician, a dumping ground for any angry or disgruntled person, and a breeding ground for division. My reason for stepping away has less to do with all of that and more to do with how I have allowed Facebook to impact me.
Ten years later I am not better for being a Facebook user. I sense that my use of Facebook has, at minimum, slowed my maturity and growth as a person much less a follower of Jesus. I’m disappointed in myself for allowing something so unimportant and temporary to have such a hold on my devotion to Christ and service to His people.
In light of this realization, I’m stepping away. At this point I’m not sure if this will be a permanent result or just a season. I’m hopeful to never return to Facebook again as I highly doubt the deterioration of social media will right itself.
To my family and friends, I will continue to use Instagram and Twitter for now. I share this decision in hopes that you too will consider Facebook’s effect on your growth as a person or Christ-follower.
This is not an effort to lift myself up. Honestly, this post is more of a confession and a step in repentance.
It’s been nearly a year and a half since I’ve blogged.
A lot has changed since then.
As a family, we’re a full-fledged family of six. Gone are the days of kids taking care of themselves; or putting stuff wherever we want without thought. Declan, our youngest son, is fast, tall, and fearless. It’s fun but exhausting.
Our wonderful little church plant is an established community of faith with far more details and needs than I can handle on my own.
I am the father of a teenager. There aren’t enough words to accurately explain how much this has changed my world. She’s great, but she’s thirteen.
Possibly the biggest change is that I’ve found myself more needy than ever before.
I’m having to reorganize the way I approach almost every area of my life.
With a big and busy family, Anita and I are recognizing a need for dedicated couple time. Which tends to be in short supply.
Parenting young children is easy. Physically exhausting, yes. But easy. This new season with older daughters is a humbling, character testing, and mentally draining experience. Nothing will remind you of how unworthy you are of God’s love like parenting.
These days I’m even having to learn a new approach to ministry. For years I was the passionately outspoken young man swimming upstream or charging up the hill. Now that Grace Collective is a stable young church, she requires more than just a wild-eyed dreaming leader. I’m learning a lot about leadership and myself.
The area that is probably most difficult is friendship. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got some incredible people around me. However, leadership is lonely. No other staff position I’ve ever held comes close to the around-the-clock feeling of concern for the people of a church. As much as our staff, elders, or volunteers may care, there is no way to understand the burden of a pastor until you serve in this role.
To complicate matters, I naturally want all my friends to come to church with me. But as soon as they start attending GCC, I become more than just a friend; I’m their pastor. This brings a layer of separation relationally that is unavoidable.
I’m not complaining. There’s nothing I would rather do; absolutely nothing. This is simply the reality of my life these days. My hope is that perhaps some other pastor reads this and realizes that he’s not the only one.
So here’s hoping I’ll start writing more. Perhaps it will serve as an outlet I’ve neglected for far too long.
If you know my history over the last seven years or so, May hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine. For whatever reason, difficult circumstances have either preceded or were soon to follow my birthday. Our friends and family have worked hard to care for us and bring joy in spite of the challenges we were facing.
I’m incredibly thankful for them.
2015 has already brought a new melody to our lives. God’s faithfulness has not changed. While new faces haves have joined the cast, our friend’s care and compassion has not changed. But there is without question a new atmosphere surrounding us.
Never has that been more evident than over the last two weeks.
My sweet wife and our wonderful small group surprised me with a dinner gathering for my birthday. On top of that, they all went in to get me a guitar as a present.
Two short weeks later, Anita and I walked up to the home of Brian and Stacie Martin like we normally do for Small Group each Tuesday night. We were shocked to see not only our Small Group, but ladies from GCC and our neighborhood. They had coordinated a surprise baby shower.
Here’s my problem. I’ve almost forgotten how to handle this kind of love and blessing. I feel as though I’m in need of instructions. I’ve found myself sitting and thinking about the people with whom God has surrounded us; staring at the generous gifts they have lavished upon us and felt almost embarrassed to be thought of in such a loving way.
I’m Irish. I’ve learned how to navigate the melancholy, grey skies of challenge and hurt. I’ve even learned to celebrate the glimpses of sunlight that occasionally burst through the overcast season of difficulty. But what does one do with a sunny, cool-breeze forecast of seventy-eight degrees?
I guess what I’m trying to say is, “Thank you.”
Thank you to our faithful Father in Heaven.
Thank you to my constantly supportive wife.
Thank you to our families and their never-ending well of love.
Thank you to our distant and local friends who have continued to place value on our relationship.
Thank you to our unpredictable, hilarious and loving small group.
Thank you to our amazing, compassion-filled, supportive, and generous church family.