Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34 (ESV)
I wonder if one day is really enough. It was in 1863 when President Lincoln decided that we needed to have a defined day of Thanksgiving. So, the final Thursday in November was so designated. Later, on October 31, 1939, and strictly for business reasons, Franklin Roosevelt redesignated it as the next to last Thursday in November and since then that has been the day we celebrate Thanksgiving. But wait, it isn’t November, and in fact, it is nowhere near November, so what gives?
Well, what gives is June 12th. You see, I graduated from high school on June 8, 1972 and the following Monday, June 12th, I left for basic training in the United States Air Force. It wasn’t a matter of strategic planning but rather a slight misunderstanding. A friend suggested we join together under what was called, “The Buddy Plan.” Two guys could join together, go through basic together and then be assigned together for their first assignment. Well, we agreed, I signed up and he didn’t. But here’s the deal. I am absolutely certain that God sovereignly planned that for my good and His glory.
It turned out the Air Force was a good move for me. It taught me dozens if not hundreds of life disciplines that have served me well all of my life. God used the Air Force to position me to meet my wife Judy and then to teach us how to pick up and move when an authority said too. For us, and between the Air Force and God, that included a year in Georgia, three years in Germany, six years in Missouri and finally 35 years in Illinois. We learned to go when and where we were told, and we learned to trust. It also helped us forge a strong marriage that has seen us through 45 years of adventures.
It turned out that God was also using the Air Force to prepare me for the real purpose of my life—our lives together—the pastorate. Strangely, but really not, it was also on another June 12th, this one in 1983, that I was ordained into the gospel ministry. And because God has a great sense of humor, I found myself pastoring a church with, well to be blunt, no training whatsoever. I well remember I was filling in at a church when they asked me to be their pastor. I told them I didn’t know how to do that. They replied, “Don’t worry, we will teach you.” And do you know what? They did.
The game changer was the fact I was trained as an administrative specialist in the Air Force and when God spoke to my heart with a new set of “orders,” I was prepared. Twelve years of administration were like twelve years of on-the-job training for the pastorate. I learned to write, research, organize and manage an office. When I stepped out of the Air Force and into a church office, I was strangely at home. Of course, nothing could prepare me for what has sometimes been a wild ride of pastoring a church. It has been a journey, a glorious, “you’ve got to be kidding me,” ride.
As I glance in the rearview mirror of my life, I am overwhelmed with the incredible goodness of God and that has led me to this conclusion—one day is not enough. We need Thanksgiving but even more we need to celebrate, “Thanks-living.” As you can probably guess, Thanks-living is understanding the importance of living a life that celebrates the goodness of God every day. Someone said that there are two ways to live life—nothing is a miracle or everything is a miracle. I’ll take the latter. Also, I think the heart of those brief words speak to being grateful too. Everywhere, everyday there is something to be grateful for.
So, tomorrow, is a special day for me and Judy. Even though she wasn’t there for the first June 12th, she was there for the second and every one since. She has been my best friend, my ministry partner and my cohort in our many adventures. I thank God for her, our family, and the countless folks we have met along the way. The Bible tells us to, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” I think that is a pretty awesome idea. I don’t know what the years ahead hold, but if it is anything like the past, it’s gonna be a great ride and of course, no matter what, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne