Friday, February 16, 2007


A few days ago I ran into an old friend while shopping for groceries. I was walking behind a woman when she turned around and we suddenly were face to face ... and we both lit up at the same time. Denise has always been a remarkable young woman. She was in my church youth group a loooooong time ago. Long enough that her age now puts her in the final decade that begins with a "T." That's the only clue you get. We were both very surprised to have stumbled over each other and we talked for about 15 minutes. By then my wife had found us and joined in the catch-up conversation. Eventually we had to pay for our food items and leave. But it was so, so good to see Denise again. It has been a couple of years since we talked.

And then she sent me an email. It was an update on the life of another young woman from my youth group in the same era Denise was in. Sheri. I had lost track of Sheri in the late 90's. I knew she had married and moved to Florida but that was about it. She seemed to have fallen off the planet. It happens.

This is where God's Hand begins to show up. Denise had called Sheri after we met in the grocery store. They talked and at some point she mentioned that she had seen me. Let Denise tell you in her own e-mailed words what happened next...

"I tell you this because she wanted you to know that God had been placing you on her heart for about six months, but her health was so poor, and her energy was so low that she never picked up the phone to call you, but she has been lifting you up in prayer. As soon as I told her that I had seen you she said, "How IS he doing??" before I even had a chance to tell her you weren't at 1st Baptist Bethalto anymore. She said to tell you that she's sorry she didn't call, but that she has been praying for God to strengthen you and restore you for about 6 months now. That's the message!"

That is the way my God works. It was about 6 months ago that I began my second experience with adrenaline exhaustion. It was about 6 months ago that I began to realize that God was in the process of releasing me from my 23-year ministry at my church. It was about 6 months ago that life began to really hurt. And it was about 6 months ago that God told an old friend now living one thousand miles away to start praying for my strength and health.

To quote the old hymn, "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned, unclean."

This is not the first email or phone call I have received like that in the last 3 months. It has happened multiple times and EVERY SINGLE TIME has been from a person who had allowed me the honor of being their youth pastor years ago and had now grown into adulthood. EVERY SINGLE ONE has come at the perfect moment when I needed to be reminded that all of those years count to God and to people. All of those youth trips, JPL nights, True Love Waits retreats and everything else we did together as a small part of the family of God COUNTS.

And I am so humbled. So honored. So broken. To be used by the Hand of God. Thank you, Denise. Thank you, Sheri. Thank you, Melanie. Thank you, Lisa. Thank you, Ed. Thank you, Shannon. Time prevents me from listing you all by name. But to each of you ... thanks. You have been here ... Jesus with skin on ... when I have needed you so much.

I am blessed.