The month of May has been a very interesting month
for my wife and me.
It has been filled with some very special moments that have led us to do some reminiscing about the past and some contemplating about the future. Our travels and ministry have taken us from Ohio, to Colorado, to North Carolina, South Carolina, and soon back to Virginia. During May we have visited family, ministered to many new friends, talked to many old friends, and are preparing for our retirement service at Heritage. What incredibly blessed lives we have led! Not so much in material wealth, though we lack for nothing, but we are rich beyond belief in the family and friendships that are ours.
While preaching in Ohio, we were able to visit the graves of our parents and grandparents. I know that is not necessarily a fun activity; but as we stood at each grave, we were able to give thanks for all that those special people were in our lives. None of us had perfect parents, and I know for sure we have not done it all right, but the sacrifice and love that our parents and grandparents gave to us is to be appreciated. As I stood at the grave of my mother-in-law, I recalled that for many years she was a single mom, trying to make her way as a young woman with three little girls after the early death of her husband. She kept it together, and I am married to one of the finest women I know because of her effort. I stood at the grave of my wife’s stepfather and realized again what an incredible job of blending two families with six kids he had done. As we went next to my parents, I remembered that my father was a self-made man, who had grown up in abject poverty yet singlehandedly educated himself to become an engineer, an inventor, and one of the kindest men that has ever walked the earth. My mother was a hard-working and insightful woman; and like me, she had an opinion about everything. Thank God for the heritage of family that we both have been given!
Not only family, but also what a rich heritage of friends! In the last weeks, we have spoken with so many from our past. Men and women we have served with at Heritage, and some that we served with in our first ministry in Pittsburgh. Though many years have intervened, there is still an instant connection when you hear their voice because of the shared moments of life and ministry that created the original bond. To appreciate how these people helped shape our lives and our character is an exercise worth having spiritually. Though I appreciate the connection that Facebook and other social media can bring, there is just no friendship connection stronger than the one forged in laboring for the Lord together. As we have considered all the blessings of ministry over these last forty-one years, the best memories are always connected to people. A rich heritage of friends.
My point is simple: no one has a perfect life, but all of us have been given more than we often acknowledge. Appreciate your heritage! Let me offer three suggestions.
1. Be the one who connects.
Many randomly check Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter dozens of times a day. I would recommend that we be the ones who pick up the phone, pencil out the letter, or type out the email to connect with those that we love and that love us. No agenda and no expectation of an answer, just our joy in connecting with those who have formed our heritage and helped us in some way along the road.
2. Build bridges, don’t burn them.
Family and friends are more important than winning arguments and making statements. I know we get hurt and are at times mistreated. I also know that we are good at doing that to others. Get over it: and where there is not some great doctrinal difference, immoral habit, or physical danger, stay connected. No fuss is worth a broken friendship.
3. Be a source of grace and encouragement.
Smartphones are great tools; but in and of themselves, they cannot encourage anyone about anything. But when we pick one up and speak words of encouragement to others through them, what a great tool! Life is too short to be dour and discouraged: be the one who is remembered for lifting others up, not weighing others down.
Proverbs 17:17 - A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
I will never forget one afternoon in 1981 when Nancy and I were returning from Woodbridge to Pittsburgh after a planning trip. As we drove through the mountains of Maryland, we were considering what to name the church that God was leading us to plant. We were looking over verses, and then there it was:
Psalm 119:111 - Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.
We thank God for our heritage and for Heritage. God is so good! Take time to thank God for your heritage and work at leaving a great heritage for others.