4. I am thankful for FORGIVENESS from God (and others)

I'll do my best to keep this post "short in righteousness" (and there are certain readers that I can already hear laughing out loud).

Every day of my life, I am aware of God's forgiveness in my life. I am acutely aware that I would have NO HOPE now or in eternity if God were not a "forgiving God." Thousands of years ago, King David said, "Bless the Lord...who forgives your iniquities..." God forgives.

Jesus said, explaining the Father's love to a group of disciples that just were not "getting it" yet, that the person who is forgiven little loves little (in return). He who is forgiven much (that would be me) loves much. If we still have breath in our bodies, and we know the LORD JESUS as our Savior, we are in the "forgiven much" category. Every single one of us.

Only Biblical Christianity offers humanity the opportunity and blessing of "forgiveness". On the Cross, our LORD's request to His Father was "Forgive them, they don't know what they are doing." I could write many, many pages on how God's forgiveness has changed my life.

I'm also thankful for the forgiveness extended to me by others. I am a less-than perfect person (in case any of you were wondering). I have committed wrongs (both intentionally and accidentally) against others...and for these wrongs I am profoundly penitent. And it has been the "forgiveness" extended by others that continues to show me the "forgiveness of God" which saves my life. Again, Jesus is brought into the picture. His words were very, very clear: "If you do not forgive others, don't expect God to forgive you." It's pretty hard to scramble the meaning of such a straightforward declaration.

Every day I remember the words (born at The Moody Church, by the way), "Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth..."

Yes, I am thankful for the forgiveness of God. And I am thankful for the forgiveness of others who share this common humanity with me.

3. I am thankful for sleep...

I am about to retire for the evening, and sleep is one of the foremost thoughts on my mind right now...really it is. I remember hearing J E Brisson quote Psalms 127:2 one morning in a sermon, "the LORD gives His beloved sleep..." I've always remembered that....and I try to live by it on a daily/nightly basis.

I did something this afternoon that I rarely ever do: I came home and took a good, long nap. It was about 45 minutes long, and I felt so good when I woke up. I needed that nap.

I am thankful that God so designed our bodies that we MUST bring everything to a halt, and rest. That beautiful four-letter word, "REST".....indeed a lovely, lovely word.

I have very little trouble going to sleep (usually), and within about two minutes of lying down and turning off the reading lights, I am safely transported into "LaLa land." The journey is usually quick, uneventful, and refreshing.

But now, the words of a song come to mind:

"Soon I shall hear a call from heaven's portals, 'Come home, My child, it's the last mile you must trod.' I'll fall ASLEEP and wake in God's new heaven, sheltered safely in the arms of God."

Many, many thanks to the late Dottie Rambo who wrote such powerful songs about Heaven.

But for now, it's time to go to sleep. And as the Apostle Paul said, "If I live it is unto the Lord, and if I die, it is unto the Lord, so whether I live or die, I am the Lord's." (Romans 14:8). I will go to sleep trusting this strong, Almighty, Ever-Faithful God to do as He sees best in my life.

That's definitely something I can find great rest in.

2. I am thankful for SURGERY

Yep, you read it absolutely correctly. I am so thankful for modern medicine, and LAPARASCOPIC SURGERY. Here's what I'm talking about:

Last year, exactly ONE YEAR AGO TODAY, I formally began the process to become a living kidney donor to my good friend, Dr Bill George. (He was my Introduction to World Missions professor at Lee College [now University] more than 24 years ago). I remember that morning very well. It was a Tuesday, and I was preparing to have my small group over for dinner at my place that evening. So, I took the day off, and started the journey with a visit to my doctor's office, to give FIVE tubes of blood. Okay, they were small tubes.

Six months ago this very day, Dr Bill and I were both in the University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital, preparing for my nephrectomy (kidney removal), where I would give my left kidney, and he would receive my left kidney--prayerfully ridding him of the need for hemodialysis for the rest of his earthly life. (He won't need dialysis in heaven, reports have shown).

It seems like yesterday, and then again, it seems like years ago. I can remember it like yesterday,that's for sure. After a parade of people on Tuesday coming by our room to visit (we had been placed in the same semi-private room, because there was "no room in the inn" for private rooms until after our respective surgeries) we both tried to get some sleep. I think I may have slept an hour or so...but then again, I wasn't bothered. I would get plenty of sleep during the "procedure." And sleep I did....not a dream, nothing for the next 4 hours or so.

Down in the "pre-Operative" area, I was honing my skills as a comedian. Not under duress, by any stretch, just a bit of medication which was slowly running through my left arm via the heplock and IV that was being inserted. As soon as I arrived in the area (around 5:15 a.m), one of the nurse put this rather large "hospital gown" on me...that expanded....really, IT EXPANDED...I'd never seen one like this before. The reason for the gown was to regulate my body temperature, and it had a little "control button" that I had a lot of fun with...A LOT of fun, I tell you.

At one point, I asked a few of the nurses a serious question...once I got them to my bedside..."Does this gown make me look FAT?" Oh yes, they were all laughing out loud...the medicine was doing its thing, obviously.

About 6 a.m. or so, I was rolled away from my "stage" and taken down to surgery, where the kindest young lady told me what would be happening...Her name was either Tameka or Shaniqua...can't remember. I began saying, "Bless the LORD O my soul, and all that is within me, Bless His holy name!" She asked, "Are you a Christian, Mr Hoover?" I replied in the affirmative...and then began reciting the words, "He hideth my soul in the Cleft of the Rock..." and was pretty much out....

A few hours later, I was being rolled from Recovery into my private room, where a "band of angels" awaited me. Well, at the time, these people were angels to me. I was pretty much wide awake, which surprised me. (The Nurse Practitioner and Surgeon had both told me the day before that I would be extremely drowsy, sleepy and wouldn't feel like talking to anyone...that WAS not the case at all.) I asked, "Am I in heaven or am I in a hospital room?" Someone replied, "Brother, you are in a hospital room." I immediately said, "We aren't doing this again, are we?"

I could go on, and on, and on with this story. I'm still fascinated by it...even though most of my friends are probably bored....and no, there will NOT be a "made-for-television" movie of it all. (However, being currently unemployed, I could use the cash from the massive royalties that I know would accumulate).

Now, six months later, I am feeling fabulous, and Dr Bill George is also feeling great.

**I would like to thank my dear friend, Dr Jackie David Johns (www.jackiespeaks.blogspot.com) for allowing me to "channel" his very dry, and hysterically funny sense of humor in the telling of this most serious and tremendously gratifying event in my life. Jackie, I hope I did you proud.

1. I am thankful for ACCOUNTABILITY...

One of the current "buzz words" in our culture is "accountability"...seems like everyone wants "someone" to be "accountable" for something....and most have no idea what "accountablity" really means.

Not sure that I have an exhaustive definition, but that's never stopped me before. But anywho, I'm very thankful for "accountability."

I continue to learn how important relationships really are in my life. I have to admit that I have some of the very dearest people on earth in my "big family"--and most of them are not biological relatives either. Many of these folk have known me for quite a while--ten years or more. They know my strengths (both of them), and my flaws (as numerous as the sands of the seas, if I may quote an Old Testament euphemism). Yet, they still claim to love me. I have no valid grounds on which to dispute their claims, or to deny their love for me. I'm thankful for it.

However, these same people also know that I have to be "responsible" in my life. Responsible with my finances, health, job, and most importantly, my spiritual walk with Christ. They are not afraid to "call me out" when I am headed toward a cliff. These are not people who would let me waltz on the ragged edge of disaster without first warning me, and then warning me again.

And some of my friends with less tenure (friends in the 10 years or less category) have been marvelous in keeping me honest, and pure, and upright. We don't always agree on some of the "fine print" in life...but most of the time we do.

For example, my great friends Joe and Alex. Both of these fine men know many of my self-disclosed flaws--and some of the flaws that I haven't bothered disclosing as well. I am convinced that either man would have no problem making sure that I remain "honest" about what is going on in my world, and willing to "assist me" if such need were to arise. Both men have given me wise counsel, and a listening heart in times past. Both men have cried with me, and laughed with me. That means a lot in my life.

When I think of accountability, I do not, repeat DO NOT mean "emotional manipulation." Accountability works both ways. It travels a tw0-way street, and usually observes the speed limit. I'm grateful for those in my life who hold me accountable (yes, Cheryl, I am VERY grateful for you), especially when it makes me uncomfortable...and makes me think.

The "I Am Thankful" Series...

My great friend, Dr Jackie Johns, has written an AMAZING SERIES (and I hope he continues) on things for which he is thankful. You can check it out at www.jackiespeaks.blogspot.com

It is truly wonderful. Much of it is hysterically funny, and some of it is profoundly spiritual. I'll let you figure out which is which.

Beginning on Saturday, May 1, 2010 I have every intention of beginning my "I am Thankful" series here in this very corner of 'cyber space.."

Disclaimer: My series will not be nearly as profound or as deep as Jackie's. I'm not that clever, smart, seasoned OR old. (lol).

This will be a GREAT exercise in gratitude for me.

Two precious saints of God....Rejoicing in the presence of Christ...

Two people whom I dearly love have "made it all the way home" today:

Leonard Kendrick (affectionately known as "Dadda") and Linda Fontana.

These wonderful saints of God are now rejoicing on the streets of Glory...in the presence of the Christ whom they adored all their lives.

I'll write more later.

Truths that have guided my life...

I believe the entirety of Scripture is inspired by God. I want to make that clear from the beginning...no need to be branded as a herectic, unnecessarily. However, there are certain truths and "commands" that have guided my life. I wanted to just share some of those here:

"Greater love has no man than this that he would lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15)

"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9: 7)

"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows that shall he also reap." (Galatians 6:7)

"And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:17)

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:16)

"But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves were taught by God to love one another..." (1 Thessalonians 4:9)

"For the love of money is the root of all evil, for which some have strayed form the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10)

"Let brotherly love continue." (Hebrews 13:1)

"For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a mature man, able also to bridle the whole body." (James 3:2)

"Confesses your sins one to another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16)

These are just some of the New Testament passages that have guided my life. There are many others, and I'll share them in subsequent posts.

What passage(s) guide(s) your walk with Christ?

I've waited all week to write this...

Sometimes, I just have to let what is in my 'heart of hearts" simmer there, and develop, and "mature" (if that is possible) before I put it on this piece of "cyber-rental" property. I've wanted to write "this post" all week long....so here goes.

I was profoundly privileged to spend the Easter Weekend in rural North Carolina with my friends, J E And Linnette Brisson. The Brissons were my pastoral family during my first two years of college. He is, by far, the BEST pastor I've ever had, and the BEST preacher I've ever heard (with the late Billy Nettles and my current pastor, Erwin Lutzer tied for second place). In two years, I heard "Brother Brisson" preach through Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and through a lot of 1 John. He served the Peerless Rd Church for three years (1979-1982), and I started college in August, 1980. I was honored to be one of his sheep for his last two years at this historic church.

But that's not what I want to write about...that was just some "introductory" material. What I want to detail here is how marvelous a time I had with these precious people over a 4.5 day period.

I was just emotionally tired, and needed a break. I'm not sure I've had a "real vacation" in the ten years I've been in Chicago. Visiting family, entertaining out-of-towners, and having surgery is not exactly vacation...even though vacation time was always used for such events.

I arrived in Raleigh, NC last Thursday (April 1) around 4:30 p.m., and my great friend, Pastor Michael Allen, (from Lee days) picked me up at the airport. We then proceeded over to the Brissons' place...some 25 minutes away. It was a lovely afternoon, and thanks to MAPQUEST, we found our destination with no problems, whatsoever.

I had not seen the Brissons since 1990. He had been my pastor some ten years prior, and a twenty-year absence had taken a toll on my heart. I LONGED to see this precious couple for quite a while. They have meant so much to me for so long...and now my heart was beating rapidly with excitement.

It was just a joyous occasion. Sister Brisson (Linnette) had dinner ready for Michael and myself, and it was just delicious. Some fresh rutabegas, mashed potatoes, barbequed chicken, and collard greens. Absolutely YUMMY.....yummy, I say...let me repeat it: YUMMY.

Brother Brisson showed Michael and myself around the "homestead"and quite a tour it was! I loved just everything...and this would be my "home" for the next four days. Always good for humor, both of the Brissons made sure that our "reunion" was filled with joy and laughter.

But what meant the most to me was the "down time." For many, many hours each day, I had the HIGH PRIVILEGE of sitting and talking with one of the heroes in my life. We talked about everything....people we both knew...all the LORD had done for us in the last twenty years, and all that was happening in our lives and the world at the present time. It was so relaxing for me.

This man--whom I adored when he was my pastor--was so kind and gracious and gentle to me now. He was being a "father" to me...almost like the "father" that I never had. Whether it was walking over to feed the chickens (twice a day) and gather their new eggs, or riding the paddleboat out on the small lake...I had my friend's attention. He gladly gave it to me. He refreshed my soul...and I felt it deeply. Profoundly, personally, and deeply refreshed.

A very special time was our prayer time every morning before breakfast. Before we sat down for the morning meal, we got on our knees and talked to the LORD....how my heart rejoiced! How my heart was deeply moved and encouraged. How my heart was powerfully healed and enriched with this simple, yet important discipline.

When I arrived, the host family immediately informed me that "our world has stopped while you are here...." and they meant it. I felt like crying on more than one occasion. These two precious people loved me, refreshed me, and encouraged my heart...and I badly needed it.

Our "visit" came to a close much too quickly....but the LORD knew what I needed. And J E and Linnette Brisson made sure that I would receive it.

I am moved beyond words at their kindness, generosity, and love to me. Some things never change.

So very thankful...

I am constantly reminded of how very blest my life has been thus far.

I was visiting some precious friends in North Carolina last weekend. At one point, I began to share how I came to Christ as a small child. As I was telling this very true account, it seemed as though it were happening afresh to me. It felt as though it were just a few weeks ago, instead of almost 42 years ago.

Even though I grew up without my biological parents, the LORD made sure that plenty of people were around to "raise me" and to take the most minute interest in my development as a human being. Those people meant the world to me THEN, and they still do. Some things just never change. And they shouldn't.

Looking back, HIS LOVE and MERCY I see....yes, I can clearly see HIS love and HIS mercy demonstrated through HIS people. I am the most unworthy of recipients...but also among the most grateful.

God has a way of reminding us of HIS love and HIS care....His Word, His Spirit, His guidance, and His people....each of these remind me that JESUS does indeed love me. How do I know?

The Bible tells me so. His Spirit tells me so. He faithfully guides me (when I'm willing to follow HIS agenda, instead of my own), and His people demonstrate HIS love in ways that I could never ever ask for nor duplicate.

I'm so very thankful for all of this. I don't deserve it...not in the least little bit, but I am thankful.

Happy Birthday, Dianne Vega

I'll be traveling to the Raleigh, North Carolina area today for the Easter weekend. I may not have the opportunity to call and wish you a Happy Birthday in person....so please accept this as my greeting.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY. (Now the entire world, including FACEBOOK knows its your birthday).