29. I am thankful for the "hurts" in life...

This is the "hardest" reason to be thankful--to date. But I am so thankful for the times of pain and hurt in my life, both deserved and those times when it was undeserved.

I remember almost five years ago when someone I dearly loved perpetrated great emotional harm to me. Lies were told, propagated, and enhanced against me...and it devastated me, emotionally.

I cried many long days, and even longer nights. I felt my heart literally being ripped out of my body, and I lay bloodied on the ground. (While all of this is very figurative, it would not have been any more painful, had it been literal, in my opinion.)

About 2:30 a.m. one Friday morning, I woke up, and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit say, "Let it go. Give it to Me, and let Me handle it. I will take care of it. I will take care of you. But leave it alone and let it go."

I knew, then and there, that I had no choice but to "leave it alone." And by "leaving it alone" that meant that I couldn't say anything more about it...to anyone...that I would intentionally bless those who had harmed me, and would ask God to help them, no matter what happened to me.

To this day, I pray for this person, and love them more and more--even though I'm never around them anymore.

I look at the pain that Jesus bore for my salvation. I remember the Cross, and remember that I am called to come and die...

28. I am thankful for INTEGRITY...

INTEGRITY is defined as "wholeness; uprightness; honesty or soundness of moral principles and character." That pretty much sums it up, huh?

Well, not exactly. I agree completely with the definition as rendered. Last night, I had the great blessing of three different people (who don't know each other) remind me of my obligation (before both God and humanity) to be a man of integrity. These three people challenged me to "be what I say I am" and to "live as I claim to live" not bringing a reproach on the worthy name of Christ.

I am thankful for all three of these people. I am SO GRATEFUL for all three of them, because I know the LORD sent them to me last evening. It was GOD--the ultimate Example and Definer of integrity--who caused them to contact me, reminding me that I must "walk worthy."

I've not always walked worthy...and that is a story in itself. But suffice it to say, that I was reminded last evening, on Father's Day, by my Heavenly Father, to be a man of integrity.

I needed these reminders. I'm thankful for them.

27. I am thankful for FATHERS in my life.

Yep, you read it right, I used the plural word, "Fathers"....because I have so many. I am thankful for every single one of them. Let me explain:

My biological father pretty much abandoned me when I was a baby (after he and my biological mother separated and eventually divorced). I grew up without parents who were regularly in my life in a meaningful and profound way. My father's mother, my Granny Hoover, raised me, for the most part.

She had a lot of help. Help that she never asked for, but also help that GOD Himself (the PERFECT FATHER) knew that she (and I) needed.

Even though my biological father was/is an alcoholic (among other vices), God knew that HE Himself would bring very loving and wise men into my life--who would show me what GOD the Father is really like.

I think of these precious, godly men who loved Christ, loved me, and helped me see that my Heavenly Father is FAR superior to anything my earthly father could ever be in my life. I don't want to start naming them in this post, because I'm sure that I will inadvertently leave someone's name out. (And since this post will show up on FaceBook, I'd rather not stir the "good ire" of any of these men in case their CHILDREN were to read this on FB and see that I left out "their" father--someone special to me.) Now that I've danced around "the naming of names", I simply want to be thankful.

I grew up backward, awkward, and clumsy. I grew up with NO idea what it meant to become a "man"--not to mention a "man of God." I had no "father" in my life--a man who would take the time show me how to become the "man" that God had designed me to be.

But, I have learned this "process" slowly over the years. So many wonderful, gracious, and good men have loved me with the "love of the Father" and the love of "a father." I could never repay such a debt to these awesome friends.

I've done my best to call some of these "giants" in my life, already. Most of them have no idea what "FaceBook" is, nor do they really care. But they have shown me the "face of Jesus" many, many times. And His face has been seen clearly through them.

Some of the precious saints are already in their eternal residence. I miss them terribly. I know that we all have "more to go to heaven for than we had yesterday."

Thank God for my "fathers." I am so grateful.

I am thankful for the PROMISE OF HEAVEN

26. I am thankful for TECHNOLOGY....

It seems like modern technology is coming on the scene at an "earth-shattering" pace...I was planning to use the word "warp"--but I'm not sure what "warp" (in this context, at least) would mean. It seems like yesterday that "personal computers" were becoming all the "rage." And now, people carry their "personal computer" (aka iPhone) in their front pockets....

I remember my first encounter with a personal computer. I was active duty in the United States Air Force, stationed at Beale AFB, California. The office where I worked had just received a large "workstation" whereby we could input information and transmit it to the agency's headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. This was approximately 1988. Or it could have been 1989.

I thought I was "hot stuff"--because I was learning to use this "workstation"...I'd no longer be sentenced to do all that "paperwork" by hand...I could just do it on the "workstation." That was the "ticket"....the secret of my success...the blessed workstation.

Fast forward a year or so...and I'm being relocated to KunSan Air Base, South Korea....and back to doing "everything by hand" once again. NO workstation????? WHAT KIND OF PLACE is this? But I "re-learned" to do everything by hand...

Fast forward to January, 1991, and once again I move...this time to Oslo, Norway to AFNORTH (Allied Forces, Northern Europe), and again, everything was done by hand. However, we did have one very small "computer" in the office---and I was one of the few people who knew how to use it.

So, I'm very thankful for all the advances we've made in technology. And this includes ALL technology, not just computers. I'm thankful for medical technology, particularly.

God bless all of these SMART people who are far more brilliant than I could ever hope to be.

25. I am thankful for Great Hymns of the Church...

I grew up singing, and loving "Southern Gospel Music." It was and continues to be a GLORIOUS heritage for me....songs that tell the stories of God's faithfulness, guidance, love, saving grace, and almighty power--and how we mere mortals have experienced it....GREAT, GREAT testimonies...

Somewhere along the way, I also fell in love with the rich hymnody of the English-speaking church. I'm not sure if it was my early college years, or my later college years...but somewhere in that time frame, I began this romance with the hymnal...and the "fires" are still burning!

While many congregations have "transitioned" into singing the "ditties" and the "jingles"...(or as one of my friends now calls them, the "7-11s"--seven words, 11 times each), some places (The Moody Church being one of them) still sings the great hymns of the Church....

No one can sing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" like the saints of The Moody Church (www.moodychurch.org). Every time we sing this wonderful song of praise and testimony, I am just about ready to bawl my eyes out....What a marvelous reflection of just how GREAT our GOD is....and it's all put to music.

The very first song I ever sang in public was one of the great "hymns" of the Church. My great-grandmother Branum (who died when she was 105 years old, in 1970) played a mandolin, and taught me these precious words, line-by-line:

"And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own..." I remember standing up on a piano stool in a small Pentecostal church when I was only 5 years old, and singing all three verses to "In the Garden..." Of course, I forgot many of the words to the third verse....but I have NEVER forgotten the fact that JESUS walks with me, and talks with me...And He still does! Praise His name!

And what greater song of victory and testimony can we find than these words,
"Long, my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night,
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light!
MY CHAINS fell off, my heart was free! I rose, went forth, and followed Thee!"

And the most lovely words in the English language---from the anointed pen of Isaac Watts:

"When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died!
My richest gains, I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride!"

More than 23 years ago, my friend Michael Cork (who was then Minister of Music at Denver First Church of the Nazarene) gave me a "hymnal to use" in my devotions. He told me to keep it, since the local church was planning to buy new ones anyway.

I LOVE THAT HYMNAL. That sacred book has followed me all over the world. Next to my Bible, it is probably the book I read the most...and sometimes even more than my Bible...

I am thankful for the great HYMNS of the Church. My heart will keep singing them!

24. I am thankful for UNCERTAINTIES....

This one is just HARD for me to admit. What else can I say? The only thing CERTAIN in this life is that GOD knows and sees and controls everything aspect of the universe.

I was pretty sure that I would be "working" by now. After all, I accepted a job offer back in late April--awaiting a starting date. The starting date was postponed...and then postponed again...and yet again. So I still have started this job. I've had other interviews, and haven't heard anything back from most of them either.

I'm getting VERY ANTSY right now. I have just about exhausted my personal resources...and I need to be able to pay the bills for July...

I just don't see it happening...but I am CERTAIN that God knows what is going on. So, even in my faithlessness, He is a good and faithful God. Of this I am CERTAIN.

In all of my uncertainties, I can be certain that He is in control. Now if I can just get my head and heart to both acknowledge this at the same time.