Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 21, 2010
Take time to enjoy these good days of thanksgiving
These are the days of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day influences the entire month. Before the fourth Thursday of November arrives most of us begin the good habit of counting our blessings. It is a good thing to do in these lovely fall days.
At the top of my list is my family. The descendants of my parents now number more than one hundred. I am profoundly thankful for those family members who continue to love me despite my flaws. Especially am I grateful for the love and support of the gracious lady who has been my dearest companion for more than 58 years. She has weathered some storms that would have wrecked weaker souls.
I am thankful for my church. The people of the Saint James United Methodist Church have allowed me to preach there every Sunday for seven years. Preaching at Saint James is never a duty but a great privilege. I don’t have to preach; I get to preach each Sunday. There my wife and I share a rich fellowship with some of the finest disciples of Jesus I have ever known. They challenge me constantly to practice what I preach.
An extra blessing is that one of our sons and his family worship at Saint James also. Steve and Amy, and their fine sons Jake and Josh, love Saint James as we do and it means so much to Mom and me to have them in the congregation.
While I have many brothers in Christ, I have one blood brother whose name is Seth Henry. He was named for his grandfathers. When I went off to college Seth was in the first grade so I did not know him well growing up. Since I retired eight years ago we have become good friends, eating together frequently and sharing a love for Auburn football. I quickly discovered that my brother is a man of sterling character. He is like our father in many ways. We admired dad because “his word was his bond,” and that is equally true of my brother Seth.
Soon after I began preaching at Saint James Seth and his wife Pearl began worshiping with us. There are no words to describe the blessing this has been to me – to have my own brother, and his wife, choose to cheer me on in preaching the gospel every Sunday. This year Seth chose also to join the tenor section of our choir and to join one of our wonderful Sunday School classes, the Frazer Class. Seth’s wife Pearl has not been able to attend much lately. When her mother Ethel’s health began to decline, Pearl brought her into their home to care for her 24-7. This care-giving decision has made us aware that she too is a person of authentic character.
Some 20 members of our immediate family will gather at our table for a meal on Thanksgiving Day. Together we will share reminiscences of the kindness of God in our lives. Getting together on Turkey Day is a good habit instilled in me by my parents. This time we plan to have the meal catered to take some pressure off of Mom. One exception: son Steve will use his giftedness to make some pecan pies.
When I begin counting my blessings I think not so much of material things as I do of people who have made a difference in my life. I think for example of Paul Duffey. With one telephone call Paul graciously opened the door for me to attend Vanderbilt University Divinity School. He called his friend Newman Cryer in Nashville and recommended me for a job. Newman took me on as his assistant in publishing The Pastor, a magazine for Methodist preachers. With that job in hand I was able to begin my theology studies at Vanderbilt. Since that time Paul, now a retired bishop of our church, has been a dear friend and an authentic example of a servant of Christ.
Some years later another telephone call made a difference in my life. My friend Ben Johnson called a friend, again in Nashville, and recommended me for a staff position on the General Board of Evangelism of our church. That call led me and my family back to Nashville where for several years I crisscrossed America helping to develop the Lay Witness Mission movement in Methodism, as well as in several other denominations. It was an incredible opportunity for a country preacher from Alabama.
Phone calls still make a difference. Tony Barkley calls and soon a few men are meeting for a weekly luncheon – to make a difference by offering support and encouragement to each other. I treasure the blessing of the friendship of these men. Cecil Spear calls and soon we have a small group meeting in our home for study, fellowship, and prayer.
You might want to mull over possible phone calls you could make – to make a difference in someone’s life. The telephone is a marvelous channel of blessings.
The days of thanksgiving are good days. Make the most of them by obeying the counsel of the old song: “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” For most of us the blessings are too numerous to count! + + +