Today the Lord has blessed me to reach my 46th birthday, and I am truly happy and thankful. But even in what is considered, "middle age" I find myself challenged anew being placed once again in the position of being "The New Kid in Town". Some of you remember a classic song of the same name performed by the 70's group The Eagles. At the time that "New Kid in Town" was hot on the charts, my family was in the middle of a major move that would ultimately find us in what was to become my most cherished High School experience in Hanau, Germany. At the time, however, the move was an unwelcome intrusion on what was to me a perfect existence. My father saw my displeasure and in a move to teasingly encourage me actually bought the Eagles album Hotel California, which included the hit "New Kid". I was not amused, but my dad played that song at every opportunity and would turn up the volume and sing along every time it played on the radio - If you knew my dad, you would realize just how funny that was - but at the time, I wasn't smiling at all. I had toughened myself and steeled my will to believe that I knew all I needed to know and nobody had anything to offer my of any value in any of the places we were heading. Well, once I got to good ol' Hanau American High School, the kindness heaped on me by fellow students, the excellent education passed on to me by the teaching staff and the amazing Military community in which we lived softened my heart and taught me that being the "New Kid" on the block can open up important doors of perspective and teach lessons that are sometimes more difficult to learn in familiar environs.
Now that I am approaching one month of service in a new ministry setting, I am finding that the Lord has once again placed me in a position of being "The New Kid" and is calling me to be still and allow Him to teach me important truths through the freshness of a new setting. As we arrived here in Racine, I quietly wondered if my breadth of ministry service and experience had hardened me beyond my ability to respond to things I knew should touch my heart and lessons I knew the Lord would teach. A series of events this week, reassured me that my heart was not yet beyond reach and my brain was not hardened to God's efforts to teach. As our senior pastor preached a powerful message on Philippians 4 about the importance of learning the secret of contentment, I felt something welling up within me and spilling out from me that I had feared I had lost the ability to produce - tears. Not tears of sorrow, but tears of affirmation, that a deeply held truth that had been confirmed by God's Word and found a place of conviction within my heart.
Last night as I began to consider my approaching birthday and my mother's selfless and tireless commitment to make me a man who stood for good, the tears were back. Again, not tears of sorrow, but tears of gratitude for a life well-lived and an example that continues to shine in the hearts of those who knew Georgia, even as my mother's earthly lamp has been extinguished for over a decade now. Then this morning, as I returned from delivering Joana to school, the worship song "Shout to the Lord" came up on the play list and tears of joy came to my eyes as I was reminded of past times I had heard that song and the ways in which I have seen God faithfully work over the years as that song has been sung and we served with it as our soundtrack.
I am convinced that the new setting has made me open and sensitive to humbly listen to what the Lord is saying and to allow Him to teach me and touch me in ways that can sometimes be harder to achieve when we are in familiar territory and feel we have it all together. Therefore, I'm sharing the present with you I believe the Lord has given to me in my 46th year of life. Isaiah 43 puts it this way:
18 "Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
God has a mighty way of transforming a place that seems impossible to navigate or find your bearings into a new and living way that transforms, inspires and restores. You may not be the new kid in town, but God surely wants to do a new thing in your life today. Don't fight it. Let the joy come and let the tears flow and allow the Lord to teach you new lessons that will change your life and the lives of others. Until next time...