In case you don’t have Facebook or you just missed it, I wanted to share a note that I posted this past week. It was one of the most heart-felt messages of my life. It was shared on Wednesday, July 11.
Today is Beverley’s birthday. We have been married a long time and her patience with me is amazing. She has been more than a wife, homemaker, and pastor’s spouse these last few years. She has also been a nurse. She has seen me through colon cancer, an abdominal infection that saw me either in the hospital or home-bound for six months, and now stomach cancer that is being treated by heavy chemo therapy. We continue to serve together at a dynamic mission-minded church that supports near 40 other mission organizations. Friendship Church in Sun City/Palm Desert is an amazing place. She has carried all of this with grace. I LOVE HER SO MUCH. Happy Birthday, “Bevers!”
Now, it just so happens that Wednesday was also the birthday of one of our sons. It is always a wonderful family affair when we gather each year. I love it.
Beverley and I often reflect on the lives of our children and grandchildren and ask, “Where did the years go?” Life is on fast-forward these days, and the values we teach and the traditions we set must compete with all the other influences in the world. That is why the words of Joshua are still so appropriate for our generations: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
Spouses and children of the clergy are not exempt from real-world pressures. In fact, my experience as a pastor-to-pastors indicates they are at great risk. Satan would like nothing more than to weaken the fiber of the clergy home by causing division and turmoil. We must always be on the alert for his cunning attacks.
I urge you to celebrate often with your spouse and children. Honor them and love them. Teach your children and discipline them. Have fun with them. Spend time with them. While I respect your most precious calling — to lead the church — I also remind you of your primary responsibility before God and encourage you to serve as an example to your spouse and children.
When it comes to who you are and what you do, who is your biggest fan? How would your spouse answer this question? Husbands and wives should be each other’s biggest fans. I know for certain that my greatest supporter over all of these decades has been my wife, Beverley.
What does that mean? It means we pray for each other. We protect each other. We show genuine compassion for each other. We strive to be a part of the solution to a problem, rather than an obstruction. Also, it is crucial that we cheer for each other.
I remember a time when I was speaking at a conference with some very high-profile religious leaders. Beverley could tell I was nervous and that this engagement was important to me. I delivered my message and gave it my best. As we were walking out of the convention hall, Beverley slipped her arm through mine, looked at me, and said, “I was proud of you tonight.” I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. The one who mattered most had affirmed me.
Take a few minutes to look at the last few weeks through a relational lens. Did you affirm your spouse and your children regularly? Did you look for the positive in each of them rather than the negative? Did you take the time to ask, “How are you doing?” Did you, by your words, actions, and deeds, express unconditional love? Did you live your faith as an example?
Let us always seek to love one another as God has loved us. When we do, we’ll find that we’ve become the biggest fan our loved ones have ever had. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
As I noted in my Facebook post, I have recently been coping with a lot of the realities of getting older. I pray I am doing it well. When you face a traumatic moment, be it a close call or near-death experience, a change takes place. I can’t explain it completely, but there is a profound sense that what you have been through cannot and should not be treated casually. There is a renewed commitment to your work, a deeper love for your family. There is a heightened realization that each day is a gift — that we live and die at the mercy of a loving God, the One who is truly the author and finisher of life. I pray I never lose the feeling of gratitude I have right now for life, my family, and the ministry to which He has called me.
Each day is a gift, my friend. Please do not mistreat it, deny it, or waste it. It’s amazing to know our God has invited each of us to share in His daily creation. It is in seeking to please Him and live in obedience each day that we find fulfillment and great joy. “We obey his commands and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:22).
I want to close by once again publicly thanking my wife, my sons, my grandchildren, other family members, and my friends for being there for me at all times. I am so proud of every one of you. As Lou Gehrig stated during his retirement celebration at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” I feel the same way. (But, just for the record, I am not ready to retire. Some days, I think I am just getting started!) Be blessed!