Monday Devotional
Dear Friend,    I am approaching my 28th year in appointed ministry. My first appointment was to three country churches in Owen County beginning on 9/1/91. I always liked the symmetry of that start date. This year, the anniversary falls on a Sunday as well, 9/1/19. Another symmetrical date.  
 
When I began my ministry I didn’t know what I was doing. Some days, I must confess, I am still unsure. I didn’t have a history of stories to share and so I subscribed to two journals that provided sermon illustrations for Sunday sermons. I have saved some of those sermons from those early years and feel like I should send a note of apology for inflicting such dull sermons upon them. But the congregations were very gracious and understanding. Looking back, I believe they saw themselves as teaching congregations, providing young pastors with the wisdom they would need for long term ministry. If that was their ministry, I continue to be deeply grateful for the gifts they shared.  
 
Every Sunday I drove a thirty-five mile circuit to lead services at those three churches. I arrived early at the first service, unlocked the doors, turned on the lights and welcomed folks as they arrived. At the last church I stayed to shake every hand, turned out the lights and locked up the doors. The middle service got the short end of the deal with a quick arrival and quick departure. 
 
One of the churches, I was told, was on the verge of folding.  Their numbers had decreased to only a handful.  I think the District Superintendent told me this for two reasons.  First, he wanted me to love them.  If they were to close the doors it would be a very difficult decision, filled with a lot of grief.  Secondly, he may have wanted to insure that I wouldn’t fee guilty when this happened.  It appeared inevitable.  But, much to all our surprise, the church began to grow and continues still to this day.  I won’t feign too much humility, but readily admit that I did some good ministry while there.  I am proud of my what I accomplished.  
 
There were wonderful people at each church, people who often come to mind. Their faith and wisdom have stayed with me like friends who have accompany me everywhere I go.  Just the thought of these moments causes me to smile.  The children who came forward for children’s moments are adults now, with children of their own. Some of the wise elders have moved on to eternal life. In some instances, I was honored to speak at their funerals…others passed after I had left and I paused to remember their legacy.  
 
I don’t know the purpose of this devotion other than to say that I look back with a sense that I have been blessed all along this journey of life. From that initial ministry to rural churches in Owen County to the current appointment in Columbus, I have been blessed beyond anything I could have merited.  I simply say thanks.  There is no way to name that great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) and all that they have done for me. Their names and gifts would fill many devotions and still not do justice to all they shared. The best that I can hope for is to carry their legacy not only in my heart but in my actions. Perhaps it will be enough to pause today to remember those special people, to give thanks for all they shared. Perhaps you have folks like that as well, who have shaped your life in meaningful ways.  May our gratitude live on in our kindness toward one another. 
 
Peace,
Howard