Good morning (or afternoon or evening, whenever you read this-it was written in the morning) to you all. 2015 as a year is coming to a close. We have only a day and half before we begin a brand new year. Have you looked back over 2015 yet? Have you spend any time in reflection? I have to say, I just started doing that today. One thing I do like is that on Facebook, there is the app that lets you see what you posted in the years prior. That has been kind of fun to do. I am amazed at all the things I learned that I did in the past years. Next year, I will be looking back over 2015 and saying, "Oh yeah, we did that. I forgot all about that."
There are things that you would like to forget about the year, and yet, having said that, I cannot say that 2015 was a year that I am happy to see go. Even with all the sickness during the year, I do not find that 2015 was a disappointing or challenging year. I think back on some of the tough years - 1987/88, 1999 - and I would say they were difficult. But 2015 was really an all right year.
Having said that, I know that I faced challenges. I had months of chest pain that went unchecked. After 2 heart caths and 1 additional stint, the pain continued. Most people didn't know that for the months of February - April and July - August, I struggle with pain that just wouldn't end. During the summer months, I should have taken stock out in the nitro because of how much I was taking just to make it through the days. I give thanks that one of the mothers of a child in Penny's preschool class works in the heart office at Washington University hospital and she got me an appointment for the next week. Dr. Vader checked me out, suggested a change in medication, and after changing the dosage a month later, by September, I was pain free! Since then, I have not had to take the nitro. I rejoice at that. I feel good and even while Penny asks me, "How is the chest," I find that I can say, "Good. No pain." That is true even after the great flood of December 2015. All the vacuuming and furniture moving and still the heart did well. I give all glory to God that He has given us doctors who know what they are doing and medicine that is able to do the job.
I realize that you might not be pain free. I pray for you. I pray for relief for you even as I prayed for myself day after day. I pray that the Lord will give you relief and if that is not the answer to your prayer, I pray that He gives you the strength to be able to face each day. Not every prayer we offer to the Lord comes back the way we want. But it is answered in the way that He knows is best for us. Hard to remember that when you hurt or don't feel well yet that is where faith comes into play. We live by faith. The Lord has never said that we will get a "yes" to every answer. He does promise to be with us in all we face and in all our struggles. I prayed for my mother to get better in 1999, and that happened. She passed away and went to heaven. She got LOTS better, just not in the way that I wanted to have happen. What do you do in those moments, you ask the Lord to give you the faith and the strength to accept His direction. I had to do that back in 1988. I would never have dreamed that the mess that happened that year would turn out to make me the pastor I am today. Yet, through all that terrible time, He worked in Penny and my lives in ways we could not understand, taking us to places we never dreamed. From that time we moved to Harvel, Ferrin and Altamont, each of which were a blessing in themselves and then finally brought us here to Troy. I keep praying, "Lord, let me retire here at Troy." And boy do I hope that that the answer to that prayer is a resounding "yes." Only another 13-15 years before that is possible. It has already been 7 years, very quick years, and so we will see.
These are ramblings, aren't they? I am still working on the Doctor of Ministry. I do feel that it has already helped me to be a better preacher, which was my goal. I hope you think that as well. Each sermon I preach I pray that the Spirit would guide my thoughts, words and heart to present the message of the Gospel to the congregation in a way that will lift them and help them to grow in faith and trust in their Lord. I think I have had some good sermons and I know that I have had some klunkers. The real joy of preaching is that even when the sermon itself stinks, the Holy Spirit can use it to help someone to grow in faith in their Lord Jesus Christ. That always amazes me. The Spirit is powerful and works in ways that are overwhelming. All praise and glory be to God!
All right, enough rambling for the day. Maybe more tomorrow, we will see. Looking back over the year, I can say, "Yes, Lord, it has been a year that You have been lifted up and that You have blessed. You have strengthened and forgiven. You have loved and You have guided. 2015 was the Lord's year in which I was privileged to live. Thank You Lord."