Here are some random thoughts I wrote on my 50th birthday. I'm not sure I should publish them but it's my blog and if you don't want to read it - I promise I won't be offended. I’m fifty today. Months ago I started writing about 50’s. I had big dreams. I came up with a list of 50 technology changes that have affected our lives in the last 50 years. Of 50 preachers who have influenced my life. 50 things born in 1962. 50 books that have impacted me. 50 significant events in my life. But then I decided that no one would really be that interested in most of my list. It’s like a lot of stuff I start - it seems good to me but before it hits the light of day I talk myself out of it. That’s probably a wise thing. I know people who have no unexpressed thoughts and find they are often a train wreck.
I also had plans for a big 50th birthday blast. But instead of bursting into 50 I barely crept. I don’t get sick often. I’ll get a cough now and then or a sore throat but really sick - it just doesn’t happen. Then about 4 weeks ago I developed a nagging cough. It only bothered me when I preached. I figured it was from stress on my voice as I do speak a lot in the summer and thought when things slowed down in October it’d go away with some voice rest. But then Monday night after speaking twice at Polishing the Pulpit and having a great supper with some dear friends I went back to the hotel to do some study for Tuesday’s lectures and after I’d sat down for about 15 minutes I started coughing then felt a fever spike, got the chills like I can never remember and within an hour I was convinced I had the flu. And for the next 5 days I was miserably sick - still recovering. I was as sick preaching Sunday as I can remember. Someone else could have preached but to be honest I wasn’t going to “not preach” the day before I turned 50. I suppose that’s pride but I made it through the sermon, class and a Sunday night sermon to boot. I’d say I’m at about a 7 out of 10 today (Thursday).
50. In a monitored life: At 30 you think it’s time to grow up. At 40 you wonder what you are going to do with the second half of your life. At 50 you realize you are getting late in the 3rd quarter or maybe early 4th and begin to either question your worth or get more intense about becoming productive. I think I’ve done both the last few weeks.
At 50 I have come to a huge realization. I am blessed. And I don’t deserve it. So it is a grace - a gift. I don’t deserve that I had two parents who loved the Lord - but I did get that blessing. I don’t deserve to have been born in and grown up in a free country - but that has been my life. I don’t deserve the gift of salvation - but the Gospel has been a part of my life since I was 3 days old. I don’t deserve that I married a helpmeet - but it’s what I got. I don’t deserve that my kids love the Lord - but they do. I don’t deserve Lucas and Holley- they're just gifts. I don’t deserve 2 daughter-in-laws who seem perfect fits for my sons - but I’m so blessed. I don’t deserve the breaks I’ve gotten - churches I’ve preached for, boards I’ve served on, preacher relationships I enjoy, books, luncheons, editorships, networks to oversee, speaking opportunities galore, the opportunity to work with Jeff via The Institute - but they have been put in my life. I am blessed. I don’t know why. I know I don’t deserve it. I’ve often said I stumbled into most of it - but that’s unfair to God. I strive for humility but I also want to praise God for His goodness to me. I’m not good. I’m not super talented. There are many more gifted than me - all I can do it say “thank you” and then try to make the most of every blessing. And here's one of the most exciting things - I don't know what's next! What new and unexpected adventures will this decade bring? Frankly, I can't wait!
On the other hand: People who think my life is perfect and I don’t have struggles are just idiots - I’m blessed but I know some of that is because of how I chose to view life. I chose to think about, count, dwell on the blessings. I could focus on my ongoing struggles, the mean stuff that some have said and done toward me, the grudges I could hold, the untrue accusations, the people who seem to want to rain on my parade, the myriad of mistakes, failures and “incompletes” of my life. I could focus on my challenges with difficult people, the worry that dogs me, my inability to preach as well as many of my peers, my shortcomings in handling money, my ego that sometimes gets out of control (in both extremes), my feelings of inferiority, my tendency to be an introvert, my unhealthy love of gadgets - BUT I DON’T! I try to improve on the things I need to improve on. I’ve had plenty of struggles but I think ole’ Abe was right: “I’ve found most people are about as happy as they chose to be.” I remember dad saying one time: “I hear preachers who are constantly moving and always have a story of how they have been mistreated. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve worked with three churches my whole life and have never been mistreated.” Only thing is, I knew then and know more now that he was often mistreated - it is just what he chose to focus on and how he chose to see things.
50. Things mean less and less to me. People mean more and more.
50! I wonder what the Lord has in store. At 20 if you’d told me at 30 I’d be preaching for the largest church in the northwest corner of Alabama I would have laughed - but I got to. At 30 if you’d told me I would be preaching at 40 for one of the best known churches in our brotherhood I would have scoffed. At 40 if you’d told me I’d have started over with about 60 people in a church plant without even a building to our name and it would have grown to over 400 members I would have said you need to see a doc. I don’t know that I will even have life at 60 but I do know that the Lord is in charge of things and not me. I will strive to be faithful to Him, to speak His truths and to do right. I will succeed and I will fail. When I married Melanie I told her we’d probably never have much money but that it would never be boring. Well just ask her - I’ve keep the second half of that bargain even better than I would have dreamt. And, at 50, I still believe the best is yet to be and “the future is as bright as the promises of God.”