Day 28: Happy Thanksgiving!

*I’m thankful today for my pastor, Paul Seay, who wrote Day 28’s post for the Dear Gratitude project.*

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”—Philippians 4:6 NRSV

Dear Readers,

Pastor Paul at my daughter's christening, March 2013

Pastor Paul at my daughter’s christening, March 2013

I don’t know why I am a reluctant blog writer, but for whatever reason, it is difficult for me to take the time to write what’s on my mind.  I do have my own blog, “Circuit Writing,” but I write more for “Daily Dose of Gratitude” than I do my own.  I think it’s because Bethany gives me a deadline that I have to meet.

Since my assignment is for Thanksgiving Day, I have had the opportunity to read many of your ‘thank you’ letters here and have been reminded of things for which I am thankful.  So thank you, dear readers, for opening your hearts and sharing a little about your lives with us.

Paul Seay and his wife, Rebecca, at the River Jordan

Paul Seay and his wife, Rebecca, at the River Jordan

First of all, I want to thank my wife, Rebecca.  When we married she didn’t realize that being the wife of a United Methodist pastor was going to be in the cards, but she has supported my ministry in more ways than most people realize.  I certainly have not been the perfect husband, but I try to do better every day.  She has forgiven me more than seventy times (or seventy times seven as the King James Version reads), and I am grateful for that.  Earl Thomas Conley and Emmylou Harris sang a song, “We Believe in Happy Endings,” and I think that is how Becca and I believe about our marriage and our life together.  Our children, Ed and Jeff Seay and Allison and Jeff Chandler are special also.  I am proud of the success they have had in their lives and in the ways that they have helped others.

Most of all, I am thankful for God’s Grace.  Without His Grace it would have been impossible for me to be doing what I do today.  I was called to ministry as a teenager, but ran from my call for nearly 30 years before giving up on myself and allowing God to be God.  There were many times that He could have given up on me but our God is a loving and forgiving God who allows us to make mistakes, to fail, and to even turn our back on Him.  But as the Apostle Peter discovered as he was trying to walk on water and began to sink, all he had to do was cry out, “Lord, save me!” In our desperation, God is always there, through His Son, Jesus Christ, to reach out and pull us from the deep.

Harold Bales, a retired United Methodist pastor in North Carolina writes a “Daily Nugget” that I read on Facebook each day.  This past Sunday he wrote, “Every person is a preacher of one sort or another.  How we are observed living is the most genuine indicator of the gospel we embrace.  This isn’t only true of clergy.  It is true of everyone.  Our value systems are always on display.  And Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on these values, give thanks to God for our abundance, and push the reset button on our lifestyles.”

So, Dear Readers, on this Thanksgiving Day as you take a moment to be thankful for the ways you have been blessed.  Be thankful for those who God has put into your path for you to influence, and I pray that you influence them in a good way.

In Christ,

Pastor Paul

 

Learning to teach

A wise woman named Mauzelle who managed the Arkansas Methodist Church archives at Hendrix University once told me, as she tried to share her lunch with me while I researched Methodist women in the Ozarks, that she loves history and wants to do everything she can to preserve it.

“It’s so important, you see, because we are who they were.”

Bethany the professor!

Bethany the professor!

That rings true in my life in many ways. Lately, as I prepare to teach two courses on the college level for the first time, I have caught myself reminiscing about the teachers I remember most, teachers who made a difference in my life, either because of their great teaching abilities or because of their huge capacity to serve and care for students.

I’m thankful for Ms. Prim. In kindergarten she spent what seemed like forever unbraiding my hair while I sobbed uncontrollably one morning after begging my mom to fix my hair like Princess Leia. When I got to school and realized that none of the other girls looked like Princess Leia, I was mortified. Ms. Prim didn’t ask any questions. She just soothed my insecurities and gave me chocolate milk in a carton and graham crackers.

I’m thankful for Mr. Ward who took the time and effort to gather worms and crickets so that in fifth grade, when all things gross are very cool, we had the chance to eat cricket pizza and worm cookies. He made science more fascinating, fun, and whimsical. And I’m thankful for Mr. Smith, one of my high school science teachers, who had a true gift for explaining the most intricate theories in dummy terms. From him, I learned that I will earn my students’ respect not by being their buddy but by being a good teacher.

I’m thankful for Ms. Walters who had an infinite amount of patience with me as I struggled to make an “A” in algebra in eighth grade. I still don’t love math, but I remember that in her class, it wasn’t so bad. She helped me to understand that I can’t infuse my passion for my field into the heart of every single student, but I can certainly equip them to be better writers.

Maggie, in 2012, with the book Mr. Tilley gave to me in 2004

Maggie, in 2012, with the book Mr. Tilley gave to me in 2004

I’m thankful for Mr. Tilley who tolerated my huge crush on him. He was nearing retirement when I had him in class in 7th grade, but I just loved that man. He was dignified, smart, had a Grizzly Adams beard, and collected antiques. What could be cooler than that? When I realized that the antique children’s book I’d chosen to use as a prop in Maggie’s newborn photos was the book he’d given me when I visited him several years after graduating from high school, I cried. Mr. Tilley helped me to understand that being a good person is even more important than being a good teacher. He’s the kind of person I’ll never forget.

And that’s not even half of them.

I could spend hours writing a gratitude list solely pertaining to the educators in my life.

Instead, I think I’ll go work on my own courses. I have some teaching to do.

Day 7–Amazing grace (and love)

*Thank you, Pastor Paul Seay, for serving as today’s guest writer. Paul is my very own pastor and also a pretty fun guy. Check out our church if you’re in the area.*

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now, I see.”—
John Newton (1725-1807)

 

My pastor, Paul Seay

My pastor, Paul Seay

When you wake up one morning and realize you’re on the other side of sixty years old and have been asked to write something about gratitude and love it can be a little frightening.  Beth had asked me to write a post for Daily Dose of Gratitude a few months back but I never found the time to put anything down on paper.  If I had written something earlier, Beth might have decided not to invite me. Since I work better with a deadline maybe this will be a little easier.  I will say that I am grateful to Beth and Jimmy–for their friendship and what they mean to Central Avenue UMC.

I think it’s important when we are talking about gratitude that we look to those folks who have influenced us over the years in such a way that we have arrived where we are today.  First of all I am grateful for my family. Several years ago I went through a very tumultuous time in my life.  I had made too many mistakes; I had allowed sin to take control.  In my testimony I say that I lost everything but my trust in God and my family, and I was fortunate that they didn’t turn their backs on me too.  But God doesn’t turn His back on you, and amazingly my family must be godly too because neither did they.

 

The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1: “My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.”—NRSV.

Actually, there were a lot of people, especially the Dardanelle First United Methodist Church, that lived Galatians 6:1 for me during that time.  I’ve often heard you find out who your true friends are when you fall on hard times, and I believe that’s true.  One thing I have learned is that it is easier to forgive others when you realize how much you have been forgiven.

 

I often mention that we need to be aware of how we influence people when we may not realize that anyone is paying attention.  I understand the importance of how we are influenced because I know how it has affected me over the years.  Unfortunately, I have not always been influenced in the way God would have wanted but today I want to remember those who influenced me properly.  There have been Sunday school teachers like Veda Dale and Mozelle Hays when I was a child at Simmons Chapel Methodist Church.  There have been pastors like Benny Harmon, Ed Matthews, and Steve Johnson.  Authors like Max Lucado and Adam Hamilton.

 

But I think the most important influential people are those common, everyday people who have done things that made me want to be a better person. One example is Joe Grimes of Dardanelle, Arkansas. Joe is an Air Force veteran who retired back home to Dardanelle and bought a neighborhood gas station/convenience store.  Although most people wouldn’t say that he was a particularly religious man, Joe is one of those men who is as honest as the day is long, has integrity, and believes in giving second chances.

 

I began this post by quoting the first verse of the great hymn, “Amazing Grace,” because the thing I am most grateful for is the grace of God.  I know that without His grace I would not have my family, my life as a pastor, or really my life at all.   I still remember kneeling beside my hospital bed in Little Rock and praying, “Please, God, let this be the bottom. I can’t survive if I fall any farther.” I know that although I had given my life to Christ at the age of 12, I had spent my life wandering around lost and blind.  I see now only because of God’s forgiving love and grace.