While jogging early this morning, I found myself humming the tune Bob Hope immortalized during several wars. I can still remember his tailor-made lyrics, fitted to each occasion. He sang them to lonely soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines from steamy jungles to frozen reservoirs . . . from the decks of aircraft carriers to makeshift platforms on windswept sand dunes. As guys and gals in uniform laughed and cried, screamed and sipped Coke, they always anticipated Hope's finale as he took the mike and crooned, "And thanks for the memories . . . ."
I remember it well: Christmas of '58 on Okinawa. I was homesick, missing my wife, and counting the days. So when the veteran entertainer sang his closing song, I sang along with him in a flood of memories. I recall how grateful I was for that tour of duty: the lessons I had learned, the disciplines I had begun to employ (thanks to the Navigators), the books I had read, the missionaries I had met, the places I had visited, the journal I had kept, the letters I had written, the verses I had memorized, even the things I had witnessed inside a Marine Corps barracks! And, most importantly, the call I had received from God to enter ministry.
Looking back now, all I can do is smile . . . and sing, "Thanks for the memories." I'm doing that a lot these days as I recall the various things God has done in me and through me and for me—and sometimes in spite of me! And I can't help but give Him praise in my heart.
Pastoring a church has to be the highest of all callings. In this position, one has the privilege of touching life at its tenderest points . . . of walking with pain through its darkest valleys . . . of proclaiming truth in its purest form . . . of confronting sin in its ugliest scenes . . . of modeling integrity through its hardest extremes—while everyone is watching as well as when no one is looking. It is no wonder to me why it requires a God-given calling before one enters it or why such a struggle accompanies resignation from it.
And after all these years I say a resounding, "Thanks for the memories!" For the conversions that have occurred, the addictions that have been conquered, the marriages that have been restored, the fractured lives that have been mended. These memories stay with me and revisit me often as I thank Him for His faithfulness.
Who knows what other surprises God has over the horizon? I do not know what lies ahead, but for today I pause and praise Him . . . and thank Him for the memories.
We know who holds the future . . . as we thank Him for the past.
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