As I cross over the midway point of the 3rd month of this year I wanted to take this day and use my blog to publicly thank the Lord for every single thing that has transpired in the last year of my life. For most of my time working in ministry, I thought that I truly knew what it meant to sacrifice for the Lord and walk by faith through each day. When the Lord began to talk to me about changing seasons while I was leading a church and living in the same city as my children, I honestly didn't know the right questions to ask nor how to process all that was going on. I never did say, Holy Spirit, what are YOU saying in this? But I did remember a night I stood on a stage at Texas Stadium in front of over 71000 people before a Carman concert and hearing the Lord saying that I had completed what I was sent to do for Carman and his ministry. Because I had just relocated my family to Nashville and was so comfortable with my quality of life, it took me 5 years to actually let it go. When I finally did make the transition, I made a commitment to myself to not wait so long if I ever felt that way again.
Moving into a new season after Carman, at the leading of the Lord was bittersweet. I arrived in Tulsa to be a part of the fastest growing church in the city. That church imploded just a month after I arrived. No, not because of me! I looked to what I knew to do and that was encourage others…share my story…and that led to the launching of a church I founded. My marriage of 20 years ended right as the church began. I was a bit very hurt, shocked, sad and at the same time determined that I would not die. I could survive. The next 13 years at The Landing were more like a classroom of learning; learning that survival can only come when life is surrendered to the Lord. I wish I could tell you that I never blamed God. I wish I could tell you that I was never angry about the course that life had taken. The interesting thing was that the Lord was the only person I could process all of the challenges with. I had 2 choices: to run away from God or to run into His arms. Thankfully, most of the time I ran towards Him. Perhaps because of the way my parents raised me and the way I was treated by my spouses parents who were ministers. They all had so much to do with me ending up as a worshiper and a pastor. I got stronger. My heart healed. My hope increased.
As I reflect back on the last year it was another round of change...again hard but this also the most rewarding year in a long time. I was in between seasons, in the hallway if you would, for about 6 months. Income was very low compared to others years. But the lessons were not only financial. Trusting in the Lord, taking care of others and loving my way out of the pit...that was the real lesson. Learning how to listen to the Lord and obey, when it goes against everything you know…that was paramount. Nobody, myself included really understood how I could walk away from a church I began after 13 ½ years. To this day I know many people may feel betrayed by my decision and the way it happened. To them I apologize. I was trying to do the right thing and knowing it may not be popular was very difficult to reconcile. I am still learning every day how to take those steps of faith- hear the voice of God- and respond in a timely fashion regardless of the consequences or cost.
Fast forward to the end of last year-the Lord brought me to one of the most amazing places on the planet for me…Gateway Church. The teaching is powerful. The leadership is prayerful. Why their tag line is…”we’re all about people”! It might as well have said, “we’re here for Joe!” I have found a place to soak, consume, digest and grow. After 34 years of speaking and singing for the Lord, helping to produce many live events, writing 6 books and over 2000 devotional articles, it feels amazing to realize that I am still a vessel that gets poured into each week-filled up with the goodness and grace of God , for the sole purpose of being poured out upon others.
So in this season I’m taking all types of classes…I’m sitting in a variety of worship experiences and classrooms and God is rebuilding my spirit…you might say…this cup of joe is in the potter’s hand and He is shaping it like he wants it to be. The cracks and chips are being smoothed out by Him.
It’s for all of the challenges…the heartbreaks…the painful decisions…that I thank you, Lord, for never giving up on me. Your grace was always more than enough for whatever came my way. Thank you for the seasons I have left and this beautiful season I have entered. Thank you for my family and friends who played their role in whatever part of the journey they were in. I’m honored to a child of God. I’m thrilled to be in YOUR family. I’m grateful for salvation and eternal life. Thank you that last year was not the end...it was just an intermission. Guess that means another act is about to begin! Thanks be to God who always and in ALL ways causes us…causes ME to triumph!