A Grateful Heart

I just got back from Virginia and Maryland and leave next week for a swing through Florida. I look back with profound gratefulness at every moment on this trip and the conversations I had with so many people, some enduring great hardship and struggle, others responding to Jesus’ invitation to come closer and to follow him in uncharted waters. I loved all of it and had many spontaneous encounters that weren’t on the schedule when I left.  My heart is full, and I’m humbled by the journey Jesus allows me to walk. Here’s one person’s response to that trip:

What a wonderful time of fellowship and newly established friendships I experienced yesterday!  I can’t stop thinking about the ‘uniqueness and specialness’ of our time together as well as the ‘uniqueness and specialness’ of each one who came.  I missed you all as soon as I departed.

Me too! What a joy it was to meet so many people in various places on this journey, all looking for the real meaning of love as God sees it and finding a transformative journey in knowing and following him.  That quote above was the opening paragraph of an email I got yesterday. I often get emails like that after I’ve been somewhere, and every one of them is appreciated. This is the first time, however, that I got to peek at a thank you note to one of my host couples. I’m not going to say which city she joined me in, because what she writes could have applied to all the places I visited and the people who invited me.  Here’s what she wrote to the people who facilitated my time at one location on this trip:

Thank you for opening up your home and creating such a warm and welcoming environment.  Thank you also for the time and money spent on food preparations. Everything—and every means every—was perfect!  There is nothing like being on the receiving end of your generosity and kindness.  I don’t know if you realize just how much of a difference that you make in the lives of people (just by being wonderful, faithful, kind, loving you) but it is significant.  On numerous occasions, people mentioned just how much they appreciated the interest that you take in them. You are gems to many and God is loving many people through you.

These things don’t happen if there aren’t people on the other end who have it on their hearts to invite me and who will prepare a place for people to connect. I am always amazed when anyone takes the risk of inviting me and seeing what Father might do in my coming. It’s so brave. I don’t just hold meetings; I also open my hearts to the spontaneous encounters God might give me along the way. I never go to speak and then hide in my room the rest of the day. I watch for what else God might be doing and who might want my help processing their journey. So, that means they need to be a bit flexible, too, whenever God creates new opportunities alongside the ones they had planned. I’m always grateful for the people who host me and provide for my needs while they open the door to others. It’s a beautiful symphony when it all comes together.

She finished her email with this:

Wayne, thank you for taking and making the time to visit with us. It was so good to connect with you in person. What a delight!  I so appreciated the transparency and vulnerability so many shared regarding the difficult circumstances you and others are facing. It takes courage to ‘pull the drapes back’—and yet, right from the start—drapes were pulled back. I loved it. It was precious, it was unique, and it was special.  The conversations and discussions were rich and deep.  The entire day was perfect!  I appreciate you—your authenticity, genuineness, and down-to-earthness – as well as your willingness to “explore” the kingdom with others.

It amazes me how quickly sharing can go deep in rooms like that. I heard very tender stories of people going through tough challenges but looking to Father’s hand to lead them through it in his love. That isn’t easy, nor is it to share that with a roomful of strangers. These conversations that matter also enlighten and inspire my journey as well. I’m dumbfounded as well as thankful that God allows me to have these kinds of time with people. I did a seminar on A Language of Healing in Suffolk, The Shack with the recovery community near Baltimore, Finding Church in Baltimore and Harrisonburg, and He Loves Me and Live Loved Free Full all over the place. I found myself in a few places sharing the new framework I think Father has given me to help people understand the nature of the journey that God invites us into. This time, it involved a stack of paper plates, a towel, and a discerning dog as I played it out on the floor. I love seeing those “Aha” moments in people’s eyes when something clicks in their hearts that makes more sense of what Father is already doing in them.

Finally, I had so many on this trip telling me to take their gratitude back to Sara for the price she pays when I go. My presence anywhere is as much a gift from her as it is from me, and we are both touched when people recognize it.

I was supposed to hop on a jet this afternoon for a conversation about race at a community college in Texas. Due to a COVID assault on one of the participants, however, it had to be postponed. I’ll miss being there this week because that is one of the healthiest conversations about race I see any major institution risking today. It has avoided both the cliffs offered by the left and the right that do more to obscure the problem than seek the solutions that will help us all. Fortunately, we’ll get back to that at a later date.

For now, I get to reflect on all Jesus did on this last trip and hold in my heart those I met going through a painful stretch of the journey, I also find my heart growing in expectancy for what will unfold at home this week and in my trip to Florida next week.

And don’t you love it when someone takes the time to write a note like this one?

4 thoughts on “A Grateful Heart”

  1. JENNIFER MONTGOMERY

    I have so many thoughts about your blog post. The pandemic and the isolation has really taught me that I can find community in so many different ways. I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and he was telling me how he thought we needed to be in community in a “church” environment. My response was why? Unfortunately he didn’t want to take it any deeper and left it with “your feelings are your feelings”. I hate that, it’s a friend I adore and he’s so service oriented. I tried to probe him for a moment. I have strong feelings. How relational are you sitting through a 75 minute service when everyone goes to their assigned spot (not really but kind of), watches the service and then leaves. Small group is another joke to me within organized religion because if you miss or stop going no one cares. Since the start of the pandemic, we have taken to camping, bought a camper, and let me tell you, I’ve had some great community with total strangers, I’ve had great moments with God sitting by a river or in the woods. I get tired of.. because I live in the Bible Belt where everyone thinks you need to go to an organized service, I find more community and relationships with people one on one.
    Anyhow.. love the blog post, and thankful beyond words for you and what you share with us.

  2. Hi Wayne. I have had some challenging things going on and when I saw your e-mail I knew I wanted to immediately read it because your thoughts always encourage me. Thanks for sharing about your trip. It did encourage me and also reminded me that there are many brothers and sisters who are going through difficult times. I love and appreciate you my brother!

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