A year ago, I wrote a blog entitled, Resolution VS Revolution. It started a chain of events in my life that changed just about everything. Go back and read it if you have time. The jist of that missive was this: stop listing new year’s resolutions (I’ve never really done those anyway) and resolve to actually do something and stick with it.
My resolve last year was pretty simple. Spend thirty consecutive days in the gym, work hard, and continue to improve my physical conditioning. It worked very well. Thousands of calories burned, more weight lost, more muscle gained, better sleep and even improved eating habits.
Then, a couple of weeks after completing that stage of resolve, I moved onto 3 days a week in the gym plus teaching 3 fitness classes. That, too, was working great until one Sunday afternoon at church while teaching a step class, a slight but noticable pain ran down the inside of my left arm.
A few days later I was in the hospital having a stent put in the “widow maker” artery that was 99% blocked. Talk about life-changing. One day you are working your butt off, feeling great, and the next you are laying in bed wondering what’s next.
Later, I blogged about A New Path, a phrase used by my cardiologist. By the way, I’m still utilizing that phrase today. So much has changed in the last twelve months. General physical weakness, loss of stamina, and overall malaise set in so that I simply didn’t feel like working out and didn’t really want to anymore. That all happened in the first two months of 2016.
Then, in March, after delivering a Sunday morning sermon, God spoke into my heart that it was time for me to retire from pastoring. He made the same spiritual announcement to my wife. That had never happened in our lives. We weren’t sure what to do with this new information at the time. After a couple of weeks passed, I shared with the church elders and set a process in motion that would end with my retirement at the end of 2016.
The rest of the year was pretty much a big blur. The closer we got to the end of the year, the more real this giant life change looming before me became, even though it still seemed very surreal. Then we entered into December and The Church At Lake Forest honored us for our service, gave us many wonderful gifts, shared kind words, wrote cards I will cherish the rest of my life—and lovingly sent us on our way.
We celebrated the Christmas holiday with our son, daughter-in-law, and four sweet grandchildren; it was great. Their presence and laughter and joy and sense of childhood innocence was a medicine that did me good. Going to a movie with my son and oldest grandson was a blessing that I cannot describe. Three generations of Sykes men together, each one on his own journey with God—that’s a good thing!
Christmas passed, the decorations came down, and the reality of the new path came to bear once again. Late on new year’s eve—well, not really late, neither of us stayed awake anywhere near midnite—I was still wondering what the new year would bring and what it would be like trying to find a church to attend, not being the guy in the pulpit.
The sun broke over the horizon on New Year’s Day, we got out of bed much later than we had in years, had our quiet time in the word, and headed out the door for church. I knew when I cranked up the car and headed east on Goodman Road instead of west that this was going to be a different kind of day. How was I going to find a church like Lake Forest? Was there such a thing even out there? Was that even a good idea?
I knew then and I know now that TCALF isn’t perfect. That’s why we had the motto on our t-shirts, NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED. A perfect church would only have one member, God himself. But that’s not what church is about, is it? Church is about sinners who have been saved by the grace of God because of the sacrifice Jesus made at Calvary and his victory over death we celebrate at Easter. Still, how would this day turn out? Debbie and I had been praying and talking and searching the internet for a church for months.
Almost at the last minute, we decided to try a little church in Olive Branch. We pulled on the lot of the office complex where they meet and, quite frankly, I was a little nervous. After thirty seven years of pastoring, I was nervous about visiting a church. Weird, huh?
Anyway, we went in, were warmly greeted my the people, met the young pastor and his wife, sang along with the worship band, and listened to a message from the pastor that was tailor made for this “older,” retired, pastor. We started the day thinking this would be the first day of many “church shopping sprees” and ended the day feeling like we had moved to TCALF east.
We prayed and wondered and even worried a little how we would find a place to worship that would be comfortable to us as a family and at the same time challenge us to stay on fire for our LORD. He answered our prayer and we looked at each other wondering if this was even possible. Why would God so directly and plainly bless us this way?
As I sat down this morning to write this blog, God reminded me of an old, old hymn, written in 1896, I Am Resolved. It goes like this:
I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delight, things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free; Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee. I will hasten, hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free; Jesus, Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
I am resolved to go to the Savior, leaving my sin and strife; He is the true One, He is the just One, He hath the words of life. Refrain
I am resolved to follow the Savior, faithful and true each day; heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth, He is the living Way. Refrain
I am resolved to enter the kingdom, leaving the paths of sin; friends may oppose me, foes may beset me, still will I enter in. Refrain
I am resolved, and who will go with me? Come, friends, without delay, taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit, we’ll walk the heav’nly way. Refrain
I’ve never considered myself a man of great faith. Stumbling, falling, and getting picked by God are a regular part of my spiritual life. But this one thing I do, obey. Daily, I rely upon the Word of God and God’s Spirit to guide. He does.
And sometimes, maybe more often than I realize, his leading is so discernable that it catches me a littel off-guard. Thank you Lord for not giving up on me.
Now—back to the gym!