by Tony L Lynn
PLYMOUTH, MI – Peace and joy come from the Lord and are a result of obeying God. We learned that lesson four months into our marriage after we took a giant spiritual U-turn during 1977.
We canceled plans where I was going to become a rich engineer after God called us to ministry during the month of April. From April through August, we abandoned old plans and made new ones. I enrolled in a university I had never visited. We rented our first furnished apartment without ever seeing it. We headed to Missouri without knowing if there would be any employment for us. The U-turn was fast and furious. We had less than a thousand dollars between us when we started our marriage; yet, we were happy to be on our own with the Lord leading us.
A little over one-hundred days in Missouri, we found ourselves without the funds to return to Michigan to be with family during the holidays. Jamie worked at a pants factory, where she almost lost the tip of one of her beautiful fingers, and I worked at two part-time jobs while attacking my first semester like a madman. Nevertheless, there was a contentment.
I think we purchased the shortest, fattest, most oddly shaped Christmas tree on a local lot. It was all we could afford. As we dragged the pitiful pine upstairs needles fell out onto the steps. Realizing we had no decorations for the tree, Jamie’s brainstorm was to cradle Christmas cards from family members into the bare spots of the tree. The mailbox envelopes were slit open, day after day, revealing Noel cards with glitter, handwritten notes, corny sayings, and inspirational wishes from our loved-ones in Michigan. The tree became a perch of testimonies of those who wished us well on our spiritual adventure. Their prayers, I would like to think, brought us that peace even though we were 800 miles away from the life we once knew.
One evening, a giant, gift-wrapped, sausage-shaped present with my name on it was under the tree. I knew it was mine because the note on the paper in Jamie’s handwriting said, “To my husband.” Jamie on some evenings placed the mysterious package in my open hands and asked, “Can you guess what it is? You cannot squeeze it. You cannot shake it. Just feel the weight. Can you guess what it is?” I was puzzled until Christmas Day.
I was stunned upon opening the gift! It was a blue pup tent for our collegiate camping trips with friends at a nearby river. Jamie had saved her $5-per-week-allowance to buy the surprise present for me. Because of her creativity and generosity for three years, we shared many a Friday night camping with collegiate couples like us who had little, but somehow sharing what we had over a campfire made all the difference in the world. Acquaintances became friends who became family because we shared life.
As 2020 with COVID-19, racial tensions, and election chaos stretches out, again and again, reminding us that we do not control as much of life as we would like to believe, I hope you will remember that peace and joy come from the Lord and are a result of obeying him, no matter where he leads, calls or pushes. Just go with the Lord, even if it is a fast and furious U-turn because deciding to obey God is something you and I can control in life.
We still hold to that indescribable peace and joy. During this past year, I assured our three precious adult children, their wonderful spouses and our nine grandchildren that no matter what comes, we would sell everything we have in order to help anyone in trouble. During this past year, we said good-bye, for a while, to Jamie’s last living parent, her Christian mother. While her mom was with us we assured her mother that we would sell everything if her needs called for our help. Even now on occasion, after visiting my mom in a memory care facility then visiting with my father at his home I say, “Dad, have no worries about the future. If you or Mom need anything, we would sell all we possess in order to take care of you.” We want others to know that peace and joy that comes from the Lord.
You see back in 1977 with less than $1,000 to our names, we started our lives following the Lord. Four months into the marriage, we celebrated our lives with a crooked tree, glittery cards and a blue pup tent that we set-up in the living room of our apartment on Christmas evening and slept soundly with smiles on our faces and peace and joy in our souls. If we ever have to start over with less than we had in 1977, we would do it with peace and joy because the Lord still guides and we just follow.
Jamie and I wish you and your loved-ones a Christmas filled with peace and joy even in the midst of fast and furious U-turns! Merry Christmas.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.