This Thanksgiving morning I rose early to have some alone time with The Father before Christin begins cooking and Jude discovers something else to get into. Like many of you I wanted to take some time to thank Him for His faithfulness in my life. As I did, I noticed a trend- a great deal of His faithfulness and my thankfulness is connected to the people He has placed in my life. As I thanked Him, I realized that my life’s path would not be the same without these people. WARNING: THIS MAY SOUND SAPPY!
I AM SO THANKFUL…
For my family.
For placing Christin in my life. For that July night 11 years ago, when my brother Scott, his friends, and her friends stood us up, and it was just Christin and me alone at Marietta Square. Only the Father could have known what was to come. I knew within months that she was “the one,” and that God had given me a mate willing to go the ends of the earth to serve Him. She has stuck with me during the good and tough times.
For our son Jude. We thought we could not have biological children, yet the Father orchestrated events for us to get a free IVF cycle. I now could not imagine my life without this little guy. Often I see much of myself in him which both excites me and scares me a little. I cannot wait to see what the Father has planned for our little man. I’m also expectantly excited to meet Baby #2 this May- will it be another son for me to wrestle with or a cute daughter who will wrap me around her little finger?
For my Mom. She modeled for me and my brothers what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I watched her pray. I watched her read the scriptures. I firsthand saw the difference between religion and relationship. She read us the Bible at a young age. She challenged us to do the same and follow God’s plan for our lives. She firmly believed Proverbs 22:6- now I do also.
For my Dad. Although he has gotten off the Father’s path for him, I have not forgotten… I have not forgotten the sacrifices he made for me- I can still remember as a teenager discovering his shoes with holes in the soles while he had purchased new running shoes for me. I have not forgotten the time and energy he invested in me, and the way he believed in me as a kid and teenager even when I had no confidence in myself.
For my two brothers- Brian & Scott. They are my best friends. I know no matter how old we get or how far apart we live that we will always have each others’ backs. One of my first memories is of playing in the sandbox and my mother telling me to share my toys with Brian. Since then I have been awed and humbled by the husband, father, and scholar he has become. I am so blessed to watch him, Noelle, and their amazingly cute and intelligent son Everett pursue God’s path for them. I know it is only a matter of time until Brian becomes an accomplished scholar and people will ask me, “so you are Dr. Pounds’ brother?” I’ll reply with a smile, “Yep, he’s my little brother.”
Scott and his wife Brooke are two of my spiritual heroes. They have literally moved to the ends of the earth. I am amazed at the work the Father is doing in and through them on their little S.E. Asian island that they fondly refer to as Kokomo. Their work, their sacrifices, the fruit of their ministry may never be recognized publicly, but the Father is watching with great pleasure.
For my pastors.
The older I get, the more I recognize the influence these Godly men have had and continue to have on my life. Beginning as a kid and teen at Piedmont Baptist Church, Pastor Duvall and Stan Annandale (my youth minister), displayed how humble yet strong spiritual leadership looks. There are a few pastors and ministers I’m especially thankful for.
For Preacher Callahan at Shady Grove. I was a 19 year old who had just finished my freshman year at UGA with no real ministry experience, and he hired me to be his youth director over an experienced seminary student. I can still remember him telling me I was just a boy but God told him to hire me. For some crazy reason he believed in me and saw potential that only God could have revealed.
For Brother James Cook at New Canaan. He gave me my first full-time job after graduation as a youth minister. I’m sure in the early days he wondered what he’d gotten himself into with this “shoot from the hip” youth guy. He stuck with me. He challenged me to pray and plan ahead as a leader. Most importantly he showed that pastoring is more than leading an organization- it’s about shepherding people including your own family. I am still so thankful for how he pastored me through my parent’s divorce and in the days leading up to my wedding.
For Pastor Russ Shinpoch, Tony Stinson and the other pastors at Wildwood. As Wildwood’s College & Young Singles Pastor, they gave me a shot at my dream job. They gave me the support, the resources, the freedom to succeed, and even the freedom to fail at times. I learned so much with that team of pastors, and they were some my biggest supporters when I sensed God calling me into church-planting.
For my friend and fellow minister Tim May. Tim and I became youth ministers in Paulding County, GA around the same time. We quickly became close friends, partners in ministry, and met weekly for accountability and prayer. I think we prayed through everything together- successes & struggles in ministry, temptations & trial of life, and the whole relationship/dating/marriage thing. We ended up getting married within three weeks of each other.
For Dave Cole- my spiritual big brother. Dave was also a youth minister in Paulding County, but much more wise and experienced than Tim or me. Dave took me under his wing as he did with so many others and invested in me as a person and leader, although I was leading another youth ministry just down the street from his own. He’s told me several times that we are friends for life, and he has more than owned up to that.
There are also other ministers who I thanked God for this morning by name who because of the Father’s grace invested time and energy in me along the way. Men like Jon Messarra, Mike Linch, Wes Cantrell, John Moody, Danny Wood, and Paul Gomez.
For my peeps at the Point Church in NJ.
For Tim & Robin Nussbaumer, Jon & Jen Zila, and Branden & Laura Camp. I am still so blessed and blown away that these guys and their families were willing to move from GA to NJ with Christin and me to start the Point Church. Although I’m thankful for each of them individually, I will always remember the team God molded us into. Even as Christin and I have moved on to VT, they have chosen to put their roots down in NJ. I have leaned so much on them as friends and co-leaders, learned so much from Tim’s teaching (I still would choose to sit under his teaching over any other pastor in America), and am so thankful that they continue to be a huge part of my life and ministry.
For my community group these past couple of years: Kevin, David, Becky, Whitney, Frank, Annie, Matt, Elena, and Pilar. I learned from these guys as well as from the rest of the Point about what it means to be brothers and sisters in Jesus- that the church is our spiritual family.
As you may already see there is common thread weaving through all these relationships- a partnership in the gospel. This list is far from exhaustive, but please know that as my friends and spiritual family that I am thankful for you today. Christin and I are thankful, anxious, and excited to see what God has in store for us here in Burlington, VT. Thank you for continuing to be a part of our story.
“I thank God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5