Last night, I had the honor of having dinner at Tournament House, the permanent headquarters of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association (yes, the folks who do that big parade every New Year's). I was there because my wife Michelle (who's working on her PhD in Christian Worship) was one of the guest speakers at a Development function intended to say "thank you" to those who donate money to make scholarships possible.
Michelle shared some of her own story. How she had a passion for playing the flute at the age of three, and trained as a Flute Performance major at the University of Southern California School of Music (which is quite prestigious, from what I can tell). Then, while working her "day job" (since not-yet-established musicians usually have to have one to pay the bills) at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, she found her calling take a sharp turn toward theology. Enrolling at Fuller, she worked in Financial Aid and took night classes for four years to afford classes. Even that wouldn't have been enough, but she was blessed to get a scholarship that took care of most of the difference. Then, when she determined that she was being called to do PhD work as well (enabling her to combine her musical and theological gifts), she applied for several schools, and received offers of assistance that enabled her to choose the school which she determined to be the best fit for her, without worry about how she would cover the cost of tuition. She again chose Fuller, largely on the basis of her mentor, Dr. Todd Johnson. She would not have had this freedom—not only to attend, but to choose the best school to attend—if it weren't for the generosity of others.
Listening to Michelle's story—most of which I've naturally heard before—got me to thinking about the assistance I've gotten in going through college and seminary, myself. I have to confess that I've not been mindful enough of the generosity that enabled me to do those things. I haven't said "thank you" nearly enough.
And I really do have a lot to be thankful for. Not just for money that kept my educational debts lower than they might otherwise have been (indeed, enabling me to go to the institutions I've attended in the first place!), but also for some truly amazing opportunities that I would not have otherwise had. Last night was just one example. Even though I've lived in and around Pasadena for a dozen years now, I've never even imagined setting foot in the historic Tournament House. It was just a huge mansion that I might pass by on occasion as I drove on Orange Grove toward South Pasadena. I got to go upstairs and see pictures of all the people who have served as Grand Marshals (including personal hero Fred Rogers, who shared the honor with Bill Cosby and Art Linkletter in 2003, just a month before his passing. Even though there were three Grand Marshals that year, I like to point out that only Mister Rogers got to do the coin toss at the Rose Bowl game!), and stood next to a cabinet filled with Emmy awards given for Parade broadcasts. I haven't really done anything to deserve being here (unless you count marrying well, and even on that I'd say that itself is something to be grateful for more than something I did anything to deserve). I've been given a gift.
I don't pretend to say that everything is going "great" these days. These are still times of struggle and stress. Yet I've been blessed, too. I don't know what God is doing with my life, but I am glad for the reminder that God is doing something. I'd like to take the opportunity to say "thank you," both to God, and to all those people that God has used to help me get through my life thus far. I hope that I will be more conscious about such blessings in the future.