Sending a Piece of Home Overseas

Pray for our TroopsThanksgiving was wonderful again this year. I enjoyed the privilege of a Thanksgiving meal with all my family.

Sunday, November 20, I enjoyed eating a meal with my church family. It was great to get to talk with so many people. Our Fellowship Hall was buzzing with many conversations as people of all ages were sitting together sharing all about their lives. There was talk about the BSC rankings and if OU has a prayer of making the championship game and debates about whether LSU and Alabama should have a rematch or if someone else should get a shot at knocking off the number one team in the nation. It was just a time of enjoying one another’s company.

My second Thanksgiving meal last week was with my family. It was the first time to have Thanksgiving at my parent’s house since my brother died last year. It was weird to see one of my nephews in my brother’s traditional seat; however, he is so ornery that it was rather appropriate for him to take that chair. My son loved getting to spend several hours with his cousins. My dad and I enjoyed watching a couple of football games while mom, Shirley, and my sister sat and talked together. It was a good day!

As Christmas is rapidly approaching, we are making plans to get together with other family members who we haven’t seen in years. As a pastor I am normally in attendance of a Christmas Eve service so I am not able to go to these family parties. This year looks to be different and I am hopeful that I will be able to see aunts, uncles, and cousins I haven’t seen in years. The holidays are a wonderful time when you’re able to get together, talk, laugh, and remember days gone by.

There are many who are a part of our American family who won’t be home for the holidays.  Yesterday at church, one of our members was in attendance for the first time since March. He is on a two-week leave from Afghanistan and had just arrived home on Thanksgiving Day. He agreed to come down to the front of the sanctuary so the church family could pray for him and all our soldiers who are serving around the world. Before we gathered around him and his family to pray, I asked him a few questions about how we could best pray for our soldiers living and serving in harm’s way. He didn’t ask for a speedy end to the war, he didn’t ask for protection or assurance of a safe return home, nor did he ask for any special kind of treatment. His answer was more down to earth than I had expected. His reply was simple: “Over the last several months we have lost fourteen soldiers from the state of Oklahoma. What we could use more than anything is encouragement.”

Our soldiers know that we love them, are praying for them, support them, and are eagerly awaiting their return home to family and friends. In spite of these facts, they still need encouragement from home. They don’t want a pat on the back for doing their duty; they want word that we are lifting them up; they want pictures of the leaves changing colors; they want to know we are all still connect regardless of the miles between us.

There are many ways to get in contact with our soldiers who are serving all around the world. I would challenge you to write them a card, send them a picture of a multicolored tree in your neighborhood, give them an email address to write back and turn them into a twenty-first century pen pal, but most of all, tell them “Thank you” for their service and sacrifice. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Let them be a part of your extended family. Most of our military servants will be away from home this holiday, so let’s send a small part of home to them!

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart (Part 4)

Yesterday I shared that I began praying for my wife when I was sixteen years old.  At that same time I began praying for my future son. I remember my prayers were for a healthy child that would grow to love the Lord and become a Christian at an early age.  As time went on I began to pray for a young man who wouldn’t make the same mistakes I had.  I prayed that he wouldn’t shipwreck his faith, abandon the church, or live a life caring only for himself.

In 1985 Christian artist Wayne Watson recorded a song that forever changed the way I prayed for my future wife and son.  The song was “Somewhere in World,” and talked about a father praying for a godly wife for his son.  As I listened to the song, my prayers for William grew to include his future wife.  Even though I was only twenty, I knew that I needed to keep praying for my son. 

In 2001 Shirley and I were told we wouldn’t be able to have children without God’s intervention. We never experienced a miscarriage or the loss of a child, but I remember hurting more that day than any other in my life. As word spread through the church, many of our friends stopped by to pray with us, cry with us, and encourage us.  My parents came over that evening and I will never forget what my mom said, “Bobby, you have been praying for your kids for over twenty years.  God knows what is best and His timing is perfect. You trust Him and everything will work out just fine.” Those words of faith continued to ring in my ears for the days, weeks, months, and even years to come. Then came June 2004 when they rang loud and clear as the nurse said to us, “Mr. and Mrs. Pittenger, you have a healthy baby boy!”  After twenty-four years, God answered my prayer.

Now over seven years later, I still find myself not only praying for my son but also thanking God for blessing me with a child.  I am so grateful for God’s wonderful gift. There are so many things I never understood about God’s love me until after William was born. I never knew watching a child grow could teach me about God’s love for His creation. I am over-joyed when he is so excited that I have come home from work.  I am broken when we’ve spent the whole day together, he looks up at me and says, “Dad, wasn’t this a great day getting to be together without any interruptions!” I am humbled when I see him trying so hard to be “just like daddy.” And I am thankful that he has a hunger to learn about Jesus and His Word.  When I think how my boy energizes my heart I wonder how my longing for a loving relationship with God affects His heart.

So, this Thanksgiving season I am thankful to Almighty God who gave to me the wonderful gift of a son.  I pray that I will be equal to the task to raise him in the ways of the Lord and that he will never turn from those ways as I once did.  I pray that the little girl who will one day become his bride will come to know Jesus and pursue Him with all her heart.

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart (Part 3)

In order to help you understand why I am so thankful for the next person on my list I need to take you back to 1980.  I was sixteen years old, working at McDonalds, never missed a Sunday or Wednesday of church, and was already thinking about my future.  In particular, I was thinking about my wife!  I grew up in such a wonderful home with my parents that I couldn’t wait to have a family of my own.  So, at the age of sixteen I started praying for my wife.

At first, my prayers were as shallow as most boys my age, you know, I wanted her to be pretty, have blonde hair, blue eyes, and head over heals in love with me.  As the years began to add up and I was still single, my prayers began to change.  Oh, I still prayed for everything as before but I added that she needed to love Jesus, have a wonderful testimony, want to be on mission for the Lord, and once again be crazy about me. 

I would like to say I patiently waited for the woman who perfectly matched up to my prayers, unfortunately my fear of being alone was greater than my trust in God’s timing.  In spite of my impatience, God was faithful and continued to prepare the perfect wife for me. I had to wait thirteen years to finally meet her in my first New Testament class, but it was well worth the previous heart-break, loneliness, sadness, and seemingly unanswered prayers. I am so grateful for God’s wonderful gift of my wife Shirley. 

Because we were both college students and poorer than a church mouse we went to Subway for our first date.  We sat at a table drinking a soft-drink, eating chocolate chip cookies, and sharing our personal testimonies.  As she shared about her life before and after meeting Jesus I was stunned at how she was listing off all that I had prayed for over the last thirteen years.  It was during the time I had been praying for her that she became a Christian.  She had already been on two mission trips, one to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the other to Trinidad and Tobago. It was quite clear that night just how in love she was with Jesus.  It was so clear I convinced her marry me six months later.

Since we have been married she has taught me so much about God’s love.  Shirley loves me unconditionally in spite of all my idiosyncrasies.  I don’t have to perform, serve, or love her in any special way.  She just loves me!  She has a great desire to demonstrate her love of God by teaching others about Jesus.  She has taught toddlers, children, and youth Sunday School.  She has taught and led Children’s Choir, and has even been willing to do secretarial work for me as long as it wasn’t a permanent job.  Without a doubt I am the second man in her life; which is exactly what I was praying for all the way back in 1980.

So, today I wanted you to know how thankful I am for my wife.  She truly is an answer to prayer and a gift from my Father in heaven.  I love you Shirley!

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart (Part 2)

Yesterday I shared with you how grateful I am for my LOBC church family.  Today, I want to talk about the two people who mean the world to me—my parents.

As far back as I can remember my parents have been teaching me about Jesus. Every evening we would turn off the T.V. and have a family time of Bible study and prayer.  They simply sat us down and read the Bible with my brother, sister, and I.  They made sure we understood that God’s love for us would never end and that He would meet all our needs.  After Bible study, we would say our prayers together.  My parents didn’t make us learn prayers that sounded all “churchy.”  They told us just to talk honestly to God sharing our needs, fears, concerns, but mostly to thank, praise, and worship Him.

Another lesson they taught me was responsibility.  I had chores that were my responsibility, and if I didn’t do them, they wouldn’t get done.  I was to complete my chores in the proper amount of time and with the right kind of attitude.  Trust me, it never paid to complain about my chores (I’ll let you figure out what happened when I complained).  My chores were also to be done to the best of my ability.  I was never allowed to do a job half-way.  In today’s standards all this may sound harsh, but they taught me lessons I am still applying today.  Everyday I try to do my best at my job; taking a sick day doesn’t happen unless I just can’t get out of bed.  I believe that my work is a direct reflection of my character, so I want everyone to know me by the work I do.  Besides, one of the Bible verses my parents taught me was Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it as to the Lord Jesus.”  If I am working for Him, He knows when I am slacking off!

I also learned about commitment from watching my parents.  They have been married for forty-eight years.  They made a commitment to God to love each other no matter what, and they have stuck with it.  They have had lots of difficulties throughout the years, but they never gave up.  Through financial struggles, sickness, family loss, crippling injuries, and even getting older they have managed to stay together and still love each other in spite of the difficulties.  Their commitment even stretched to them fulfilling a promise—they never backed out of a promise.  No matter how difficult, they always kept their word.

The greatest lesson I learned from my parents is to just be myself.  Mom and Dad never tried to act like someone they weren’t.  They have always been down-to-earth and were never ashamed of who they were.  They never looked down on others because they had less, nor did they envy others who had more.  They were always happy for those who were blessed with more and were willing to help those who had less.  They taught me that it is okay to be Bob Pittenger.

So today, I want to honor my mom and dad.  I am so thankful that in God’s divine plan He allowed me to be the son of Bob and Geri Pittenger!  Mom and Dad I love you and want to thank you for everything you have taught me over the years!

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart

“Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God has done…” Every Thanksgiving I think about this wonderful old hymn and try to think specifically about the blessings from God.  With that in mind let me share a few of the blessings that have meant the most to me this year.

First off, I am so thankful for my church family.  On more than one occasion this year I have watched as they demonstrated the love of Christ to others in need. They have taken meals to someone who was recovering from surgery or to a family who had just lost a loved one. They have helped some of the senior adults by mowing their lawns, cutting wood, and repairing things around the house.  We’ve even had a couple of members give a car to someone in need.

They also reached out to our community to make a difference. For example, they adopted an elementary school here in town and provided school supplies for all the teachers; cooked hot dogs for the parents, students, and teachers during the “Meet the Teacher” night; as well as giving each child a back-pack.  When the movie “Courageous” came out, they raised money to rent out two theaters and gave away over 400 tickets so people could enjoy the movie for free.

They also focused on people outside our community. They collected items for newborns and donated them to the Hope Pregnancy Center.  They blessed the Owasso Home for Children with money to buy back-to-school clothing. They sent money to Samaritan’s Purse to provide goats, chickens, and even dig a well in a poor community overseas.

There are way too many things this loving family has done this year for me to mention them all; however, let me tell about my favorite. Each year, we have a church Thanksgiving meal the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  We invite the community to come and celebrate the holiday with us.  Afterward, we give needy families a basket with everything they will need for a decent Thanksgiving meal.  It is always heart warming to see our church family sitting with and getting to know the many visitors we have in attendance.  It is equally special to see the gratitude on the faces of those who bless us by receiving a basket.

Living Oaks Baptist Church is filled with kind people who just want to make a difference.  They want people to experience first-hand the love of Christ Jesus.  They want them to know that once you enter into a relationship with Him your life will never be the same. They love because Jesus first loved them!

In just a few weeks I will be celebrating seven years as the pastor of this wonderful church.  It is privilege to be a part of such a wonderful family.  I can not begin to tell you of all the ways they have blessed me.  They have been there during terrible losses, great pain and suffering, discouragement, as well as the times of celebration.  They have shown over and over again that they are Jesus’ disciples by the way they love one another and by the way they love me!

So, the first blessing for which I am thankful that I want to share with you is the people who make up Living Oaks Baptist Church.  Thank you LOBC!  I love you and I am eternally grateful that you allow me to be your pastor, brother in Christ, and your friend!