Three score years ago this evening, I was born in a Chicago hospital, the first child of Bruce and Louise Toussaint, who had been married almost 5 years earlier on the south side of Chicago in Trinity Methodist Church, the same church that Janet and I took our vows in 40 years ago, in 1973. As a youngster I would never have imagined the blessed life that I have had. In fact, I can hardly believe how good the Lord has been to me and to the rest of my family. That’s not to say that we haven’t had any adversity. Both my parents are long gone and each year I am reminded that, at least in my line, I am the oldest, the patriarch if you will, and as the family grows, I can’t help but reflect on the mantle of responsibility that goes with the territory.
Being a spiritual leader of the family, and providing a stable, constant influence on the youngest members of the family is an important role. After all, in this world of unknowns and instant gratification, a little reliability and dependability is critical to the growth of the upcoming generations.
Today marks another important anniversary in my life. It is the second anniversary of this blog and for the record, this is post number 538. At almost 1000 words each, that is more than half a million words – who would have thought that I would ever have that much to say… And while I have been pretty reflective lately, in anticipation of this auspicious occasion of my 60th birthday, I have had a wonderful time the past several days with the family and close friends. It all started Sunday evening and continued through tonight.
For starters, Janet and the kids have made this special day, well, special. Cards and letters have reinforced the thoughtfulness of people and the heartfelt thanks for having spoken into their lives. And while the serious side of me generally prevails, even on birthdays, I couldn’t have even begun to anticipate all the events of today. In addition to the gifts and warm wishes this morning, the folks at the cafeteria decided that I had to loosen up a little.
When I tried to enter my office, I was greeted by more than 1100 balloons that the employees of the cafeteria had spent 6 hours blowing up for the surprise. They covered my entire office – more than 6 feet high through the entire room. I was stunned! I have had birthday balloons before, but not 1100 of them. And you know what? I loved it – it reminded me of being a little kid again. And when they finally started to fall out of my office, they were everywhere. Throughout the main office and even down the hall. I had a video conference call and decided to sit in the middle of all the balloons. Everybody on the call got a kick out of it.
And then, the cake. I get teased all the time because I carry a rather special briefcase. Well, the bakery staff and our cake decorator decided to duplicate my case as a birthday cake. I thought I was on Cake Boss. It was the most unusual cake I have ever had – the entire staff came out of the kitchen and sang Happy Birthday as they marched across the dining room to where I was having lunch. And while all this seems a little over the top, I was moved by the events of the day. First my family and then the employees of Jonathan Byrd’s.
I don’t think I have ever experienced a birthday where I was so truly impacted by all the warm wishes and efforts of people around me to make this day special. It is at times like this that I really see the goodness in people and the desire to let me know how much their lives have been impacted by God granting me the chance to be a part of their experiences. I feel terrific this evening, and even though the day is winding down, it will be quite a while before I will forget it. Thanks to all of you who have made this day so memorable; and also for being a part of my life.
I thought long and hard about the verse for tonight. I settled on the one my grandmother penned for me on my 10th birthday – 50 years ago tonight. For those of you who have read these posts from the beginning, it is also the verse I used on the very first day I started Transitions. From the writer of Hebrews, we are given something akin to a benediction. In 13:20-21, we are told, “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
There’s no doubt that God has equipped me, and each of us, in unusual ways to serve His kingdom. My encouragement this evening is to relish the gifts that God has given to you – because each of us has been created in His image. My prayer is that you will use those gifts to help people live better lives. I have devoted years of my life to that goal and today God sent me a little surprise through all the expressions of love I received. I pray the same for you. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…