When Janet and I were dating in Chicago, we loved to go out and get pizza. Usually deep dish Chicago style up in the northern suburbs (think Gulliver’s) or downtown at Pizzeria Uno or Due… Malnatti’s was also around, primarily in the northwest suburbs at that time.
Way back in the day, years before we were dating, our parents would spend New Year’s Eve together (they were best friends), alternating homes each year. Then, things eventually changed, Janet and I were married – and started a family. Our youngest daughter, Jill, was born on January 1st so we even had a New Year’s Eve in Hinsdale Hospital one year.
Things changed again as Jill got older. Janet and I started going out for pizza as a New Year’s Eve tradition more than 20 years ago. In fact, I earned my first doctorate on December 15, 2005. We were almost destitute from all the expenses and I figured that I would get a church or that some other pathway would open up that would allow me to provide for our family. Well, nothing much happened…
It’s important to know that we thought it was a divine mandate that I attend seminary. It was tough on the family but it is what we thought God wanted us to do. That December 31st, a Saturday, we went to Uno’s here on the north side of Indianapolis and sat in a booth ordering our usual New Year’s Eve pizza dinner. Things were tough.
In all honesty, I think I was a little mad at God. We had struggled for years, been obedient to His will and now we were having trouble even making our monthly bills, including our mortgage. We were going to pray about the new year when we arrived home, but instead, we decided to pray right there in our booth at Uno’s.
It was a fervent prayer asking, maybe even bordering on demanding, what God wanted us to do now that I had finished my first doctorate. We were out of money, living hand to mouth, after having had years of corporate success and then the lean years of seminary. It was the toughest financial place that we had ever been in. We finished our prayer and went home, waiting on God for an answer.
The next day, January 1, 2006, was a SUNDAY… The phone rang and it was a company wanting to meet with me about working with them on writing curriculum. Remember, this was a Sunday – New Year’s Day! Who does business that day? The meeting was to take place several days later north of Chicago and I really didn’t know how we would even pay for the hotel for the overnight stay. Janet, ever faithful, said that it would all work out.
I drove almost four hours to the meeting, in the lobby of a Courtyard Marriott, where I sat with the two owners of the business. Within ten minutes, they offered me more money than we had seen in years. There is no question that this was a divine intervention. Absolutely no question about it…
They asked to pay me a retainer whether I worked or not. It turned out that I helped write curriculum which I delivered to a company in Cincinnati and that was it, pretty much for the year – six days of work with full pay for the year… I was willing to work but they just wanted that particular project.
Anyway, that year got me started after seminary. Things grew from there. I am convinced that it all started by being obedient to God and offering that sincere prayer at Uno’s on New Year’s Eve… And since then, a benchmark moment in our lives, Janet and I have turned over these issues to the Lord and depended on His provision. He hasn’t let us down. In fact, there is no way that we could have come through all the financial hardship without God’s hand all over us.
We went almost ten years with me studying in seminary. During those years, things were very lean. Yet now, almost twenty years later, we have been blessed beyond measure. Our ministry is helping folks, I have written this blog for almost thirteen years and I still consult to businesses across the land. God has been good to us.
So once again it’s New Year’s Eve – the eighteenth anniversary of that fateful night eating pizza and praying in public… And each year we remember…
Our verse for tonight is one that affirms that prayer works! The apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, tells us, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
My encouragement this evening is that we know that prayer works. Most of us, if not all of us, have experienced answered prayers. We certainly have. My prayer is that as the new year arrives within an hour, we will re-double our efforts in 2024 to lean on the Lord for guidance and wisdom concerning His will for our lives. And please don’t forget to pray! Have a great YEAR in the Lord, grace and peace… Happy New Year! And Happy Birthday, Jill! We love you!