Giving Thanks With a Grateful Heart

Linda_2014When we receive gifts, we write thank you notes. So I must.

I am thankful to the Lord for placing me here “for such a time as this.” When Commissioner Joe Noland came to me and said he wanted a magazine that was a cross between People and Guideposts, I audaciously said, “I can do that.” He asked for a budget by morning. I’d never created such a budget before, but I did the math, and almost instantly, the funding was approved. It has enabled us, from the beginning, to use high–quality photography. That is no small thing; we live in a visual age in which people might not get the message if they aren’t drawn to it in a visual way.

I am thankful for the staff of Priority! Peter Hanke, our first art director, who was with us for eight years of the magazine’s 15–year run, was a truly larger–than–life man who suffered great agony in body and spirit until his death just after Christmas in 2007. I often felt that my ministry to Peter was as important as my work editing the magazine.

I am thankful for Bob Mitchell, who has been there since issue two. Inevitably, Bob would come back from an interview and say, “This is really a good one.” And it was. Because Bob loves to “tell the story” of the Gospel by telling others’ stories.

I am thankful for Warren Maye. He is editor of Good News!, but he has also contributed articles for Priority! And with his designer’s eye and spiritual sensitivity, he would often call our attention to important issues.

I am thankful to our brilliant design team, with Keri Johnson (no relation!) at its heart. I never ceased to be amazed at how she and her team can bring a story to life.

I am thankful for my beloved, Lynell Johnson. He provided expert editorial advice, but more importantly, he upheld me with prayer and encouragement, even in the most difficult of days, such as when we were putting together “9/11: We Remember” (Fall 2011). That issue was wrenching emotionally, and I needed all the help I could get.

I am thankful for my friends in other territories who helped us “cover the country” from 2004 on. The indefatigable Beth Kinzie from Central was always one step ahead of me in providing story ideas and in generously allowing her staff to write the articles. For many years, Major Frank Duracher from the South would send me a baseball–related list of story ideas (“on deck,” you get the idea), and he would follow through and do the articles I selected. From the West, Sue Schumann–Warner often provided article ideas, and we were pleased that she agreed to tell the story of her struggle with “the big C” (Fall 2005).

I am thankful for faithful contributors. There have been so many, but two really stand out: Bob Thomson and Daryl Lach. Bob is a retired commissioner, so when he first proposed writing an article for Priority!, I wondered whether he would be amenable to editing. I need not have worried. Bob was grateful to have someone who could make his writing better, and he was prolific in his suggestions for articles. Daryl, a Salvationist through and through and a nurse by profession, brought a unique perspective and dramatic style to everything he wrote. For me, his most memorable feature was “Caring for Mom” (Winter 2010), a touching yet humor–filled article about being a caregiver for his mom, who is afflicted with dementia.

I am thankful for the deep and moving conversations I have had with people as the Christ in me reached out to the Christ in the person I was interviewing. Often, interviews resulted in tears—the subject’s as well as mine.

I am thankful for editorial freedom. Every commissioner, from Joe Noland to Lawrence Moretz (who was territorial leader for eight years of Priority’s existence) to Israel Gaither to Steve Hedgren to Barry Swanson, has given us the freedom to choose the stories we would write—and they have given us deep support.

I am thankful for longevity in my position. If I were an officer, I wouldn’t likely have been able to “minister in place” for 15 years.

I am thankful for being able to pursue our mission and for the privilege of showcasing our Army in all its fabulous diversity. We were able to give first–class treatment to every story, whether it was about a celebrity like Jeff Foxworthy or an addict who turned her life around.

I am thankful for the help of the Holy Spirit. Countless times, as I have been struggling with an article or an issue, I have turned to the Spirit and He has always supplied what I needed.

I am grateful for our readers, who “get it.” In a recent letter, Captain Marion Platt III, youth secretary in Florida, wrote about the Winter 2014 edition, “I don’t know what the formula was—but [the issue] was very well put together. What a perfect blend of uplifting and inspirational testimony from around the Army world! The stories, the information, the print quality … everything was excellent and God–honoring. Moreover, it served to reaffirm my calling to ministry in my church.”

I am so thankful that we were able to do that for even one person. My cup runs over with gratitude for a ministry that has touched people’s hearts and lives for 15 years. For that I thank You, Jesus!

Linda D. Johnson

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