What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.
The people you might expect to appear on this list aren’t the ones that I intend to mention. Yet I’ve been blessed to know some incredible people who have blessed my life: my youth pastor Phil Dietz, Pastors James Merritt or W.A. Criswell, professors LeRoy Metts or Robert Brewer, missionaries Roger Reeck or Gary Frazier, mentors and giants of the faith Sumner Wemp or Michael Guido. Those and others have influenced me in the past.
But there are some other people that I might have mentioned before who have made a difference in my life. You may know one or more of these people because you know me or have been part of my life, or you might not know any of them. Yet they did something that left a mark on my life.
Libby was my first babysitter, and she made this awesome chocolate cake that I still remember today. She also taught my class at church. I can remember sitting in her lap at her house when I was very young and talking about Jesus. She continued to pour into my life and to love my kids until she passed away a few years ago.
Ted was my next-door neighbor with I was 9 or so. He could do anything, or so I thought. He never talked down to me or told me to leave. He spent time with the little kid that was always asking questions and even took me to get ice cream when something cool happened in our lives.
Harry attended the church I was part of when I was 11 or 12. I remember searching for him each Sunday to give him a hug. It wasn’t until a few years later that he shared how that made a difference in his life. Harry T is now one of the people that prays for me every week. This man reminds me that small things are important, and we must begin with prayer.
Trisha was my 3rd grade teacher better known as Mrs. Elliott. She is my friend to this day, but way back then this lady wouldn’t let me settle for mediocre. She pushed, encouraged and taught me to reach higher and to stretch my mind and my heart. I’ve told her many times the difference she has made, but I honestly don’t think I’d be who I am without Mrs. Elliott.
Pastor Jerry was in his 70’s or 80’s when I met him. He gave me the opportunity to preach a revival at the church he was pastor of, 11st Street Baptist in Tulsa, when I was in high school. He also gave me some of the first books that started my library. This older saint sat with me, spoke to me and listened to me when few others had time for a young preacher boy.
Cornelia rented me a room in my early years of college. She was well into her 80’s and a giant in the faith known by the people of her church. This lady prayed for me and believed me when I thought that I could get along well by myself. Her love has always stuck with me.
John wasn’t a member of the church when I became the pastor, but he and his wife joined shortly after I arrived. He was often the voice of reason and even the voice of challenge. His faith and spiritual wisdom kept me from trouble many times. His voice was something that I longed to hear as I was down, discouraged or searching. At times we didn’t agree, but he changed my life. He could read people like few others.
There are many more people that I could tell you about: my 8th grade Bible teacher, my dad and mom, one of the pastors I worked for in Georgia, my wife and others.
What I have learned from these people and others is that we can make a difference by doing small things. Stop to pray with someone when it is needed. Listen to someone when they need to share. Give a hug or walk with a person in a tough situation. Who is it in your life today that needs a few minutes of your time and a small piece of your heart?
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees.