So, my dad just passed away last night (May 24th). It was not sudden or unexpected, but as many of you know, it’s still a significant moment. We had our opportunities to say goodbye, and thank him for his life and influence. He slipped into the presence of God while we were praying for him.
He was a very kind, gracious and patient man. He was able to lead me and his best friend to the Lord and influence lots of college kids when he and my mom were sponsors to the college class at our church in Oregon. I grew up around college kids – they were always over at our house, at all hours of the day and night. Dad’s graciousness and acceptance was like a magnet to others, especially younger people who had not seen or experienced God’s grace. He didn’t grow up in an environment of grace or support, but somehow (the grace that he found in Jesus), he was able to turn the corner and set off on a different path as he led our family. As many of you know, it’s not easy to do that. In fact, without the power of God such change might just be superficial – but through the power of redemption and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can change.
Here’s an excerpt from a letter from Dan, who was one of the kids in the youth group that my dad and mom impacted:
The kids in the group made it clear to me that I was an outsider and that I was not acceptable to them. By the end of my ninth-grade year, I was probably the loneliness kid in Corvallis.
No one would have known it because I had learned early in life to bury my feelings. I knew I was a survivor and that I would make it even if no one liked me. I built a wall of indifference around me to protect myself, but the loneliness was still reality for me. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that God loved me.
Then came a life-changing experience. I was invited to the First Baptist youth group. I went--and my life was never the same. That is where I met Betty Jo, Liz, and the two of you. For the first time in my life I felt accepted. I probably spent more time at your house than my own. You taught me how to play ping pong and tennis, you taught me how to drive, you taught me how to have fun. As I look back at those times, they were among the happiest in my life because of you.
As I sit here, tears come to my eyes when I think of you. Tears of joy for the kindness you showed me. I thought then and think now that you are two of the loveliest people I have ever met in my life. You always had a smile. You always had something good to say. You were always full of life. I loved to be around you. I could never understand why you were so good to me, but I did not care. I accepted your kindness with gratitude--but I never told you.
Now, some 29 years later, as I have been forced to analyze my life, I realize again what an important role you played in it. I want you to know how grateful I am to God for the love, acceptance, and kindness you showed me. It was the first time in my life that I felt someone liked me. I want to say "Thank You!"
Powerful words of powerful influence made possible by a powerful and personal God!
Would there be someone in your life to whom you could write and express thanks for what God has done in your life through them?