The title is a bit on the poetic side, but I'll chalk that up to my listening to some Irish poetry. But now to the reason for this post.
Last Thursday, I was taken with the idea of calling on a man and his wife that I had not seen in over 15 years. He was my pastor and she was his wife, of course. When I met them they were new to the ministry. That was nearly 25 years ago now. To explain what these two mean, meant, and will mean to me in the future, I'll have to explain some history, both ancient and in some cases, probably best left buried. But for you my friends, I'll dig up the bones and show you how these people helped me be who I am now, for better or worse.
It couldn't have been more than a week after he moved into his office at our church, that I dropped in to see him. On his wall he had the most unusual and curious picture that I have ever seen. It was a picture of Christ Jesus, but in a manner that I had never before seen. You see, most pictures of Jesus are very solemn affairs. He's almost always somber and in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, or merely looking up to heaven. However, in this one instance that was not what I saw. Instead of a somber Christ, what was on his wall was a pencil drawing of Jesus in a full on belly laugh. I have never been able to see that picture now or then without wanting to stare at it. It was a completely alien image of what my Lord was supposed to be.
You see, my mother was very much a Penticostal Holiness member. She was very fond of the hellfire and brimstone sermon. Quick to judge but quick to forgive, that was my mothers view of Christ. My father, on the other hand, was a lay leader in our Methodist Church. The methodist view, as I saw it at the time, was of an all loving, all concerned source of Grace, but never the less, solemn Lord Jesus. I'm not sure I even knew who he was to me, at the tender age of 15.
So, here's this picture that utterly arrests my forward movement into the room and this very blonde, very high energy man turns to me and gives me a huge smile and welcomes me in to talk. I don't now remember what he said to me, but it was the beginning of a great friendship and mentorship. Ray was probably the most approachable person I'd ever met. He and his wife both accepted me and my friends into their home as if we were nearly family. He was at the time, and still is I'm learning, a very physical individual. He would work out with me and we even went on a 4 day prayer and bible hike down in the southeast corner of Oklahoma. In the time that he was my pastor there in Carmen, Oklahoma I came to understand that that picture of the laughing Christ was how Ray saw the Lord, and tried (successfully I might add) to emulate.
Ray introduced me to a side of Christ that I'd never thought to consider. And he lived it as an example to a very confused and disfunctional kid. It is largely due to his influence that I was able to learn of my own value. For that, least of all the things he did for me, I would like to thank him. But more lasting and more important by far was that he taught me that Christ Jesus was someone with whom I had to have a personal and intimate relationship with. That I should talk with him daily and really look for his answers.
I've tried to live up to the examples that they set for me. Thank you Ray and Kathy. Your friendships mean more to me than you will ever possibly know.