Within the span of a month or so, I have traveled to Tupelo, Mississippi, Tyler, Texas and Huntsville, Alabama—to either preside over or participate in a funeral. All three funerals involved very significant people in my life. Needless to say, I have spent some time in reflection as I have considered the impact each of these folks has had on my life.
In mid-December, Cindy and I drove to Tupelo and I conducted the funeral of my good friend, Oliver Tann. Oliver died of a brain tumor at 53 years of age. He and his wife, Terry, had been members of our church in Huntsville but had moved back home to Mississippi shortly after Cindy and I moved to Arlington. We were close friends with the Tann family. Both Oliver and Terry were (she still is) great athletes and just great church members.
We played ball together on various softball and basketball teams together. We coached together, played golf together and just did life together. Oliver and I ate lunch together each week and shared life experiences as friends. An aggressive brain tumor took him prematurely from this life and his wife and two sons are now picking up the pieces and planning a new future as a family.
I began my new year in Tyler, Texas. Cindy and I drove over to Tyler so I could participate in Paul Powell’s funeral at Green Acres Baptist Church. I have already written a tribute to Paul in an earlier column. There is no way to exaggerate his influence on me and his impact on my life. What an honor to stand at the pulpit in his funeral and share a few stories and celebrate his life.
I am typing this article on a plane as I am making my way back home from Huntsville, Alabama. Today I had the distinct privilege of preaching at Dr. Ralph Langley’s funeral. Dr. Langley was the long-time Pastor-Emeritus at FBC Huntsville. He was a dear friend to me and a wonderful mentor in ministry. He encouraged me as a pastor and was a role model for me for almost 30 years in ministry. I could never repay Ralph for all he meant to me—again, I was honored to help celebrate his life today.
Three men. Three great men. Oliver was 53, Paul was 83 and Ralph was 94. Each of them lived those years well. I am so glad my life intersected each of theirs. I learned some valuable lessons from all three of them. Indeed, my life is richer because of them.
So, I have reflected upon a few things as of late. For example, life is meant to be lived! Each of these men—two preachers and a layman—lived life to the fullest. That is how it is supposed to be. I would encourage you. LIVE! Engage in life. Take some risks. Invest yourself. Be passionate about something.
These men also encouraged me to follow Jesus! Each of these men were strong followers of Jesus. They made me a better disciple as I observed their faith in Jesus. The Jesus Way is truly the way that leads to life. He has invited us to an abundant and meaningful life. I hope you are following hard after Jesus. It is a true adventure!
Life is about people! Ralph Langley never met a stranger. Oliver Tann made time for people. Paul Powell always cared about you. Life is about people. God has created us for relationship. Let Him use you in your relationships with people. Invest in people. Give yourself to others. Demonstrate your care and concern in tangible ways.
Life is short! It is too short to stay mad, grow embittered, nurse hurts, plot revenge, remain aloof, procrastinate----or whatever else we do that is harmful to us.
I have much more to say. But it will wait. My heart is full. I have been blessed by so many. In particular---Oliver, Paul and Ralph. Godspeed to all of you.