We were in a booth by a window eating a simple meal. I’ll never forget it. David was fully present as he always was. Then he shared what I wasn’t expecting to hear.
David George had been my pastor the first five years I lived in Green Bay. He and his wife, Jayne, had become important to me for many reasons. Watching them raise their four young children impressed much upon my heart and mind that I still pass on to others today. He was the best pastor-teacher and pastor-shepherd I had ever experienced and I marveled that he could do both so well.
But, now we were in Roseville, California, where they had relocated to plant a church. Because we had worked well together in Green Bay, and we respected each other’s abilities, we had talked about me relocating there and helping them with their new church. I was honored and excited about the possibilities.
Across an ordinary meal on an ordinary day that I discovered later would be anything but, David said “no” to our idea that I move there. I don’t remember him explaining much about his reasoning. Maybe he did and I just couldn’t absorb it. Honestly, it’s one of the toughest conversations I’ve ever been a part of. David knew. He was gentle and unwavering. Smiling, as always. I remember his compassion.
David was willing to speak the truth in love even when it was hard to hear. He knew me well enough to have earned the right. I knew he genuinely cared. He said it. He showed it. He knew me well enough to understand God’s best for me even when I didn’t. To believe for me what I couldn’t believe for myself.
It was all possible because he was so aware of the Holy Spirit’s leading. He was so in tune with God. He was willing to say “no” at a significant time in my life when I wanted him to say “yes.” His obedience to God’s leading and selflessness are among the reasons I am who I am today, and I am where I am today. I’ll be forever grateful.
This wasn’t an ordinary day. This was a God-ordained, future-oriented, most-challenging day. Because God directed David to say “no” and he didn’t get in His way, I was able to say “yes” to the bigger call. My move to Fort Worth to establish Celebrate Kids was made possible by David’s push. Rather than my ministering God’s ways to the people of his church, I think he saw something bigger, and he didn’t want to get in the way. This is so rare.
Celebrate Kids, Inc., exists because David said, “You can do this.” Partly because of him, his confidence in me, and his prayers uttered 30 years ago that I would serve God well, I do what I do. I’m so privileged! I will keep doing it. David will forever be one of the reasons I will. His influence will not die. It is still alive, as is He. Very!
Shockingly on Friday, David transitioned from life here with his family and others who loved him to life eternal with His Lord. Of course, Jesus loves him more than we ever could. With others, I rejoice that David is free of pain, worshiping, and in his forever home. Yet, I grieve especially for his wife, four children, and their spouses and children.
David was about my age and passed away from an extremely rare and aggressive malignant tumor in his pancreas just one month after the diagnosis. I’ve been reminded that God orders our steps and plans our days. This has been hard.
I hope all of us who were influenced by David will continue to pass on what we gained from our friendship and his ministry. For me, this includes:
- Love your spouse well. Prioritize your spouse in time, deed, and word. Hold hands until the end.
- Parent well. Comfort your children. Be their solid rock until they know Christ personally and then continue to be a strong source of security. Know your children. Love them for who they are. Help them discover their gifts and then sacrifice so they can develop them.
- Love without preference.
- Serve those in need.
- Be kind, compassionate, other-centered, gracious, …. Christlike!
- Laugh with others. Always.
- Show up. Again and again.
- Be fully present.
- Relate to others so they know you want to be with them and as if they’re the only ones in the room.
- Get to know others well enough that you earn the right to speak the truth in love.
- Trust God in “good” times and “bad.” If we have faith in God for “this,” we must have it for “that.” If we believe God directs “this” part of our lives, we must believe He directs “that” part.
- Love the Word and talk about it so others know you do and so they will love it, too.
- Teach the Word. Be clear and relevant. Rely on it in your own life.
- Tell others about Jesus. Don’t complicate things.
I’m sure I’ll think of more things as I process memories and grief. I’ve also been reminded anew that we all benefit from getting close enough to a pastor or other spiritual leader that he or she can tell us the truth, and we’ll know it’s good and good for us. Do you know someone like this? Do you seek his or her wisdom and insights? Are you able to trust and follow through? It’s conversations with people like this that can catapult us into the next phase of God’s goodness to us and through us. Seek them out.