I’ve just returned to Oklahoma City after four days in Anderson, Indiana. Anderson is not a vacation spot, nor is it a place people usually travel to unless they have friends or family there. For the sake of clarification, Anderson is located on I-69 between Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne. It is a beautiful area of the country.
I made a point of driving the back roads instead of the interstate, so I could see the gorgeous farmlands, large trees, and honestly, a very wonderful, pretty, friendly area of the country.
For me, one of the most attractive areas of Anderson is the campus of Anderson University. It is truly one of the most stunning college campuses you’ll find anywhere. The buildings are incredible. The surrounding landscape of the university is the envy of anyone who enjoys large trees, flowers, and the famous “valley” located right down the middle of the campus.
Growing up, my family went to Anderson every June for the annual convention of the Church of God. It was the yearly gathering of church leaders and laypersons from all over the country and world. It was, in many ways, a reunion. Pastors and their families found their way to the Holiday Inn where all the preacher’s kids enjoyed the pool, had fun hanging out, and, on some occasions, started a romance we were sure would last forever.
We had no idea what life would really be like when we were no longer 11 or 12 years old. Our family usually arrived on Monday and left on Saturday. With Dad being a pastor, a return home was necessary so he could speak in the Sunday morning services at our church in Dayton, Ohio, just 90 miles from the university campus.
It has been my privilege to return to Anderson University through the years as a member of the Board of Trustees, an occasional speaker, or an encourager to a local church. Last week, I spent four days in Anderson fulfilling my role as an Elder at the Madison Park Church of God. This is a great church with a wonderful pastor and ministry team.
The Elder board is comprised of people every pastor dreams of having on their own church board. One of them is H. L. Baker who has been a presence in my life dating all the way back to my freshman year at Anderson University.
On Sunday during my trip, I saw two of my great friends and former bosses at Gaither Music, Steve Williamson and Bob Rist. These two men and their wives played a significant role in my life as a college student. Steve oversees the worship ministries of the church.
Then there was Ann Smith, 93 years young and a frequent speaker to audiences young and not so young. She allows us to be inspired by her wisdom and application of God’s Word. She and her husband were missionaries in Japan and Korea. Once back in the states, she worked at Anderson University before she retired and later became a member of the Board of Trustees.
She will be traveling to China in a few weeks to speak to young leaders who are making a difference in far away places in this world. She, too, has a way with words. She has a way of taking you into the Scriptures and living in the story.
Friday evening, I was privileged to spend a few hours with lifelong friend Gloria Gaither. (Forgive my name-drop. I’m truly not trying to impress you, but she is impressive!) Most of you know Gloria to be one of the greatest writers of our time. She and Bill brought Christian music to the masses starting in the early sixties, and they are still inspiring thousands of people in concerts many weekends of the year. She spent three hours helping me through my recent difficulty of finding time to write or manage my creative thoughts.
I could go on. There were some people I’d grown up with in Dayton. A few had served on our church staff when my dad was the pastor. Other friends were involved in the Anderson University family when I was a student. It was a rich and rewarding few days.
When I got back to my hotel late Sunday evening, I had a few hours before I drove to the Indianapolis airport to head back to OKC. I just sat there and reflected on the gift–or rather, gifts–that were mine during my four days in Indiana.
If I could go back to my eighteenth year on the planet, I’d tell myself to cherish the people God brought to my life and the people yet to come. (Maybe the next blog post should be about the people who’ve blessed me and shaped me in the Oklahoma City chapter.)
I wish someone would have told me that the special people in my life would be forever etched into the fabric of my life. What if someone said, “Marty, don’t forget the future”?
Remember that every encounter with a life-giving person is one you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Remember to always cherish the friends who stuck around when you were a jerk. Remember there is a future and some things in life will not be forgotten. The good memories will most always involve people. Don’t miss a chance to thank someone for their friendship. Remember to be the kind of person these folks have been to you. You, too, can have an impact and leave a legacy of kindness and grace to everyone you encounter. Remember when you have an opportunity to be a friend it will have an impact on someone’s future.
Don’t forget the future.
In the Old Testament book of Joshua, the fourth chapter gives us a picture of how the Israelites celebrated and commemorated the miracle of crossing the Jordan river “on dry ground.” When they finished crossing the Jordan, Joshua asked twelve men to walk back into the middle of the dry river bed and for each one to carry on their shoulders a large stone to put down in the place they would stay that night. They set up the stones as a monument, a reminder of what had just happened.
But it’s the “why” of this action that is so stunning.
In the future, when your children ask you, “What do these stones mean?” these stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever. Tell them Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground. Joshua 4:6, 7, 22
Joshua realized that something significant and miraculous had just happened, and it should never be forgotten. What a great gift for those people and their descendants.
Joshua remembered the future. We, too, should remember the future.