It was usually on Thursday, occasionally on Wednesday, but almost every week for close to two years, I met with Richard to talk about life. For the first year we were working on my ordination papers, but in the second year it was because I realized how much I desperately needed his input in my life.
I loved showing up and his and Mariertta’s house. There was almost always a glass of juice waiting for me, and undoubtedly, a plate of freshly baked goodness would be on the coffee table. I have no idea how Richard always remained so thin living in that house; I gained weight just showing up once a week!
My time’s with Richard (and Marietta!) were so rewarding to me, and Richard claimed he got something out of them, too. If he wasn’t such a man of integrity, I’d think he was lying, but that was on of the things about Richard -- he was ever a learner, as much as a teacher. I enjoyed my time with him each week and have such fond memories of him. Memories of his powerful prayers for me and my family. Memories of Richard’s great wisdom in board meetings. Memories of Richard praying for me, and praying a moving blessing over my life, just three days before he passed away. And I remember seeing Marietta next to him the day he passed away as his breathless body lay in the hospital bed, but knowing that his spirit was alive in heaven.
This August, it will be five years since Richard graduated to glory, and five years since I lost a dear friend and mentor. Richard is one of the men I want to live my life like (a list that includes my own father and a short list of other close friends). I think we all need a model who shows us what the Overboard Life is like, and Richard was that for me. Here are five ways I want my life to be like Richard’s.
- Richard was the most humble man I knew. I’ve never known anyone as humble as Richard. Few men had the Bible knowledge he did, yet he never used it to make you feel stupid or silly. He would take notes whenever you spoke, he would shake his head and smile while saying, “I’ve never thought of it like that...” or he’d gently correct you without making you feel like an idiot. He knew so much, shared it so graciously and was ever a learner.
- Richard had no social boundaries. There wasn’t a soul on planet earth who wouldn’t get genuine friendship from Richard. One of my favorite pictures of him comes from our time at Bethany in Salem. It shows Richard, ever the conservative, dressed in his coat and tie with his precisely combed hair, praying with a tall, hairy, disheveled biker in a leather biker vest, hat and ratty jeans. Richard didn’t see external differences like everyone else did. More people ended up staying at Bethany because Richard took them out to lunch, met with them after church, called on their house, prayed for them at the hospital, than maybe any other reason.
- Richard prayed with passion. When Richard prayed, I felt ushered into the thrown room of God. He prayed with faith. He prayed believing that God was powerful and able to answer any request. And He prayed for people every day, praying through the church directory regularly and always remembering requests. He often would start our meetings by asking me, “How did that [insert request here] work out last week?” I’d scratch my head and try to remember what he was talking about? I had given him the request and I had forgotten about it already. Not Richard, he kept praying.
- Richard was a maker, not a peace keeper. Some people (you seconds borns better pay attention here!) love to try and keep the peace. They don’t like tension or arguing or people mad at each other, so they try to keep the peace by constantly making sacrifices, by selling out their own convictions in order to try and appease someone else. Richard was a peace maker. His goal wasn’t to keep the peace, he wanted to help create it. Richard sought to solve problems according to Matthew 18. Richard wanted to follow the great Scripture teaching: “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.” He didn’t like to fight, but he wasn’t afraid to if that’s what was needed for peace. He didn’t like being at odds with others, but he would if peace was at stake. I’ve never known anyone who worked so passionately for peace and unity.
- Richard was able to change. I think Richard was in his mid-to-late 80s when he went home with Jesus. Some people at his age, can become a thorn in the flesh of a younger pastor, who is trying to lead a church or elder board toward change. (Don’t get me wrong, not all change is good, and sometimes it’s them youngins’ that cause all the problems!) I know for a fact Richard didn’t like all the changes that came to our church, and he sometimes shared his opinions confirming that. But he fought for peace and was willing to see change happen so that others could be reached with the Gospel. Richard accepted a different style of music and he embraced, and even became a proponent, of a new kind of preaching style our pastor introduced. He led the church in a leadership structure change and when some of his generation spoke up agains the change, Richard would confront them and challenge them to follow suit. Richard was able to change.
I hope my next 40 years look similar to how Richard lived in this phase of his life. I long to be humble, to reach across any social barriers, to pray with passion and faith, to seek peace while being able to embrace an every changing culture with the never-changing message of Jesus Christ.
Do you have people that you are modeling your life after? Can you look around and see others who have qualities that you would like? People who are living Overboard that can help show you the way? If not, I want to encourage you to find friends who are. Visit your church (find a church!), search online or just ask someone you know is already out of the boat! You need someone to help you grow, and I hope someone else could get help from you.
Richard made me a better father, pastor, preacher, husband and friend. I’m indebted to him. And knowing what I know about him, he would want me to do the same for someone else. Thank you Richard for leaving a legacy with so many, including me.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!