The older I get, the more I realize there are folks who have invested in my life whom I know I could never repay.
When my new best friend, Pan (don't dare call her "Pam") invited me to church where her daddy was the preacher, I went. As far as I remember, the first time I heard him share the Gospel, I committed my life to Christ. It didn't matter that I was only nine and didn't fully understand. I knew I needed forgiveness, and Brother Jackson told me where to find it.
Almost every weekend I could be found at Pan's house. I remember hearing her mother's lovely soprano voice as I sat beside her in the church pew, not to mention the dozens of times she shushed two giggly young girls. After Sunday service it was off to her house for lunch where something delicious simmered in the crock pot.
The Jackson family read a scripture before every meal, and as the guest, I often got the honor. I don't remember what the verse said on that particular Sunday, but I will never forget pronouncing "Psalms" --a word I'd never seen before-- as "P-salms" with full emphasis on the P. Mrs. Jackson, of course, remained composed. Pan thought it was hilarious, but all Brother Jackson had to do was raise a bushy eyebrow to silence her. I have often wondered if he, too, had to contain his laughter.
Because of the Jackson family, I was in church "every time the door was open" as my mother used to say. Sunday school, service and puppet team year round; VBS and Camp Good News every summer. The songs, the stories, the teaching and preaching are all still with me today.
Then there is Brother Mark, my youth pastor from middle and high school. With his preaching aimed directly at the teenage heart, he addressed topics I had never heard before-- "How to Raise Your Parents", for instance.
Brother Mark's approach to dating was also new to me. "God has someone picked out just for you," he told our group of wide-eyed girls. "Make a list of what you want in your husband, and don't settle for anything less." Good thing I listened, too. How else could I have found a man who was willing to have ten kids?
And now that I have those ten kids, I often think about the precious people who influenced me during those years. I have tried to swing my doors wide open to my kids' friends like the Jackson's did for me.
And like Brother Mark, I want so much to make Christ real and relevant not only to my own teenagers but to their friends as well.
And to those folks along the way I say thanks. Thanks for taking the time to invest in me. The way you spoke into my life when I was young has stuck with me, changed me and sustained me.
I can never repay you, I know, except by passing it on.
One of the songs that is still with me--
Pass It On
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That's how it is with God's Love,
Once you've experienced it,
Your spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.
What a wondrous time is spring,
When all the tress are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That's how it is with God's love,
Once you've experienced it.
You want to sing, it's fresh like spring,
You want to pass it on.
I wish for you my friend
This happiness that I've found;
You can depend on God
It matters not where you're bound,
I'll shout it from the mountain top -
I want the world to know
The Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on.