Jay and I met in 1979. As unusual as this sounds it was in Panama City. No, not Florida. Panama. I was 14 years old, and he was 20 or so. I irritated him to no end, and he was just as irritated with me.
A year later we shared a room at our fellowship's campgrounds in Hot Springs, Arkansas. There we developed a friendship.
Fast forward another year, and I was a freshman in Bible college. Jay was now the youth pastor at my home church. So during my summer break, I would stop by and visit. I helped out wherever I could, and he exercised a great deal of patience with me.
From there our lives occasional crossed paths. An email or phone call. Then a few years ago he called to ask if he could speak at the church I pastor. I didn't even know that he was traveling. That night we stayed up late and caught up on years of life, marriage, raising kids, and ministry. From that point on, we never lost touch again.
A couple of years after that he and his lovely wife Kim came down and stayed with us a few days. She had never been to Florida before so we took her on the obligatory trip to the beach. They didn't want to leave.
Jay had some health challenges which involved a heart valve replacement. He and Kim went into semi-retirement and built a home in the mountain of Arkansas.
Then the phone call.
Jay had the wittiest and sharpest sense of humor of anyone I know. "Laugh till you cry" was a common phrase used to describe him. He had a powerful sense of right and wrong and wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed in. He was a mountain of a man but a gentle giant. He loved people with a strong passion and He loved Jesus even more. It wasn't uncommon for him to call me and ask me how I was doing? He would pray for me, my family and my church with great love and faith.
In life, you may have the privilege of knowing 1 or 2 people who will connect to you this way. Their voice is one of love and support. Their commitment to you is unwavering, and their life influences you from now on.
I am reminded of Pauls words in 2 Tim. 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
You fought a good fight Jay, you finished well, and you did keep the faith. See you again someday.
For those of you who are reading this, I have a question for you.
Are you a "Jay" in someone's life today?
PRAY: Dear Jesus, help me to finish my race well someday. AMEN