I've thought about several ways to begin this post:
I thought about telling how much Melinda and I enjoy going to the mall and observing the activity... people watching, as it were, when the objects of our attention are unaware of our gaze.
I considered telling about my "schizophrenic" iPod and the random songs it throws at me on occasion, one recent example being the 1984 hit "(I Always Feel Like) Somebody's Watching Me"
I even considered using the lyrics of a children's song to introduce my thoughts this morning...
...but none of those really seemed to work for me. You see, I received an email this morning that I knew was on its way. A friend of mine back in Texas died last night. His name was Theiss Jones, and he had an amazing influence on my life and ministry, though until recently, he never knew it. Theiss served as the Minister of Music at Temple's First Baptist Church for 30 years before his retirement a few years back.
In Baptist life, social circles tend to overlap frequently, so Theiss and I crossed paths on many occasions in the 12 years I served in that city. I observed in him a genuine love for God and a strong commitment to the people in his care. Theiss was the first Music Minister I'd ever met who had a pastor's heart. That affected me profoundly. His example challenged me as a young minister to pour my life into serving God's people... to prioritize my work around the opportunities God gives me to minister to others... to put more emphasis on building the kingdom than I do on building a music program. I'm a better servant of God because of his friendship.
The reason I choose to share this so publicly today is this: For many years he had no idea how he had changed me. I was watching, listening and learning, but only in the context of our relationship. There was never a formal venue in which I learned the things he taught me. We simply worked together on a few city-wide worship projects, sang together in a quartet formed from within the local Kiwanis Club, and shared an occasional cup of coffee. To my knowledge he was unaware that he was teaching me how to be a better Christ follower.
Several months ago, when I learned of his illness, I took some time to send him a letter explaining how much he had influenced me and expressing my gratitude for his example. Today I'm glad I had the chance to tell him those things. I've been blessed already by emails from others who are sharing about his influence in their lives. Theiss' successor at FBC sent the following note in a note this morning:
I received a copy of his funeral instructions this morning. The wonderfulworship planner that he is, he timed every element of his service and givenstrict instructions for the order. I had to chuckle at this. Then again,he was only doing what he had done for his entire life; plan worship.
My mind's eye can see it now, his greatest desire would be that Christ be lifted up at his memorial, and I know that his service plans will reflect that.
All of this causes me to wonder, however, if there are people who are watching me in the same ways I watched him. If they are, I don't need to know about it... but I wonder. And that faint curiosity in the back of my mind causes me to think about how I pour myself into others. Theiss' legacy is vast, but building that legacy was never his goal... it was the by-product of a life given to God. He was only serving in the places God put him. I'm honored to have called him a friend and to be a part of that legacy.