The guy walked through the door. Suddenly the sounds of honking horns, engines revving, and brakes squeaking was replaced by the gentle hum of voices in mid-conversation, plates and glasses clinking and the soft tones of music playing in the background. It was a coffee shop off a crowded city street, just like dozens of others he'd been in over the years. The room was dark and on the walls hung pictures and paintings of various kinds. Some were extremely good, but others not so much. The baristas were working feverishly behind the counter, calling out "tall hazelnut mocha" as the sweet aroma of freshly ground coffee beans wafted through the air. For a moment, maybe two, he stood still just inside the door taking it all in. It wasn't a large place so as his eyes adjusted from the glaring brightness of the afternoon sun to the gloom of the coffee shop, he saw his mark.
At a table nearer the back than the front, sits a thin man checking email on his phone. He was a tall man, though you couldn't tell with him seated. His eyes were blue, and his hair once a chestnut brown had begun to fade in to the chalky grey of middle age. As the first man drew near, he put down his phone and stood to greet him with a warm shimmering smile and a hearty handshake. "How's it going? I was just about to order myself some coffee, would you like something?" "No, I'm ok today, but thanks for the offer."
Not two moments later, the two men were lost in conversation, with the younger gentlemen scribbling copious notes in a moleskin notebook. They bounced from topic to topic with the frequency and velocity of a pinball. What had begun with casual discussions of what was going on in their world, had taken a more serious turn.
You meet thousands of people throughout the course of your life, however relatively few of them impact you deeply. The ones who do open your eyes, challenge your assumptions, make you think, and shape who you become.
Over the last 30 years there have been several people who have had this type of impact on me but today I'd like to focus on the three who's impact has and continues to be deepest and most transformational.
Jon Flaming - Inspired by the great masters of the brush and lens, Jon lends his immense talents to telling the stories of life, culture and adventure all across this great land we call Texas. The soothing yellows, blues and burnt oranges of the southwest are his pallete, as if you're watching one of his favorite classic westerns starring John Wayne. Not unlike the star of such classic films as The Searchers, this Jon stands tall, walks a straight line and isn't afraid to hang in there for a tough conversation. He humbly serves, encourages and befriends just about everyone he meets. Jon Waid Flaming, is a man quite unlike any other I've had the pleasure of knowing. While not possessing a loud, bombastic personality he garners respect no matter the room he enters.
Matt Hummel - 140 characters. Sometimes that's all it takes. In a world so fast paced and obsessed with reducing everything to the bare minimum 140 characters might be all it takes to change a life. One tweet, that's all it took to connect a young man searching for guidance with a guide to show him the way. After email exchanges and text messages they finally gathered around the kitchen table with Bibles open and pen in hand to read, discuss, learn and grow. In truth it takes a lot more than 140 characters. It takes a willingness to be open, to ask good questions and to guide more than instruct. It takes a man who loves Jesus so deeply that he can't not pour into other men.
Bobby Crotty - It was a long bus ride headed somewhere new and adventuresome. The seats where cloth and slightly comfortable. Most students sat reading books, flipping through magazines or sleeping. One group of students however, was making the best use of their time. I'm sure they didn't know it at the time, but that long bus ride would have a shaping influence on their lives. Bobby Crotty was among the young students who say enthralled with the wisdom, insights and encouragement of Sally Stout those long hours and it marked him. Fast forward several years and a successful law career, Bobby sits around the table with young men much like himself not too long ago. He opens God's word, asks probing & insightful questions and points them to truth. Now serving as the Men's Equipping Director at a local church, Bobby invests his time in helping men be more like Christ.
While each of these three men is unique and vastly different from the other two, they each share a collection of qualities that I believe have led to their impact not just on my life but countless of others.
Tethered to God's word. The Bible is their guide. These men do not run on feelings, that is to say that the course of their lives is not driven by emotions but by the timeless, unchanging word of God. It is their guide and they have invested some serious time in its study. They are serious about scripture memorization. If there is one thing I've learned over the years, it's that memorizing God's word doesn't happen by accident. It takes diligence and intentionality. These men each display a care and concern for their souls and know that leading others begins with leading themselves, of which time in God's word is tantamount.
Challenge you to think. The Lord gave us a brain and these men challenge others to use theirs. Rather than passively riding through life, we each should make use of the brain the good Lord gave us to consider life and all it entails. There are few better ways to engage the mind than by the use of a good, timely question. Questions are the currency of the wise, and these men are wealthy beyond measure. They routinely ask good, tough questions that get the "little grey cells" going.
Their practice matches their preaching. There is a consistency to their life. They don't say one thing and do another. They live by the very words they encourage others with. This type of consistency only serves to strengthen the power of their words. Character matters and these men have it in spades.
While direct and unafraid to ask the pointed or difficult question, each of these men is humble, tender and kind. These men are not in your face, aggressive, instead these men have cultivated attitudes of genuine humility. They speak with a gentle tone that instantly communicates their care and concern for you. They exude a calm, confidence rooted in their identity in Christ that interjects a humbleness into their life. I may be over using the word humble and its derivatives here, but I can think of no better way to sum up the flavor of their lives.
Nothing impacts your life like the people surrounding you. It's been said that we are the average of the people we spend the most time with. If that is true, and there is serious evidence to it being so, I leave you with this encouragement, get people like this in your life. If you want any shot of being the man or women you long to be, you'll need men and women in your life who exude these same qualities and spur you on.