During my time as pastor of Maple Grove Church of God in Anderson, IN, I was blessed to get to know a man named Ray Hills.
There are so many truly unforgettable memories associated with Ray.
Ray had been an engineer, and was very particular and meticulous...well, with everything!
Ray was an avid baseball fan, a die-harder for those old Cubbies.
I remember Ray volunteering to help our Church softball team (The Mighty Leaves). His way to contribute was through umpiring. However, combine his passion for The Game with his meticulous nature... and the result was a very specific (and rigid) strike zone, of which only Ray was aware! You have never seen so many Church-league softball called-strikeouts as you'd see during those games....for both teams! And never before have you seen an umpire take so much joy in doing his job. :-)
In addition to baseball, Ray was deeply committed to his family and his faith.
I remember sitting with him in the hospital as he tried to cope with the passing of his wife, Martha. Hers was the first funeral I would officiate as a minister. Ray was never the same without Martha.
I remember Ray telling me about when he was 5 years old and knelt with his mother and prayed to receive Jesus. That was a decision that would guide the coming 82 years of his life!!
Ray had been a faithful member of the Maple Grove congregation since his college days, in the early '50s. There was almost never a Church function that he did not attend.
Ray had gone through seminary and was über-familiar with the Bible, even with the Hebrew testament, but especially with the Greek testaments.
I will never forget when we began organizing summer fellowship outings to the Indianapolis Indians minor-league baseball games. As the pastor, I volunteered to meet at the church for anyone who wanted to car-pool for the 45-60 minute journey. The first year, Christy and I showed up at the Church at the appointed time and waited. One car rolled in--it was a recent female college-grad. We waited a bit longer to see if anyone else would show, and we saw Ray's gray Toyota Camry roll in.
Of course, he rode shotgun with me driving. I remember barely beginning our journey when the two ladies in the back began talking about whatever they were talking about. Meanwhile, up front...Ray began sharing his rationale for why Liddell-Scott's Greek Lexicon was the superior Greek lexicon on the market. That's a conversation I could enjoy for 5-10 minutes. However, for the entirety of that drive, as I navigated rush-hour traffic and glanced at my pre-GPS post-it note for directions, Ray expounded upon why it was the best there was.
The following year, I thought of a handful of simple questions. I told my car (which that year consisted of Christy, a college student named Andrew, and Ray) that I had questions for us to think about. Each person had 3-5 minutes to give their answer and then it was the next person. That plan actually worked quite well! But I could not have predicted Ray's answer to the following question:
"Do you remember where you were on 9-11?"
"Well, I don't rightly recall where I was at on the 11th of September, 2001. (Pause) But I do remember where I was when I heard the news of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor."
This was one of many reminders that I would get during my time with Ray that he was a wise, old man, one who had experienced much and one who was a storehouse of knowledge.
During the early years of my pastorate (when I was still finishing my MDiv.), occasionally I would alter the Wednesday evening College/Adult Bible Study, in order to fulfill an experiential requirement for one of my practical classes. It was during one of those times of adjustment when Ray piped up a suggestion: "Have you ever considered doing a lesson on... Joash The Boy King?"
"No, Ray. I can honestly say that I have never considered doing a lesson on 'Joash The Boy King..."
I told Ray I would consider such an endeavor.
A year or two would pass before once again, Ray asked me if I had considered a teaching on 'Joash The Boy King."
I promised Ray that if I ever would plan on teaching on Joash The Boy King, he would be the first to know. :-)
As the years went on, a day came when Ray approached me. He handed me one of his 4x7 index cards that he prepared his Bible readings on. He informed me that he had prepared a teaching on...
you guessed it...
Joash The Boy King.
As he gave it to me, he gave me liberty to share it if I ever saw fit. But he did this in his typically humble way of offering it as a gift to the people of God, not to benefit himself. He stated, "Woe betide you if you give me any credit."
Well, Ray, how about if I use it to honor your life well-lived, and your faith well-proven.
Thank you for giving so many of us a picture of faithfulness, and a picture of devotion to our Lord.
Rest in the peace of Christ.