Looking over the past decade, one thing I want to express a thankfulness for is the number of people I'm grateful to still have in my life. You see, my birthday comes before too much longer, and one thing I know is that the older I get, the older the people I look up to get, and the closer to their reward they become. Now, for some, that reward is simply to retire and disappear somewhere, unbothered by the likes of me, but for others that reward has been to go home. The latter was the case with my speech professor in college, Dr. Buckelew.
So, I'm going to express some personal sentiment here about people I'm glad are starting the new year alive. Except saving the best for last, there's no order. Also: this is about ministry mentors and teachers. Just because you're not mentioned by name doesn't mean I'm not thankful for you to be alive too.
1. The old cohort of OBU professors: Drs. Hays, Duvall, Carter, and Vang, even though Dr. Vang has relocated to Florida. These men were a strong influence in my OBU days, and 3 of them are still in Arkadelphia. I learn almost as much going to the 1 day pastor's conference they put together as I do any other time. Dr. Vang still has many good things to say on Facebook, and was his usual cheerfully challenging self when I saw him last summer. I don't doubt that I could email any of them with an issue and get a good opinion.
2. Larry Romack: my old youth minister who is now a pastor. And who has had to have his heart re-done this year. Not his heart in the semi-spiritual concept, but the real blood-pumping muscle. I need to get together with him more, if only virtually, but it just seems a little hard. Anyway, he and Lyndra have been one of my prime examples of a life in ministry.
3. Emil Turner: Dr. Turner at the ABSC has become one of the prime shapers of how I look at life in Arkansas Baptist-dom, as well as helping shape how I've handled several things in ministry. While there are others at the Baptist Building that I am glad to count as a friend and who I know I can call on, Dr. Turner is one I strongly look up to. Except for that whole LSU thing.
4. This spot should be filled with someone, but I can't nail a name down. There are quite a few individuals that I interact with that help me grow, and I hope I help them grow. Some are real-life friends, some are blog friends that I think would be real-life friends if they moved to the Promised Land.
5. Finally, it's good to have Dad still around. More and more of my friends talk about missing their fathers, how challenging life is without dads around. And since the older I get, the smarter Dad is, I can see that it will someday be a problem. For right now, though, I'm glad I don't have that.
Cherish the people you have around you, and stop to consider who you're glad to have in your life. Don't wait to see how much you cry at their funeral, but show it now.