As our roller coaster ride of 20 years ago continues, today we have one of those relaxing smooth parts of the ride. Twenty years ago we were visiting some dear friends. Some friends that I would call my spiritual parents.
On Wednesday, July 4th Lisy and I became engaged (July 4, – A night of fireworks) on the 5th of July we learned that I needed surgery to remove a tumor (July 5, 1990 – Wow! that is a steep drop!). Now we are in Peoria to visit our friends. I wanted to present my new fiancé to my spiritual parents.
I have known Rich and Kay Sutton since 1982. I met them when I first attended Grace Bible Church in Peoria, Illinois. We have maintained contact with them for these last 28 years. An interesting curiosity is that they were born exactly the same years as my own parents.
Lisy and I have come to refer to them as our spiritual parents. They have become spiritual role models for us. We hope one day to show Christ in our marriage as they have all these years.
If you have ever seen me try (note try) to be a funny guy, it is because of Rich. Rich is the type of guy who makes friends with a waitress within the first few minutes at a table. He has a couple standard jokes that I stolen for my own use when at a restaurant. When the waitress asks you what you want to drink you answer “a cup of coffee and water” dramatic pause “separate glasses please.” Then when you are ordering your dinner you ask if you could have that cooked. Finally, when the bill comes at the end and she hands it to you, you open it, look at it and act surprised and shocked. I still do all these jokes, much to the embarrassment of my children.
Yes, Rich is a corny jokester – but he is also a friendly outgoing all around likeable guy. Recently I have been studying a book by Gene Getz called The Measure of a Man. It is built upon Paul’s letter to Timothy about what an elder or leader of a church should be.
1 Timothy 3:1 – 7 (NIV)
1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach,
the husband of but one wife, temperate,
hospitable, able to teach,
3not given to drunkenness,
not violent but gentle,
not a lover of money.
4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)
6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.
7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
When I think about Paul’s list I often think of examples where Rich has demonstrated one of those characteristics.
While Rich is a joker, Kay, on the other hand would never play a joke on you. She is the picture of a lady, nice and proper. She is the picture of a mother, caring and loving. She is the picture of a loving wife, she would have to be to put up with Rich. She has always shown Lisy, my children and I love and acceptance. She made me cookies and often invited me over for a sandwich at lunch time. Kay does have one joke she loves to tell “Tim, they say money doesn’t grow on trees, but all I have to do is go up to that machine in the wall and money comes shooting out at me.’
I call Rich my spiritual father because my own father did not guide me spiritually, while Rich has been there when I have had various struggles, challenges and growth opportunities. When I first started preaching at the Peoria Rescue Mission Rich lent me his Naves Topical Bible as a study tool, he showed me how to use and let me use his copy for months. When I was in my first eyar of ministry, Rich was on the Board of Directors at Youth For Christ. We had some turmoil my first year and Rich and I spent hours talking about it. He was patient and listened to my understanding of the situation, gave subtle advice and prayed with me. That first year of ministry Rich and Kay even allowed me to live in an empty home they owned – rent free.
Rich is a man who demonstrated faithfulness to God’s Word. Kay is a woman who demonstrated God’s love. Rich is a man who accepts all and loves all. When Rich and Kay’s neighborhood changed from a white workerman’s neighborhood to a urban neighborhood of minorities, Rich and Kay stayed, they loved their neighbors, whatever their skin color.
Rich and Kay were there that weekend to meet my fiancé and to pray with us about the pending surgery. Rich and Kay were there when we had our third wedding (a long story for another day). Rich and Kay where with us when we heard our daughter’s heartbeat for the first time. They were there to visit Lisy in the hospital when she was sick. They came to visit when our daughter was born. They talked and prayed with us when we decided to leave the ministry, when we decided to move back to Chicago and when we decided to come to Europe.
These two saints of God are a testimony to us as to how we should live our lives. We should put God first and serve and love others.
What a great way to spend a weekend in the middle of a rollercoaster life! We spent it with our Godly, spiritual parents.