If you have been reading my blog for any period of time, you will probably know that Spring is my favorite season of the year and that I love color. Flowers are like God’s hand painting pictures and reminding me that He is the master artist.
With that in mind, I was delighted to find that my parents decided to surprise me this week by getting some flowers and planting them in our garden. We had prepared the ground, but just hadn’t gotten around to planting anything yet besides some seeds that apparently weren’t going to grow. As I was admiring their handiwork, I realized that their gift came with a small challenge. If these flowers were going to live, grow and thrive, I would have to water them. While this should not be a problem for most people, I have been known to kill more plants than I have helped to nurture. Mostly this has been due to neglect.
So often in life, God does things to get my attention and this situation was no different. As I reflected on my most treasured gifts, they are generally people that God has put in my life and relationships He has allowed me to develop. Becoming a husband, father, missionary, and active member of my local church has placed me in some of the best and most challenging situations of my life. How easy it is to take these people for granted and to let our relationships start to look like wilting flowers rather than a flourishing garden.
Watering these gifts that God has given me requires time, energy and attention that don’t come naturally. Far too often, I am inclined to focus on my own needs and desires and not ask the tough questions that open up the possibility of deepening relationships. In the midst of all this pondering about how to strengthen my connections to the people God has “gifted” me with, I realized that one great way to do that is to look at the example of others who have gone before me and how God has used them.
This past week, one of God’s great saints went home to his well deserved rest with His heavenly father. Ray Oram was a pioneering missionary, a passionate person and a people lover until the day he died. He cared deeply about the ministry of CLC and was responsible for beginning our bookstore work in both Japan and the Philippines in the 1950s. Never one to take it easy in his later years, he was actively interested in helping us in any way that he could right to the end and leaves a legacy of people who will donate books and financial support for years to come from the retirement home he lived in.
What struck me most about Ray, however, was not his passion and energy (which was pretty amazing for a guy in his 90s). Every time I saw him, he asked me how I was doing, how things were going in CLC and what could he do to help. He cared about others in a way that was more than just words and almost always resulted in action. Many years ago, he and his second wife Pat donated an old car to me that was the first car that I ever owned. More recently, he came and spoke at one of our team conferences and shared his passion for ministry with a new generation of CLCers. In the last couple of years, he bonded in a special way with my colleague Jim Pitman and invited him to speak many times at the chapel in his retirement community. His memorial service was today and was attended by a large group that represented only a small fraction of the people that knew and loved Ray and whom he had blessed in some way over the years.
May I water the relationships that God has placed me in with the heart of love that Ray so actively demonstrated every day he was on earth.