On 12/12/12, a godly man awoke confined to a hospital bed. By the end of that day he had entered the glories of Heaven. This morning is bittersweet as I rejoice in the glory of his new location while remembering the impact he made on this life.
Old Ed was fun. For as long as he and his wife Betty were able, they hosted a huge picnic at their house every year. People brought a covered dish and their lawn chairs. Well into his 70's (maybe his 80's by the end?), he gave kids a ride on the Sea-Doo while parents relaxed on dry land. Many men half his age couldn't keep up with Ed as he twisted, turned, and sped over the waves.
Ed was our example to be fun.
Old Ed invested in people. Every Sunday morning, he taught children the truths of God's Word and how to live them out everyday. Our church recognized him for his dedication to that work when he finally had to retire from it. Our pastor asked him how many years he had been teaching - the answer overwhelmed us all. Although in different locations throughout the years, he taught children for about 50 years. How many lives do you change for good when you invest in children for five decades?
Ed was our example to invest in others.
Old Ed was generous. He was so generous, in fact, that this section may be a little longer than the rest. First I remember a few years ago when he and Betty invited my husband and I to join them at a local dinner theater. They had season tickets for some of the best seats in the house. But they didn't buy just two tickets every year; no, they bought four. Every show for every season was an opportunity to invite another couple out to dinner. Probably many friends and family enjoyed the benefit of their generosity through those tickets. And I do mean enjoy; few times in our life together have my husband and I laughed as hard and as frequently as we did with them that night. Don't forget, I already told you he was fun. So is his wife, Betty.
Again, Old Ed was generous. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Germany. With international airfare, ground transportation, hotels, and food, however, the cost was high. Ed and Betty came up to me after church one Sunday to give me a little white envelope. They told me it was a little something to help with the trip. That one donation covered 25% of my expenses. God chose to work through Ed and Betty because He knew they would be generous with what He had given them. My heart for missions had been ignited on an earlier trip to Tennessee; that trip to Germany, however, expanded my vision to a global scale. Grow Barefoot probably wouldn't exist today if it hadn't been for the impact of those two trips. Don't forget, he was our example to invest in others.
But this section is remembering that Old Ed was generous. As I write this, I sit here wondering how many hours Ed spent each summer planting corn and tending it as it grew. Gardening isn't my thing so I really have no idea. But I know that because of him, for a few Sundays every fall, our family had fresh corn after church. Our church often has an announcement time at the end of the service. Every year when the time was right, he's stand up and announce, "The corn's ready. Come and pick as much as you'll eat." We'd go to church, hear his announcement, go pick some after church - usually in dress clothes, and make a meal out of it when we got home. Yum.
Ed was our example to be generous.
Old Ed was an encourager. He and Betty always sat two rows behind us in church. No matter how many times I had to quiet talking children or stop their rustling of papers, he'd come up to me afterwards. He'd encourage me with how well-behaved they were, what godly young women they are growing in to, or how much he appreciated seeing young people in church.
His comments weren't limited to my children, though. He read every one of my articles on here and often told me how much he enjoyed them. He'd call me the barefoot lady. At first I was surprised by this, but then later came to expect it. Sometimes his words of encouragement kept me writing for another week. How many ministries have fizzled out when a single word of encouragement would have been all it took to keep it going?
His encouragement didn't stop when it became harder for him to get out of his home. Even then, he resorted to social media - he set up his Facebook account. Through email and Facebook, his words of encouragement continued. When I scroll back through his Facebook page, I know his life online was consistent with his face-to-face life. He encouraged, he was honest, and he was a man of integrity.
Ed was our example to encourage others.
Old Ed was wise. His wisdom revealed itself through his stories. A story-teller through and through, his tales didn't only entertain. The experience of decades of living shone through the hidden lessons and subtle messages woven through his stories. I'm sure lesson-rich stories filled his Sunday school classes for the children. I don't know for sure, though, as I never attended those classes. What I do know, however, is that many a tense issue at a church business meeting was resolved by one of Ed's stories. Sometimes a wise story - an experience from your own life - is more powerful than the most eloquent of three-point arguments.
Ed was our example to grow in wisdom.
Old Ed loved his Savior and wanted everyone else to as well. Later in life, Ed and Betty began selling off pieces of their farm for development. Houses were built and people moved in. People didn't get to live in those houses and stay closed off though. Ed made a point of building a relationship with every family that moved on to what had once been his property. Not only a human relationship, though, he also led them to a relationship with Jesus. You didn't know Ed long - minutes perhaps? - without hearing about his Savior. He wanted the world to know and he knew it started with him telling those around him.
Ed was our example to tell others about Jesus Christ.
That's why you don't get to read all of this article without hearing about Jesus. If you had known Old Ed as long as it took you to read this article, he would have told you about the Savior.
Ed was different than many of the men in this world. Our world is hard - not fun. It exalts focusing on oneself and devalues investment in others. The world says to keep what you've earned; you worked hard for it and you deserve it. Don't just give it away to others. The world is full of pessimism, griping, and complaining. Little room exists for encouragement. The world resounds with foolishness; wisdom deteriorates as right is called wrong and wrong is called right.
Ed was different because he had been transformed by a living God. In all humility, he knew he was nothing more than a sinful man redeemed by a holy God. He knew the only thing that could change him was acceptance of the gift of salvation. He knew that gift was offered because Jesus died on a cross and resurrected days later. Only because Ed allowed himself to be God's instrument to change the world was he able to impact thousands of lives.
The thing is, I didn't know Ed that well. Can you believe that? I know many others were closer to him, many shared more of their lives with him. Yet, he made this kind of impact to someone like me - someone on the fringe. Imagine the stories that those who knew him best could tell...
It's cold outside; the harvest has passed. Heaven doesn't work like Earth, though. That's why yesterday God said to Old Ed, "The corn's ready. Come and pick as much as you want."
How about you? Probably many of you who read this will have stories of Ed. What was the example he left in your life? What impact did he make? We'd all love to read about it in the comment section below...