This will be brief since we are about to leave for vacation – but it HAD to be shared…
Last year I was approached by a young man named Andrew Gass about coming to stay with us for the summer for a Preacher internship of sorts , and excitedly – I accepted. I had known Andrew from serving as a counselor at a summer camp that promotes the very college where he and so many other young Christians attend. We had developed a strong friendship and so I was very much looking forward to the time that he would spend with our family. About a week before he was to arrive , I received a message from another young man named Jon West who I had met briefly at Lectures hosted by their college and had spent a few days with during his spring break. He also expressed his interest in staying with us , so we welcomed him in also… Needless to say , they brought a very well received charge to our congregation that was for lack of a better term -infectious. Not only that , but an incredible example to my son of what I young man should act and look like -humble , faithful , sincere and strong in their character. They both brought an electricity to our home and needless to say , we were blessed… It has truly been a great summer.
Andrew left a week ago to serve at yet another camp and then head back to college and as my family prepares to head to the beach for a few days , Jon also heads back home to Florida to also prepare for Grad school… This was waiting on me in my inbox –
August 5, 2013
Dear Keith & Kelly,
They say all good things must come to an end, and now such is the case with this summer. It seemed like a strange situation: a young man you knew only slightly coming and living in your house, eating out of your fridge, playing with your kids and tagging along everywhere with you, for nearly three months; and my mom reminded me frequently of this strangeness before I made the drive up. She couldn’t believe that anyone could be so kind, so hospitable, so patient, so loving, but if ever there was a couple who meets these marks, it’s you.
At a time when I needed a break, a getaway from stressors that were weighing me down, a change of scenery to help me refocus, you came to my aid and gave me a place to go. You introduced me to a whole new group of Christians, and so many of your friends have become my friends. You showed me a city I had hardly been to, and helped me to love it. You fed me, gave me a place to sleep, and invested innumerable assets into ensuring my comfort. Words cannot describe the gratitude I feel, and I could never hope to repay you. All of these things, though, are just a small part of the blessings you’ve given me this summer.
Keith, you showed me a passionate faith, one that shouts the grace of Jesus loud, from the rooftops. You showed me a life that has truly been transformed by Christ, a man who loves his Savior and His God and truly wants to see lost souls saved. You showed me a thankfulness that tears up when we sing about heaven. You showed me a love that is unconditional, that forgives, that acts. The way you work with the kids, whether local or at camp, is incredibly encouraging. Not only has your work helped many of them on their Christian walk, but will continue to help them, and others, in the future. I know this because spending time with you this summer has absolutely helped me to grow closer to God, and to my fellow man, in ways I couldn’t have predicted when I first decided to come up here.
Kelly, you have shown me a wife who loves her husband dearly, one who is impeccably responsible, who cares for her children and husband, house and guests, with skill but more importantly with love. The way you manage the housework with so many people in and out is extraordinary. In you, I see a worthy woman, like Proverbs 31 details, and I know everyone in your house sees what a blessing you are. You have given me an excellent example to consider when I begin to look for a wife. Both of you are doing such an awesome job of raising your kids, too; Kiah and Kole are two of the best kids I know, and I can’t wait to see where the next few years takes them. With your guidance, I know they will do great.
You have a beautiful family, and I am honored to have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of it for this brief window of time. You have given me a home away from home, made me feel welcome in a strange place, and loved me from the minute I walked through the door. Amazing is the only word for it. Although I leave, I will forever carry with me many memories and much joy from my time with you. Thank you for being the people you are, and for showing me true hospitality and the love of Christ. Wherever I may be, I will always be proud to say that I know the Stoneharts.
In Christian love,
Jon , from all of us – we love you right back , for all the reasons mentioned above and more. You and Andrew both have meant a great deal to me personally this summer and I cant imagine spending it any other way.. Not only are you my younger brothers in Christ ,but you also are my friends.. You both have a great future ahead of you and with God at the helm – the possibilities are endless. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives!
Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
J. Oswald Sander was quoted saying “Eyes that look are common… Eyes that see are rare.” … Rare indeed , except through the eyes of a 6-year-old boy…
As I have before mentioned , since he was born, I have preached many sermons inspired by my son. His honesty and innocence have helped me to remember how to see the world that I have forgotten how to see and quite often , I am completely humbled by the most simple of gestures… This particular example involves Carlos. Carlos (pictured with both my kids on the infamous “Werewolf trip ) is related to me by blood – the blood of Christ. A few months after being baptized into Christ and becoming a Christian after a teen even at our house in Atlanta , he came to live with us ..It was about a year and a half ago during a time when I wasn’t preaching full-time ,but running a construction company.. He had previously lived with my sister-in-law and was friends with all my nephews so technically, he was already family… But Kole made that official .
One night as I was reading to Kole , he stopped me – as he usually will , to ask me the most random questions … Most of the time it’s stuff like ” Daddy , what does lava feel like on your skin?” or “Daddy , how do other cats warn other cats that dogs are coming?… Because they can’t talk!…. or can they?” I don’t mind him stopping me to ask these questions , I actually look forward to it !… I love how his little mind is at work and usually leave the room pondering to myself ” Man…. what DOES lava feel like on your skin?“…At any rate , I try my best to answer his questions the best I can and then we move on… I asked him one night where he comes up with these questions..his reply was “I dunno , I just SEE this stuff “… This monumental statement was immediately followed by the question” Daddy – Can YOU see what I see?” …
After a pause I humbly whispered back through a tear ” I wish “..
But one night he asked me a question that changed our relationship with Carlos – permanently .. As I was reading he stopped me with his usually “Daddy”… not knowing the next for sure what he was going to say , I eagerly awaited the randomness – “Yea Bud” I replied…After a few seconds of pondering he asked –
“Is Carlos my brother?”…
Many things begin to happen inside me , primarily my heart melting.. I ask my self why would he think that? He is old enough to remember when Carlos first came to stay with us , that he hasn’t been here his whole life , why would he think that? … After a few seconds of asking ” why” ,these petty questions are quickly squelched when what should have been the obvious answer finally presents itself – He asks me this question because he already looks to Carlos as a brother and loves him like one !– Why? – Because Carlos loves HIM that way! Since day one, Carlos has always given time to Kole – to play with him ,talk to him , read to him and yes – even answer 30 bazillion of Koles questions. Carlos was ALREADY living as his brother , so why wouldn’t Kole ask me that??
There will always be a place in this family for Carlos – Kole saw to that… But that is a different blog for a different day.
My son , though he is only 6 ,continues to give me the perspective that I should have on most things. The blog entries that will follow this one will all deal with his observations that helped me realize, that I was seeing wrong… Jesus says plainly in Mathew 18 verse 3 “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
I believe in part – this is why..
The morning ritual at our house is pretty simple – we all get up, slowly make our way to the kitchen where coffee can be administered to those who need it , breakfast can be served to those that eat it , and our day can begin with a little conversation(hopefully) from all the kids , yes even Carlos (though he is 23 😉 )…This morning as Carlos came out for coffee , Kole – who was diligently eating his cereal jumps down from he bar , runs over to him and threw his arms around Carlos and said “I love you Carlos ,sometimes for NO REASON”…Carlos hadn’t been anywhere for Kole to miss him so much , so why all the excitement to see Carlos this morning? What reason would he have to excitedly proclaim his love for his brother?..
Then , like most things – the blatantly obvious hits me again..Once more , my son has been the teacher and I have been the student.. DO WE REALLY NEED A REASON TO LOVE EACH OTHER ?
1 John 4 :7-8 says” Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”…
There is no question – my son KNOWS God as he also KNOWS LOVE … And I have been joyfully reminded of how we ALL should be – once more through the eyes of my son…
Thank you Lord for allowing me to have Kole and for him sharing his Lions heart with the world…. There is no doubt , I am BLESSED.
I will always try to live so that I am the person my son sees … 😉
Read 1 John 3:11-24