When I grow up, I want to be like Ray

But God’s discipline is good for us

Hebrews 12:10-11, 14-15 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. … Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life … Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.

While Dave and I were on vacation, we visited a man we respect and admire deeply, who mentored us before we left for Brazil in 1990 and once visited us in São Paulo. During a time of deep discouragement when Karis was a baby and the church Dave pastored seemed to be falling apart, Ray helped pick us up, dust us off, and set us back on the road toward ministry. I still remember what he said when I told him I was so hurt I didn’t ever want to hear the word “ministry” again: “You don’t have a choice, Debbie. God has called you to this. You’ll be back.”

At 85, Ray drove three hours each way on the same day through blizzard conditions to attend Karis’s memorial service. He referenced several things about that service during his time with us. Though he needs aids to keep his balance now while standing or walking—and therefore had to give up chopping wood for his stove—he can still drive, and does so regularly, to meet people for a meal, to make a hospital visit, to participate actively in his church.

Sadly, it didn’t occur to me to take a picture with Ray while we were with him, but a quick internet search gave me this. And this about his wife Eunice, whose photos are everywhere in Ray’s living room. Ray has continued her tradition of amazing hospitality.

On the way to visit him, Dave and I laughed over some of the things Ray said over the years. Like “the grace of ice cream.” And his comment when we proudly showed him our newborn baby, “Now that’s a baby!” (He confessed all newborn babies look alike to him.) And when asked once in my hearing about women wearing makeup, he said, “If the barn door needs painting, paint it!” And “Now I can be a better Christian,” after we fed him when he was hungry.

Here’s a favorite Ray story. When their girls were small, he and his wife Eunice took their five daughters camping. On one occasion, their tent site was next to a group of young people who partied loudly far into the night, despite Ray’s request that they tone it down so his family could sleep. So, the next morning bright and early, Ray walked around their tent banging a pot with a metal spoon, yelling “Rise and shine! Rise and shine!” Within a short time, the partyers were gone.

Ray is now 92, still sharp and incisive, asking questions that reflect his long history and deep knowledge of us, but with a new gentleness. Before we arrived at his home, Dave and I thought he might be up for a two-hour visit. Four hours later, he was still going strong. We were the ones who called it, not him. What a precious, holy, encouraging time. A gift. A privilege.

Ray gave us a vision and model of holy living in retirement. He didn’t set out to do so; it just happened as he shared his life with us. His prayer every morning is, “Lord, how can I serve your people today?” And at night he asks, “So, Lord, how did I do? Did I communicate your grace to the people you sent me today? Did I listen well? Did I submit to you? Was your Spirit free to flow through me?” His own prayer of examen.

During the quiet times when Ray is not actively engaged with people, he spends most of his time praying for them. And reading. We were impressed with how up to date he was on current events, and how penetratingly he commented on issues of concern to America and the world. On Thursdays he cooks dinner for his three daughters and an “adopted” daughter who live close enough to come. He says their conversation is wide-ranging and always teaches him things he needs to learn. Thinking of him planning and cooking his love-feast for tonight makes me smile with gratitude to have experienced the overflow of Ray’s generosity in our own lives.

Ray shared many stories with us of what God taught him through his faults and failures over his many years. He told us his whole life now can be summed up in these simple words: “I bow to you, Lord of the universe, Lord of my life.”

When I grow up, I want to be like Ray.