I want to start a new series of blogs with short articles about those people in your life who most encouraged you. Not only do I want to write them myself, but I'd like to have people submit articles about people who encouraged them to me so that I can add them to this set of blogs. Who knows what we may come up with that will help others in discipling people along the way? I think that this could be very valuable to many people. You may message me with your article or if it is too long to message, let me know a short version in my message box and I will give you an e-mail to send it to. Many of you already have my e-mail. i just want to be careful who I give it to in this age of hackers and I do not have a private website at this time; just this blog site.
I'm going to start with one of the most influential people in my life. His name was Mark Stone. He was my pastor while I was in high school and college and as a young married.
Mark had been through great trials. As a young student at Baylor while married with one small child, my friend Cheryl Horlick, he was getting a housing unit ready for his little family to move into. Being from the South, he didn't know a lot about gas water heaters. But that is what they had in these housing units in Texas at Baylor. Mark had been painting while his wife Nancy and baby girl Cheryl were staying with friends. As he finished, he noticed paint on the floor and he got a rag and dipped it in some paint remover. During the process of cleaning up the paint, he got too close to the gas water heater and it blew up. He had enough forethought to thrown his hands over his eyes and his sight was saved because of that.
Quickly he ran through a house that he was unfamiliar with and jumped a fence with his eyes closed. As he lay on the ground, people came running from all over. Seeing what was happening, friends held Nancy back and would not let her get to Mark. Mark always says that he knew he was dying, and when you are dying, you think about your family and so he asked God to take good care of Nancy and Cheryl. Then his only other thought, he prayed to God. "Father, please let me do just one more thing for you before You take me home." As Mark opened his eyes, he saw three boys looking at him. They were horrified at the sight of this man who was burnt over 75% of his body. Their eyes were wide with fright. Mark looked directly at them and said,
"Boys, do you know Jesus?"
"Yes, sir!" they all said in unison. Satisfied that he had done his "one more thing for Jesus", Mark began to sing "Amazing Grace". He had a beautiful singing voice and so many times I have pictured this beloved charred man lying on the ground, thinking he was dying as did everyone else and yet singing to His Lord. Looking at him, one could only assume that he was taking his last breaths. But suddenly the crowd heard the beautiful strains of "Amazing grace how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found; was blind but now I see." There probably wasn't a dry eye in the crowd.
Mark whispered, "I'm ready to go home now, Father." It was at that time that God let Mark know in his heart that he was NOT going to die. Later in comparing notes, at the exact same time, God let Nancy know that Mark was going to live.
Mark talks about the burn unit and how they had to scrape the scabs off everyday because burns heal from the outside in so this was necessary and so painful. He would scream and moan and he would hear others doing the same thing. He said that he understood how the rich man must have felt who opened his eyes and found himself in hell. It was so awful and the burning was so painful that he just wanted one drop of water. Burning dehydrates you and in the hospital, Mark heard constant cries for water. Listen! You can hear the men, women and children who have been burnt in house fires, car wrecks, freak accidents and other ways, all crying out for water. It shed new light for him on that passage of scripture. The other thing the rich man wanted was to spare his brothers from the same fate but it was too late for him to have influence over them. He was dead.
I remember Mark talking about all the reconstructive surgeries that he had and saying that as he was on so much pain medicine in order to keep him as comfortable as possible,that he would dream episodes of the old series "Gunsmoke". He was always Chester! Every night, night after night, Gunsmoke played out in his head. With all of that medicine, it was hard to tell fantasy from reality.
Mark overcame his injuries with the help of God, his doctors and his family. He had already felt God calling him to preach and this awful experience did not change his mind but only made him more resolved to follow the Lord's leading. There is a lot more to Mark's story but I just wanted to give you a little background.Not too many years after the accident, Mark and Nancy had a son name JonMark who is playing his music in Nashville right now.
I met Mark as a sophomore in high school. His messages were captivating and in plain language that spoke to everyone. There was never a boring moment and there was never any "fluff". His sermons were full of the meat of the Word. I knew that this was where I was meant to be. Through the years, I learned so much on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights at his feet. Yes, back then we had three services a week!
My father was a chaplain so he was on a ship out to sea a great deal.So I saw Mark as kind of a surrogate father when my Dad was gone. Besides with teens, it is often easier to talk to someone besides your parents. Mark had such a way with people of all ages. We teens knew he genuinely cared for us and that whatever we told him, he would keep in confidence and treat us as people who genuinely mattered to him. We had his undivided attention anytime we went by his office to talk. I can remember many times when I went there. He'd hand me a cold drink and we'd get comfortable and just chat about the things that were going on in my life at the time. Nothing was too trivial. It was so easy talking to him and he was so wise. I remember one time when we were talking about a certain young man that I was thinking of marrying. Mark said, "Karen, just be sure that you are not settling for a Volkswagon when God has a Cadillac right around the corner for you." He never said, "Don't marry this guy." He never said, "He is not the right person for you." Just the statement about the cars was enough for me to go home and really pray about my decision and make the right one.
One other thing he told my husband to be, Bill, and me was, "Don't try to accumulate all of the things that it took your parents years to get. Be sure and save out enough money to go out and be together rather than jumping into debt." Boy was that wise advice! Soon after, Mark and my Dad married us. They did the service jointly and it was so moving. Mark, ever the comic, tried to make us laugh when it came time to "kiss the bride". They had both told us not to make it be a "marathon kiss". We were so tickled that we could hardly kiss at all.
Mark influenced my life more than he will ever know. Burned over 75% of his body, he was beautiful to we teenagers and to all of the other members and even the children who adored him. After youor first glance as a new person first walking into the church, you forgot about his burns. He was dynamic, loving,fun, encouraging,and passionate about the Lord and His Word. His sermons came alive and weren't forgotten by the time you got home for dinner on Sundays.
Much later,we had all left Virginia Beach and my Dad was out of the Navy and preaching at a church in SC. Mark would come and do revivals for him. I was going through a very difficult time in my life at the time. Each time Mark would come, he would invite me to go out to eat with him, just him and me, and we would just share. It was a profound time and impressed me immensely that he always took the time even though he was getting to a point in his life where his mobility was slowing down due to his burns and he was in a great deal of pain. He always thought of others first.
My sweetest memory of Mark was when the choir sang the musical that had just come out called "Allelujah". Many of you probably have heard it. Mark had a great voice but he never sang solos in church. His thing was preaching. But the choir director convinced him to take a part in the musical. Tears streamed from my eyes and those around him, especially those of us who knew his story, as he sang:
"Since I started for the Kingdom. Since my life He controls. Since I gave my heart to Jesus, the longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows. The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows. The more that I love Him more love He bestows. Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows. The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows." That was his testimony in a nutshell. He lived it everyday. He wore Jesus better than anyone I ever knew. After all he had been through, his love for the Savior still reigned supreme. I will never forget the sweetness and authenticity of that singing. He did it several times in different performances for our church and others. Every time, he received the same response.
Mark has now gone home to be with Jesus. He went much too early for so many of us because of his health. His influence on my life will never disappear. It is permanent as was his influence on so many other lives. The longer he served Jesus, the sweeter Jesus became to him and the more like Jesus Mark became. There can be no higher compliment paid to anther human being in my opinion.
Who has touched your life? How did they do so? Tell us about it if you would be so led to share. Let's compile these influences and see what they had in common. It doesn't have to be a minister or someone important. It just needs to be someone who touched your life and helped shape it to be more like Jesus. My list is long of people who have done that for me. I can't wait for you to share with us. When you share your story with me, please give me an e-mail address and/or phone number in case I need to contact you.
Everyone has some kind of influence.It may not be a good influence but everyone influences someone. Mark's influence on me was godly and profound. I hope that I have influenced just a few people the way that he influenced me.