We are not our own. At least I’m not. No, this being that I call myself is largely a product of circumstances, events, and, most significantly, other people. It seems complex at first, but I am increasingly aware of God’s sovereignty in this soup of experience. I normally focus on the “big” people–those giants who have radically sharpened/changed/altered/guided/challenged my worldview. But then there are the “smaller” giants–those people I might meet only once but who leave behind a significant imprint. These are the people who show me that the world really is much, much bigger than myself (surprise, surprise!). Recently I was reminded of a few of these people–children actually–who have played low-key, yet signal roles on my little stage in my little drama.

In July of 2007 I spent about 10 days in Reading, PA. We also spent a day in Philly. This experience broadened an ignorant country boy’s view of life. 

This young chap (Justin, I think it was) initiated me into city life. 


As I walked by he invited me to play cars with him. So we did. Me with one of his worn out Matchbox cars and he with the other. His primary mission…create the greatest wreck. His primary word…again, again, again. Every time I stood to leave he would grab my arm, yank me back down on my posterior, and declare, “Again!” We went at it for 30 minutes or more–racing, crashing, flipping, and squealing with our cars–over and over and over again. Here I always thought secularized inner city kids possessed an attention span equivalent to that of a goldfish. I guess they might just need real people instead of sterile programs. 

During the second week I taught VBS. It was here that I met Oliver, Carlos, and Juan (L-R).


I had others my class, but these guys were the regulars. They kept me on my toes with their Bible knowledge (another category shifter) which made for some interesting discussions. I don’t remember much of what I taught, but I do recall the lesson on Rahab and the spies as particularly uncomfortable. Challenge: explain to 10 year-old city boys how God can use a lying prostitute for his purposes. I’m sure they taught me more than what I taught them. On the last day of class Oliver confided that he would love to attend VBS for the rest of this life. Before we parted he surprised me with this. 


I treasure this grubby coloring book page as much as any diploma or certificate of achievement that I have ever received.

Although I welcomed my return to waving cornfields as compared to the seas of hot pavement, a part of me remained in the city. My mind and thinking processes remain permanently altered because I briefly witnessed a different world. 

The words of a wise man:

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

-Oliver Wendell Holmes


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One Response to Influences

  1. Becca says:

    wow, that coloring book page is priceless! you gave them a picture of Jesus, and so did they to you.

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