Field Notes From A Prayer Warrior

-service: the action of helping or doing work for someone; contribution to the welfare of others; a period of time spent in the military

-“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

–Mark 10:45

-Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

–1 Peter 4:10

In loving memory of Bill Plumb

February 22, 1928-December 30, 2015

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.–Psalm 116:5

In lieu of New Year’s resolutions, I pray for “the word,” an overarching principle on which to found my intentions and actions for the year ahead. In 2022 God gave me “gratitude;” in 2023 it was “joy.” At the end of November I was chatting with Him and I said, “Lord, I just want to thank You for helping me find my words! You’re like, so SMART…because gratitude had to come before joy! That’s some awesome stuff! So…I’m thinking I need to start considering…with You, of course…what’s it going to…”

Service.”

“Oh, okay. Wow, that was fast. Service, huh?”

“Yup.”

Instantly I connected some dots…

“Oh, Lord, that’s GOOD. Just like gratitude has to come before joy, gratitude and joy have to come before service.”

He smiled.

“Alright…could You help me…understand what that looks like, a life of service? I know…I have the Word and the example of Your Son…but could You…show me a little more, how to have the heart of a servant?”

“I already did. Bill.”

In 1991 the US Air Force moved my husband and me, newly married and newly saved, from North Dakota to New Jersey. Straight away we located a church, and from there…

Bill’s Bible study. Our first one ever.

On paper it seemed an unlikely friendship. Bill was far older than us, and had grown up in the faith. His CV read like a “Who’s Who of Modern-Day Apostles”: war veteran, missionary, retired teacher, countless ministries, four godly daughters…

Basically he was a rockstar for Christ…and we were a pair of “Jesus dweebs.”

Every Wednesday night, as we dug into the Word with impetuous fervor and ignorance, he would gently steer us into the insights and lessons contained within, until the time came to go into the kitchen for the highly-anticipated “food and fellowship…”

but my favorite part was “the meeting after the meeting.”

After everyone else had gone, we’d gravitate to a little nook in his farmhouse that held an old potbelly stove and exactly three chairs. We’d spend another hour…or two…swapping stories and questions…LOTS of questions. Bill just rolled with it, and never once glanced at his watch, despite having a crazy-packed schedule. He turned all this “Jesus stuff” from dusty history to something real and alive in the now…so much less confusing, less…daunting. He didn’t get all mystical on us or come off as a sanctimonious prude or an unhinged holy roller. He was just a regular guy who’d been walking with God for a long time and had a lot to say about it, if we wanted to know…all of it peppered with observations like this…

“Shelby, when you shared with that guest tonight that Jesus and prayer had helped you better interview for jobs, had given you a confidence and peace you never had before, and had made you a more effective teacher…that’s something I would’ve never been able to do. You were the right person to reach him.”

See, on top of everything else, Bill was an accomplished arborist, specializing in boxwoods…

hardy shrubs that require painstaking attention and maintenance until they reach full maturation…

like new believers.

With every encouraging comment, guided by the Spirit, he pruned and coaxed us into new growth. He was a friend, a mentor, a disciple maker…

Our “Jersey dad.”

Eight years ago today, Bill passed away, and thoughts of him still bring tears and smiles…of grief, of joy, of gratitude.

I am grateful to my God for orchestrating a relationship we so needed at the beginning of our faith walk. He gifted us with a shining, humble, generous, loving model of a “faithful steward of God’s grace in its various forms.”

And I am grateful to Bill.

Just as an innkeeper, so long ago, took in a ragtag couple about to give birth,

Bill opened the door and made room for us…

In his home, in his full-up life…and in his heart.

The heart of a servant.

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