In all likelihood I would never have become the Director of Deerfoot Lodge without the continual encouragement of my older brother, Dick.
I was not a good student. Every week I was tutored after school to help me pass 5th and 6th grade. School days seemed very long. I was working hard…and not doing well.
Not so for Dick. He did well academically, and was recognized for his leadership ability, becoming class president, wresting team captain, etc. Dick became one of the top retinal surgeons in the country, teaching his specialty to surgeons in Pakistan, Germany, Russia, India, and so many times in one Muslim country that he was asked to serve on their national examining board for ophthalmologists.
I thank God that Dick did not focus on my struggles, but rather appreciated what I did, and told me so. He appreciated that I could fix things and enjoyed seeing what I made out of wood, like the cherry holders for the spoons our mom had collected. He cheered me on when I played football. He encouraged me while I was a pastor, and as the Director of Deerfoot Lodge.
Last month his wife, Marge, died of brain cancer, at the age of 73. Marge was an incredible artist. She made over 100 large banners for churches – most were 6’ X 10’ – and these hang in houses of worship all over the world, including Coventry Cathedral in England. While Dick taught retinal surgery in foreign countries, Marge painted murals on the walls of orphanages and hospitals. Marge even painted a mural covering an entire wall on our granddaughters’ bedrooms. We have a lion she painted on a slab of un-polished gray granite, and an old barn door on which she painted owls sitting on a branch. Marge even designed their church’s 4th of July parade float – that won year after year.
Dick and Marge’s son planned a beautiful memorial service and over 1000 came to celebrate this great wife, mom, and artist. It was a joy filled occasion, and God was praised. Perhaps we also should have celebrated her encourager, my brother Dick. Dick was Marge’s support team. If she got an idea he was there to cheer her on, to help it happen, whatever it took!
The Apostle Paul lists the different abilities given by the Spirit of God. “If a man’s gift is prophesying…if it is serving…if it is teaching…if it is encouraging…if it is contributing to the needs of others…if it is leadership…if it is showing mercy…
No question, my brother has the gift of encouragement which I experience…as do an ex-convict, a medical school classmate who has had huge struggles in his life, our children, and many others.
We all need to be encouraged…and to encourage. In the Bible we are told to encourage 23 times, including “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. ” I Thessalonians 5:11.
Thank you, Dick, for encouraging me, Marge, and many, many others.
You have inspired me to do my very best to encourage…and encourage…and encourage.