This fall time of year often causes me to wax nostalgic.  Initially, I dream of summers gone by and how I wish we could just bypass winter altogether and have it be July year-round.  But then I settle into reality and start to reminisce about other times in my life that were meaningful to me.  Some of these times involve family trips or mission opportunities that propelled my spiritual growth, but almost all of my reminiscing involves people who have inspired me along the way in my life.

Today I was thinking about those people who have truly inspired me in my life, some of whom have already died and others who are still here today.  As I reflected on what these individuals have brought to my life and how they have invested in me, the gratefulness inside my heart is overflowing.  Let me share some of the names of those who have already passed but not before they were able to be an incredible source of inspiration to me:
  • My grandmother, Dossie Dagenhardt.  This woman was simply amazing.  Before Alzheimer's took most of her memory and she went home to be with the Lord in 2006, my grandmother spent time each morning pouring over the word of God, reading three chapters in the Old Testament and two in the New Testament every day.  She was a woman of intense prayer, lifting me up to the Lord daily and asking God's favor in my life decisions for both now and the future.  Her discipline and heart for the Lord inspire me today.
  • Dr. Mark Corts, my pastor growing up.  Dr. Corts was a remarkable man.  He never forgot a name - and I mean literally never - and he had the ability to be incredibly busy yet have time for any one that needed him.  A gifted preacher, his sermons were often lengthy and meaty, yet when I left a worship service I felt as if I had truly been challenged by the word of God.  Most importantly to me, Dr. Corts took time to invest in my life on an individual level and he always made sure to check up on how things were with me not just in my own ministry but also in my personal spiritual life.
  • Thomas Young was an evangelist that I first met in the early 1990's when he was the camp pastor at a high school camp where I was serving as a counselor.  Later in 2003, I reconnected with him on a mission trip where he was the lead teacher and we established a connection that carried me through many years of student ministry.  Over those years I encountered Thomas at various events and had the opportunity to host him at a few that our church sponsored.  During each of those events he found time to invest in me personally, answering questions over coffee and giving me encouragement in my personal life and ministry.  His fire and passion were intense, yet he was humble and genuinely compassionate about people.  Sadly his life ended two years ago but I am still permanently marked by the impact and influence he had on my life.
There are many others in my life today who regularly challenge me and inspire me in so many ways.  My wife is my chief source of encouragement and she sees the "raw" side of me that most others don't get to experience.  Yet in spite of all of my flaws, she believes in me and pushes me to pursue God's call in my life and to follow His path for me even though it seems risky or even dangerous.  God has also placed several friends in the ministry in my life who regularly sharpen me with wise counsel and positive affirmation.  I am constantly reminded that I can't make it through life on my own.  Being surrounded by those who encourage and aren't afraid to be honest with me - not telling me what I simply want to hear - is invaluable.

Who inspires you in your life?  If they are still close by, how much time do you commit to spend with them, allowing yourself to be encouraged and challenged by what they speak and pour into your life?  It is so critical that you seek out those kinds of relationships where you will be inspired to grow and mature as a person and as a disciple of Christ.  And don't forget, people will be seeking you out for inspiration too, so make it a priority to invest in the lives of others around you as well.

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