(This week the header picture will be one James took; he loved shooting animals and landscapes.)
Jimmie Joe, JJ, (James to me because that’s what he liked to be called) had the most infectious smile that lit up his whole face and the space around him. He was such a stinker until the day God grabbed his heart and changed him forever.
I have always loved God, loved my relationship with Jesus the Christ, and loved the fact that the Spirit can move me with the His quiet presence. Some of my favorite radio stations are the ones that play contemporary Christian music: 104.5 around these parts is one. I had been telling James he should listen to it because it played great music, had great stuff on there.
One day, he came home and said he had been listening to that station all day, and I don’t think he ever turned the radio dial away from it after that, calling in and winning contests; books, CD’s. Nor did he turn back from the path he had embarked on with God as his guide. He began to lead the youth in our church, play his trombone in worship, and love the things of God.
His love for the youth of our church, as well as the whole county, was obvious to anybody that was around him. He had a deep conviction to show these youth there was a better, greater, more exciting way than drugs or alcohol. He was filled with the joy of the Lord and wanted them to experience that too. He worked diligently to teach them, to make things interesting, to give them opportunities that showed them who Jesus really is.
He took them to the Agape music festival at Greenville College, had lock-ins, had cook-outs at our home, and just generally was there, present, in case they needed him. Those kids still, ten years later, have him in their hearts.
He loved music and encouraged those of us who could play a musical instrument in church to get together and practice to play during worship. And we did: keyboard, drums, trombone, clarinet, guitars, whatever we could play. He also worked at getting the sound system just right, good for recording the music and the church services. My sister and I have always sang together and wanted to make our mother a recording of songs for her birthday. James went with us to the church to record the music. At one point in the evening I noticed him leaning back in the chair with his eyes closed. Thinking he was getting bored and tired of listening and relistening to us, I told him we would hurry. He sat up, tears on his face, and said, “No, I’m enjoying this.”
Joe, his grandfather, would come to the house, and we would all three watch the Gaithers on television. I mean, I love the Gaithers, but contemporary Christian was more our style, and yet James would sit there and loved watching this. His grandpa loved it, too.
He would call me outside of an evening to look at a particularly beautiful sunset and say, “I stand amazed in the Presence.” And although that beautiful senset was, of course, amazing, it was not nearly as amazing as the transformation that took place in James’ life.
An amazing man of God.