Barb and I were blessed in college to have as our model of pastor and wife Willard E. (Mike) and Betty Michael. Pastor Mike and Betty loved us and shepherded us in ways we did not even realize then. It was while listening to Pastor Mike preach that I first learned what preaching was to be. It was the open door to their home that taught us, a couple not yet married, what an open and safe home could be like.
One day Pastor Mike and Betty invited Barb and I, an engaged couple soon to be married, to their house for dinner. Joining us for dinner was a couple from Colorado, Dr. and Mrs. Vernon Grounds. Dr. Grounds had been Pastor Mike’s teacher and mentor. Why Pastor Mike felt that WE should meet this couple, I cannot say. What transpired during that dinner is a distant memory. What I do remember clearly is that I left there with a twist on Henry David Thoreau’s assessment that ‘all men lead lives of quiet desperation’. Here was a man who stunned me with what I called his life of ‘quiet inspiration’.
Perhaps that is what Pastor Mike wanted us to gain from that evening.
Shortly thereafter, Barb and I were married. Surprisingly, and thoughtfully, there was in the stack of gifts a book entitled quaintly The Bride’s Book of Ideas: A Guide to Christian Homemaking. Attached to the gift was a card, which we have saved, wishing us great blessing in our marriage.
It was signed by Vernon and Ann Grounds.
Dr. Grounds passed away last week at the age of 96. As I read testimonies about him from men I greatly respect here and here, I’m humbled to think that God granted to me, a nobody with no Christian pedigree, no evangelical connections, no special promise, an evening with a person of such character. And in the short time we had together I sensed what these men knew from long experience. What privilege God granted Barb and I.
Let the following paragraph set the tone, and then read these testimonies for yourselves. Consider the men and women God has placed in your life and long, aspire, endeavor, to be like them.
Vernon Grounds earned his Ph.D. in psychology. He was a certified scholar. But he rarely felt the need to refer to himself as Dr. Grounds. I cannot remember seeing him write the letters Ph.D. after his name as so many scholars are wont to do. That was not where he wished to make his impression. How can it be better said than simply that he was just Vernon, LOP … lover of people.
[Note: for some helpful thoughts on the desire to ‘imitate another’, read here.]