Okay, so…Last night I was poking around on the web, and I found an online Guest Book that had been attached to Keith’s obituary through our local paper. I am not sure why I hadn’t seen it before, but it had 6 pages of entries of notes that people had written to me, Josh and Bethany. What a blessing it was to read these wonderful words of hope and encouragement!
You may also remember that right after the news about Keith’s impending death became public, he received over 500 emails. While I read them as they came in, there were some that I missed, and some that the true meaning did not sink in until I went back and reread them. I have been doing that some this week, and it is so overwhelming.
I have entitled today’s post “A Life Well Lived,” and have decided to share a few of these writings. I haven’t asked permission from these folks to share their words on such a broad stage, so I am not going to use their names, but their stories are significant.
This one is from a High School friend of Keith’s:
When I was exploring whether or not Christianity was “the real deal” or not, Keith was one of the first people I met outside my little group of friends who was a Christian. He and I were 16 years old and living in Montgomery Alabama. Now, many decades later, I live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I have a Masters of Divinity, I am ministering in a church, and have a thriving ministry in East Africa. Keith is one of the very important people in my formative years who helped me to realize that Christianity was the real deal. He was able to convince me because, even at the ripe old age of 16, Christ was so very real to him. Your husband had an important impact on my life! I am sure there are hundreds of other people from our growing up years just like me who will not get the chance to write to you about Keith’s godly influence on them, so I speak for those people as well as myself. I’m sure that the quality of life Keith lived was several times more than what most people long to live. (Lord Jesus, comfort this family and fill with your love the tremendous gap left by Keith. Amen)
Here is a great example of how a small act of obedience can have a profound effect:
My family and I are members of Valleydale Church. My husband (before he was my husband) moved to Birmingham from our small hometown of Albertville, Alabama. He didn’t have a church and his friends here in Birmingham were not the church type.
David (my husband) started visiting some churches in the area but really wasn’t happy. One Sunday he visited Valleydale. He completed the guest card and placed it in the offering plate. I’m not sure how long after that day it was but he was home one night and his doorbell rang. It was Keith. David invited him in and he said they talked for the longest time. Keith invited him back to Valleydale in which David took him up on the offer and started attending regularly on Sunday mornings.
The first weekend I came to Birmingham to visit David he told me to be sure to bring a dress for church on Sunday. I had attended church as a small child but then my family stopped going so church wasn’t something I was use to. I remember feeling scared about going but brought my dress anyways. Sunday morning came and he brought me to Valleydale. We sat upstairs and looked down and I can remember thinking WOW. This is awesome. I really love this music. I really love the pastor. David and I dated for almost a year before we were married. Every time I started to pack (I still lived in Albertville while we dated) I always packed my church dress and we attended Valleydale.
Shortly after us getting married, I knew this was the place God wanted me to be. I wanted to teach a worship class for the 3-4 year olds but was so scared. How could I teach when I have just begun to attend a church? How could I teach when I wasn’t even a member? So I was baptized. I began to teach the 3-4 year olds. I would study the entire week. I had to since I didn’t know the stories much myself. I spent hours and hours reading the scripture I would be teaching and researching it’s meaning. Of course, I really didn’t need to do all this to be able to read a story to 3 and 4 year olds. You had to keep it really basic for them. But I wanted to know.
It wasn’t long after I was baptized that my son (from a previous marriage) wanted to be. So he and my husband were both baptized together by Pastor Calvin. I couldn’t believe it. We were members of a church. I would walk down the halls of the church and people knew my name (parents of the children mainly at first). I taught several years there before having to give it up due to us being out of town so many weekends traveling and I felt the children deserved someone who was there for them more than I could be at the time.
We are still members of Valleydale. The 3 and 4 year olds I taught that first year will be graduating high school this year. It’s amazing to see them in church now and think wow I had a part in this. I tell you all this because I’m not sure how our lives would have been had Brother Keith not taken the time to knock on a door one night. Not only did he touch David’s life but that of mine and my sons. Tyler (my son) became so involved with Valleydale as he got into middle school and high school. Helping with VBS and spending time mentoring with younger boys. He traveled on mission trips with the church and also outside of the church both nationally and international.
I’m sorry I didn’t know about Keith’s illness prior to today. I would love to have let him know what he meant in our lives. How many lives he touched just by knocking on one door. I’m sorry for your loss and will be praying for you and your family.
John 1:7 “The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe”
Or this one from a young woman in Mobile:
My heart is so full and overflowing with love for the man who brought me to Jesus. For the man who taught me how to sing. I love you Brother Keith!!! I can remember being a little girl at Chickasaw & FBNM and listening to you sing. I thought you had the most beautiful voice. I wanted to sing like that and Lord knows I tried, but God had another purpose for me. (It wasn’t to sing!!!) Ha-Ha!!! But no matter how I sounded you coached me in my voice lessons and enjoyed every note!! I hope I didn’t hurt your ears too much!!! You were always there with an encouraging word, always a smile on your face and the light of Jesus shining through. Thank you for everything!!! You may not know it, but you have a big part of my heart. In 1995 I was shot in the face with a 22 pistol. I survived that day only by a miracle from God. I wouldn’t know that and wouldn’t appreciate that miracle everyday if it wasn’t for you. I accepted Jesus into my heart from your teachings and your example. From my heart and soul, thank you!!! I love you Brother Keith!!! I can’t be there to do it in person, but I hope you can feel the big hug I am sending you. I am also sending big hugs from Alabama to Lee Ann, Bethany and Josh!! I love all of you and I’m praying for you!!!
And this one is from Carey Dean, one of the Ministers that Keith mentored. This is what he wrote in his journal after attending Keith’s funeral:
Today marks a Jordan-memorial stone for me. This funeral has forever affected me. I am so glad I decided to go, rent the car and drive the 7 hours….but I wish I would have done so a week earlier. I wish I could have sat at Keith’s bedside and said “thank you” instead of only being able to say it to Lee Ann.
Why do we struggle so with sacrificing temporary time and money for that which goes deeper than our watch or bank account? Thank you Lord, for this day. When Lee Ann asked me to be a pall-bearer I was humbled but I had no idea of how this role would forever change me. Because of Keith’s burial in Montgomery I assumed the role was simply honorary and because of that several, if not many, would be included in the honor.
As I arrived at Woodland community church with Blake and Tanner we sat in the foyer taking in the place where Keith and Lee Ann served for 6 years. At one point I got up, signed the guest registry and picked up an order of service. This is when everything changed and the gravity of the day fell upon my heart. I scanned the inside cover seeing each element with a description of each person involved in the service. Then I turned to the outside cover and my heart sank and tears began to flow.. There my name was listed with 5 others as pall-bearer with description, “Carey Dean, Mentored by Keith Martin.” That one statement had many words attached to it with invisible ink yet I could read it clearly. For me it really read, “Carey Dean whom I love and am proud of, who even though time and space has separated us I want him to know I consider him a dear friend.”
I broke. Thankful for a relationship from the Lord with Keith that was a privilege and joy. Thank you Lord for calling me into ministry and then putting me under the safe care of one such as Keith. Gratitude filled my being when I could stand to represent one of the many in vocational ministry who were affected by Keith’s mentoring.
His reserving a seat for me as a pall bearer said, “I love you and am proud of you. I want all to know my fingerprints are on you.” My deciding to go to the funeral said to Keith and Lee Ann, “I love you and I am proud of you. I am so grateful to bear your fingerprints on my life.” 1 Peter 5:5 continues to become more understood in my life with each passing day. Today was a day where I experienced being humbled under the mighty hand of God. In that position of humility I found rest, peace, thanksgiving and sweet correction.
There are many more, but I will stop there. My purpose in sharing these today is to hopefully encourage you in your walk. I want to help you realize that the lives that you are touching each day really matter. God can link things together in ways that we can’t imagine. It is an amazingly wonderful plan that allows us to be partners with Him in His redemptive work!
I am more convinced than ever that one of the reasons Keith died so young is that he had finished the work God had for him here on earth. He was just quicker about it than the rest of us, and got to head home early!
Blessings, my friends!