I'd much rather eat a Twinkie with friends, than to eat a salad alone - Larry Joe DeWitt
Lesson 1... Look inside a person first
As I write this blog today I do it with a very heavy heart and I know that there are many who are mourning the loss of a great friend and man... Larry Joe DeWitt. My life would not be what it is without LJ's influence and words that seemed to come at just the right moment. I will forever be grateful for what you have done for me and my family.
The very first lesson I learned from LJ was not one that he told me about, but it was one that he demonstrated to me first and to many others after and I'm sure many before me as well. I remember sitting on his couch in his small house just down from the church talking about my new relationship with Jesus. He never asked me how I was going to change or what I needed to do to "be right". He simply just let me talk and in his special way and at the right moment would say..."Well, Mattie", followed by some kind of encouragement or he would simply throw out some movie quote that seemed to fit the situation.
Larry was the one who encouraged me to go back to college and to start at LBC. I met my wife in Larry's Sunday school class. LJ was the first one to teach me how to fly fish. Larry always looked at what was inside me - and never what was wrong with me. He never questioned my motives; instead he simply encouraged me threw what ever it was I needed to get through. He always saw the best in me and would always be the first to send me a note or text me with great job! He had a gift and he used it well.
Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior. That's what it says. My lord,
Old Deets is gone. My lord. Lonesome Dove - Augustus
Lesson 2 - Words are important
Whenever it came to making sure words mattered there were two men in my life that stand out. The first was Lionel Talbott and the second, LJ. Both used words like a master builder laying a foundation. Larry being an English major always made me think about the words that I used in preaching. He would tell me to always speak from the heart and explain the Scriptures in a way that people could understand it. He would tell me not to get to "fancy" and just let the "text speak for itself". Side note - getting fancy with words was left up to Lionel.
LJ would remind me often that the words you speak to others is vital to their growth and their relationship with Jesus. He would remind me to always back up my words with actions. If you're gonna say that you are praying; then pray. If you are going to encourage; then encourage - use your words - they are powerful. But they are powerful only when you back them up with the way you live your life. Words with no action are just empty words.
I think I've lost some of that over time. The weight of pleasing people and the pressure of making sure that my sermons are "deep" enough has caused me to move away from my ability to just speak "plainly" about the text. I guess LJ is still teaching me.
Do you spend time with your family? Good. Because a man that doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man. - The Godfather - Don Corleone
Lesson 3 - Never forget about the most important part of your ministry - your wife & kids
Larry at times would take some heat for this one from people, but I never questioned his commitment to his family and his friendships. Larry would make sure that his family came first and his kids knew that their father loved them more than the ministry. LJ taught me that my wife (Farah Gail - Larry never just called her Farah, it was always Farah Gail), he taught me to cherish her and to love her first. This lesson would serve me well.
In ministry it is very easy to put everyone else's needs above those of your own family. It was Larry that would challenge me with a lesson learned from a can of Coke. I'll be more than happy to tell you the story some time. The lesson was that the preacher's wife only wanted a Coke and yet he couldn't make time for her. It's a simple lesson, but one that Farah Gail and I have used all our lives.
Lesson 4 - Fish Well
Larry was a great fisherman and would use this skill not only on the water, but also in the ministry. LJ would always have a good fishing story to tell (or maybe a turkey hunting one with Papaw George). His stories would always make their way into a sermon somewhere. LJ taught me a lot about fishing on the water, but he also taught me the importance of fishing for men.
During my time at Scottsburg, I was surrounded by great teachers and evangelists. Phil, Aaron, LJ, Pauly, Dave, Marc, and Lionel would all teach me their own personal way of reaching people for Christ. I am truly blessed to have been taught by these men. One of the greatest lessons learned was that whatever I did for people - the most important fishing technique is to just be myself and let God speak through my life and not just through my words. LJ often would tell me to always use the right "lure" or "tackle". He would remind me that fishing for men was not unlike fishing on the water. I could spend hours fishing and only catch one (or maybe none at all), but at least I was fishing. I guess that is the lesson - no matter the outcome - my purpose is to fish - let God do the landing!
It's not dying I'm talking about, it's living. - Lonesome Dove - Augustus McCrae
#5 - Live life to the fullest
I know that there are many more lessons that I've learned from LJ. Like how to enjoy a proper Honeybun and Mt. Dew. Like how to enjoy a good round of biscuits and gravy with a friend. How to pull off a great prank using someone else's full bear rug - "SAVAGE". I have learned how to run through a toll both in California and not worry about because the registration is in Greg Matthew's name. I've learned how to close out a Pizza King buffet. I've learned how to sit in the middle of a stream and enjoy the company of men and trout fishing (Rockbridge!!! - right Steve Hutton). I've learned to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and not miss out on a good fishing day (Dale and Henry - that's where you come in). Always be ready to answer the phone with a good movie quote (Thanks Phil Miller). I've learned that over time the things that matter most will always "remain" and the things that don't really matter will for sure pass away. I'm glad that Farah Gail and I had the opportunity to sit and talk once again on his living room couch. I guess you could say that it was God's way of allowing our friendship to come full circle.
One last story... when Farah Gail and I decided to get married, I was in the office and Larry asked me who was going to marry us...I told him Phil. After a long pause, he said....Oh....Ok.... You could tell that LJ was taken back by this. But then I said, that's because I want you to be one of my groomsmen and stand with me. Larry got that excited DeWitt excitement (its all in the hands) and that big LJ smile and all he could say is.... Oh ok...Oh ok... Oh ok.... I will be forever grateful for the men who stood with me and who have always had my back. This for sure was Larry Joe. No matter if I was in Indiana, Colorado or Ohio he was only a phone call away. Thanks for loving me for me! We had some pretty big dreams...I'm sorry that they never came about...I make a promise to you...God willing I will see our "Journey" become reality....!
Live life to the fullest. Preach the word! Preach it low where men can reach it. Preach it high where men can teach it. But always brother, preach the word - preach it! I know that Larry Joe has left his mark on many, but I'm glad that we could share the moments we did. Today I think I will have a "honeybun and a mountain dew" and watch some Lonesome Dove. Thanks LJ for the life you shared with me and the lessons that you taught me. It's not dying I'm talking about, it's living. Go rest high my friend and enjoy your time with "The Reb"!
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