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In Loving Memory - Mr. Dan Stone
by Steve Pettit

June 2, 1927 – October 7, 2005

On the evening of October 7th, 2005 Dan Stone moved “above the line.” Finally. Fully. Perfectly. Most of you who read this know him personally. All of you who read this have heard him, for he has spoken through most every sentence we’ve printed down through the years.

On October the 9th in Cadiz, Kentucky many of us gathered to remember, to memorialize, to celebrate, and to give thanks for the life and times of our dear friend. The Apostle Paul said, “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers.” So many of us were “fathered” into the fullness of the gospel—“Christ in you, the hope of glory”—through Dan’s unique expression and witness. We believe the church does not need more managers, leaders and communicators nearly as much as it needs more fathers.

We shared our prevailing images of Dan—first time meetings, memorable moments, and which of his illustrations took us “above the line.” We compared him to Biblical characters like Samuel, for whom “God let none of his words fall to the ground;” or, like Elijah, the mighty “disturber of Israel” (with the mood swings to match). In his later days, he certainly seemed to be like a combination of Jeremiah and Hosea, a weepy prophet of God’s love for his faithless people. Almost all of us thought of him as “Paul” to our own “Timothy.”

But mostly, he was Dan Stone. The one and only. He memorized no one else’s script, copied no one else’s models as teacher, mentor, friend or father. We recalled how ‘real’ he was—so real it was painful and intimidating to some. He did not suffer fools gladly. Pretense found it difficult to breathe the air when Dan was in the room!

We were reminded by Dan’s final days here on earth that God is, indeed, Lord of time and space. In Dan’s physical dying—dementia, brain cancer, etc.—we acknowledged this would not have been our way for our friend to go. And God reminded us that none of us is in control. We will not put life and death on our own terms. No one goes through the door we call death until King Jesus turns the key (see Revelation 1:18). Moreover, we confessed in faith that “all things are your servants, O Lord” (Psalm 119:91). Even dementia. Even cancer (see pp. 82-3 in The Rest of the Gospel).

God spoke to us of his sovereign, redeeming love. His is a love not of this realm. Unlike anything we know. All of us must learn we don’t have a clue what’s best for us. We must believe and come to know that life on our own terms is rarely in our best interest. So God’s love sends darkness as well as light; calamity and prosperity; Gethsemane and Edens; crucifixions as well as resurrections! Dan taught us to see these with a “single eye”—as coming from no hand but our Father’s. As Dame Julian of Norwich said so well, “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.”

We all agreed we will miss him greatly. Our lives will never be the same because we met him, and, they will never be exactly the same now that he is gone. I, for one, have a hard time adjusting to the fact I will never do another conference or retreat with him, never get another UK Basketball report from him, or will never be able to run a recent revelation by him.

Yet . . . yet there is a ‘Dan-ness’ of life that will always be with us. A ‘Christ-ness’ of Dan we will always know, always cherish, always remember. We will never read 2nd Corinthians 4:18 again without automatically thinking of “the line.” We will never again look at the cross without seeing “double”—Christ died for us and we died with Christ. We’ll never see a child’s swing set without being reminded by the Holy Spirit that it is alright for the soul to swing when your spirit is anchored in Christ. We’ll never hear the word “but” without thinking “holy.” Whenever we are tempted to think of ourselves as liabilities, we’ll hear a voice telling us we are God’s precious assets. We’ll humbly remember we have all succeeded in that which we are supposed to succeed in . . . failing to live the life pleasing to God. And because of his witness to the truth, we will never find rest . . . the rest of the gospel . . . as long as we try to live or reproduce the only life pleasing to God, the life God himself alone can live.

Even as the curtain called death has come down on Dan’s earthly life, his story is not over. Even though the earthly script of Dan Stone has gone home safely to the Eternal Printer, the Author and Finisher of all is still writing our stories. He has and will continue to use Dan’s story to complete or fill-in something we needed—else we would never have met him. Even though the house he lived in here has died, even though his abiding place is no longer on the earth, Dan still abides. He abides in the precious memories God has graced us with and, more importantly, he abides with God, protected by a deathless love in a place of untouchable refuge.