Tonight I will celebrate, along with hundreds of others, the life of my friend and mentor, Gary Varner.  I told you about Gary a couple of months ago.  And my best friend, Lindesy, a girl who I grew a unique kinship with during our times in Ukraine under Gary’s leadership, wrote about him on Monday.  It was a beautiful tribute and I urge you to take the time to read it.

There are a lot of emotions to process when thinking of Gary Varner.  Laughter at the memories, heartache at the early end of his earthly life, grief when I think of his wife and kids, regret that I didn’t keep in touch better through the years, gratefulness for his faithful pouring into me, and, most of all, a challenge to live my life to the full as he always did.  Gary practiced what he preached and he lived life the way he encouraged others to do so.

“Worthy goals are rarely ever easily achieved,” is a quote from Gary that has been passed on in the days since his death.  No one understood this more than Gary did.  He was a passionate man, filled with love and he will truly, truly be missed. 

I am thankful for Gary and his ministry.  I’m thankful to him for pouring into me as a youth.  I’m grateful for the graceful way he lived his life and endured his illness.  I’m thankful for Gary Varner.

Pray for Gary’s wife, Carol, and their kids, Clayton (and Clayton’s wife, Courtney) and Jessica.  The days ahead will be filled with mourning, but also so much joy, laughter and memories.  There is nothing easy about saying good-bye to a loved one.  But we do not mourn as those who have no hope.

Gary is in the presence of the Almighty King.  He is standing before the throne.  There is no more pain, no more sorrow.  We say goodbye but for a time.  But for those left behind, especially those closest to him, the time will be filled with difficult moments.  Pray for strength, for peace and for comfort in the days ahead.

Tonight we will all listen to Gary speak one last time.  He wrote out his memorial service himself.  For those that knew him, that’s not a surprise.  It even makes you smile, probably, because…of course he did!  He’s going to get the last word.

I have no doubt it will be a good one.