Some people are pivotal in our lives. They are present to us at just the right time with just what we need. Fred Craddock was one of those people for me. This dear man died 2 days ago.

As a sophomore in college, I was in Dr. Craddock’s class on spirituality in novels. The seminar helped us explore the sacred in the mundane. I presented a paper to the class for my final. I wrote it and then presented the essence of it orally. I then turned in the paper. When I got the paper back, I had 2 grades. An A+ for presentation in class and a B for the written paper. The note from Dr. Craddock below the grades read,  “The moral of this is always speak, never write.”

So, I became a preacher. I heard a call to speak and I did.  But, I also wrote. I worked hard on writing sermons and articles, on communicating as well on the page as I did orally. Sometimes a word at the right time gives insight and challenges growth.  A pivotal point in my life.

After I had graduated from seminary I was preaching. I was struggling. My early training in preaching taught me to give a speech structured this way: “tell them what you are going to tell the, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” (And occasionally end with a poem!) I struggled to know, “Where do I get the right to tell others what is truth?” And then I read the newly published book by Dr. Craddock, “As One Without Authority” and my life was changed. I remember the first sermon where I guided people on a journey of discovery rather than trying to tell people what to do.  I had much more fun and the listeners seemed to enjoy the journey of discovery much more than my telling them what I thought was true.  A  pivotal point that made preaching the delightful center of my ministry.

I think about Fred Craddock as I grieve his loss. His presence in my life was sheer grace. He had the courage to share his gift which struck me at a point where I needed that gift. Neither he nor I manufactured the relationship nor knew what would happen when we met. But my need and his gift resulted in my life changing. I call that grace.

And Dr. Craddock had another gift. His humility. He simply offered who he was, not forcing himself on others, not trying to control what others thought or did. He shared with quiet passion and compassion his insights and his wisdom. I never felt coerced. I was simply invited into his journey of discovery as he allowed me to run my fingers through the treasures of his  mind. I call that grace.

So, Fred Craddock is a pivotal person in my life. And no one can ever know how grace changed me. But, in this time of grief and loss, I can only say “Thank you” to God for having my life touched by such a kind and graceful soul.