Archive for November, 2012

Finding Jim Paynter
November 29, 2012

I worked in central Florida for a few years in the late seventies. It was run by a bunch of “born agains” who promoted Jesus continually. It was a family run business, and they talked a good game, but didn’t necessarily live it (except my friend Ray Williams, but that’s another story).

I was never impressed by “born again Christians”, because they were so “mousey”. By “Mousey” I mean timid, meek, quiet. At this place it was “Jesus this” and “Jesus that”. And their focus was on Jesus and money, although, by how the place was shut down, I think the order might have been money and Jesus.

I worked side by side doing construction with my supervisor, Jim Paynter. Jim was a simple man from Maryland, and I’m not quite sure how he ended up in Eustis, FL. But we worked together. Jim never preached to me. Never kept pushing me. He worked beside me, and worked hard.

Jim was married to Judy, a sweetheart if there ever was one, and had seven boys, all their names beginning with “J”. I never asked him why, but it was a blast watching him call his son, and running through the list of names before he got to the lad’s real name.

I knew Jim was a Christian, because we always had devotions before work. Jim would ask me to pray, and as a non-Christian, I got to praying pretty good, not the canned Catholic prayers I was taught. And Jim loved Judy. I remember he would chase her around the kitchen always trying to kiss on her or hug her. I still laugh when I think about it.

He was a strict disciplinarian with his kids. I’m not talking physical discipline, but like “Andy Griffith” discipline. Groundings, taking away privileges, and the one line he used all the time with his kids when they messed up was “what ails you, boy?”

Jim never swore. One time he smacked his thumb real good with a hammer. He jumped down from the scaffold, yelling, “dang, dang, gosh darn it” with blood dripping down his hand. He later apologized to me for losing his temper. I laughed and told him the words I’d be saying instead of what he used.

He lived his life beside me. He never cheated at work, was never mean to people, and was a willing worker. He never brought up Jesus, but his life made me question him about this Jesus he served. Looking back, it was him imitating Christ, and I just wanted to be like him.

My friend Jay and I would go to the Christmas parties drunk, and Jim sat with us and never mentioned it. I thought it would be cool to “show them” by coming drunk, but Jim’s response to us made me embarrassed, because it was an insult to what Jim believed.

I moved north and lost touch with Jim completely. About 3 years later, I accepted Christ’s gift of salvation, and people asked me who inspired me to become a Christian and two names came to mind. My Aunt Mary, and Jim Paynter. I’ve been able to thank, and continue to thank Aunt Mary, but have never seen Jim since. I’m sure he’d be totally shocked to find out I’m a preacher.

So to Jim, I just want to say “thank you” for loving Jesus with your life. Thank you for investing in me. Thank you for imitating Christ. Thank you for loving me as the drunk and the druggie I was. It wasn’t all in vain. I love the Lord with all my heart, and you are a big reason why with the seed you planted.

If anyone ever runs into Jim Paynter, tell him I said hi, but I’m not sure he’d remember me. Or maybe he’s been praying for me everyday. Either way, there’s only one thing I need to do.

I want to be somebody’s Jim Paynter.

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