I didn't know George Tyree all that well while he was alive, but I feel like I do now. His wife and family have become like family to me and mine. Miles Tyree, who turns 3 tomorrow, calls my youngest son 'Levi Tyree', and calls me 'Untle'. (his c's are t's).
He has a number of 'Untles' in the church, but I am delighted to be one of them.
I also feel like I know George because Southlanders are always talking about him. They talk about his vintage car, how he hated wearing shorts, and how he was always telling the other elders to iron their shirts.They remember his passionate sermons, and marvel at his gracious and courageous pastoring. Most of all they talk about his praying.
He prayed with relentless faith and unyielding fervor. He wrestled with God like Jacob did.
George's private and public prayer life was possibly the most powerful legacy he left to Southlands Church.
When my family and I came to join Southlands in 2007, I was given George's empty office. He had passed away a few months prior to us coming. The lady who showed me to my new space walked me to the door, showed me around, and then left me with these departing words. "You've sure got big shoes to fill."
It was one of those moments when I wish I had a quicker tongue. If I had, I would have said, "George Tyree has unfillable shoes." Who can even begin to replace the legacy he left to the family he so passionately loved, and the church on which he spent himself. Who would even want to try?
I have since moved offices, but I have kept George's chair. It's a beige, leather, retro one that swivels on a wooden base. Vintage. It probably reminded him of his car. It reminds me of him and his legacy of prayer.
In my journey of recovering a high view of God's Sovereignty, its a reminder to me that this does not mean settling into resigned passivity in prayer. I want to be like Elijah, Jacob and James who all talked about and modeled fervent, effective prayer.
The Hebrews 11 Heroes were commended for their faith, not their flawless theology.
They did seem to understand that God was Sovereign. They died not receiving all that God had promised. (v13)They knew that their ultimate reward was in heaven, and that God's promise to them would be fully realized in the coming generations.(v 39) You don't see them throwing a tantrum because they didn't get everything they believed for this side of heaven.
But they still believed God enough to obey him, saw much fruit here on earth, and were commended for it.
Submission to God certainly did not mean resignation or fatalism to them.
They believed that their faith made a difference to God and their situations, and it certainly did.
For me, prayer is faith with a voice. I want to pray like the Hebrews 11 heroes lived.
Pray with greater expectancy, urgency and tenacity. Pray like it really makes a difference to God.
I want to pray like George Tyree prayed.
I know I can never fill his shoes. No-one ever can. But at least I can sit in his chair.