(photo 1 taken last year when Layne officiated at Tim’s wedding) (Photo 2 taken during Layne’s first visit)
Thoughts on the Passing of a Dear Friend, Layne
When I went to bed last night, it was just like any other night. Around 2:30 a.m. the phone rang abruptly in my ear. You know how those ‘middle-of-the-night’ phone calls illicit an immediate, and sometimes fearful, ‘spring-to-action’ response. That adrenaline begins to rush immediately as you pick up the receiver and try to brace yourself for what’s coming. With the exception of a friend or family member going into labor, it’s almost always BAD news. This time it was our youngest son, Tim. “Mom, I’m sorry to wake you up. I just got a text from Kristy Livingston. Layne’s dead. He’s gone, Mom!”
I took a deep breath. For what seemed like an eternity, I was speechless. For those who know me well, that’s unusual in itself. Finally, I responded. I didn’t know what to say. It was just unbelievable. Tim said that Layne’s wife, Kristy, had sent him and us a text. Michael, instantly awake, asked me what was going on and I told him. I could hear the halting, deep sorrow in his voice as he also responded in disbelief. I laid there for a few minutes processing my thoughts then got up and looked at the text. “Call me anytime” she had written. Well, it was 3 am EST where we were, but, only midnight in California. “I’ve got to call Kristy right now” was all I could think, so I slowly got up and dialed her number.
Kristy was obviously still stunned as were we all. Through tears and sniffles she told me what had happened. Something about a ‘quad’ (four-wheeler) accident, a neurosurgeon telling her he had only a 5% survival if they did surgery and 0% if they didn’t, and then Layne having a heart attack before the surgery could be done. I didn’t ask too many questions. I let her tell me what she wanted to tell me. My brain could hardly process it. It just seemed so, so, so unreal.
We talked for about 20 minutes. I went back to bed and updated Michael and my brain kept running as I fervently prayed. Pray without ceasing something said. It seemed like all I could hear was Layne’s deep, booming voice echoing throughout my thoughts. Then, just as I was about to drift back off to sleep, I heard an almost audible sound. It was a woman, crying. I jolted awake. I was sure it was Kristy. I began praying again. Pray without ceasing
Kristy had asked me to see if I had any pictures of Layne, so, this morning, after I got up with my morning coffee and again, prayed, I began to look through old photos on the computer, on CDs and in our family albums. I didn’t have many, but, I did have some. Again, it was as though I could hear Layne’s deep, booming voice rolling through the room. Pray without ceasing. My thoughts went back to the summer of 1997; the first time we met Layne. He had come out here to teach at the church we went to then because he knew the pastor. It was a wonderful time of remembrance.
Layne and I had actually connected online before that. There was a chat forum associated with that former organization of churches and we were both on it and had some communication. We had been told he was coming with a friend and their two, then teenage sons. They drove a camper from California out here to NE Tennessee. I remember walking into the church that morning and meeting Layne. He taught on witnessing and I had never heard such good teaching on the subject. When he needed a place to park the RV we offered our home which he gratefully accepted. Even though he had been driving and up for hours and really needed to sleep, when he got out here and saw our beautiful mountain view, he asked if we had any coffee. I said I’d be glad to make some and I’ll never forget his reply, “If I have a choice between sleeping and Christian fellowship; no contest. Go ahead and make that coffee.” Layne fondly dubbed that day as “back porch time”. It was the first of a number of times he enjoyed that and the ‘cave’ bedroom in our downstairs. He often mentioned longing for that ‘back porch time’ when we talked. We all sat in rockers and chairs on the back porch, looking at the mountains and fellowshipping for the rest of the day and during dinner. They were here for a couple of days and we just simply…well..connected. And, I remember other visits here and there. I still have the ACTS Ministries brightly colored aprons and his “Bold to the Bone” cookbook he brought with him one visit and fond memories of him chopping up salsa in my kitchen and devouring my home canned bread and butter pickles.
It’s always wonderful when you meet folks you just bond with. We have some other dear friends, Dan and Susie Tuttle and it’s like that with them, too. It doesn’t matter where we are; here or there, or how much time has elapsed. You just never stop loving. Layne told me a lot about his wife, Kristy, that first visit and I was so excited to meet her sometime. In fact, I could hardly wait to do so and my anticipation was rewarded a couple of years later when they made another trip out here. My connection with Kristy was instantaneous. We were kindred spirits. She quickly became closer than a sister and always will be. Even now we are making plans to go out for Layne’s funeral and to support her and her family.
In 2001, Tim and I went out to visit Layne and Kristy in Hemet when they lived in the old house. Tim was considering attending a Bible college out there and we had the greatest time fellowshipping with them. Even though we’d never been there before it was like we had and never left. We went to their church and to a baseball game with a bunch of their friends and had a tailgate BBQ afterwards followed by worship in their living room. I have vivid memories of leaning over a five gallon bucket with my arms up to their elbows stirring Layne’s famous Carne Asada recipe. We met many people involved in ACTS ministries. I wished I could take all of them and transport them out here! Somehow, I felt lonely when I got back home.
Over the years, Layne became more than a friend. He became the brother Michael had never had. As we went through several years of difficulties in the church we had been attending for longer than that, Layne was always there to listen and give us a balanced perspective and godly counsel. When we went through family challenges in the last couple of years, Layne was the one we turned to as we struggled through it. Over the years he became our closest confidante. He had the uncanny ability to discern the truth of a situation and remain neutral in giving his counsel. That is a rare gift. When Michael became ill and needed a bone marrow transplant, Layne organized prayer through his church and across the globe. He once told me he couldn’t even walk through the church without someone coming up to him and asking how Michael was doing. If we called him with a prayer request, we did so with confidence knowing it would go out to myriad praying saints instantly. When Dad was in a nursing home two hours away, it was Layne who drove up there several times and shared the gospel with him.
Another thing Layne did for me was encourage me to continue writing. He asked me to write my testimony for the first of ACTS series of personal testimony tracts and to help write a few other things. He published my first long Bible study; a study on prophecy. He always encouraged me to finish that book of devotions I started years ago because he wanted to publish it. I regret now that I let that slide. Perhaps that deep, booming voice will keep rolling around in my brain and inspire me to get more serious and actually finish it.
Layne was involved in more ministries than I’m sure I even know about. He was always going and his cellphone was always ringing, beeping or buzzing. He was a mentor and counselor to many. In addition to their main ministry, ACTS, a tract ministry, and the Children’s Bible Society, he helped countless churches and individuals. Many, many people relied on Layne’s former business experience, spiritual maturity, straightforward manner and servant’s heart. In recent years he accepted a position as an Assistant Pastor at his church. He was always on the phone, always busy, ALWAYS witnessing, encouraging and supporting others. It didn’t matter if it was a restaurant server, cashier in the grocery store checkout line or fill in the blank. He would always ask if he could pray for them and always had a tract to give. God used him in many and mighty ways.
When our younger son, Tim, began to stray in his life, Layne was the one person who valiantly persevered to hold Tim accountable and never gave up hope. He prayed without ceasing and had many others doing the same in one of his men’s groups. Layne was the tool God used in Tim’s life through all his years of prodigal wandering to help him get back on track when Tim finally realized what his life had become. Layne helped him get out to California into a men’s discipleship ministry and through that, God was able to help Tim make a 360• turnaround. It was an answer to many years of prayer and we will always be grateful. And, despite her grief, when Kristy and Tim texted back and forth in the wee hours of the morning earlier today, Kristy told Tim how proud Layne was of him. That is something that Tim will carry and will carry Tim for the rest of his life.
As I am remembering Layne this morning, it just seems so unreal that I won’t hear that deep, booming voice again. Gone are the times now when I had this godly man to help me sift through the pieces of my life and make sense out of them when they just didn’t. I know we were not the only ones whose lives were so impacted by Layne Livingston. I can only imagine how heaven rejoices to have him there. I can just see him sitting near Jesus with a look of exaltation on his face. I also know, without a doubt, that he will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” resounding throughout the heavens when the time comes.
I have a Bible passage that I consider to be my ‘life passage’. It’s from Philippians 3:
12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that [i]for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep]living by that same standard to which we have attained.
If I could say one more thing to him it would be this: “Well, Layne, dear…you modeled that standard and pressed on with a life well-lived. You have reached the goal and captured the prize. I look forward to seeing you again. We had a parting expression we used to always say, “Here, there or in the air”. I never expected it would be ‘there’. I enjoyed the ‘here’. But, I know you’ll be waiting for all of us. Worshipping and waiting. You are the one who was blessed. We’ll miss you dearly.”