“Walking in Circles and Thanking Jesus” by Garris Elkins

by | Apr 7, 2011 | Church, Hope, Leadership, Vision. | 2 comments

When I was a young pastor-in-training the church I was part of was Faith Center in Eugene, Oregon,. This wonderful church took a step of faith with me and let me try my hand at counseling people. I was so green and yet there I was – in a real office sitting across the table from people who were pouring out their hearts to me. I nodded like I understood what they were experiencing and then tried to offer some God-advice.

The office I used was one of those places where trainees like me were assigned at certain hours of the day. It was a bland office without a name tag on the door. One day I was sitting in a chair looking out the window waiting for my next appointment. The view from the office window allowed me to see a small outside patio area that was surrounded by hedges. You couldn’t really see this small patio from any other angle. The patio was only accessible from the private office of the senior pastor of our church, Roy Hicks, Jr.

As I stared out from my window I noticed Roy step out of his office and walk onto the patio. For those of you who did not know Roy he was one of those rare leaders who carried an immense presence of authority. He was highly respected in our church movement and many others across the globe. Roy died in an airplane crash in 1994, at age 50, not far from where I am writing this article. Roy and I spent hundreds of hours together in the airplane he crashed. For a few years we flew back and forth across the United States and spent many hours talking. I learned a lot about God’s Kingdom from our conversations during those flights.

As Roy walked onto the patio that day his face revealed that this was not a happy moment for him. Concern, and maybe a bit of anger, was painted across his face. And then something unique happened. Roy began to walk in circles. This was a small patio so the circles were rather small and pronounced. As Roy began to walk in these tight little circles I was able to hear what he was saying. He was repeating over and over again, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.” This went on for several minutes then he went back into his office. My life lesson was over.

As my years of leading in the Church continue to pass by, I have recalled, on numerous occasions, what Roy demonstrated to me that day. I learned that he carried whatever was troubling him out onto the patio and began to search for a thankful heart in the midst of a difficult moment. This life-lesson said to me, “When nothing makes sense start thanking Jesus because a thankful heart will become an understanding heart.” I think the limiting real estate of that small patio was also part of another life-lesson – “Stay put and don’t move on until your heart changes.”

I have learned this kind of understanding doesn’t mean we will understand why people do what they do to upset us in the first place. It simply means each hassle and problem of life is an opportunity to focus more deeply on the One Who loves us and that focus is our reason for thanksgiving.

If you see me walking in tight little circles today, and mumbling to myself, you will know what I’m up to.

Thanks, Roy.


  1. Dave Jacobs

    Usually walking in circles doesn't get you anywhere. Not so with prayer-circles. Roy's influence and example lives on. So does yours pastor Garris.

  2. Ken and Linda Stapleton

    If I had a nickle for every life lesson learned by Roy's example, I'd be a wealthy man yet today. Thank you Roy and thank you Garris for the reminder to look in the hidden places for God's classroom…


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