Who’s the most interesting and adventurous person you’ve ever known?
My friend Peb Jackson, who died yesterday just 9 days shy of his 78th birthday, would be at the top of my list.
Born at the University of Kansas, Peb’s family migrated west during his childhood, settling in Southern California, where his father completed his Ph.D. at USC and taught history at Azusa Pacific University. As a young boy, his love for adventure found him going on bike rides or swimming with his twin brother. As he grew, he gravitated to mountain and ice climbing, as well as hunting, skiing and fishing, to name just a few hobbies. The great outdoors was a cathedral full of never-ending awe and wonder. He was the kind of guy who felt if he wasn’t on the edge, he was probably taking up too much room.
Peb hired me to work at Focus on the Family over 34 years ago. We became fast friends. I helped him start our international outreach, where we traveled the world together. Fiercely curious and friendly, Peb never knew a stranger. With a servant’s heart, he was always showing interest in others, offering to help people pursue the dreams the Lord put on their heart.
In a world full of egos and egotists, Peb was humble. He shunned the spotlight. He was more than happy to stand in the wings and cheer his friends on. He was the guy who knew the guy – and nothing gave him more pleasure or satisfaction than introducing you to him (or her).
It would be impossible for me to list everyone Peb introduced me to over the years, but you would know many of his dear friends, including U2’s Bono, President George W. Bush, Eugene Peterson and Rick Warren. But he wasn’t a name dropper. He was a friend who dropped into people’s lives and tried to make a difference. I should also add that Peb treated everyone the same. Whether the parking attendant or the president, he saw you as someone of great worth.
I’ve been blessed with several mentors during my years here at Focus on the Family, but Peb poured into my life in unique and important ways. A good listener, he possessed the wisdom of Solomon and the fearlessness of the apostle Paul.
When his name appeared on my phone, I knew I was in for a treat. He was the kind of guy who left you feeling better. He brought perspective.
Throughout these last four decades, Peb has taught me many things.
He regularly reminded me that life is an adventure. It’s an occasion. Rise to it.
He stressed that Jesus is our ultimate guide on our journey. Walk in his footsteps. No matter how narrow the path or close the ledge, you’re going to be okay.
From his 52-year love affair with his beloved wife, Sharon, whom he leaves behind, he showed many how to cherish and treasure their spouses and loved ones.
Peb’s daring demonstrated to me that we’ll never know how far we can go – until we go as far as we can. There are good risks in life.
You’ve probably never heard of Henry Lyte, a Scottish pastor and poet who died in 1847. But you’re likely familiar with the famous hymn he wrote, “Abide with Me.” Henry was dying of tuberculosis when he wrote these words:
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou who changest not, abide with me
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness
Where is death’s sting?
Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me
Peb is now free of his cancer-ravaged body, soaring in Glory because the Lord has abided with him, and him with He. In fact, as he lay dying in the final weeks of his life, he told a mutual friend that this last stretch of living, which was tough, was “the ultimate adventure.” What an attitude! That’s because he knew where he was running – and he knew whose arms he was running towards.
If you don’t have that same assurance, I hope you will give us a call or reach out and allow us the privilege of sharing the Good News and promise of the Gospel.
Rest in peace, my dear friend, Peb. I look forward to seeing you again soon.