by Lee Milam

In churches of Christ, there are few names more synonymous with our southern heritage than the great evangelist Gus Nichols. This classic photo of Gus’s son, Flavil Nichols, is powerful. Flavil is in his 90s now, but is still a treasure to all who have known him.

As a boy, I was spellbound by his eloquence and communication skills. He had a way of making God’s word come alive and relevant, in a way even a child could comprehend. As a young teacher out of college, I remember watching him stand in front of hundreds of children and hold their attention like a magician on a stage, as he cored and sliced an apple with a needle and thread, revealing God’s plan for them with a 10-minute trick I still can’t figure out. Like his unique name, Flavil is one of a kind.

But those who know him well refer to him simply as a man of prayer who longs to be in the presence of God.

Look closely at the left photo hanging behind him. That’s a photo of his father Gus from over 50 years ago, as he talked to God.

Now the photo on the right: that’s a 1918 historic painting entitled “Grace”, by Eric Enstrom. It was an unplanned, chance occurrence. A peddler had come to the door in Minnesota, selling his wares. Invited in for a meal, Enstrom ended up taking this famous photograph of the man in prayer before a meager meal that has been reproduced for decades. Now an enduring, timeless image that has adorned generations of kitchen walls, “Grace” is a classic.

In the same way, Flavil’s passion for prayer seems to reproduce itself in this photo, no matter how old he gets. At the core of this godly man is a real, deep relationship with his heavenly Father. One that time, an aging body and mind cannot erase.

Like his dad, Flavil has spent a lifetime living in the presence of God, talking to him daily, sometimes hourly. When the chapter of his story on earth is complete, this good man will simply turn the page and keep walking with God—a seamless relationship with his Father that is worthy of repeating.

No wonder my dad loved and admired this good man so much, that Flavil was asked to preach my father’s funeral. I can only imagine how spellbound they both will be in the presence of God together someday.

I plan to be on the front row as well, taking it all in, still in awe of what God can do with simple men who spend a lifetime walking and talking with the great Father.

Grace, indeed.

Lee is the worship and family minister at the Mayfair church in Huntsville, Ala. Used by permission from his devotional series, “In Other Words,” for Thursday, Sept. 20. Photo by Maddie Cothren.