Influence. How does one measure influence?

Plagiarism – using the words of another without citing the source – is a real problem. Websites exist so that professors might attest to the veracity of a student’s claim to originality. Leaders, politicians, and authors have their speeches and writings scoured to find verbiage lifted from another. Research must be clearly substantiated by myriads of citations to demonstrate its veracity.

But how does one cite or acknowledge influence?

He stood by himself. The rest of us were talking in small groups. He was the speaker at a conference I attended in 1988 in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada. His face registered deep thought with ever so slight a sly smile on his face. I wondered, in that moment, what he was thinking. So, I walked over to ask. His response was genuine, gracious, full of wonder. He asked questions, showed an interest, and seemed immediately to care for me as a person. Our bond was cemented then and there.

Throughout the week long event he lectured. I tracked his thinking. At breaks, I was “that guy,” currying favor with the speaker. But there was really no favor to curry. No one noticed as we drew ideas for each other on notebook paper. No one seemed to care about the ideas as much as we cared.

Our family became his family. Our portrait hung in his home as if I was his son. I began to refer to him as my “dad.” When our children were young we spent a week at Jim and Faye’s home near The Grand Canyon. They took us to see all the sights.

When I taught undergrad in Chicago, Jim and Faye traveled from Arizona just to see us. We took them on an architectural tour on the Chicago River, looking up at buildings towering above us, remarkable for how they resemble each other. Later I thought the picture was an apt metaphor for our relationship.

Our paths did not often cross, he from California, I from North Dakota, later Michigan and Illinois. Our correspondence (before the days of email ease) was spotty at best. He saw my gifts encouraging me along the way. I could tell he knew his influence had peaked years before. He knew his job was now, me.

Now his wife Faye sends me the old photos, the old notes, the old contacts; everything old. Jim is in his mid-eighties. His bright mind is clouded a bit. He does not always remember. He does not always know. But then again, I bet he does. Under the layers of an overcast memory is my friend, my father, Jim.

He passed the baton long ago. His repetitious, rehearsed encouragements were never obnoxious. To me, they were threads to a rope of influence I had long held.

Three Hills, Alberta, Canada will always be etched in my mind. Jim Braley has been and continues to be my source of encouragementan influencer I cannot reference in a footnote. He has, instead, been a personal editor in my life. I will forever cite the source: Dr. James Braley.

This vignette is the first of many words about Jim Braley. Mark continues to speak on behalf of Christian school education. Dr. Eckel has written curriculum which serves teachers around the world published through Purposeful Design and ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International). Mark continues to teach high school through PhD courses.

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  1. Mark: I was not aware of your deep and lasting relationship with James Braley. I am both of you have been blessed through this relationship. Thank you for connecting this relational connection to the complexity of citing sources. We are influenced by some more than others, and sometimes are even aware of the origin of our thinking and perspectives.

  2. It’s impossible to not be influenced, and deeply, by others.
    So, who will we choose to allow the most influence in our lives?
    Hopefully it is good influence. Bad company corrupts good character.

    Thanks, Dr. Eckel. I still read these, even if I don’t always post on them. 🙂

  3. Mark, You have expressed the impact that Dr. James Braley has had on most people he came in contact with. Having been in San Diego for 18 years I grew up with CACS, then WACS and finally ACSI. I would consider Jim Braley one of my mentors, especially in the area of curriculum. He wanted me to take his place at Maranatha Christian when he was moving to Arizona. His writings live on in the lives he has impacted. Thank you Mark for sharing. You have carried the baton well!

  4. Always appropriate to recognize and appreciate those who have indelibly impacted our worldview, philosophies of life and of living life. It is wonderful for you to have this special relationship with each other – a true gift from God!

  5. Dr Jim surely left a legacy on many of our hearts! My first encounter was in 1981, and his words so resonated in my mind that I still quote him today “Changed lives, changing lives!” To me that is the essence of transformational Christian education. Thank you for this account of his influence in your life and tribute to this wonderful godly man.

  6. What a legacy. May we leave the same to someone in the next generation.

    Three Hills is special to me too because my son-in-law’s parents live there. I’ve visited there several times. A small prairie town in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields of ripening canola fields. But obviously people in that little place have influenced people around the globe.

  7. Mark, thank you for including me in this email and also listing me as one of your Christian school friends. That is a great honor for me. I remember decades ago being inspired as I listened to Jim Braley speak at a conference. I was in a Christian school in Maryland at that time. With him being in California, I did not get to hear him often but his writings crossed my desk and profited from them. I also have profited from your speaking and writing over the span of many years. Thank you for all you do for those of us in Christian schooling. We greatly appreciate you!!!

  8. Mark–you have always spoken of Jim Braley in the most positive terms and this relationship is a special legacy. You are God-blessed to have him share in your life!!

  9. This is an AWESOME post, Mark. What a wonderful tribute to this man and couple. In my mind, influence cannot be “measured,” per se, but we can certainly see and sense the impact when we experience influence. I was late to the Christian school table, having served my first 20 years in public schools, but I am definitely a true believer in Christian education now, just ready to start my 18th year with ACSI schools. Strong Christian men and leaders like you, David Bates, Sam Barfell, Tim Wilhite, Jeff Mattner, Randy Ross, Dick McWilliams, Glenn Vos, Clyde Rinsema, Jeff Myers, Bill Brown, and others have poured directly into me; and I am certainly grateful for their discipling. At this time in my career, I am personally burdened to identify and disciple the next generation of Christian school administrators, so our schools will get even better and bring honor and glory to Christ. Thank you for leading the way in deeply and firmly dropping the anchor of sound doctrine and the mature development in the biblical worldview of believers and Christian school educators alike! Keep up your great Kingdom work, Mark!

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