I was talking to my wife the other day, and she asked, “Why are you so fascinated with numbers?” I don’t know when or how it started, but I keep track of all sorts of numbers. I can tell you how many days, hours and minutes it took me to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I watch the time and distance on my GPS when I go somewhere.

When I book an airline ticket, I look at the flight time versus layover time and total travel time with the same intensity as I look at the prices. I can tell you how many steps I have taken at the end of each day and how many miles I have walked since Father’s Day. I can tell you how many miles it is from Tulsa to Dallas or San Antonio to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

When I ride a subway, I know how many stops we have to take to get to our destination, and then count them in my head as we rumble down the track. I calculate exchange rates in my head as I travel in foreign countries.

The only bad thing about all these numbers is that none of this information does anyone but me any good. I have never heard Alex Trebek of “Jeopardy” ask, “For $400, what is the distance from Tulsa to San Antonio?”  If he asked questions like that, I would be the “Jeopardy” grand champion of all time. But he never has and never will.

The number I was telling my wife today was 850. My first article in the Baptist Messenger appeared on March 5, 1998. That means with this issue, I celebrate 17 years, and this is my 850th article. (It would have been 884, but two weeks a year, the Messenger is not printed.) It will take me three years and 150 more articles to get to 1,000, and I am thinking about retiring at 1,001.

I think I like numbers because growing up, I got paid based on them. I got six cents for each hay bale I picked up out of the field. I got 25 cents for every bucket of walnuts I picked up for the two sisters who lived next door. I earned $1.25 an hour at my first full-time job. It just seems like I always had to keep track of numbers.

Even when it comes to the Bible, I like numbers. There are 66 books in the Bible, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. However, the Bible can also be divided into three sections of 22 books each. In Noah’s time, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, Israel ate manna for 40 years in the wilderness, King David reigned over Israel for 40 years, Jesus fasted for 40 days and it goes on and on. The number 12 is the same way. Jesus’ first recorded words were in the temple at 12 years of age. He chose 12 disciples, and 12 baskets of food were collected after feeding the 5,000. You could do the same thing for many of the numbers in the Bible.

I have told you from Day One that I am not a writer. I prefer to think of myself as a random abstract thinker, but putting my thoughts down into words doesn’t come easy. So, as I sit down to write this article each week, I have a number in my head: one. I pray each week that God will use these ramblings to touch at least one life. In fact, if just one life were touched with these last 850 articles, it would all be worthwhile. And if God in His goodness used me to touch one life each week, that means I would have touched 850 lives (If they had published the paper every week, it would have been 884). And that, my friend, is a miracle!

Have you ever asked God to use you to touch someone’s life? If you started out each day praying, “Lord, use me as an instrument of Your grace. Would you allow me to touch at least one life today?” it would change your life. And if I know God, He wants to use you to touch someone else.  You could touch someone today by sharing a quick word of encouragement or praise, a prayer or a handwritten note. The life you touch could belong to a stranger, family member or friend at church.

I know many people have touched my life with a word or note of kindness. I believe He wants His children to make a difference. And it has been my prayer that when all is said and done, these articles will have done more than touch one life. They will have brought glory to the One.