Posted tagged ‘Friends’

Old Friends in A New Day

January 3, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   January 3, 2019

                              

“Friendship knows no barriers that it will not make its way through, knows no distance it will not travel, knows no time that will bring its end except the end of life itself.”

                                                                                                        -Me

A friend of mine once said that he had many acquaintances, but few friends. He was profoundly wise in his view of friendship. Many of us have an inconceivable number of Facebook “friends”. I just checked my FB page and found out that I’m at 1,043! That doesn’t mean I’m popular, it just means that there’s a lot of people I know. Sure, some of those are immediate family and relatives near and far. My cousin Suzanne lives in Park City, Utah. I haven’t seen her in a few decades, but it’s good to see what’s going on in her life.

I digress from my point, however! 

Carol and I spent New Year’s Eve in Charlotte, North Carolina with our friends Tom and Diane Bayes. Their son, Brandon and his wife Mary, and their two young kids came over for dinner. Brandon is reading this blog so I’ll detour for a moment just to say this to him- ”Hee, hee, hee!” It’s an inside joke that brings a memory back to him of the Holy Land tour he, his dad, and I were on years ago.

Back to Tom! Both Tom and I are now retired American Baptist pastors. For about 15 years of our ministries we served as pastors at two churches in the Lansing, Michigan area. The two of us, plus another American Baptist pastor, Chuck Moore, met for lunch at Finley’s restaurant on the southside of Lansing every other Wednesday for about 7 years. We formed friendships that have carried through. We called our threesome “The BMW Group” (Bayes, Moore, Wolfe). We figured it was as close to a BMW that any of us would get. 

We differed theologically, and yet we respected each other’s views and beliefs in an uncommon way- we listened and didn’t belittle!

Carol and I arrived at the Bayes house about 2:00 in the afternoon and for the next eleven and a half hours we talked, laughed, ate, toasted the new year, and finally went to bed at 1:30 in the morning. It was as if we had never been apart.

Friendship is like that. It doesn’t struggle to chat, and yet is comfortable with the moments of quiet. It doesn’t need to impress, yet it willing to wade through the waters of discouragement that one or the other is trudging through. It congratulates and consoles. 

Both Tom and I…and Chuck have traveled through tsunamis of church ministry. Each of us has been at one time or another the solid post that the friend in the midst of the storm has grabbed onto in the dangerous ministry times of being swept away. Each of us has also been the one who has grasped for that post. It’s what friends do for one another! 

Brandon pressed the issue with us during dinner. “You two are both retired. Why don’t you meet up with Chuck in Chicago sometime?” (Chuck pastors in Champaign, Illinois now.) 

So we will! I texted Chuck about the idea and meeting and going to a Cubs game, but we really don’t even need a baseball game. We just need each other! Location is secondary! That’s what friends do. We don’t need an event to meet around. I’ll say it again…we just need each other!

The Blessing of Three Dave’s

June 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 17, 2017

                                        

Three seems to be a number that is used quite often in various ways. In A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The three wisemen brought gifts three kinds of gifts to the baby Jesus, and my seminary preaching professor taught us to preach sermons that had three points…and a poem!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Shadrach, Meshach, and To Bed We Go- er, Abednego! Abraham’s three visitors! Three crosses on top of Golgotha! The angels in Isaiah’s vision saying “Holy, holy, holy!” Jesus saying “Verily, verily, verily!” Important encounters and relationships seem to grow out of threes!

I’ve been blessed by three Dave’s who have been a part of my life journey. Our son, David, is  named after two of the Dave’s. He would have been named after the third Dave, but we hadn’t met him yet!

Dave Shaffer was a part of the first church I served on the staff of after graduating from seminary. He and Pam graced the lives of a just married young couple entering the intimidating experience of ministry. Laughter was a part of our friendship. We felt comfortable around one another. My ministry at the church was a short fifteen months, but our friendship is about to hit forty years.

Dave Hughes was one of my high school best friends and my best man. We were a part of the same youth group, ate a lot of pizza together, and played basketball together. I was privileged to perform the wedding ceremony for Dave and his wife, Robyn, and on a different wedding night- the wedding night after our friend Mike Fairchild got married-  Dave and I, groomsmen in the wedding party, went to the hospital in our tuxedos to celebrate the birth of my first niece, Jennifer. Three weeks ago his oldest son, Brad, was found dead on a hiking trail in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, passing away from heat exhaustion and dehydration. I called my friend to walk the journey of loss and sorrow with him. I know he would have done the same for me.

And the third Dave, a hulk of a man named Dave Volitis, came strolling into my life about 15 years ago when he and Donna moved into the house across the street from us. Now a retired Air Force Chief Master Sargent living in San Antonio, he continues to grace my life with his stories and encouragement. We recently were a part of a mission work team that traveled to British Columbia together. My kids were always intrigued by Mr. Volitis, his humorous sayings (“higher than a cat’s back”, “about as welcome as a hemorrhoid”, “about as useful as tits on a boar hog”), and his engaging personality. He became a part of my congregation even though he and his family were more of the pentecostal tint. I cried when he moved to San Antonio.

Three Dave’s! I’ve had other Dave’s as a part of my life as well, but these three men left their imprints on my life…past, present, and future. I envision a time in the future when I arrange to have them all together in the same place, and to express my appreciation. What stories would come out of that gathering!!! I think that would be pretty cool!

A utility company worker, a civil engineer, and a career military person…about as diverse in occupations as you can get. Each of them now a grandfather, and each of them a part of families that have encountered significant loss in the past year.

Each of us has been blessed by numerous people in various ways. God plants them in our lives for a bit, a while, or a lifetime. Rarely do they congregate around the same first name, but the repetition of my Dave’s has highlighted in permanent marker how blessed I am!

The BMW’s

June 26, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             June 26, 2016

                                               

We all need others. I recognize that there are those who approach life with a mindset that says no one can do anything as well as they can, but even those people, swimming in arrogance and perfectionism, need others.

There are those who join us in our journey who are pivotal in keeping us on the path. Being a pastor is a highly stressful calling, because pastors lead churches that almost always have some people that no one else would put up with. Pastors have people who would complain about Jesus’ beard if they were given a chance. Pastors also have people who are on the other end of the spectrum- people who are the salt of the earth, wonderful and encouraging.

In my years of ministry in Michigan I had two other pastors who came alongside me, and I alongside them. We called ourselves “The BMW Group!” Since we were pastoring churches in the Lansing, Michigan area where Oldsmobile was located, the BMW letters did not indicate the cars we drove. Instead it stood for Bayes, Moore, and Wolfe. Tom Bayes was pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Lansing; Chuck Moore was pastor of Charlotte First Baptist, just a few miles outside of the city; and I was pastor of Mason First Baptist, also located just a few miles outside of town.

Bayes, Moore, Wolfe…BMW!

For about seven years we would meet every other Wednesday for lunch at Finley’s restaurant on the south side of the city. We’d laugh, share, moan, talk about people who made our lives miserable, seek advice from one another, and chew on lunch. In those years we became best friends amongst all the pastors we knew. Almost twenty years later I still see Tom and Chuck as my best pastor buds!

And the interesting thing is that each of us was so different theologically. Tom was fairly liberal in his views, Chuck leaned to the right, and I was the moderate. That’s pretty much where each of us still is, but our friendship provides a solid base for dialogue. When you are committed to the journey, and you know that the other two are also committed to the journey, you can disagree on what are the important things to pack in the suitcase, and how to pack them.

Today Chuck pastors a church in the Dayton, Ohio area, I’m in Colorado Springs, and Tom is finishing up an intentional interim pastorate in Gastonia, North Carolina. We’re figuring out when and where the three of us can meet up for a couple of days of fellowship, laughter, and just being together.

Our closest friends are not always the ones who live closest to us. Our closest friends are the ones we can place a call to at a moment’s notice and know that they will be there to converse with, or just to listen.

We all need others. Even Jesus needed others. He had the twelve, and even in the midst of the twelve he had the three…his closest confidants!

I miss my buds. There are plenty of people on the bus headed to “Good Riddance!”, but there are just a few who bless us with their presence, with their conversations, and lift us up and keep us going.

I’ll climb in my Honda Accord in a few minutes to drive to the little church east of the city to speak, but I’ll be thinking about my BMW!

Who is a part of your BMW?

Missing A Sixty Gathering

September 22, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        September 22, 2014

                                              

I graduated from Ironton High School in 1972. For those who are math-challenged that means I received my diploma 42 years ago. It also means that most of the people in my high school class hit the “6-0” sometime during this year.

This past weekend people from my “Class of ’72” had a 60th Birthday Bash in Ironton.

I couldn’t go! I had a team of three year olds I needed to coach in soccer…otherwise known as “herd ball.”

But I did see pictures from the birthday bash that several of my Facebook friends posted. Here’s the hard part! When you don’t see people for decades you tend to ask the same question over and over again: Who is that?

Sixty looks different than eighteen! My frame of reference with Ironton High School is still with an eighteen lens. But things happen! Hair turns grey…or white…or disappears! Waistlines expand, people get shorter, more bent over. Wisdom has its price tag…support bras, support leg stockings, back support wraps. Aging is not easy.

I miss a lot of my high school classmates…Dave Hughes…Margaret Whaley…Mike Fairchild…Tommy “TD” Douglas…Jim Payne…Susan Heald…Greg Harding. The memories come back of Carl Pyle singing “Climb Every Mountain” at graduation, Sunday night youth gatherings at First Baptist, Junior Prom with Mary Cronacher, setting the school record for the mile run (which lasted for one..maybe two years) in a race in Charleston…and only finishing fifth! Getting ribbed for not getting my driver’s license until I graduated (Jeff Waddell kept asking me how the stereo system was on my bicycle!), Smitty’s for unhealthy lunches, the protest of some of the African-American students, during which they got on the school P.A. system.

Good times!

I’m assuming that most of us in my class have grown out of high school. We’ve matured, gone on to raise families, become overbearing parents just like ours were, and now grandparents who carry around thousands of pictures of our grandkids…and maybe one each of our originals! We’ve gone our different ways and now we look back on what was and miss the Friday nights, the possible teen romances, and the laughter of crazy adolescence.

Sixty is a new phase of life that came along whether we were ready for it or not.

I have to admit something. In some ways it’s hard for me to go back to my old high school. For one thing, they tore down my school and built a new building on the spot, with the exception of the nostalgic front entrance columns that they kept standing. But it’s also hard for me to go back because I’ve moved away and moved on. Life is better in many ways, harder in others, but most of all, completely different. I’ve been a pastor for thirty-five years, married the same number and only once, father of three, grandfather of two and a half (3 next March). Most of my life these days is focused on a completely different set of priorities than I had at IHS.

I miss my old classmates, and I’m okay with that.

Lost and Found

June 24, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 23, 2014

 

                               

 

My life has been filled with lost opportunities and blessed findings. Once in a while the lost comes back to be found.

Or, better yet, the lost is waiting to be found…like the lost and found box at the middle school that is filled with all kinds of coats, hats, watches, and bracelets. Each was forgotten for a while, left to sit until a stranger found it.

There are people who are a part of our lives who disappear around the margins because we forget, we become disengaged and focused on other things and people. And then, later, when we remember, they are no longer there. Neglect has a way of turning friends into acquaintances, and acquaintances into those that we lose track of.

Social media fabricates an atmosphere of connectedness. We are friends with those that we haven’t seen since high school. We comment on a one sentence post and, for some reason, think we are still connected.

In our culture of instant messaging, ironically, it is easier to be lost.

The answer may not be in how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers we have, but rather in having a few friends that we deeply invest in. we seek to find them deeply. The quality of our relationships is much more valuable than the quantity of our relationships.

I think about my life. Who is it that would be greatly effected if I lost my friendship with them? The list gets whittled down quickly, and it is in that downsized list that I find those that I must not lose.

Condolences and Companions

September 8, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           September 8, 2013

 

 

     Going through the loss of my mom has been a journey. It has allowed me to see the despair of Jesus in his Garden of Gethsemane darkness. He was utterly and completely alone. His disciples had eyelids heavier than a Sunday morning Baptist listening to a long-winded monotone preacher.

Jesus had no one. No shoulder to lean on, no one to embrace him. No one to pray with him or hold his hand.

And I now know in a very real way how difficult it would have been to go through an experience of loss by myself. The last few days of grieving and mourning has included a long list of journeying companions.

Let me tell you…the kitchen counter at Mom and Dad’s house has resembled a food buffet line without the sneeze guards! Fried chicken, lasagna, meat and cheese tray, veggie tray, vegetable beef soup, chicken casserole, chicken casserole #2, salad, potato salad, cole slaw, chip dip, potato casserole, peach cobbler, apple pie, chocolate cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies…you get the picture? Food is a consoling agent! Somehow grief is made easier with a chicken leg in your hand.

And the flowers! People sent enough flowers to fill a nursery. Mom loved flowers. Dad’s yard is a picture of gardening excellence. Flowers are expression of love and concern that bring a hint of beauty to a gray moment of life.

At the visitation before Mom’s funeral service there were a multitude of people who kept streaming in to pay their respects. Everyone knew that Mom’s time had come. In fact, the past couple of years were almost like a second epilogue…one more extra that wasn’t needed. But still the people came to say farewell to Mom, and offer condolences to our family. Former neighbors, church folk, workmates, classmates, distant cousins, and people whose paths had crossed at some time with Mom and Dad. I saw my cousin, Annette, who I had not seen in a good forty years, and my cousins Michelle and Matthew that I wish I could have a week with.

Companions for the journey. Encouragers in the midst of discouraging times.

I’ve had people ask me during my years as a pastor “How do people make it through this who have no faith?” I’d revise that question and make it “how do people make it through this who have no faith or friends?” (Food is a bi-product of having friends!)

My best man, Dave Hughes, came by yesterday for a couple of hours. My former partner in ministry, Artie Powers, journeyed down from West Virginia to the visitation and funeral service. My church in Colorado Springs sent flowers. My good friend, Mike Fairchild, who lives outside of Rochester, New York now, and his brother, Mark, sent flowers.

Companions for the journey.

Which takes me back to Jesus! I can’t imagine walking this road alone. It makes his death walk seem even crueler…that there was no one there for him…and yet he continued. Instead of a shoulder to lean on he had a cross he had to bear.