Friday, July 19, 2013

'cause you gotta have friends

A-Rod, getting ready to hit a homer
Friendship has emerged as the theme for this week. It was unexpected but very welcome. An otherwise quiet week has been populated with good friendships, and I am feeling very grateful.

It culminated in the picture to the right, taken on my phone last night from the third row of our local AAA baseball stadium. But more on that later.

One of the realities of the pastoral life is a frequent shortage of time for friends. Church work is all about relationships - relating to folks in their best and worst moments. It's fulfilling work for an extrovert like me, but it often can drain energy. More than one minister has been met at the door with the end-of-day critique, "You give your best to everybody else, and come home with little left for me." Friends usually score even lower in this regard.

So the sabbatical is providing time to re-calibrate all of that. My loved ones are seeing more of me than usual. And I'm catching up with a lot of friends. It is a special gift.

Kindergarten Classmates
Imagine my delight last weekend, when I learned that my old pal Dennis Chapdelaine would attend my nephew's wedding in upstate New York. We met in Mrs. Carr's Kindergarten class. He lives in Ottawa now, having recently retired (!!!) from a thirty year career as a school music educator.

And I must say: the vision of him in a bowtie and white jacket far exceeds his class picture from kindergarten. Mine too.

We chatted about our lives, our ancient acquaintances, the upcoming high school reunion, and the shape of how our lives have unfolded. He reminded me of old girlfriends that I should have treated better (honest friends will do that), and both of us took delight in the wonderful women with whom we now spend our lives. When you pick up after some lost time, you get a sense of how God has been guiding and protecting this good friend that you care about very much.

Me and Mr. Gilmore, last fall in Little Rock
It has been a week of phone calls with friends. I called Steve Gilmore to congratulate him on a full page feature for the national newspaper of the musician's union. He lives in Florida now, and we see one another only once a year or so. But to count this extraordinary bass player as a good friend is a very precious gift.

I had a long chat on the phone with Debbie McKinley, and solved most of the world's problems with her. That is significant, since she lives in Washington D.C., where so many of those problems originate.

I had a sleepover, too, at good buddy Mark Bentlage's house in the woods. We enjoyed a plate of wings, a pile of nachos, and a sprawling conversation about life. It was deeply fulfilling. Add to that a sloppy burger at Five Guys with one of my favorite anonymous preachers, and an open-air dockside dinner with Jim and Jan Thyren, and it has been a delicious week . . . with friends.

In fact, as we were walking to the parking lot at Crystal Lake, Jim said, "Want to go to a baseball game in town? A-Rod is in town, doing rehab with the AAA team." Ahh, the blessing of an open schedule! He did not specify that the seats were in the third row, right by the home team batting circle. So that is how four aging preachers came to see Mr. Rodriguez hit a two-run homer in Scranton last night.

Old Duffers Night: Dave Brague, Jim Thyren, Scott Loomer, BC
And really now: when I have been in town during the sabbatical, I have been trying to keep a low profile. So did the Scranton Times have to publish our picture on the front page above the fold?   :)

The Old Duffers photograph A-Rod
Tomorrow night, I am taking a niece and nephew to meet another old friend. It promises to be a lot of fun ... musical fun!

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