Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Missing an old Friend

Missing an old Friend

I am temporarily posting the following commentary
for my friend. Forgive me if it is somewhat rambling, in a way, I am
just saying goodbye to my friend (or rather, until we meet again).

A friend of mine died Tuesday, a good friend. He will be badly missed at the
nursing home. I was privy to the secret things he did, the way he loved the
other residents, and the things he did for them in private. He was a
resident there, and he truly had empathy for some of the loneliness and pain
that people sometimes experience in such a situation. Ronnie and I
spoke of Christianity many times, we just referred to it as "being
Christian". He may have been one of the best examples I've ever seen of a
true Christian. That's a great thing I love about God. He always gives
you just what you need, just at the right time. At time when many churches
have forgotten the first love, the mission, God helped me remember that
Christianity is not about church rituals and punching a ticket on Sundays,
as so many people have mistaken it. That is one reason so many people
feel empty in many churches today. Jesus Christ is the most shining
example of God's love we will ever have, and we would all do well to examine
His life carefully. To quote a popular phrase, I don't want to "be
like Mike", I want to "be like Jesus. And it is when we love others
and sacrifice for others that Jesus can be seen clearly in us. It was
only when I started looking on the battlefield, in the trenches, that I
truly started seeing God in action. And Ronnie was one brother that
let the light so shine before men, and it glorified God.

Many churches have become social clubs, neglecting their first love. I had
placed so much faith in churches, thinking that was the answer - but it
wasn't. So I got in the trenches and became obedient
to God, I started going where God sent me, where the need was. It was in the
nursing home that I met Ronnie. I observed his day to day actions and they
preached to me louder than empty words ever could. He was not a preacher,
but he preached, believe me, he preached. There is nothing more encouraging
than seeing a man of faith show that faith through servitude to others.
In the beginning, I offered to take him to the church I was attending, and I
did until I left that church. I believe Ronnie saw me as his
pastor/minister, but I wasn't. But he treated me that way, so I
remember how I agonized over leaving the church because of the possible
effect on Ronnie. I agonized over it more for Ronnie's sake than my
own, because I had been taking him with me and he trusted me. After a
week or two of prayer, I broached the subject with him and told him although
I was leaving that particular church for reasons I would not go into,
I would continue to take him. He said to me, "I know you, you come to me,
you come here, you are like family, like a minister, or a church member. I
don't know anyone at that church there and they don't know me. If I
stop coming to them, no-one there will come looking for me."
This made me incredibly sad, because without me stating a reason for
leaving, he had hit the very point of contention I had with the church.
Many of the churches (although, Thank you God, not all) would do exactly as
he predicted.

I would take him shopping now and then and watch him count his money and
calculate just what he could afford to buy for this person and that person.
Be it a magnifying glass to help someone read their Bible better, or just a
stuffed animal to bring them comfort, he was always on the lookout for
something to help ease others pain and lighten their load. I thought of the
widow throwing in her two mites, and I wept. I would not be surprised to
find that the few dollars he spent on those trips meant more to God than a
million dollar church.

Let me share with you something that will give you an idea of the spirit of
God in this man, something I am only sharing because Ronnie has passed on.
One day, as I was beginning to visit with the folks there, Ronnie walked up.
I could tell he was agitated. He pulled me aside and said he needed to
talk with me, that he needed badly to confess something, that he had done
something wrong. This is not uncommon for people to approach me in
this way sometimes, but it always puts me on edge, until the issue can be
confessed and resolved. So we immediately found an out of the way
table and we sat. I encouraged him to simply state the problem simply
and let's get it prayed out, that God was more than willing to forgive a
repentant heart.

Now folks, I have heard some pretty lurid confessions, some pretty bad ones.
But nothing, ever, including my own, so bad that God wouldn't forgive.
But I have never heard a confession like I heard that day. (And again,
I share this because Ronnie has passed on, and I feel total peace in sharing
this). What Ronnie had been fretting over, what he had done wrong was
this. He had received some Christmas gifts from his sister. And
on the same day that he received them, he had seen some other residents sad
that they had received none and Ronnie was moved with compassion for them
and he gave them all away. His perceived great wrong in all this was
that he feared this would greatly hurt and possibly anger his sister.
Ronnie knew that generally when people give you a gift, they don't
appreciate you giving it away. It could be perceived as being
disrespectful for the giver and the gift. Truly, I had to sit back and
laugh aloud, joyously, giving praise to God. And then I took his hands
in mine and asked a few questions that would resolve it. First I
asked, "Why did you give the presents away?". Well, because he saw the
others didn't have any and he wanted to make them happy. Then the
second, "Is your sister a Christian, in spirit and not just in name?"
The answer was yes. I knew then, that there was no way this sister
would be mad, not if she understood what he had actually done. My wife
and I prayed, had only good feelings, and advised him to call his sister
immediately and tell her, and, ask for her forgiveness, if she was offended.
But, we knew, I mean, we knew, she would not be, because of the answer to
the real question, Was she Christian? She would understand. She
did. We talked about it at the funeral, Ronnie's sister and my wife
and I. In all our minds, it was a tribute to who and what Ronnie was.

Ronnie would not have claimed to be a Bible scholar, but He studied God's
word diligently, and put it in action. He truly was a servant, and had
no aspirations to be chief. Perhaps few people saw this in him, but because
we were friends and he treated me as his minister/confidant, he let me see
the secret works. Well, Ronnie, my friend, my brother - those secret works
were the best sermon you could ever preach. Your sacrifice shames many
churches. Ronnie treated me like a preacher, (I'm not) but he was truly a
minister (in every meaning of the word). I mourn the loss of people
like my friend. Oh, there's no doubt he's in good hands. I do not mourn for
Ronnie, I mourn for myself, I mourn for the other residents of the nursing
home, for he will be sorely missed.

And as I wrote this, I felt depressed, but in the writing of this, God has
raised my spirits. He will send another, and another, as many as needed. For
every church that won't go, there will be just enough that will. He has
reminded me that God is not dependant on us, nor on man's organized religion
and rituals. Sometimes we forget that we are dependant on Him and we
don't truly listen, we don't truly obey. But He can accomplish His
Will regardless of us. But because He loves us, He reaches out for us.
It pleases Him to work through us. And one individual is enough, with
God. Ronnie was truly God's servant. He will receive no glory in this life,
but will receive just rewards in the end. God sends His people to the
hungry, the poor, the oppressed. When we don't go, we cheat ourselves. When
we lock ourselves up in our church buildings like refuges and refuse to come
out, we only show our fear, or worse, our apathy. But don't be fooled, God
will provide, someone will be sent. But woe to those that are called and
refuse. I believe God will forgive you, but, later, can you forgive
yourself? And thank you God, for those that you send to the fields, indeed
the harvest is ripe. And Father, I pray for those that have lost their first
love, please restore it. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and restore a
right spirit within me.

At the funeral, there were only a few folks there, but it would be unwise to
assume anything from that. The very people that Ronnie helped the
most, were, for the most part, physically unable to be there due to health.
But when I went to the nursing home the next day, I could see the sorrow,
and I could sense the loss. Ronnie is missed down here on earth Lord,
specifically here at the home. Please send another like him.
But, knowing You, You already have!

Ronnie, Thank you, my friend, for being my friend, for serving God in true
humility and obedience, and for helping me to understand that God is most
clearly seen in the places where the need is greatest . Until we meet again.

Your friend and brother


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