Two weeks ago I learned that one of my childhood friends died and I wrote a blog about him to honor him. I concluded my thoughts about Bruce Edgecomb and another childhood friend, Charlie Bailey who passed away a couple of years earlier, with the closing line of the narrator in the movie Stand by Me: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12.”

Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about friends and friendships. I’m now 70 and agree with the narrator that neither have I had any friends later on like Chuck and Bruce. That is not to suggest, however, that I have not had close, supportive, fun, caring, and wonderful friends.

Somewhat surprising to me in thinking back is the number of friends I had who were older than me during my years in youth ministry. Most of them (called youth sponsors in those days) contributed in vital ways to our youth ministry and we became friends. What is also meaningful to me is the number of friends I have had and still have from among those young people who were participants in our youth ministry.

I was privileged to serve as the preaching pastor of two churches following my five years as a youth pastor. I served 10 years as the minister of a small congregation in the Philadelphia area from 1975 to 1984. My best and most helpful friends during my tenure there were men who were older and more mature than me who invested in my life by supporting me, advising me, challenging me, and loving me.

At the age of 33 our family moved to Southern California where we planted a church in a rapidly growing area of mostly young families. Jan and I stayed there for 30 years until we thought it was time to step down and move to Texas to be closer to our children and grandchildren.

One of the most difficult things about stepping down from Discovery Christian Church after 30 years and moving to Texas was leaving the many friends we had made and with whom we had shared life. It has not been easy to keep in touch, but we have remained in contact with several and quite a few have visited us in Amarillo.

The past four years we have become involved with a church and I am elated to have a part time position as Pastor of Senior Adult Ministry. Jan and I are certainly loved and appreciated, but we have not yet cultivated many friendships as we are busy with our grandsons. I’m hoping to nurture some more meaningful friendships both giving and receiving as real friends do.

We all need friends, don’t we? Friends make a difference in our lives. No two friendships are exactly the same, and my sense is that’s the way it should be. The loss of a friend or a friendship can be painful. I thank God for my many friendships from growing up, during high school, while in college, in the churches I’ve served, and those with whom I have connected. Friends have enriched my life in many ways and I hope that as a friend I have also enriched their lives in many ways as well. Sometimes I think back over the years and become nostalgic remembering those friends and the times we shared.

Friends and friendships are a gift from God.

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Since I moved in December from California to Texas I have been thinking on and off about this matter of friends. Having lived in the same city and house for 32 years, when I left California I left the place of many friends I had there. I knew I would miss seeing those friends, and was concerned about the path of meeting and making new friends in my new location.

From the outset of arriving in Amarillo I was impressed by the friendliness of almost everyone. Obviously friendliness does not automatically translate to friends, but it was encouraging to me as a newcomer. I was somewhat surprised last week when I realized in multiple conversations I referred to someone I was talking with as “my friend.”

The designation “friend” has a wide range of meanings. Not every acquaintance is necessarily a friend, even though we appreciate them. Most of us have “friends” on Facebook we hardly know, but in that context they are friends. I’m intrigued by the designations “good friend,” “close friend,” and “best friend.”

The depth or level of our friendships generally vary based upon the time we spend with them. Even though I still consider them good friends, because of my move I am not as close to my friends in California as I was when I lived there. And because they were and are good friends, I miss them.

I have made and am making friends in my new city. It takes and will take time, but I am positive and making progress. You do not quickly become “good friends” with someone, but friendship grows as you spend time together.

Hopefully it will not surprise anyone to read that my best friend is my wife, Jan. And our friendship has grown through our move and our settling into our new city and home. Our move has also allowed my friendship with our daughter to intensify as I see her daily, but I miss seeing our son every day. As good as it is, talking on the phone or on Facetime is not the same as being present.

As I think about this matter of friends I am reminded of how valuable and important they are—at all levels. One of the best things about Facebook is that it allows us to connect with and stay in touch with friends all the way back to childhood and all over the world. I so appreciate interacting with friends from high school, college, my youth ministries, my time in Philadelphia, and my years in California. I am thankful for all the friends I have had and still have as well as the new friends I am making in Texas.

Here are three verses from the book of Proverbs for your contemplation:

Proverbs 17:17a, “A friend loves at all times.”

Proverbs 18:24, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

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