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Friday, January 18, 2008

Along Donegal Creek
We had our first significant snow of the season yesterday and it's beautiful outside. Here's a snowy path along Donegal Creek where Roxie and I walked yesterday during the snowfall.  To view this photo in a larger desktop size with a Scripture verse click here.

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"Genuine Friendships"
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17).
For several years I served as a chaplain in a large produce distribution company. Initially I visited with many of the associates in a rather cramped, extremely busy office type environment with buyers and sellers constantly on the phone. (Several years ago they built a new spacious complex that certainly improved their previous cramped quarters.)
I enjoyed my visits there and most especially with two workers who had developed an unlikely friendship. Tony was from the Cleveland area and had an Italian Catholic background. He had relocated to Lancaster County several years earlier to accept his position with the produce company. Mel, on the other hand, was a long-term Lancaster County resident and a devout conservative Mennonite.
Tony had a vibrant sense of humor and outgoing friendliness and often ribbed Mel and the other associates in a good natured way.  Mel was more quiet natured but enjoyed Tony's vibrancy as they both demonstrated their love for the Lord.  Over the years I observed their camaraderie and friendship when I made my visits.   Though their backgrounds varied significantly they had a deep respect for one another.
Tony Colagiovanni

Early last year Tony was diagnosed with cancer and I spoke with him several times following his grim diagnosis. Mel also kept me informed of developments throughout the year. On Monday he informed me that his friend, Tony, had passed away. Mel and his wife drove out to Cleveland to attend the funeral service today. That's a mark of genuine friendship!


I enjoy studying Biblical friendships such as David and Jonathan, Paul and Timothy. One of the most intriguing and often maligned friendships are Job's three friends who "sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was" (Job 2:13).  Seven days was the customary mourning period for the dead.  Job's friends didn't give empty explanations at this point for his suffering, but they chose instead to suffer with him.

I consider those who have drawn near to me in my hour of grief or in periods of bewilderment and transition.  They may not have the answers to improve my circumstances, but they do empathize with me in my suffering and stand with me even when I am unable to "give" in our friendship.
The Proverb I have chosen to use today speaks of the type of friendship Mel and Tony demonstrated.  "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." 
"A friend loves at all times.."  Loyalty is the dominant trait in genuine friendships yet is often lacking today.  There are many instances that contribute to a loving relationship, but there are also experiences that test an enduring friendship. I've felt the scourge of a friend's betrayal and disloyalty as I'm sure you
"A brother is born for adversity.."   Real friendships endure even in the midst of adversity. Perhaps this very loose paraphrase captures the meaning: "Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble."
As I go through life I try to collect friends, the longest going back over forty-five years ago to first grade and another going back over thirty years ago when I first started in ministry.  I continue to make friends and hope to do so until the Lord calls me home. Friendships enrich our quality of life.
Today do you have a friend(s) that you could encourage and express gratitude for?  Perhaps just saying, "Thanks for being such a good friend" would bring a youthful spring to one's slow step. The other night, following a church service, a friend walked through a crowd of people toward Brooksyne.  She took her hand and with an affectionate smile said, "I want to thank you for being my friend."  It certainly warmed Brooksyne's heart as she later told me about their brief exchange of conversation.  True friends are a lasting treasure.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer:  Father, help me to be like a refreshing cup of cold water on a hot summer's day to the friends You've given me.  May I contribute encouragement, comfort, wisdom, accountability, and loyalty to our friendship.  Help me to reserve judgment and faithfully pray for my friends as we walk together heart to heart and hand in hand.  Amen.

Brooksyne and I have been "best friends" for nearly 35 years now.  I hope your marriage is based on a friendship with your lifetime partner!

Tony & Marge Arruda Everett & Irene Dupont
This morning's message brought to mind another friendship I recall observing. Everett and Tony were two senior members of the church we served in New England. They would always sit together with their wives on one of the short pews, inevitably filling it.  Pastors like to see the pews full!  They both came into the church at different times, relatively later in their lives.  What I find remarkable is that the enduring friendship of Everett and Tony actually goes back to their early childhood.  Tony (left in photo) passed away shortly after we moved to Pennsylvania in 2001.

Today's Suggested Music

(Audio) For many years I have enjoyed this song as it relates to long-term friendship. I suppose it dates Michael W. Smith since it was already well-known and sung at our farewell from St. Marys PA in 1993 and again when we moved from New England in early 2001.

Dub and Joy Steincross

Here's an instrumental version played on the piano by Joy Steincross, my cousin George's wife. Dub (as we cousins have always called him) is a retired minister yet he and Joy stay very active and always have a place for us in the Kansas City area when we are out that way. They were especially kind and attentive to my folks during their last years before my Dad died in 1998.
Here's Joy's webpage.

Let us share some snowscape photos
from our neck of the woods!

Snowy trees in our side yard
We enjoy the snow and this side view outside of our dining room. 

Frosty tree in Lancaster County
A frosty tree along Musser Road about a mile from our house.

Oak in snow
I stepped outside just before I finished our work this morning and took a photo of this oak tree. I enjoy the color contrast. It is making an interesting crackling sound as the snow and frost fall off it!

New I mentioned yesterday that I found an interesting source for online music. I want to share it again.
Classic hymns mix A collection of ten of my favorite hymns.
Christian eclectic mix A longer collection of contemporary songs (as many as I could place on the playlist!)  Some I had heard before, most were new to me. Several are by artists I am familiar with, but most I had never heard of.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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