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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lloyd and Elvin
Lloyd and Elvin
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"Old Friends"

"And the next day we touched at Sidon.  And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself" (Acts 27:3).

In the last several months I've developed a friendship with two men who have an interesting story.  Lloyd is a toolmaker who is retiring this week after working in the very same place for 45 years.  That's pretty remarkable in itself in this transient age but he also leaves behind a friend, Elvin, who has worked with him the entire time. (In fact Elvin has worked there 47 years but is not yet retiring.)  Now I just wonder in this day and age what are the odds of working side by side with someone in the same place for 45 years!  I suppose it's safe to say they are old friends and based upon my observation they sure are.

Lloyd and Elvin both belong to an old order Mennonite group who use horse drawn transportation and bicycles. In fact Lloyd has ridden a bike to work his entire 45 year career and I have seen him ride his bike through the plant as well! (The only other time I saw this was in a Boeing plant in Everett, Washington where they make the 747 Jumbo Jets.)  Since Lloyd lives 1.5 miles from his workplace I calculated that
he has dutifully pedaled his way to work approximately 33,750 miles!

I am enriched by the close friendship that Lloyd and Elvin enjoy and have extended to me since I began visiting their workplace as a chaplain last May.  In October Lloyd is moving to upstate New York to be near his children and has invited my family to visit him in his new location. 

Today I want to consider enduring friendships as one of the great treasures in life.  Notice two phrases from our rather obscure daily text.  In reading this long narrative portion about Paul's captivity it's so easy to miss them.

Paul is on his way to Rome as a prisoner.  He's appealed to Caesar. He's surely somewhat discouraged and weary from travelling the stormy seas and being under surveillance the entire time. Uncertainty is his only glimpse into the near future. 

The ship stops at Sidon where Julius "courteously entreated" Paul. This is the only time in the New Testament that we see the Greek word "philanthropos", the root for our English word "philanthropy." Julius, a hardened centurion assigned to guard Paul at all times, must have gained a respect for him since he gave him freedom to see his friends and later spared his life when others wanted to do away with Paul (Acts 27:43).

It's sure great when people are kind to you isn't it?  The other day I stopped to pay a toll on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and greeted the toll collector as I paid the toll.  I don't recall being overly friendly but he enthusiastically thanked me for taking time to speak to him, telling me that most travelers never say a word or are rude to him.  I hope my brief kindness refreshed him.

There is no mention elsewhere in Scripture that Paul was ever in Sidon before this, but he had some friends there.  I wonder who they were and how had he met them?  We're not told.  But they're the kind of friends you want to have around you all throughout life's journey. Their presence in our lives refresh us when difficulties and disappointments drain us of energy.

These friends had a part in Paul's refreshing.  The word "refresh" translated from the Greek is a word found only here in the entire New Testament.  It has the sense of "kind attention".  That's what Paul needed and that's what these unnamed friends gave as they provided for his needs; physically, spiritually and emotionally.

That's what I've quite often needed and have experienced through so many good friends, including many of you on this list.  Thank you.  And I encourage you to pass it on to others today as well.  There's a lot of refreshing needed in our lives as we deal with daily challenges that can deplete us of a positive outlook!  We all need caring and devoted friends to stand with us.  May Lloyd and Elvin's 45 years of friendship be an inspiration to all of us today!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer:  Father, You have given me many treasures that cannot be bought with money and friendship is among them.  I thank You for the special friends who brighten my outlook and challenge me to be a better person.  Thank You for my caring friend who loves me and never gives up on me even when I feel like giving up on myself. For that dear friend who comes alongside me and helps carry the burdens that I bear, I am especially thankful.  My life is enriched and my spirit is refreshed as I share my heart with a close friend who does not criticize but accepts my frailties; who prays for me and expresses love for me in ways that build me up and strengthen me in the trials of life.  Father, You are the greatest and most trusting Friend that I will ever know so help me to draw near to You as You draw near to me.  Amen.

Note: Lloyd and Elvin gave me permission to share their story and take their photo. I have befriended many of the plain folks in my 7½ years in Lancaster County and really appreciate their perspective on life and faith.   Generally they do not want their photos taken as a portrait.  However my Amish friends have requested that I photo their children for their own memories but not for distribution. I do have permission to share this shot of my Amish friend Jesse and his son Moses, which I feel powerfully captures a close father/son relationship.
Father teaching son

Bank barn in Franklin County PA
Bank barn in Franklin County PA
This was taken Sunday along our bike ride down the mountain

Saint Bernard puppy
Last night we went for a walk and visited our neighbors who raise Saint Bernard puppies. Here's one of my favorite puppy photos.

Here's an interesting article on the old order groups in our area.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

(Click on the link to play)

Friends  Each church I served had this song sung during our farewell (in 1993 when we moved on from northern PA and again in 2001 when we left New England to move to Lancaster County). Thankfully we have many friends from each of these churches to this day!

Old Friends  This song reveals my eclectic tastes in music. I heard this on the radio when driving to the mountain camp this weekend and enjoyed hearing Roger Miller songs growing up along with my dad!

I suppose these date me but for any others who grew up in the sixties and may have a similar reminiscing interest here are two other classic Roger Miller songs.

I smile whenever I hear this one especially since I'm from Kansas City area. I like the rather creative rhyme in it as well, "Kansas City star, that's what I are."

When my friend Mike Book and I passed this scene on the way home from camp this last weekend this song immediately came to mind!

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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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