Legacy of Childhood Friendship

There is a reason that our childhood is referred to as our formative years.  Although we grow physically during this time, it is not just our bodies that are taking form.  Our personality and our character begin to take shape as well.  It is during this time that what is right and what is wrong begins to take shape in our minds, in our hearts, and in our lives.

Some of this formation is intentional.  The adults in our lives teach us right from wrong, and I was fortunate during this time to have adults of sound moral character speaking into my life — intentionally informing and forming the person that I was becoming.  Much, however, of what forms us during this time is learned unintentionally — by observation and mimicking of what we see around us.

Because of this, many times the greatest “formers” of our character are our friends.

I was fortunate to have many childhood friends.  I would be remiss to try to thank them all by name, but they all deserve my thanks.  But my first friend, the person who formed what the concept of “friendship” has meant for me for over 40 years now, deserves special mention during this month of celebrating the women who formed my character.

bapt pic
Heidi and me the night of our baptism at Venturia Baptist Church.

Heidi (Tschetter) Olson was my first friend.  She taught me the importance of friendship and what it means to be a friend.

In the midst of all that she taught me about friendship, one characteristic in particular stands out — faithfulness.

Heidi was a friend even when I didn’t deserve friendship; she was relentlessly faithful.

The writer of the Old Testament book Proverbs put it like this, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24).

You see, if we don’t have friends who stick by us, if we don’t have friends who teach us the importance of faithfulness, if we don’t have someone to form our character in the area of reliability, well then ruin will find us quickly.  And in the most formative time of my life, during a time of learning through observation and mimicking, I was fortunate to have Heidi by my side.

Since college, Heidi and I hardly see each other.  She is married a wonderful man, and they have two beautiful daughters.  She along with her husband and me along with my wife stay in contact via Facebook, and we occasionally see each other, but the lasting impact of a childhood friend is still there in my life.  It has impacted every friendship that I’ve had since.

The characteristic of faithfulness that she taught me, however, transcends just friendship. The faithfulness that she demonstrated in our friendship has influenced my devotion to God, my love for my wife, my care for my children, and the list could go on.

I am thrilled that Heidi has agreed to write tomorrow’s post concerning the importance of childhood friends and the impact they can have on us.  I hope that you will gain insight from her wisdom as I have.  She is truly one of the women whom I thank and celebrate during this month long celebration of women.

March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

My Barnabas Was a Woman

“…Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”  -Acts 4:36-37

Barnabas was an amazing individual in the Bible.  He stood out not because of his preaching, or miracles, or even because of the numbers whom he converted — Barnabas stood out because he encouraged others.

Encouragement is a neglected spiritual gift!

Barnabas was the apostle who took Paul under his wing and encouraged him — and encouraged a frightened Church to welcome Paul, who was a recent and previously violent convert. Who knows, without Barnabas there may have not been a “Paul.”  In addition, though Barnabas was Paul’s encourager, he wasn’t afraid to stand up to Paul when another young man of God, John Mark, needed an encourager whom Paul had “written off” because of a previous “transgression.”  Paul would later recognize John Mark as vital to his ministry and would request his presence.  Without Barnabas as an encourager, Paul and John Mark may have remained estranged, and they would have been the worse for it — and so would have the Church.

We all need a Barnabas in our lives!  We need an encourager — someone who encourages us but isn’t afraid to stand up to us and for someone else that needs to be encouraged as well.  I have been blessed with several encouragers through the years, but there has been one that comes to mind as my Barnabas — a woman, one of my heroes, my mother-in-law, Von Schreier.

Von would have been 67 yesterday, March 9th.  I say “would have” because she died at 53.  It is one of the most tragic losses in my life because she was one of the greatest blessings.

Von was amazing!  She encouraged individuals that many would have ignored.  And she wasn’t afraid to stand up to others to remind them of their own responsibility to be an encourager.

When I think of Von, Barnabas isn’t the only image that comes to my mind — the other image I have is of a cheerleader.  I mean no offense to cheerleaders, but I’ve never really been a fan.

The unbridled enthusiasm.

The optimism in the face of unspeakable odds.

The unconditional devotion and admiration.

But that’s who Von was for me, and I loved every minute of it.

When she came to Boston, MA, to visit us while I attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, she came to classes with me.

It was fantastic.

Yes, I took my mother-in-law to school with me.  She loved it.  She and Rick, my father-in-law (a man who deserves his own blog post, but my wife wrote that one already), supported us, loved us, and encouraged us through courtship, going to school, and having our children.

And amazingly, they expected nothing in return.

Von continues to encourage me beyond the grave.

NO! She doesn’t talk to me, but her legacy is a legacy of encouragement.  Without her, there is no doubt that I would not be the man, the husband, or the person that I am.

Tomorrow, I’ve asked my wife, Stacy to write a blog on behalf of Von.  I know you will be blessed by my wife’s words and the lesson that she and I both learned from her mother, my mother-in-law, my Barnabas.

March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  

My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  

  1. to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me
  2.  that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life
  3. that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life

Click here to see all of the posts related to “Celebrating Women.”

CELEBRATING WOMEN: Day 1, God as Mother Hen

Today is International Women’s Day!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the next 23 days in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  For the rest of March, I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three tings:  1) to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me, 2) that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life, and 3) that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life.  

chicken
“How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing.”  Matthew 23:37b

Moses, Isaiah, and even Jesus knew something that I fear we too often forget within certain camps of American Christianity.  This is particularly true of the branch of American Christianity in which I would be placed by most who know me — American Evangelicalism; a designation that seems to mean less and less and one that has become almost theologically unrecognizable to some of us who still find themselves identified within this camp (of course that is probably a blog for a different day; today is a day to celebrate women).

Within American Evangelicalism, however, we seem to have forgotten something that Moses, Isaiah, and even Jesus knew about God — something that they knew about God’s nature.  And if someone tries to remind us of this thing to which Moses, Isaiah, and even Jesus pointed, we are quick to “correct” them — to point out that they have strayed from one of the significant tenants of the faith.

You see Moses, Isaiah, and even Jesus knew that God’s nature was too great, too complex, too divine to be described simply as male.

Because of this, the writers of scripture describe God not only as Father (which is a designation that we should not and must not lose — another blog for another day) but they also describe God using the imagery of a mother giving birth and nursing her young, a mother eagle, a woman comforting her young, and even a chicken gathering her wayward chicks home (Hosea, another writer of scripture, even describes God as a mother bear tearing asunder those who would separate her from her cubs).

God may be Father — but He is NOT male.  Male AND female are made in God’s image and both are needed to reflect God’s image and nature to a world that desperately needs to see and recognize God.

For me, the nature of God has been reflected to me in countless women.  God has spoken to me in the voices of countless women.  God has shaped me through the influence of countless women.

Mothers, friends, mentors, clergy, teachers, fellow workers in Christ.

To try to name them all would be impossible!  But on this day recognizing women, they all must be thanked.  THANK YOU!

For the rest of the month, I want to continue to celebrate the women who have reflected and continue to reflect the very best of God’s image into my life and the world around them.  I hope you will join me on this month of celebrating and learning from the women who have spoken life into my life, who have formed me, who have reflected the very best of Gods image to me, but more importantly, I hope you will take the time to say thank you, to celebrate, to recognize the women who have done this in your life.