That mound of Christmas cards still on our coffee table reminds me of something important. The value of friends in our lives. Before this week is over my wife and I will sit down and go through those cards again. That pile of cards, letters and pictures will be the last vestige of Christmas to go. I wonder why? Maybe we just like to be reminded that we are connected to a great many people in a great many places. Being a Reverend our family has moved a lot and we have friends scattered all over.
Those friends cover the spectrum. Some wear the Democrat label and some are Republicans. Some love George Bush while other friends despise him. Some of our number are deeply religious and others are pretty sure there is no God. Some are gay and a few are homophobic. And yet looking back there is something stronger than all these labels and opinions that tie us together.
Carlyle Marney was a great preacher. In one of the first of many books he wrote he dedicated that book to a friend:
Who agrees with me in nothing
And is my friend in everything.
Real friendship does not depend on agreement. Real friends do not try to convert you to their side. But real friends stand by you through thick and thin. You looked up from your mother's grave and over on the side were people who had driven 300 miles just to stand by you. Some things you just do not forget.
I love the poem whose author I cannot find:
"Oh, the comfort,
the inexpressible comfort
Of feeling safe with a person
Having neither to weigh thoughts
Nor measure words, but pouring them
All right out, just as they are,
Chaff and grain together,
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them;
Keep what is worth keeping
And with a breath of kindness
Blow the rest away."
Tonight when I go to bed I think I'll conjure up some faces of friends from across the years. I will thank God for the richness they have added to my life. And then I will smile and perhaps sleep will come.