You gotta have friends

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My grandfather once told me that you could count your “true” friends on one hand…and possibly have fingers left over.

He may be right.

How many true friends do we have? Those that we can count on during the truly hard times.  Those that will put everything else aside and focus on our needs.

I was studying Mark chapter 2 earlier this week.  It contained an interesting story about friendship.

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2: 1-5

It’s an incredible scene.  There was a paralyzed man who had four friends who cared about him so much- they carried him to see Jesus.  And when they couldn’t get their paralyzed friend near Jesus, they dug a hole in the roof above Jesus and lowered him down.

Now that’s friendship.

We’ve got many examples of how to be a true friend in the Bible.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.  Proverbs 17:17

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:12

My prayer this week is that I become aware of ways that I can serve others. I am often preoccupied with my own challenges and obstacles, and I don’t take the time to minister to others in need of friendship. I pray that God helps me with this…and that I can be an encouragement to others.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Grady Bogue- an eulogy

Grady Bogue died one year ago.  He was an educational giant.  Many people knew Grady from his five decades of devoted service to higher education.  Others knew him as a trusted faculty adviser or as a leading scholar on higher education policy and leadership.  I knew him as a mentor, counselor and friend.

Grady was one of the great influences in my life.  We all have these people in our lives.  He believed in me at times when I didn’t believe in myself.  He refused to ever give up on me as a student or a person.

On the anniversary of his death, I would like to present the eulogy from his funeral.

The Importance of Words

Everything I learned from Dr. E. Grady Bogue can be broken down into one simple concept: the importance of words.

Anyone who spent any time at all with Grady quickly realized how important words were to him.

Words to read. He was a lover of words written by others.   Grady was forever reading books. He read good books. He read bad books. Even when a book was going bad- quickly- he would still hold out hope that the content would turn around somewhere near the closing chapters. If it didn’t turn around, he loved to complain about how bad it was…and how it could have been written differently. If you ever accompanied Grady to a bookstore, I hope that you had nowhere else to be for a good while.

He was forever recommending books. Books on leadership. Books on ethics. Books that questioned authority and sources of power. Twenty years ago he tasked a group of young, eager master’s students to read Saul Alinski’s “Rules for Radicals.” It opened our eyes to inequities in our communities- and how to create political, social and economic change. He loved that book. Grady loved the underdog…the downtrodden…the forgotten. He was a champion. He loved to challenge the status quo- and he expected his students and colleagues to do the same. Reading shared books was a great way to spread knowledge and spark creativity in the eyes of his students and colleagues.

Spoken words. He was equally adept at delivering a speech that captivated hundreds of conference attendees, presenting a small lecture for a dozen doctoral students, or having an intimate, quiet conversation over a cup of coffee with a friend. He had numerous roles in his spoken interactions with others- depending upon the situation. He could be the counselor, comforter, advisor, scholar, artist, radical…and sometimes – if you were up against a deadline in your dissertation- a parole officer.  He made you careful about your own word choices too. If you made a statement in class or a Bible study, you had better be prepared for a question or two from Grady. He learned from you that way. And you learned from him.

I had watched Grady Bogue masterfully work conversations for 19 years before he was appointed to the chancellors’ position at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. I wondered aloud to Dr. DiPietro how long it would be before Grady’s great, probing questions descended upon the Chattanooga campus and with his fellow chancellors and vice presidents across the UT system. It didn’t take long. By the end of the first week he was already questioning budgets, fundraising totals, and the activities of programs across the UT system. Nothing escaped Grady’s careful study, and his questions- as always- were well-timed, appropriately phrased, and kept the audiences guessing as to where he was headed. I enjoyed watching him in that capacity over the past year. He loved the Chattanooga campus, and community, his colleagues across the UT system and the Trustees, alumni and donors he met. He communicated with these audiences like he had been a part of the UTC campus for years.

Written words. He was a prolific writer- composing 11 books and over 60 articles. But his best writing never appeared in a refereed journal or scholarly publication. Have you ever received a letter from Grady Bogue? You wouldn’t forget it. He loved letters. He wrote notes of encouragement; he sent words of advice; he sent letters of support…and sometimes…he sent letters of reprimand when he felt leaders weren’t representing their organizations well (I’ve received three of those myself). Grady made e-mail into an art form. His e-mails were legendary around campus- much like his letters. You can read Grady’s written words- and you can hear his voice leaping from the text into your ears. That’s a gift.

Words were important to Grady Bogue.

Grady’s words invited you inside his own family. While I had met Grady’s family over the years, it was through the text of e-mails that I learned of his great love and devotion to them. I’ve saved literally hundreds of his e-mails over the past two decades- and I’ve had great fun reviewing them over the past few days. Here are some of the family highlights:

Trips to Nashville to visit Linda’s family. The love he had for a sister in Tipton County, and the pain he felt when her health began to deteriorate. How he loved traditions and holidays. He informed me once how fortunate I was to send him an overdue paper that arrived on Thanksgiving Day (and I quote) “with me happy and in good humor with a tummy full of turkey and dressing.” Professional and personal triumphs of his children. The birth of grandchildren. Oh the grandchildren… Marriages. Anniversaries.

One of my favorite family e-mails arrived earlier this year. I had commented on how much I enjoyed his holiday greeting from UTC- to which he responded: “Wasn’t that a great picture of Linda Bogue? She’s the most beautiful woman in East Tennessee!”

Grady Bogue challenged all of us examine and celebrate special moments in our lives. His special place was Hilton Head Island- a place of solace and retreat for the Bogue family for over 30 years.

Grady did not mince words. He placed a high value on relationships. In a world filled with impersonal interaction and hurried communication- Grady encouraged us to slow down, take time to get to know one another, and to respect each other and our individuality. Everyone has worth. Everyone deserves respect. Grady not only taught that, he demonstrated it with his actions.

The world needs a few more Grady Bogues. We will miss him- but thankfully, he’s given us enough memories, stories and words to last for our lifetimes. Godspeed my friend.

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Mentors

I had the great opportunity to spend some time with a good friend over the weekend.  My friend Danny and his daughter, Candy, made the trek over from West Tennessee to visit my family for a couple of days.

Danny is one of those folks that immediately makes you feel comfortable.  I might not see him but once or twice a year, but the conversation picks right back up as if we just visited yesterday.

I met Danny at church several years ago.  He invited me to go with him on Thursday evenings to visit the sick, former church members who had quit coming, and other people in the community that had the need for Christ.  We traveled the back roads and byways of Weakley County for the better part of a year.  While Danny talked and ministered to those in need, I listened and soaked it all in.  I can honestly say that I learned and benefited more than any of those good folks we visited.  Danny changed my life.

Danny is a true spiritual mentor for me and countless others.  What makes a good spiritual mentor?

Spiritual mentors hold you accountable.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.  Ephesians 6:7

Danny not only sets a great Christian example, but he gently challenges me to do more.  He encourages me to be a better husband, father, employee and servant.  He asks about my daily walk and provides encouragement when I need a spiritual boost (or a prod).  He reminds me that it’s important to continually grow my faith…and that I need to give back to others as I have benefited from them.

Spiritual mentors are transparent.

Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  I Thessalonians 5:14

Danny is one of the most encouraging and authentic men I’ve ever met.  He is quick to point out his own struggles, which makes him that much more approachable.  When you talk with him about your obstacles, you know that Danny is actively listening and cares deeply about your situation.  He’s an incredible example of what it means to have a healthy, growing faith walk.  He lives his faith, and he works daily to have a better understanding of the Bible and its teachings.

Spiritual mentors pray for you.

The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.  If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.  James 5:15

Danny is an incredible prayer warrior.  When you ask Danny to pray for you- you can rest assured that your request will be lifted up.  His prayers are thoughtful and concise…and always seem to lift your burden.  Danny and I prayed together three times over the weekend- and I wish that we had prayed even more.  Over the years Danny has built and maintained a healthy prayer life.  His confidence and sincerity during his daily prayers are a comfort to all who hear.

Accountability.  Transparency.  Willingness to pray.  Simple concepts that take great discipline, practice and time to master.

I’m grateful for good mentors and teachers that enter our lives.  I hope that you will take the time to reach out to your spiritual mentor and thank them for their investment in you.

And maybe someday, hopefully….we can be a mentor to someone too.

God bless.

 

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