Circle of Friends
I attended a friend’s fiftieth birthday party a few months ago and watched as the birthday girl entered a room filled with the people she loved best. Long after the initial surprise had worn off, we chatted about the diverse array of people in attendance, neighbors, work colleagues, parents of her children’s friends, fellow Navy families, folks from her church, and her closest friends. These were people she saw all the time, but she had never seen them all in the same place at the same time before. Her circles had collided, and it brought her great joy.
It got me thinking about a time not so long ago when my own circles collided. Those of you who know me know that two years ago I found myself facing a dire prognosis after being diagnosed with stage IV endometrial cancer. It was a frightening time where I found myself feeling very alone and vulnerable, and had it not been for my circles of friends, many of them from this church, I don’t know that I would have made it. But God was at work, even before I knew what was happening to me. As I was transferred from the ER at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital to Virginia Beach General, I was met by church friends who sat with me and offered support to my family while I underwent procedures. As I was moved to the Oncology unit, I was met by the charge nurse, my kids’ former youth counselor and my dear friend and Emmaus sponsor, who made sure I had the best nursing care available. Awaiting surgery the next morning, a church staff member came to sit with me and was surprised to see that the anesthesiologist was also a member of Virginia Beach United Methodist. Friends and family filled my hospital room, many them the faces I saw at Virginia Beach United Methodist on Sunday mornings and throughout the year. And so it continued over days and months with phone calls, visits, meals, offers for rides, gift cards, and text messages of support. My family and I were overwhelmed at the sheer army of people, my colleagues at work, members of my life group, orchestra members, fellow mission volunteers, neighbors, family, folks I had served on church committees with, and friends I had met through Bible study, who were there for us through the initial hospitalization and the ensuing year of biopsies, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. In facing this terrifying medical crisis, my circles collided in an explosion of love and support that allowed my family and me to feel that peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
The crisis is over and I am a year into remission, but all I have to do is ask prior to a routine scan or exam, and my circles collide again to remind me that I am and have been covered in prayer every step of the way. My cup runneth over.
Are You a Christian During the Week?
“A man who merely sits in a pew on Sunday morning and calls himself a Christian is like the man who stands in the garage and calls himself a car.” I’m unsure about the author of that quote, but I am sure it sums up for many of us Christians how critical it is for us not only to call ourselves Christians but also to demonstrate our Christ-like behavior in our everyday lives. We had the good fortune to see that Christian discipleship at work when we got to know the Tomlin family.
We first met Jerry Tomlin when he was one of the presenters at our On-Ramp class; later we met three more of the Tomlins when we were classmates in the Financial Peace University course. Impressed with their sincerity and devotion, we knew they were a family we would like to get to know better, so we invited them to join us for dinner one night. Around the dinner table that night we mentioned that we would soon be celebrating our Golden Wedding Anniversary, and the Tomlins happily shared their congratulations.
Fast forward a couple of months. Chatting in the church fellowship hall one Sunday, Jerry and Anne asked how the preparations were going for our big hoopla. “Well,” we replied, “everything is going rather well, except we have so much yard work to complete. We know your son Jerrod already has a couple of part-time jobs, but do you think he would be interested in earning a little extra money doing some yard work for us?” Jerry’s response, “I’ll ask him, and if he can’t help you, I can.” This was followed by Anne chiming in, “I’m not too great at gardening, but I can pull weeds!”
Like many of us who make statements like that in a social setting, we are totally sincere in our comments, but somehow life gets in the way, and we find ourselves never following through on our goodwill offer. Not so with the Tomlins. To our total surprise, the next week Anne turned up after work, a change of clothes in hand, to make good on her offer to “pull weeds,” which I am happy to report that she did for three tedious hours. Likewise, hubby Jerry showed up after work to trim our much-overgrown hedges. In just a few hours, he tamed the hedges—a task that would have easily required two weeks of our time. Following their parents’ example, son Jarrod came along to cut grass and trim weeds and daughter Sophie got to work vacuuming. Not content with their accomplishments, they came another day to complete what they had begun the week before.
The next time you see the Tomlins in their favorite spot in the upstairs pew on Sunday morning, be aware that we choose to call them Christians not only because they are here on Sunday morning but because they display their Christian faith throughout the week through their service to others. Many thanks to the Tomlins for their generous kindness to us. How lucky we are to have such faithful disciples in our church family.
Dee Swanson – congregation member