Yesterday, wonderful people from parts of our past stopped by on Facebook to congratulate Donya and me on 34 years of marriage. Just seeing some of the names afforded an opportunity to revisit those places where we left large chunks of our lives and pieces of our hearts.
One of the notes was from Cathy Grinolds, the widow of one of the funniest men and finest friends I have ever known.
Vic Grinolds was a veteran. He served in Desert Storm. He served his country with pride and selflessness and brought back a couple of battlefield souvenirs for his preacher (me).
Vic had his demons. He battled the bottle and did so valiantly. He also had his God, his family, his church, and his friends and loved them all fiercely, without reservation. He would fight for them. He would die for them.
If you ever asked Vic how he was, he always answered, “Finer than frog’s hair.”
He loved to laugh and he could make you laugh without really trying.
I loved that man. He was my fine, faithful friend.
Another note was from Renee Perry Vieira, whose dad Nate Perry was a real character.
Nate was a late convert to Christ. He had worked in construction his whole life and could cuss with the best of them. He had laced his conversations with colorful language for so long, it took some time for him to work the expletives out of his vocabulary. He was saved instantly. Sanctification took a bit.
More than once, Nate was embarrassed to have dropped a cuss bomb in the church foyer. More than once, I put my arm around that man’s broad shoulders and told him Jesus loved him and so did I and no four letter word was going to change that.
We had a Friend Day one year. Nate brought so many people to church that day, he had to make three trips to pick up all the ones who couldn’t drive themselves. He filled three or four pews with guests.
I began calling him Great Nate after that.
He was great. He was genuine. He was my friend.
I have not been a pastor for something like 17 years now, and I do not pretend to speak for any who are pastors today. But I can tell you I much preferred these real men with feet of clay and hearts of gold to the Pharisaical blowhards with their folded arms and permanent scowls.
Those Pharisees gloat, “I’m glad I’m not like those guys.”
I beg to differ. You should PRAY to be like those guys. For one moment, to be real, to be honest, to be flawed, to be redeemed, to be loved in spite of yourself.
Give me a man who is too busy trying to clean up his own act to sit in constant judgment over others. You can have the one who thinks he has his act together and has appointed himself judge and jury over the lesser beings.
Give me a Vic. Give me a Nate. I will give you a church that is worth attending.
God bless those men, their memories, and what they meant to a young preacher and his congregation.
And don’t even get me started on John Tabor, the man who gave his beloved motorcycle to a missionary so the man could better navigate the crowded streets of Manila. A man who moved 100 miles from Porterville to Turlock, California, so he could help his young preacher friend (Yours Truly) build a church.
I am talking about men here.
Not perfect men. Not necessarily polished men.
But godly men and the kind of men I am proud to call my friends.