February 27 – Thanks, Jim, I hardly knew you

I suppose it’s what you do when you’re getting ready to retire. You look back even as you look forward to the good things yet to come.

So, I was thinking about things and for some reason Jim came to mind. I hardly knew him, really, but he was a friend. Jim may have had a decade or so on me age-wise. I was in my early thirties and Jim was somewhere in his forties. I was on staff at the church and Jim – well, I’m not sure exactly what he did, but he was good at it, and when Jim and his family moved to town they bought a really nice house on the lake. The lake was Oswego Lake in a suburb of Portland Oregon. The lake is two and a half miles long and runs west to east. Jim’s house was at the far western end of the lake and on a clear day as you sat on their dock you could see Mount Hood to the east.  It was a really nice house.

Jim and his family didn’t stay very long in our church or in our town. I think they moved on to some new challenge, some new success. By the time they left, Jim had been made an elder in our church. Jim didn’t talk much about his faith, but he was successful and had that really nice house on the lake. You never can tell why some churches make some people elders.

Our house was only about a mile from the lake, and not as nice as Jim’s. But the rent was cheap and we were happy there.

I was in my early thirties, not yet ordained, a junior staff member in a large church full of successful people. But then our pastor retired and not long after him one of the associate pastors moved on to a new call. I was asked to do things way beyond my original job description, some things I’d never done before. It was a stretch for me, and I’m still a little surprised at the confidence in my abilities shown by the leaders of the church.

Jim was an elder on the Session. He was not assigned to be a mentor or to teach me a thing or two. Jim just became an older friend of a certain type. If I had a report or a financial statement to get to Jim – no email attachments back then – I would drop by Jim’s house on the lake and sometimes he’d invite me in the way friends invite each other in.

Rainy days are the norm in Oregon, but when they come there’s nothing better than a sunny day in Oregon. On those occasional sunny days when I would drop by Jim’s house, he’d invite me in and we’d go sit on the dock on the far west end of the lake, the waters shimmering and Mount Hood rising above the eastern horizon. We might sip something refreshing (so, fire me) and we’d talk. Jim wasn’t much into talking about his faith or his feelings, but he knew about leadership and people and the way things work.  We talked about things like that.  Jim was a good teacher. What I learned was incredibly useful and important.

I hadn’t thought about Jim in a long time, but I’ve never forgotten what I learned as we sat and talked at the end of the dock on Oswego Lake.

God has blessed me, and those of us at LPC, with some staff colleagues in their thirties. The pastor is retiring. Tyler and Casey don’t really need assigned mentors or teachers so much as they need the kind of friend Jim was to me all those years ago.

Jim, I hardly knew you. But thanks for being a friend.