Oliver Wendell Homes Sr., wrote, “There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise.” The reason I bring this quote up is because I’ve been thinking about friendships lately and how blessed a person is to have friends in their lives. As I look back over my life I can agree with Mr. Homes Sr., that friends have made all the difference.

Last evening I went out for dinner with some friends, we were celebrating a birthday, and even though I have only known these friends for a couple of years conversation flowed in such a way that you would have thought we had been friends forever. Real good friends are like putting on your favorite shirt—they are comfortable.

My friend Brian is like that. We have been friends since the late seventies. We can go for weeks and not talk, but when the phone rings it makes my heart glad because I love to hear his thoughts, insights and how he challenges me to think and act better.

When I was younger I moved on from friendships and never thought much about them. I made a very good friend when I lived in California but when Ruth and I moved back to the East Coast he drifted out of my life. Childhood friends went the same way for the most part. All those years at University and I am in touch with no one. Thirty-eight years in Ministry and I don’t have one real Minister friend from that stage of my life.

I was thinking about all this and that started me thinking about what makes a friend so important that, like my friend Brian, I was never able to move on. With good friends, not acquaintances, but really good friends there is a bonding that is so deep it just won’t break regardless of all the stress we put on it.

In the years that I pastored I made some close friends in the congregation and even though we now live hundreds of miles apart I am always glad to hear their voices or hear them knocking at my door. The hours we shared together in ministry, eating together, laughing together, and praying for each other will never go away.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday evening I have the privilege to study the Bible with groups of people. Prior to our meeting together I hardly knew any of the people who now attend the study. We were complete strangers, but how things have changed. I can honestly say that I wait throughout the week in anticipation for those study nights. And it isn’t all because we study the Bible together; a great deal of it is because I have become friends with these people. They stretch me, love me, care about me and I love and care for them. We are community.

So, why am I telling you all this? It’s because I’m getting older and hopefully a bit wiser and I am counting my blessings more now than I did when I was younger. And chief amongst those blessings are the gift of friends and friendship. Here’s another thought, I’ve found that friends are found in the strangest places and those relationships are built on common interests instead of shared history.

Let me explain, in the last couple of years the new friendships that I have made revolve, for the most part, around our shared interest in the Bible and growing as Christians. I have no history with any of these people, we were never childhood friends, or were all Blue Jay fans, or worked together. We became friends over the Bible and would have never been friends without that interest, because we probably wouldn’t have ever met otherwise.

For those people who have no problem living with their own company I believe that is a gift because most of us long to be in community. And we don’t need a great many friends to make us happy; just one will do fine.

Let me say whom you don’t want for a friend. If a person tries to control you, spends their time criticizing you, abuses your generosity anbrings a negative influence into your life forget them. Friendships just don’t work that way. Conversely, a friend is someone you can trust and communicate with on a deep level. A good friend is interested in you and your success and your life journey. They listen to you and you listen to them. Most of all, a good friend accepts you for who you are without judging you or telling you what to think or feel.

Oliver Wendell Homes Sr., once said something like this, “Fortunate is the person who has one good friend in their lifetime, but blessed is he who has two.” Remember, a good friend is dearer than a hundred acquaintances.

If you need a close friend in your life start by remembering that Jesus is always with you and loves you unconditionally, but also remember that we all need friends who have skin on them. Pray and ask God to lead you to good friends. Start with your spiritual needs and see how you may be able to plug into a small group study, a prayer meeting or a church event.

Remember, if you think you’re going to make friends at church on Sunday morning it is not going to be easy because people are busy, making plans with their friends, or rushing off home to put the dinner on. Find something mid-week that you can become part of and where people have time to stop and talk. Most of all don’t give up.

The friends I’ve made over the last few years have all been through small group settings, even the church I attended was a small group setting where Ruth and I got to know everybody in the first few weeks of attending. And the friendships that we now cherish didn’t happen over night; they take time. But, I promise you that if you are fortunate to make one good friend out of the effort you make then you will be happy for a lifetime.

If you’ve made a great friend over the years would you mind taking a few moments and writing about it in the comments section at the bottom of this blog post. For those of you who subscribe to this blog I don’t think the comment section shows up on your computer so you will need to go to the blog itself to fill in the comment section. I would love to hear your story and it would be an encouragement to others.

* Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. There is a great evil settling on this earth and we must be vigilant in our prayers and stay close to Christ. Our hope is in Christ and he is faithful to his people. Please take the time to read about what is taking place in the world around us at  http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…