Saturday, June 13, 2009

Old Outside, New Inside - Words to Live By

Cardinal John Henry Newman, said this:

"Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, where ever I am. I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him. In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about."

My experience in thus far in this life; the holding of my own newborn girls in my arms, and sitting at the bedside of my dying parents, as illustrated by this Scripture, leads me to say "Yes!" to the words of Cardinal Newman.

There is a Guard There.... His Name is Ron

I recently attended the moving memorial service for a man who spent much of his adult life standing guard for the rest of us. A simple job, and yet filled with almost a royal sense of dignity. I will never forget my friend Ron Cherry. Now, each time I pull up to the front of our church, I remember, and miss our friend.

Because he watched out, countless people felt safe, and more importantly, welcome. It was said several times during his memorial that Ron was "the face of Hollywood Presbyterian Church". I agree completely, and we are, all of us, greatly honored by that memory.

He did so much for so many, and yet, I am convicted that I did not get to know him better, or appreciate him more while he was here. I am a much richer man for having witnessed the graceful, joyous, and genuine way in which he cared for others.

Ron spent 23 years of his life as a Security Guard at our church. And because he was there day in, day out, night in, night out, doing his job in such an excellent way, hundreds of people will never be the same for having known him; there were more than 150 people from our church at his memorial service. It is completely safe to say that Ron affected the lives of thousands in his time at Hollywood Presbyterian. My friend Mark Roberts has eulogized Ron recently here.

I have a bit more to add.

Ron Cherry was born in a small town in rural Louisiana. As a young man, he grew tired of small town life, and longed for adventure in the Big City, so he moved to Hollywood, in search of his own dream. Over his early years in town, Ron worked various jobs, as a
hotel limo driver (often for inebriated celebrity guests who will remain nameless here), cab driver, movie extra, and finally, and most importantly, as the senior security guard at our church.

Ron did everything with grace, humor, and joy. He was especially loved by the children at our church Preschool. Following his sudden and unexpected death at just 63, a chapel memorial service for Ron was organized by the Preschool, in order for the children to express their feelings, and remember their friend Ron. My friend Tom is the unofficial chaplain of the preschool, and here are some quotes from the kids about their memories of Ron:
"We played tag" "He made me feel safe" "He always said hi" "He was so nice, and very fun" "We played soccer with a pine cone" "He always had candy for us!".
Ron made such a lasting impression on us all from often only passing interactions on Sunday mornings, or often midweek chats about sports, and politics, and the latest news. For us, Ron was a part of the billions of threads of God's infinite tapestry. From the peculiar distance of these passing conversations, so many of us felt a sudden sense of loss. Ron had the gift of simple Southern kindness, and he abided well in his place on guard, watching out for what he called "the Hollywood knuckleheads".

In retrospect, Ron taught me about joy, abiding in one place and being content, and finally, about the simple beauty and dignity of serving others.

Theologians are pretty much silent on the concept of what Heaven will be like. But, Jesus told us he goes to prepare a place for us, and that there is plenty of room There.

Based on what I know of Ron, when we get there, he will be waiting, watching, and smiling.
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