My friend, Rick Loft, died a few days ago. We met more than 40 years ago when he served on the Pastor Search Committee that called me to my first pastorate. We served together throughout those formative years. We shared the challenges of church ministry, the joys and pains in our families, and—for Rick—the burden of helping a young pastor stumble through the ups and downs of learning to do his job. After we moved to Oregon, he remained my friend as we continued to share ministry and family connections, as well as conversations and trips around our mutual love for baseball.

Rick was a true friend. He told me the truth—including one memorable time when he confronted me about personal behavior he felt was detrimental to my ministry. It was a hard conversation for him because he knew it would be painful for me. It was hard for me because he was right. On another occasion, I did something really embarrassing, but as a true friend he never mentioned it again. Rick was like that—bold when he needed to be, quiet when words could hurt others. We also laughed a lot together, at inside jokes and weird things only funny to the two of us and our mutually quirky senses of humor.

My friend was also a churchman—the kind of man a church is built around. He loved pastors, cared genuinely for people, served without fanfare, and was a steady hand on the tiller through several church storms in more than four decades of leadership. He made sure shut-ins were not forgotten, sick people were visited, and new believers were patiently encouraged. Rick and his prayer partner met for early morning prayer every Friday they were able—for almost 30 years! When he died, more than one church member said the same thing, “This leaves a huge hole in our hearts and in our church.” True that.

Rick also served our denomination. He attended conventions, served on various committees, and on the Executive Board for his state convention. As a competent executive, his business acumen served us well in these capacities. As a mature Christian, his direct and gentle approach to problem solving was much needed.

A few years ago, because of the example of friends like Rick, I committed to being a better friend. That’s hard for me. I am task-oriented by nature, and my job demands that strength be honed and demonstrated daily. But being a good friend matters—and being a better friend has been one of my goals for the past few years. The Bible says, “A friend loves at all times” (Pro. 17:17) and “There is a friend who stays closer than a brother” (Pro. 18:24). I want to be that kind of friend.

Take a few minutes and reflect on the friends God has given you. Treasure that relational resource. Determine to be a better friend yourself. And, if you are among the lonely who struggle to find true friends, do two things. Focus on being the friend you want others to be to you and patiently cultivate current relationships toward the goal of true friendships.

I miss Rick but I am inspired by his life and example. I am a better friend, husband, colleague, and leader for having been befriended by this remarkable man.


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