I am sitting on our back porch. A light summer breeze is making music through our hanging chimes. And I can see my friend Roger dancing to the rhythm of the chimes, with his beloved Ruth.
I have just heard that Roger died this week at the age of 95, to rejoin his Ruth who went ahead of him some years ago.
I can imagine them dancing, because that’s the title of his memoir Learning to Dance: A Story of Grace. An apt title, because Roger was as grace-filled as anyone I have ever known.
He was respected as the pastor of a large and successful church in Sioux Falls, president of the the American Baptists, a key leader in Faith at Work and Renovare, the chairman of two of my crusades. Late in life he left his influential congregation and went to a broken down and split church in Wichita to help bring healing.
I simply remember him as friend since we met nearly forty years ago. He didn’t use email or have an answering device on his phone, but he would so often leave a message on my phone, in his rich, a-bit-gravelly prairie tone, just to say, “Brother Leighton, this is Roger. I love you. I pray for you every day.”
From the time when our son Sandy died during heart surgery on the day after Thanksgiving 1981, a poinsettia would arrive every year at Thanksgiving from Roger. I will be sure there is one this year, and in honor of my dear friend.
Roger once told me how a student came into his office and said, “Pastor, the Bible doesn’t tell us God is going to make a lot of new things. He said he would make all things new.”
So Roger is now made new, past the disease that finally wore him out.
Dancing in glory. Dancing in grace.