Lenten Discipline — March 17

Lenten discipline of the day:
reach out to a friend and tell them you love them.

I was on vacation with my son last week in Florida (which is why there was a brief hiatus in the Lenten devotions).  On our last day there, I found out that my dear friend and colleague, Don Polito, had died suddenly.  

Originally, I had planned for today’s Lenten discipline to be, “Call an old friend.”  But in honor of Don, I’m going to suggest telling a friend who means a lot to you exactly how much they mean. 

Although I knew Don had serious cardiac issues, it seemed to me that he had been feeling well lately.  He was enjoying his ministry at Liberty Presbyterian Church, and had just recently joined CPM for the presbytery.  A week or so before I left for vacation, I talked with him about getting involved with a pilot project I am working on with some other colleagues.  I thought he’d be great at working with churches in the midst of transition and challenge.  He said he’d think about it, but was pretty well occupied with his work at Liberty, particularly the Saturday night contemporary service with great music and table fellowship.  That was so Don — he didn’t know how to do “part time” ministry. He always said he couldn’t write 1/2 of a sermon or plan 1/2 of an Advent series.  He was all-in, wherever he served.  And everyone loved him — the folks at Southminster, Bethesda, Concord and Liberty. 

And now he’s gone.  I just can’t wrap my mind around a world without Don.  As a fellow small church pastor, Don was always my go-to guy for sharing joys and challenges.  Don especially understood and embraced the ministry of presence with elderly folks, and he and I shared a love of home visitation with shut in’s and people in nursing homes.  He accepted everyone for who they were and loved them deeply.

I wish I had told Don how much he meant to me the last time we talked on the phone.  As it is, I am sure most of what passed between us was wise-cracks and laughter.  Maybe that is enough.  But i sure wish I’d told him what his friendship always meant to me, from the very beginning.  And I’m sure going to miss him at presbytery meetings where we often sat together, a steady stream of “editorial” remarks passing between us.

Don was a glorious child of God and I am so grateful I knew him.

With love and prayers to Don’s wife, Cheryl and his son, Samuel.  

I remember having a debate with Don about whether it was proper to consider this Leonard Cohen song “sacred” enough to play in church.  We didn’t agree, but we both loved the song.  I am certain that heaven greeted Don with an “hallelujah!” and “well done, good and faithful servant!”