Monday, June 2, 2008

A Tribute to Bob Frazier

Robert Frazier was such a gifted pastor. He died suddenly last Monday. No warning. He and some friends were on a trip together in Florida. Ruth, his wife was with family in North Dakota. She must have come through Charlotte airport a few hours before me as I returned that day from a conference in Canada.

When Barbara told me the news, I was shocked. I saw Bob in my sleep all night long. He died with far too much promise and potential in him. Too young. He and Ruth have always been successful wherever they have served. But in Gastonia, they seem to have gone to a new level. A new building program, congregational growth, a new paradigm for ministry which pushed the services and ministries of the church from one to seven days a week. Wow.
Barbara stayed with Ruth's family in the summer of 1967 when she and I were members of a Pioneers for Christ team from Lee College touring the Dakotas that summer. Bob and Ruth were partners with Alive Ministries.

On Tuesday morning, I was in my prayer room. I was praying about Bob's death and for Ruth. I was asking God, "Why?" Why - with so much promise and potential? Why - in his prime? Why? I was reminded of Paul's passion for ministry contrasted with his desire for heaven. "I am between, having a desire to depart. And yet it is needful for me to remain." I am not sure I have such healthy innner conflict. This world is so seductive. And it is possible to become so attached to ministry here that we lose our longing to see Jesus.

As I closed my time of prayer, I was reminded of how the Jews during the second diaspora added a line to the Seder meal at Passover time. "This year we are here; next year (may we be) in the Land of Israel. This year we are slaves; next year (may we be) free!" Every Seder for the exiled Jew is just a shadow of the ideal Pesach Seder. "Next year," they would say to one another, "in Jerusalem." Next year, may we be no longer exiled from the promised land, next year may we be in Jerusalem.

We look not toward Jerusalem in Israel, but to Jerusalem above. In exile, the jewish people would wrap their lives in the rhythm of the holy land. They would pray for rain during Israel's dry season even if their weather was like a monsoon. They would plant trees in the tree-planting season in Israel, even if it was freezing outside. With hearts tuned to heaven, may we, may I, learn to march with beat of another world, to catch the music of heaven - to long to be with Jesus.

As I closed my prayer time, I remembered the days when I was forced to work in garden after school in the spring. It was a huge garden! Then someone would call, "Suppertime!" I would drop my hoe on the spot and run to the house. I never recall saying, "I'd like to stay and work a while longer." It was suppertime. Bob dropped his hoe where he was. he went home. How can I ever have regrets about that opportunity for him!

Ruth, Barbara and I are praying for you. It won't be easy, but God will be faithful. He will not leave you alone or comfortless.

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