Are You Grateful for the Gift of Friends?

[Y]esterday I had a wonderful conversation with my buddy Roy Cochran, a dear friend of mine who leads a ministry for worship leaders and artists called the Worship Mentor Network. We had just come from a Grove planning meeting with Monty Kelso and Sherri Alden (also dear friends!) at Hidden House Coffee for an upcoming Grove Worship Leader Getaway.

CelebratingthegiftoffriendshipAs we stood in the gardens on Los Rios Street just talking and watching the sun go down, the warm light danced through the sycamore and eucalyptus trees. It was one of those reflective moments framed by the gift of friends and the breathtaking beauty of the waning day. After a hug and a goodbye, I got in my car to get home before dark to take my seventh-grade son, Aidan, out with some friends for Halloween trick-n-treating. I called home to check in and what I heard next broke my heart…horrors of horrors on Halloween! Read on…

When I spoke to my wife Krista about Aidan’s plans for the evening, she said that he had no friends to go out with. Due to late planning and friends already getting together with other friends, Aidan was now the odd man out.

When I heard this news, I immediately felt a wave of sadness wash over me. No friends on Halloween? I also immediately went back to my junior high years when Halloween was such a fun time for me and my buddies, smashing pumpkins and all. I began to pray, “Lord, do something! Help Aidan find a friend!”

It was almost dark when I arrived home. Aidan and Krista were doing homework at our kitchen table. Aidan look quite glum and the mood was a bit graveyard-ish (take it from the son-of-a-mortician-that-I-am). I begin peppering questions, “What about this friend? Or this friend…or this one?” Krista shook her head. Not looking good.

No friends on Halloween and geography homework…fun!

“Hey, what about James from youth group?”

“I don’t have his phone number,” Aidan replied, pools of water brimming in his eyes.

I’m on it…I texted Riley, Aidan’s youth pastor and ping! Riley responded right back.

Aidan called James right away. The two 7th. graders mumbled on the phone for a minute.

Aidan hung up despondent. “He’s going out with friends.”

Aidan didn’t cry, but I could see Niagara Falls in his eyes.

Inside, I was dying. Something inside of me hit DEFCOM 5. I felt so bad for my son, knowing there was nothing I could do at this point.

Except to pray…again…Lord, I know Halloween isn’t your favorite holiday and all, but it would mean a lot to Aidan and I if…


Aidan picked up the phone. It was James. For whatever reason, his plans fell through and now he needed a friend!

Yes! Thank you Lord!

I picked up Chinese food. Krista helped Aidan whip up a quick Rastafari-dreadlock-surfer-dude outfit. James came over in full blown Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle regalia. We gobbled up the Chinese food and then it was out for the next couple hours. As I drove Aidan and James around San Clemente, hitting the choice neighborhoods where they give out the big candy bars, I felt giddy.

God, you’re so good. You see the heart of my son and you see my heart too.

As I wrote in my journal this morning, I asked the Lord what all those powerful emotions were about. What triggered me so strongly? Tenderly, He took me back to a place, many years ago when I was in junior and high school…five schools in six years. Lots of change in a short amount of time.

Oh yes Lord…I remember what longing for a friend is all about.

In my mind’s eye, I remember seeing Aidan and James walking down the street last night. Together side by side.

A Ninja Turtle and Rasta dude.

It made me grateful for God’s friendship. God the Father who hears our cries. Jesus, our friend who walks side by side. Holy Spirit, the living presence of God who lives in our heart.

Small gifts and generous swoops of grace. A light shining in the darkness of loneliness and darkness cannot overcome it.

I am so grateful for all the wonderful friends God has given me. Along with my wife and children, my greatest wealth is found in my friendships.

How about you?

Questions: How do you show gratefulness to your friends? When was the last time you told your friends how much you cherish their friendship? Why is this so important?

I’d love your comments and feedback.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Jonathan Kirchner

    That’s great stuff. Reminds me of several “low points” in high school where I felt bummed because I’d given everything away for sports and in the moments where trouble was just around the corner, I’d receive a text message from a good friend, inviting me to spend the night and play video games or just chill. It’s those moments where we realize how big God is, and always felt humbled to know he saw my heart. It’s just as beautiful to see Him to it for the ones we love!!

    • Joey O’Connor

      Yes, incredible how God DOES see our hearts, isn’t it? He is so generous and kind…things don’t always work out like we plan, but when they do, I’m blown away at how evident the power of answered prayer is.

      Thanks Jon! Looking forward to seeing your game tomorrow night! I’m off to Aidan’s game today!

  • Kimbersimons

    Amazing how timely God is!
    I had just posted Day 1 of 30 days of Thankfulness on my fb page, being thankful for special friends who are always there to pray for and with me and give me Godly wisdom. I needed their wisdom and prayers yesterday as I was praying for my daughter and a non believing friend and a really tough situation! Thank you for your inspirational story!

    • Joey O’Connor

      I love your idea for 30 days of Thankfulness Kimber! Sounds like you have some wonderful friends. Yes, prayer and godly wisdom are key elements of good friendship! I will be praying for you, your daughter and her friend!

      • Kimbersimons

        Prayer is always appreciated when it comes to raising teenagers! Thank you!

        • Joey O’Connor

          Yes indeed! My pleasure!

  • Jake


    This was so good! Your writing style is so smooth and heart felt! These are some powerful questions and a powerful story. Most men cannot answer the question of who would you call in the middle of the night when you really needed someone. Most of us just get by with such a surface level friendship and it is a tragedy. As Eldredge would say, that our elaborate fig leaf’s keep people from seeing the real you because we are afraid that we will be found out. I so desire to have friendships that are deep an meaningful and that are equal. You know equal give and take, most of my friendships I feel like I do the instigating.

    I love your heart towards your son in this story too, no condemnation, so you should have planned it better, no its your fault. I think your heart was the same as God’s heart.

    • Joey O’Connor

      If my heart is a faint whisper of God’s heart, I will die a happy man Jake! Thanks for your kind words! You are so right, men need deep friendships. Dropping the fig leaf of hiding and pretending is the first step to authentic relationship with God and other men. Thanks for your encouraging words my friend!

  • MLPRusty

    Yes… We have an international prayer chain. After sending out a bunch of heavy requests to people several days in a row once I was overwhelmed with the thought of praying for these intercepters. These friends who stop everything they are doing to call on God on behalf of someone they probably will never meet on this earth. Such friends! Such blessings they are.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Lots of friends will lighten these heavy burdens of life. Glad to hear you have such wonderful friends in your circle Rusty!

  • Annette

    I have some long-distance friends that I do not get in touch with often enough. They are high school friends and they are still on the East Coast (and all are well after Sandy, thank God!). But when we are able to get together it is almost as if nothing has changed since high school. All those years and all those miles just melt away, and things are good. I have good friends here, people I work with, go to church with, volunteer with, etc. And I am so grateful to have them in my life. These are people I draw my peace from, as much as my family. These are people I can share anything with, even stuff I might not share with family. And these are people who give of themselves as much as they can for me. Friends are such a blessing, and they become family. And when you have family members that you consider your best friends, well, that also is a blessing, and a treasure. I am rich!

    • Joey O’Connor

      With that description, you certainly are rich with friends! Writing about my son, I couldn’t, but think of you and Tim. I had just seen your FB like and I was once again reminded to be grateful for every day we have. I hope the Jackes family is well. Blessings to you!

  • Ruth

    Joey, Victoria and I are glad to count you among our small group of really special friends. We have always appreciated you and enjoyed your companionship through the years – even from afar on the East Coast! God bless you richly and add to you His love, comfort and joy daily. Ruth

    • Joey O’Connor

      Thanks for your kind words Ruth! Give my best to Victoria. Glad to see your enjoying success with your theatre group! Blessings to you in North Carolina my friends!

  • Pingback: How Triathlons Teach You 7 Important LIfe Lessons | Art, Life & Faith()