“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anais Nin
Like millions of Americans I took a stroll down a nostalgic highway and enjoyed watching Friends: The Reunion, also known as “The one where they get back together.” Both laughter and tears were the result as I, along with the cast, once again experienced that show. But more significantly I thought about where I was and what I was experiencing during that show’s run on television and the people and places that occupied my life when Friends originally aired. Sometime around the third or fourth season of that show, I was serving at a small rural church in Arkansas and brainstorming about how to creatively merge entertainment and evangelism. Upon reflection, this wasn’t necessarily a good idea, but back then I was a bit more of a doer and less a thinker, so I plowed ahead with my vision for a dinner theater of sorts which ended up being more like home movies with some popcorn. I enlisted the help of some of my friends at the time, and like George Lucas, minus the budget, talent, and imagination, I embarked on seeing my creative vision take cinematic shape. With a borrowed VHS camcorder, the finished product was a collection of some poor attempts at comedic sketch writing coupled with less than stellar production value. Yet we had the time of our lives producing and showcasing The Acoustic Cafe.
As I watched the Friends characters; Joey, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe, Monica, and Rachel reflect on their television relationships, I was reminded of my own with James, Karyn, Shane, Candy, and Bryan, all of which played significant parts in our ragamuffin production. As with most things I attempt in life, the ideations in my head are better than what ends up being communicated, so the best I could do was give my talented friends the general direction of particular scenes that I had in mind and then allow the impromptu acting to take us places that we hadn’t intended. It was an incredibly fun experience, even if the end result was less than spectacular.
We enjoyed the attention of hyping its release, and even convinced our pastor at the time to allow us to utilize the fellowship hall of our church for a screening. We invited surrounding youth groups to join us and as the creators and cast we reveled in our celebrity, short-lived as it was. The sketches were mostly dumb and corny like James feigning a poorly executed English accent introduced “Masterpiece Theater” as Bryan operated a non functioning weed eater inside. It doesn’t translate well to print, I guess you had to be there. But we thought it hilarious. We were intoxicated on our own wit. Okay it was stupid, but I will always treasure the attempts we made and that we still have video proof that we tried something different. But mostly I treasure the evidence that our friendships existed.
The fact that we were friends is undeniable and that for a little sliver of time our lives were intertwined and connected in ways that few enjoyed or at least can credibly document in a way that The Acoustic Cafe allows us to do to this day. Time, distance, and circumstances have thrown our lives around the country and we are all very different people than we were nearly three decades ago, but we had those moments and that will never change. I know that I’m bordering on sentimental hyperbole here, but forgive me, I just turned fifty and increasingly am faced with existential crises of varied shapes and sizes, so give me this. I’m proud of my friends and what we did. I’m still proud of them, and love them all.
On more than one occasion, they have all demonstrated their love and care for me and I’m thankful. A decade or so ago when Candy and I faced a crisis in our marriage, Karyn along with her husband Jason, opened their home to Candy and helped us to eventually reconcile and settle in a new place with renewed purpose and support at a critical time in our lives. We enjoyed four wonderful years of life and influence in Central Louisiana, that bears fruit to this day, primarily because of Jason and Karyn. Jason and Karyn are those consistent, life long friends, that I know if I were in trouble wouldn’t hesitate to help me at a moment’s notice. They have a beautiful family and flourishing life in central Louisiana.
During this same time of marital difficulty for me and Candy, James and his wife Amy, opened their home to me as they were establishing a church in New Orleans. I remember sitting on their couch in a beautifully refurbished loft apartment just off the French quarter and saying something like “I haven’t eaten in a while.” Amy responded with compassion “Oh are you hungry?” She immediately served me the best tuna sandwich I’ve ever eaten. James has always treated with me respect and honor, and credited me with playing an important role in leading him to Jesus. I was also privileged to officiate James and Amy’s wedding, and to see them now serving a large and influential church in south Florida brings me great joy daily. Ultimately, I don’t know how important I was in his life, but I know James was important in mine. I never imagined that putting my hand on his shoulder long ago, and saying “You’re different aren’t you?” and embracing those differences with love and acceptance would end up yielding so much fruit for the cause of the gospel of Christ. I’m proud of my friends.
Shane, along with his wife Teryn, now serve at arguably the most influential church in my former ministeral organization and when his preaching and teaching videos show up on my timeline with views in the multiple thousands, it is a point of pride for me to know that our lives will forever be connected. Shane has always been an incredible singer and his vocals will move your soul or as his grandfather was fond of saying, “If that doesn’t light your fire, your wood is wet.” As with all of my friends, we sometimes find ourselves on different sides of theological, cultural, or political issues these days, but that doesn’t in any way disparage my respect for what all of my friends have managed to make of their lives.
Sadly, in 2018 Bryan died, he was tragically killed in an automobile accident, and was far too young. Bryan was perhaps, of all of us, the one with real comedic talents. Bryan was a genuinely funny person. His sense of humor was infectious, and his wit was sharp. I was honored to serve as part of the team of pastors and friends who eulogized him, this is a portion of what I had to say about him at his memorial service:
“I’m honored today to share some memories of our beloved Bryan Mosely. As I was thinking about what to share, a constant theme comes to my mind. Bryan loved to laugh. He was a gregarious soul, who loved to laugh and wanted you to laugh with him. I recall on one occasion I was tasked with making some announcements at church about an upcoming Christmas production, and we were in need of actors. Bryan thought it was hilarious that I had asked for all “thespians” to respond. Bryan thought this was funny, because what most of the congregation heard, and upon reflection what I might have actually asked for was for, well something that rhymes with “Thespians” to join in our Christmas production. Bryan thought it was so funny, the rest of the congregation? Not so much. And then there was the infamous 1996 video production “The Acoustic Café” a low budget production, as in no budget production, produced for our youth group, to which Bryan agreed to lend his comedic talents. In this video, Bryan antics are on full display. He played a young man who needed a heart transplant, visiting the local doctor, who happened to be a dog, an eccentric butler who operated a weed eater in doors, and a pirate who resembled a very happy flower in search of hidden treasure. If all of which I just described doesn’t seem remotely funny, or even doesn’t make much sense. It’s ok. Because to those of us involved it was Oscar worthy! Comedic gold and it wouldn’t have been the same without the talents of Bryan Mosely. The videos are still out there on the internet by the way. Bryan loved to laugh, he loved his family, he loved Duke Basketball. He loved! There is something wonderful about the combination of love and laughter. There is something to be greatly appreciated who have been given the gift of laughter by God. There is something greater still to be appreciated for those who have been gifted with the ability to make others laugh, and laugh genuinely. Bryan had this gift. Bryan could ease tension with a funny wisecrack, he could lift the spirits of others with a well told story. His smile could light up a room. The Bible has a lot to say about joy and laughter. Of course, there is the proverb that laughter does the heart good like medicine, that being true, Bryan was a skilled physician. ‘He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.’ –Job 8:21. This is so important to remember, Bryan isn’t far from us. He is removed, but he is not absent. Every time you and I choose to remember him, our mouths will be filled with laughter at the joy he added to our lives.”
I miss Bryan. I miss that we didn’t stay in touch better. I regret that time separated us, but I’m happy that we are forever united by this stupid little video we created together.
Of course, this video doesn’t define any of our lives. There are far more significant moments and relationships for all of us. In reality, this video production is mostly insignificant given the totality of our collective lives, but perhaps for future generations it may serve as time capsule of sorts with artifacts of clothing, music, hair styles that serve as a glimpse into the past. Then again our grandchildren may not even care, but some might. And for those that do, I just want to say that I was honored to know your grandparents or great grandparents. Most importantly, I was glad to call them my friends.
Thanks for tuning in to my Friends reunion episode.