Saturday, June 03, 2006

I buried a friend yesterday

William M. “Bill” Griggs, 79, widower of Betty Gainey Griggs, died Tuesday, May 30, 2006. Born in Hartsville, SC, he was a son of the late Charlie Cleveland and Sara Wilkes Griggs. He was a member of First Baptist Church where he served as a deacon and a member of the building committee. He was a veteran of WWII serving in the Navy. He was a long time member and past president of the Rotary Club, served several terms on city council, was a volunteer fireman. He was retired from CP&L and was a former manager of the Hartsville and Cheraw offices. Surviving are his sons and daughters-in-law, Mike and JoAnne Griggs of Columbia, SC, Kevin and Tricia Griggs of Sudbury, MA; sisters, Margie G. Byrd of Hartsville, SC, Mary G. Byrd of Hartsville, SC; brothers, Ted Griggs of Hartsville, SC, Bobby Griggs of Atlanta, GA; faithful and loving friend, Beth Blackmon of Hartsville, SC; grandchildren, Jennifer G. Schulze, Jamie G. Goodson, Ian Griggs, Hope Griggs, Walker Griggs; great-grandchildren, Sydney Schulze, Hudson Schulze, Newton Goodson. He was preceded in death by his son, Steven Griggs.

Bill Griggs is the quintessential example of America’s vanishing Builder Generation. Born in 1927, on the eve of the Great Depression, he and his brothers and sisters lived in a family which, like most everyone else in that day, grew what they ate and ate what they grew. Money was scarce and common sense was a highly valued commodity. Personal responsibility was expected but shared burdens were welcomed. Faith, family and friendship formed the matrix of life. Bill was a young teenager when Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbor and when the time came; he joined the Navy to do his part in the cause of world freedom. Some 16.5 million Americans served in WWII. Today, fewer than 3.5 million are still alive with more than 1500 dying everyday. So in a sense, Bill has rejoined this vast band of brothers who fought on land, sea and in the air from Burma to Berlin in the greatest clash of the 20th century.

When he reentered civilian life, the world needed rebuilding. He was blessed to live in the nation now leading the world and that nation, our nation, needed leaders. He and so many others who grew up valuing common sense, personal responsibility and shared burdens, who were comfortable in the matrix of faith, family and friendship, stepped up to the plate as need and opportunity presented itself.

For Bill, that meant marrying, raising three boys, and working to build the infrastructure that provides these lights, drives this sound system, cools this room. He and people like him had the vision to create and the willingness to sweat so that it is now possible for us to take for granted things that were impossible just a few decades ago.

Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the US, had his constitutional cabinet officers to work with but he also had an informal group of advisors upon which he depended more, history tells us. They came to be called Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet. When I came to First Baptist in 1991, the pastor, Dr. Aubrey Floyd had the constitutional deacon board and committee people with which to work. But he also had an informal group of advisors upon which, I think, he depended upon even more. I called them Aubrey’s Coffee Cabinet. The Coffee Cabinet was made up of men like Lenwood Furr, Howard Harrison, Charlie Burry and many, many others. Bill Griggs was a member of this Coffee Cabinet. I soon learned that this Coffee Cabinet was the place where the head-to-head, heart-to-heart, and sometimes hand-to-hand work was done on the problem-solving needs of our church. These men had a broad base of experience, a wide world of wisdom, and deep well of love for their Lord and His church. And Bill was a critical cog in the machine that kept First Baptist moving forward.

I’m going to step aside from my prepared remarks now to observe that Bill’s role was particularly in these latter years was related to the Building and Grounds Committee and Cemetery Committee. Bill knew every switch box, every junction, and every connection all over this campus. In the planning for the renovation and the new construction, he helped those who were doing the planning on that know where everything was on this side of campus and advised on how best to connect all of the old construction and the new construction to make things work more efficiently. He was instrumental in the placing of the in-ground irrigation we have around the campus. He cared deeply that these facilities were taken care of well, that they looked nice and that they gave glory to God in doing so. He knew every tree and bush and nearly every blade of grass on campus. He wanted them to complement the appearance of the campus. Do those of you who know Bill and his gardening taste, his yard taste, his tree taste, find any irony at all in the irony at all in the fact that he died in a building named after a pine tree and is being buried in a cemetery named after a magnolia tree? He cared not for either type of tree – wanted them gone – and had a hand in seeing many of them disappear, on this campus and elsewhere. Mike, the other day, was reflecting on the fact that he wishes he had listened to his dad’s advice when he built on the lot that was covered with pine trees after moving from a lot that had no trees at all. All there were was pine trees and he said, “But dad, I need some trees.” He said, “Take ‘em all out.” Mike left a few and over the years he’s found himself removing those.

Over the years I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, of conversations with Bill on all types of subjects. Some lasted just seconds, many for several minutes and some for much more than an hour. There was one phrase that appeared in nearly every one of those conversations. It was, “Let me ask you a question.”

“Let me ask you a question.”

With this statement that has come to represent Bill in our minds, let’s turn to the scriptures to seek a lesson that is taught within its pages and that was demonstrated in Bills life.

Matthew 7:7-12
7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Asking and seeking. Let me ask you a question.

The asking and the seeking are two sides of the same coin, scripture tells us. For God encourages us to ask for what we need. Whether it be our daily bread or the care of our health or encouragement in times of struggle, or comfort in grief. But the very next phrase, in all occasions when Jesus makes reference, includes the verb “to seek.” Ask and lay back and wait? No. Surely ask but step out and seek.

One of Bill’s best known roles in our community was that of city councilman. And I’m told in his first campaign years ago he literally went door to door not just asking for a vote but “What do you need the city to do for you? How can city government improve your life? What can you do to improve city government?” And then, gathering those answers, forming those ideas, collaborating with partners, he sought the accomplishement of worthy and worthwhile goals to improve his community, to make it a worthwhile place to live. If he thought a situation needed improving and there was something he could contribute, he was not one to sit on the sidelines and say, “You ought to…” If he had something that he could contribute he would step up and say, “What can I do?” or “This is what I think I can do. Will it help?” What a model. To see that people are safe in their homes from fire, he didn’t sit on the sidelines and say, “You ought to…” He said, “Teach me how and let me stand beside you and do what I can to help.” What a model. What a model.

Opinions strongly held, for sure. One of my favorite things to do was stomp in Bill’s political puddle and see who got wet. Politically, we agreed on very, very little. But our conversations were always such that we would talk about ideas, talk about possibility, challenge changes – and we could do it without looking at each other and saying, “You’re an idiot because you don’t think like I do.” A repectful type of political discourse that is sorely lacking and a model we all need to grasp.

Asking and seeking. In the context of Matthew, Christ is telling us that we can ask the Father but we should seek the fulfillment of that which we ask, that which we learn then is within His will. We should knock upon the door of God’s eternal wisdom and trust in the fact that that door will be opened and that need which we have will be fulfilled by what comes pouring out of that door.

There is one other scripture from Psalms that uses these same two verbs that I wish to conclude our time here with.

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4

At some point in his life, Bill asked the Lord to remove his personality from Lordship and to overtake it with the personality of Jesus Christ. And out of that relationship was sealed his eternity. But that one instance of asking and seeking was not it – that’s not all there was. Though it sealed his place in eternity it was only the beginning for carrying out the model of his Lord and provided the framework in which common sense was valued, in which personal responsibility was expected, but in which shared burden was joyfully shared.

So now, as David said, Bill is dwelling in the house of the Lord forever beholding the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple.

Will you pray with me?

Father, for this friend we have been remembering
We give thanks
For the model of asking and seeking
We give thanks
For the example of serving and caring
We give thanks
For the results of this life which lives on in this family
We give thanks
For Bill, one more link in an ever progressing line of generations, the passing of values that continues to his sons and his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren – for this
We give thanks.

And now as we move this place of worship to where Bill’s body will be laid, we ask that you would go with us. That you would bridge these two times with your Spirit’s presence. That we would conclude this time of memorial at the graveside with a sense of thanksgiving and victory which is possible through the death and resurrection and enduring life of your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.


Morning Glory said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. I've been amazed at the network in blog world that has been used by God. I guess I shouldn't be amazed, but it's been astounding to connect with so many good people through cyberspace. I'm glad that something in my post spoke to you. It was a painful experience, but it does reinforce how in control our God is. I hope your recovery and joy will be complete in your ministry. Never lose hope. And keep in mind that God's solution may be different from what you think or thought it should be. The possibilities with Him are endless! Come back to read any time. God bless!

Belle-ah said...

Years ago we were residents of Hartsville and attended 1st Baptist, as well.

It is a lovely and fitting tribute.