Yesterday I posted an article about Homecoming at Baylor University. I wrote about an eternal homecoming someday with family and friends. Just hours after I posted that piece one of our long time and dear friends died after finishing a workout at the YMCA. Now I can add the name of my friend John Weber to those I look forward to seeing at my heavenly homecoming.
The media will report that John Weber was the chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys. That is what impressed a lot of people who knew John. That is not what impressed me. What impressed me about John Weber was how consistently he represented Jesus over the years. I have known John since we were young and starving staff members of Athletes in Action back in the late ‘70’s. I have watched his ministry from up close and from afar. I have never heard a single negative word spoken about John Weber. Here are the words from veteran sportswriter Mickey Spagnola in his blog at dallascowboys.com.
“Not a good day today after learning Cowboys longtime team chaplain John Weber, maybe the nicest man I’ve ever known, died of a heart attack. Not many details are known at this time. John would travel with the team to away games to hold pregame chapels and also held bible studies for the guys. He’d also hold great conversations with people like me, and when he talked to you, you were the most important person in his universe. John will be greatly missed by the Cowboys – and by me.”
That is how you represent Jesus effectively to this world. Not by your knowledge (although that is important) but by your life and love. And that is where John excelled.
Billy Joel sang that only the good die young. I know that is not true but it sure seems that way at times. I have to admit that “young” is a moving target for me but it sure seems like John had a lot more to give. But I suspect that I will learn at my heavenly homecoming that someone came to know the Lord because of John’s death. And that someone else decided to get serious about their walk with Jesus and they made a big difference to others. Someday I believe all of this will make sense. But right now it just hurts to lose a friend.
Andrew Peterson is one of my “go-to guys” in difficult situations. His music is moving, comforting and real. I thought of two of his songs when I heard about John Weber’s death yesterday. The first song I thought of was “Family Man”. Here are some of the lyrics.
I am a family man
I traded in my mustang for a minivan
This is not what I was headed for when I began
This was not my plan
I am a family man
John was first and foremost a family man. He was fiercely devoted to his wonderful family. John and Carol had been an inspiration for us as Carol battled breast cancer and survived. If family is a man’s legacy then John has left a legacy that is truly amazing. His son and daughters are all kind, honest and authentic followers of Christ. I know that nothing made John more proud than seeing that ever increasing tribe gather together.
The second song from Andrew Peterson sums up what John Weber modeled and believed for the thirty plus years that I knew him.
So when you lay me down to die
I’ll miss my boys, I’ll miss my girls
Lay me down and let me say goodbye to this world
You can lay me anywhere
But just remember this
When you lay me down to die
You lay me down to live
That is the message that John Weber wants all of us to remember as we grieve his temporary departure from our presence. We lay him down to live. You can experience the peace and assurance that John dedicated his entire adult life to proclaiming. Jesus is alive. And now John is fully alive in Him. You can click here to read the message that John shared with thousands of men and women over his lifetime.
I will always remember a couple of things about John Weber. He was a collegiate wrestler and he also wrestled with the acclaimed Athletes in Action traveling team. I remember good naturedly trying to wrestle with John. I was almost a foot taller than him but John would twist me into a pretzel in about 3 seconds. The memory that I will cherish most as I remember John Weber is what happened every single time I saw him. John would smile that warm smile. Then he would take your hand with both of his hands, move right into your space, furrow his brow, look deeply into your eyes and ask, “how are you doing?”. The difference with John Weber was that he really meant that question. If you needed three hours to tell him what was going on he would never glance at his watch. That is why he believed God placed him on this earth. To tell people about Jesus and disciple those who knew Him. I will miss John Weber. I know his family will miss him desperately. But I hope they draw the same comfort from Andrew Peterson’s lyrics that I did today as I pictured John in these words.
I’ll open up my eyes on the skies I’ve never known
In the place where I belong
And I’ll realize His love is just another word for Home.
The Psalmist recorded this message.
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116, NIV)
If John were here he would twist me into a pretzel for saying this about him but yesterday a saint came marching home. This week was homecoming for John Weber. He was ready. May God give us the grace and strength to follow his example.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.