Friendship

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November 13

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Friends vs “Friends.”

Have you ever met someone of whom it can be said, “He/she assumes a familiarity that is not there?” No? Well, your answer should be “Yes.”  If you know me then you have.  You see, I am an extreme extrovert. According to Jo and my girls I know no stranger. Jo once heard me talking to someone at WM about our oldest, who at the time, was teaching in Knoxville. He was also a teacher and moving to Knoxville so…you know…1 + 1 = 2. When we were alone Jo asked me who that was. I told her I had no clue. We were just talking. 🙂  Yep, extreme extrovert.

That has its drawbacks though. One big one is that earlier statement.  Because I am friendly, I just assume everyone ought to be. Jo has told me to stop being so friendly to little kids in the store at the checkout. She is probably right since the cultural climate is one of suspicion. But I’m that way with adults too. Especially those whom I have spent some time with. Especially especially (added for emphasis) if they are guys who are cyclists. Two of my closest friendships started because of the bike. One I never see since he moved south. The other is now retired and travels a lot with his now-retired wife. (They are in their 50s).  Since he lives about an hour away I see him occasionally. I have one friend from the church here who has moved about 30-45 minutes away whom I would like to see more often but you know how it is with guys who work and have families. Sheesh! 🙂 My best friend of over 40+ years was a college friend; played on the basketball team; helped me get my first full-time gig as a youth pastor with his father; and has since retired after he lost his heart with the death of his son.  I made my way to KY for that funeral and his father’s. That is what friends do. We are like David and Jonathan. We still see each other when we meet halfway for pizza. 

We are friends. Not “friends.” Friends. Real friends. In my mind “friends” are acquaintances. Faux people who are on the outside. Fair-weather “friends.”

I work hard to cultivate friendships because I need them. No I’m not co-dependent. No man is an island. As a pastor, they are rare. I am grateful for each friend God has placed in my path these 67 years. But none is as rich as my friendship with Jesus, the friend of sinners. For that friendship I will not assume anything.  It is too important. I need to go to the well and back to keep it energized and alive.  How about you?

“Father, I do thank you for each and every friend you have placed in my path and blessed me with. But none can take the place of YOU in my life. Help me to continue cultivating that friendship.”

October 30

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

My title for this is Truth vs False.

When I was a kid I remember my parents watching a game show called Truth or Consequences. I don’t remember how it was played but the title itself sort of gives it away.  It gives away a life principle actually: tell the truth or there will be consequences. How well I remember being told, “Tell the truth. While there may be a punishment for your wrong, it will be worse if I find out later you lied.”

That is a great life principle. Period. Proverbs 30:7-9 are interesting verses. He asks 2 things: 1) Help me not to lie; and 2) give me what I need lest I take extreme measures to satisfy my need. It is the first one that I focused on this morning.

You see, I have to go to court today to testify on behalf of a friend. While I love and support my friend, my ideal plan is to stay out of the spotlight-even anonymous.  Not that I fear for me. I don’t.  But a subpoena is a subpoena and I am REQUIRED to be there. Jo and I have talked and she put it well: “This is (name of a past situation) all over again. Tell the truth. That’s all you can do.” She’s right. I have nothing to hide and any question asked of me will get one answer: the truth.  So the words of Proverbs 7 stay with me today.

“Father, not just today in a courtroom is truth to be told. All the time. All situations. Let me remember that while telling the truth at all times my hurt, the consequences of a lie are much greater.”

October 17

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Telling the Truth vs Blowing Doors Off.

No matter what men may say; no matter how blustery they get; no matter how often a person might say, “Tell me the truth;” there are times hearing the truth is hard to take…especially when it is delivered by the wrong person or mean-spiritedly. I have met people who take pride in “telling it like it is” and I honestly don’t mind that. But sometimes that person just doesn’t know how to say it.

Receiving it is often not any easier to take. No matter how vocal the person is-“Tell me straight out”- important words are often accepted like fingernails on a chalkboard (you do remember what those are don’t you?).  Proverbs 17:10 says, “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” Truth delivered in the right spirit to a person’s heart that is receptive to that truth is a good thing. The man of understanding- as Proverbs describes him- accepts the truth. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but the man of understanding grasps its intent. I’ve been on the receiving end of some much-needed reproof. Someone being honest with me, confronting me about something I’ve said or done. Hearing it is not fun, but essential.

Sometimes the truth is hard to hear and even harder to accept. But if it is from God, then I need to hear it. I can be obstinate and stubborn (the rest of 17:10 call that being a fool), or accepting and grateful someone loved me enough to tell the truth.

“Father, this all depends on the state of my heart also. Will I accept the reproof/rebuke or reject it? Help me not to be obstinate or too proud to hear what you are saying to me.”

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Today is Braden’s 13th birthday. Jo and I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world. Interesting I should read this today from Proverbs 17: “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” (v.6a).  Not too thrilled about the aged part, 🙂 but absolutely excited and thrilled by the grandson/grandfather part. “Lord, you know the prayer I began praying the moment I heard Janna was pregnant. Please hear my heart and bring it to fruit.”

The being said, I will not be posting tomorrow morning as we will be spending the night in Ohio; I will not have a computer; and we are bringing him back for the weekend so Tami can see him. Prayers for safe travel are appreciated.

October 15

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

I’m less than a day removed from cataract surgery in one eye (the other comes next Monday). I go back today for an exam and they will pop out the right lens of my glasses. I’m guessing that will help with the blurred vision.  So, that’s my excuse for errors in my typing today.  🙂

My  title for today’s devotion is Encouragement vs Discouragement.

“And seldom is heard and discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.” That’s a refrain from a cowboy song of yesteryear: Home, Home on the Range. It is, of course, sort of a Pollyanna song and view of life. It’s simply not possible to go through life without some discouragement.

But…I can go a long way toward not being part of that discouragement simply by watching what I say. Today’s devotion is a bit of a piggyback of yesterday’s on speaking too quickly (losing our temper) vs allowing time between what happens and our words. Today’s has more to do with what I say. Are the words I say encouraging someone or discouraging someone?

Proverbs 15:26b says, “…but gracious words are pure.”  Verse 30 adds, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.”  Those verses tell me my reaction to others and events and their response, is largely determined by the way it is presented. That also reminds me that what I say is important but the way  I say it is equally important. Some questions flood my mind. Do I pass along good words? Kind words? Gracious words? Or do I pass along words that sting and hurt and are like barbs to a person’s soul? Are my words encouraging or discouraging someone? Do they rejoice someone’s heart and refresh someone’s bones?

Some people seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Do my words ease that burden or do they add to it and make it heavier? There is no doubt in my mind what and which words the Father would have me use and share.

“Father, may my words be those which lift other’s up. May they be words which echo Proverbs 15:30 and lift a heart and refresh the bones. Let my words today be words of encouragement and not discouragement. To put it another way: let them be words of life.”

September 30

Monday, September 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Keep the Wonder vs Lose the Wonder.

Have you ever seen something so often that either it loses its luster or you miss it completely? When you go to that mountaintop; when you wake up and see that beautiful sunrise; when you coo over a new born; when you go gaga over an engagement ring; when you smile at getting the new car; whatever it is, but then as time goes on the new “shine” is replaced by the mundane. The mountaintop view, the sunrise, etc lose their awe-filled pull.

I have. I was reminded of that this past weekend. I was honored to be asked to perform a wedding in St. Louis. The couple is clearly in love. Everything, surprisingly, went off without a hitch. Even the bride commented to Jo & me as we left as to how perfect everything was and how she wondered “when is something going to go wrong?” Their vows were sincerely felt and said. There was obvious love in their eyes.

The question that haunts me as a pastor though is “will it last?” Will there still be love in their eyes when struggles come? When children come and life gets in the way, will there still be love? I’m not foolish enough to think their marriage won’t change; of course it will. It will mature. It will toughen. It will deepen. Or it will die. Become old hat. Lose the wonder. Just as in the examples I gave at the start, they can keep the wonder or lose it.

More importantly: how about my relationship with Jesus? Am I keeping it one of wonder or has it lost its luster?

“Father, it is easy to let the wonder of You and my relationship with you become old hat. Help me to guard against that and keep my lofe for you fresh and exciting.”

August 26

Monday, August 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Second Chance vs One and Done.

Secondhand stores. Goodwill. Habitat for Humanity. Salvation Army. Second chance bike shop. Gently used clothing. They all have something in common: second chances. Everyone of those businesses give something used another chance to be used again. We all know about Goodwill, SA, and Habitat. Take something used, refurbish it, and use it again. There is a lady in the church I pastor who for years had a store that sold gently used clothing.

We all need second chances. In late 2016 and early 2017 I was in a bad place. My love for my wife had grown old and stale. Emotionless. Somewhat cold. But a horrific bike wreck woke me up-woke both of us up-to the frigid state of our marriage. Maybe lackadaisical state would be a better description. I had allowed so many things to crowd out what was important. Jo and I gave ourselves and our marriage a second chance. We needed a “rebirth.” I’m forever grateful to God for His grace and unending love. I’m forever grateful that Jo saw something in me and our relationship to work with me to redeem it.  (Note: the “D” word never, ever was spoken. We were not that far gone).

I’m glad God is a God of second chances also. The Bible is littered with broken lives given a second chance by a patient Father. And He is still in that same business today. He doesn’t abandon us because of our sins and wavering. He stands ready with open arms to take us back in and give us that second chance. I read Micah 7:18 this morning: “Who is God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance. He does not retain His anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will against have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (18-19)

“Father, I could never thank you enough for being the God of second chances. You help restore relationships. You restore the relationship with You. Help me never to think that I or anyone else is beyond our reach and ability to restore and renew.”

 

August 24/Weekend Extra

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Shared Joy vs. kept Secrets.

Proverbs 23:15-17 says, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right. Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.”

I like that first phrase: “If your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.” There is nothing quite like having a joyful experience-in your heart or with another-and being able to share it with someone. Even better is to have that someone totally delight in your joy with you.

In just over a week Jo and I will be heading off to Alaska-a gift from people in the church. I had just come through a tough season of ministry. Long hours. Two heart-wrenching deaths of friends from long battles with cancer (one over a year; one over 3 years). I had planned for months to go to AZ to ride an MS ride and to meet friends for the first time, but $$ denied that. I had spent a good part of winter riding outside to prepare, freezing my fingers off, only to be disappointed. It was a tough season at the church (but certainly not like the summer would bring). We came to church April 7th not expecting anything when Kris came up to present the trip to us.

What made it so fun was/is the shared joy.  The people keep asking us when I’m going to walk the plank, I mean, go on our cruise. 🙂 Just kidding. None have done that yet!! Yet!! I think some of them are as excited as we are, maybe even more. Shared joy is good. It is heart-warming.

“Father, your Word says to ‘weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.’  Help me to share in another’s joy, and certainly not let jealousy to have its day.”

August 8

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

My title is Listening to Wise Counsel vs Foolish Counsel.

I read each morning from the ESV Reader’s Bible. It has no verse numbering or chapter divisions. This morning I started reading Proverbs 8. It sure seemed to be a long chapter but I thought “Oh well.” Unbeknownst to me, the pages turned together and I found myself in chapter 9. I found that out when I went to journal. I underlined verse 9 when I was reading: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” By itself seemingly simple. But combine that with a story from 2 Chronicles 10 and it is amazing how Scripture can be tied together.

It’s the story of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam (R). Following Solomon’s death the people came to R and made a request: “Please lighten the load your father put on us and we will serve you.” So he told them to return in 3 days for their answer. He sought counsel from the older men who worked alongside his father. They suggested he do just that. His peers, guys he had hung around, suggested making it harder (using quite descriptive language). R chose the latter.

A wiser man would have listened to his elders. The ensuing result was the disgruntlement of the people and their refusal to follow R. Ultimately, the kingdom split. R showed himself to be a fool.  He should have heeded his own father’s words.

“Father, may I be a man of wisdom-one who seeks your counsel and the counsel of other wise men. I’m not an island and at times I cannot and should not be an arbitrary decision-maker. Help me to seek wise counsel on tough decisions and then heed it.”

August 1

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Isolation vs Companionship.

There is a foolish bent many people-especially men-have. They can go it alone. They don’t need anyone. A number of years ago there was a book called The Friendless American Male which focused on that vein of thought: men thinking they don’t need anyone. ‘Course that simply is not true.

We all need someone in our corner. As I was reading I Chronicles this morning, in a list of people which included military leaders, leaders of tribes, David organizing the priests and Levites, and a whole host of other lists, there are three verses I know I have read before (unless I skipped over them… 🙂 ), but saw for the first time today. Here is what it says:

Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a counselor, being a man of understanding and a scribe. He and Jehiel the son of Hachmoni attended the king’s sons. Ahithophel was the king’s counselor, and Hushai the Archite was the king’s friend. Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, and Abiathar. Joab was commander of the king’s army.  [27:32-34]

David had someone serve as counselor for his sons. David himself had a counselor (someone he deferred to).  David had a special and close friend. David was not isolated. He used others to help make decisions. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

It all starts with God (according to that verse in Proverbs). But God also brings people alongside us who lend their expertise-whether it be that of serving as a counselor, a sounding board or someone to bounce ideas off of-or as a friend. No man is to be isolated or to live in a isolated environment.

“Lord, help me to gather around me people with wisdom and character and grace. People who are not ‘Yes’ men, but those who are honest and straightforward. Men who love You more than anyone else. Help me to find wise men to be my counselor and friend.”

July 19/Weekend

Friday, July 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meeting a Celeb vs Meeting Jesus.

Have you ever really wanted to meet someone? As a youngster I was deeply interested in baseball. I want to meet some of my baseball heroes. Since I was from Pittsburgh and played first base, I wanted to meet Dick Stuart. i.e. Dr Strangeglove (he wasn’t very good on defense but he could hit the ball a mile). I began reading material from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and wanted to meet the Christian ballplayers. I got into music and wanted to meet Tommy James and Frankie Valli. I had the chance to meet  one of my favorite Christian rock singers when I met Dana Key of DeGarmo & Key. He even came out of his bus to talk! Cool dude enjoying making music in heaven right now.

My “worship” of my childhood idols has waned and disappeared. I’m older now. Wiser (I hope). Less moved by someone’s name or status in life. Definitely not as “hungry” to meet people as I used to be. They all put their pants on the same way I do.

I used to wonder what I’d do if I met a celebrity. Stammer? Stutter? Speechless? Make myself a nuisance by wanting a picture? Gush? Maybe be disappointed at the arrogance? Aloofness?

Even better. Meeting Jesus. Imagine what that will be like.  Will I stutter? Stammer? Or fall down at his feet in worship? Hug him? Be hugged? Weep tears of joy and gratitude? Laugh? Does it matter? I don’t think so. I will be in His presence. That alone will be worth it all.

“Father, there is no one greater than You. There is no one I’d rather met than you. I look forward to that hug and ‘Welcome Home’ from you. Until that time, let me not be enamored by anyone or anything other than you.”