Friendship

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March 16

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

There are some people who are “fixers.” No, not fixer uppers. 🙂  You know the kind: they want to “fix” everyone’s problems.  It used to be said (and probably still is true to some extent) that most men tend to be fixers. You know how it works! The wife comes to him with an issue and instead of just listening to her, he wants to give advice, i.e. he wants to tell her how to fix the problem.

So…how did that work out?

Not very well I suspect. I found out several things: 1) Jo didn’t want me to fix her problem. She just wanted me to listen; and 2) I have enough trouble fixing my own life/issues let alone trying to offer advice on how someone can fix theirs.  Long story short: not a wise thing to do.

When Abram came away from a battle against 4 kings, he met Melchizedek. Abram was tired and worn out.  He didn’t need fixed; he needed a friend. And he got one.  Check out Gen. 14: 18-20 for that story.  Mel didn’t try to preach to him; he ministered to him with food and drink. Just what Abram needed at the moment.

I cannot fix people who come my way, but I can be a friend.  And that may be all they need. I can love them and listen to their hearts. I can pray with them if they let me.  And I can send them off with a blessing. The greatest blessing I can give them is to bring to them the ONE who is the source of every blessing.

I’m going to stop trying to fix people. I’m lousy as a fixer upper on a house. I think the same can be said about me and people. I am going to bless people with my love and by listening to them and hook them up with the One who is the source of all blessing. How about you? What will you do today to be a “lover” and listener?

“Father, help me to step aside and let people see You in me. Help me to stop trying to fix everyone and simply love them and listen to them and ultimately point them to You.”

March 2

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

When I was just starting out in my faith journey, I was pretty impressionable and was often told I needed to tell someone else about Jesus. You know…the whole share-your-faith thing. I understood that. Someone cared enough about me to tell me about Jesus, I ought to care enough about someone to tell them about Jesus.  But I got to feeling like I was head-hunting at times. You know, get as many as you can as quickly as you can.

But I soon realized that I was devaluing people. I kept getting this ugly feeling that something wasn’t right. Then someone finally put it into words. I’m not sure if I heard or read it: “People don’t want to feel like notches on a belt.” My words: People don’t want to feel like scalps hung on a line. “Yep, another one. And another. And…”

People don’t want to feel like scalps or notches on a belt; they want to feel important. Like they matter. To approach someone for the sole purpose of getting the gospel to them doesn’t take into count that they are humans with feelings.

It goes back to motives. Take a look at Jesus. When He healed someone or fed someone, that’s what He was doing-healing and feeding.  He wasn’t conniving. He wasn’t saying, “If I do this or that they will do this.”  He knew they needed Him but He met their need. He loved them with no strings attached.

Long story short: Let’s love people for who they are. Let’s not see them as notches or scalps or ever as projects to be reclaimed, lives to be flipped. Let’s share Jesus with people simply for the sake of loving people and introducing them to our best Friend.

“Father, when I meet people today, when I see them and strike up a conversation with them, help me to see them as Jesus did.”

February 19

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Prequel: I had pre-posted the previous two posts because I had no clue what the day (Wednesday-the day of surgery) would bring. I knew I would have to leave for the hospital about 5:15 so my March 17th post was ready to go. Yesterday’s post was also ready simply because I didn’t know what to expect in the way of recovery. So here’s the scoop:

The surgery was successful. They removed my gravel pit of a gall bladder. Pictures do not lie! He also did a hernia repair I did not know I had. It was all done laparoscopically so I was able to come home. Big whoop whoop on that!!  I can ride inside in 2 weeks and have a weight limit of 15 pounds lifting. All in all a successful day. I’m grateful to all of you who prayed.

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Now for today’s main attraction. Okay…it is the devotion. 🙂

Bob Goff wrote something rather insightful when you stop to think about it:

We’ll be known for our opinions but remembered for our love. (p.59)

Someone may be a well-known pastor/preacher. Entrepreneur. Plumber. Teacher. Writer. Theologian. You name it. But I have conducted enough funerals to know while that may be true, the real legacy “bragged about,” talked about, reminisced about, laughed about, preached about, is the legacy of love left behind. The kind word. The out-stretched hand. The “secret” slight of hand which had money in it. The shoulder to cry on. It is our kindness not our qualifications that is remembered.

In my Bible reading yesterday I read John 11, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But a verse stuck with me: “He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha.  This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. (Vv.1-2) Emphasis mine.

Fast-forward to my Bible reading for today and John 12:3- “Then Mary took a 12 ounce jar of expensive perfume made from the essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.”  (Emphasis mine)

Interestingly enough, Judas complained because she could have not bought the perfume, but put the money in the treasury. He liked that arrangement better, you know, because he used to embezzle funds for himself.

Jesus came to her defense, as you would expect. Mary is known for her kindness and act of love, not her opinions. Judas? Well…’nuff said.

Seems to me we would be wiser to do than to talk. Many talk a big game, some play it. When my legacy is considered I want to be remembered for way I loved, not for the way I talked. I want to be remembered for the outstretched hand, the big shoulder, the loving arms, the grace-filled approach, rather than my (often unsolicited) opinions.

What will you be known for?

“Father, help me to be known for my love, not my opinions. Opinions die (except for the damage left behind); love lasts.”

February 15

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Have you ever been mad? Not mad as in crazy. But hot-under-the-collar mad. So mad you couldn’t see straight. So mad you wanted God to do something…like oh…call-down-fire-from-heaven mad. You probably know where I’m going with this. It was the time in the ministry of Jesus when they were heading toward Samaria and the Samaritans said, “No way are you coming into our town. You aren’t welcome here!” (Luke 9:51-56)

That’s a fine how-do-you-do. It wasn’t really Jesus they had an issue with; it was all Jews. So what do James and John suggest? A nice pow wow? A blessing and then moving on? Nope, not on your life. “Jesus is it okay if we call down fire from heaven on them?” I suspect they may have wanted to add, “You know…make ’em toast like Sodom and Gomorrah!”

Jesus wasn’t going to allow that, thereby setting an example for us of what to do when we are rejected. There is another, perhaps even deeper meaning happening here. Not always will people agree with us. It might even get testy. We then have a choice: stick to our guns and blast away or lay our weapons aside for the sake of grace and love one another. Sometimes being dogmatic is not the way to go.  Our greater purpose is not to (always) be right, but to love. When we are challenged, love. When we are hurt, love. When we are proven wrong, love.

Let’s keep our eyes off people and their motives, reactions, rightness or wrongness, and keep our eyes on Jesus.

“Father, that is my prayer for today. Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus and let Him lead me through this jungle of relationships and reactions. And above all, help me to love.”

February 9

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

I’d like to start out this devotion by asking you a question. Is that okay? Now, the important part of this is that you must answer honestly. You game? Okay…here it is:

Have you ever tried to fit someone into your mold of what a “real” Christian looks like? I know. I know. That sounds like a question I’d ask that would lead to a discussion on legalism. But please don’t head to that way of thinking. I want to take you in another direction.

I’m afraid many of us find ourselves in a “Christian” bubble. Everything is Christian. Christian gym. Christian church league. Christian TV (gag). Christian music. Christian. Christian. Christian. We even have Christian mints. I’m guessing to help our breath smell better around other Christians?

The Bible tells us not to be conformed to this world but be transformed.” So to make sure we don’t conform we withdraw. As I see it there are three ways to respond: 1) we completely adapt and get sucked into and are engulfed by the culture; 2) we completely withdraw thereby losing all hope of influencing anyone; or 3) we practice godly discernment.

The tragedy which arises is we often want to reach others but get so scared that we begin to want people who are “safe.” We are much more comfortable with people who are more like us. That is why I asked the question I did at the beginning. When people fit a mold our comfort level elevates.

But keep this in mind. Our goal is not to change anyone.  Our goal is not to get them to conform to our idea of the ideal Christian. Our goal is to love them; it is Jesus’ responsibility to change them. We are called to love; Jesus is to change.

People want to be loved. They don’t want to be a project. They want to be accepted; they don’t want to be seen as a home improvement project.

Frankly, I don’t like or want to be shoved into someone’s mold. Why would I try or expect them to?

“Father, You have asked me to take Your message of Good News. You have not asked me to try to change anyone. That is Your job. Help to love people where they are and leave the rest up to You.”

December 29

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

It is 2:30 in the morning. Ive been up since 12 and tried to fool myself into going back to sleep. It didn’t work. 🙁 So going on the assumption God wants to get my attention or teach me something, I got up. If not, then I’m up early. During my Quarantine I’ve slept more than I ever have. Since I normally get up at 3:30, it is not unusual for me to be in bed by 9:30. Try 8:00!! That’s right. Jo and I often found ourselves heading to bed by 8 and sleeping for 11-12 hours!! Seriously? I’ve never slept that long at one sitting. E.V.E.R. But this night is different. Maybe it was the Ginger Ale I was able to keep down. First time I have had sugar in days. I don’t know. No matter. I’d like to share some year end thoughts with you and some future plans.

In this past Sunday’s sermon, I talked about not wasting our lives, of submitting to the call of the Gospel and surrendering to Jesus. I have the most important message in the world-the message of God’s love for a sin-broken world. I have absolutely no reason to keep that message to myself. 2020 has shown me, as it has others, how fragile life can be. Things, health, even life, can be taken away with a snap of a finger. I must become more intentional with my life this year. I’m 68 and it is a pretty safe bet to say my years left on this planet are much less than what I have lived. 🙂  Lord willing, I’m not going to stop having fun; laughing; cycling; working out; make friends; laugh and cry with those friends; preach Gospel-soaked sermons; keep reading, growing and stretching; love the people of OVCF even more; and hopefully lead the church to impact our community for Jesus.

I’ve contemplated stopping this blog-Living in the Shadow. The amount of time it takes to keep 2 blogs going-and thinking one is failing at both- is something I’ve tried to reckon with. Cycleguy’s Spin was my initial blog started in 2007. Then along came this one a few years ago as a discipline for me. I wanted to hold myself accountable every morning to meet with God. One way I figured to make that more meaningful and permanent was to start “Shadow.” It began as a daily blog based on New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. But after a year I felt that had run its course so I refocused. It became more of a hodge podge of daily devotional thoughts gleaned during my QT. I’ve actually had Ryan (techgeek) pull out this year’s worth of devos that I may look into editing and seeing about publishing them as a daily devotion. Who knows? I have no visions of grandeur of being a great writer, the next Max Lucado. But its hard when you have one very consistent daily reader and commenter, and a few others here and there to get over the “ego slam” to feel as though the time involved is worth it. I’ve decided it is-not because I’m all that and more- but because I need the daily discipline of a QT this gives me. So I’m going to continue with “Shadow,” if for no other reason than for me.

But some changes are in the air. Since the early 2000s (2001 to be exact), I have 99% of the time exclusively used the ESV translation. I have read the whole Bible several times. I cannot tell you how many times I have read through the NT. I’m making a change this year. As I’ve watched Pastors Chuck Swindoll and Greg Laurie use the NLT, I decided to give it a try this year. I bought an inexpensive faux-leather Large Print edition to use with a goal to read through the NT several times this year. Ironically, someone in the church blessed me this Christmas with a One Year “Experiencing God’s Presence Devotional.” Guess what translation it uses? You guessed it: NLT. I’m also planning to use Live in Grace-Walk in Love by Bob Goff as a side read. And finally, this past Fall I purchased Unfolding Grace-40 Guided Readings through the Bible and the accompanying Study Guide. It uses the ESV. I’ve looked it over and plan to do one guided reading a week.

And there you have it. With that being said, this will be my last post here until Monday, January 4. Covid has wiped out my normal scheduled routine and so I don’t want the added pressure of feeling like I “have to write a Shadow blog.” Thanks for taking the time to read this long post. (You deserve a medal. If you don’t want a medal treat yourself to a Diet Dr. Pepper or whatever your poison is…within reason of course). Thank you for reading my “Shadow” blog. Lord willing, I will see you Monday, January 4, 2021 with my first post of the new year. I love and appreciate all of you.

December 25-28

Monday, December 28th, 2020

Christmas reflections:

Friday-After a positive Covid test for me, Jo and Tami and some positive tests for the staff and friends of each of us, this is a really strange Christmas. It was going to be anyway because Janna and Braden were not going to be here. But even Tami can’t come over. This devotion may be a little longer than normal due to my observations but also because it will cover 3 days of observations.

Every year it seems we hear certain refrains from spiritual leaders, i.e. pastors.

  • Slow down. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have said that. “Pull away from the hustle and bustle and slow down,” I’ll say. Well, this has certainly been one of the by-products of covid isolation.
  • Stay home. No problem. And when I have said this in the past it was not a covid-ordered government mandate. We travel a lot visiting family and friends all over the place. We aren’t allowed to go out of the house so staying home is the norm. If we had gone to Ohio today we would have been snowed in. They got a ton of snow! White Christmas indeed! So we stay home and maybe watch some Christmas movies. {Note: we didn’t. Neither one of us felt like it}
  • Refocus. Honestly, how can you not? Gifts will be opened rather quickly instead of one at a time like we normally do going around the room. So when that is all done we get to focus on the real gift.

Saturday– This will forever be remembered in history as CC- Covid Christmas. Yesterday was strange. We Facetimed Tami as we opened gifts-she in her apartment and us here. We would have welcomed her here but MCCSC (her school corporation) monitors her during covid. So it was safer. Later Janna Facetimed us with Braden so we could see what he got. Everything was “Air this and Air that.” I guess I don’t see the fascination with giving a retired basketball player, whose stuff is made in China, all that money…but that’s me. All in all yesterday was an uneventful day. Lazy. Watched a little TV then head back to my “cave” to fall asleep. Other than the no taste and no smell issues, and a few others, the biggest by-product is the desire to sleep. I have slept more in the last week than I have in the last year. I remember Pastor Greg Laurie saying that was his biggest issue (wish I could say that). Some of that is boredom since I can’t concentrate on reading. I’m going to try to study today since I preach virtually tomorrow. Praying for extra grace today as I prepare for tomorrow.

Sunday– I’m writing this after the fact.  Sunday seemed to go off okay without a hitch. We were immensely blessed by the anonymous gift that allowed us to purchase the upgraded equipment. All in all though, I thought it went well. I chose to sit instead of standing. I’m not sure my stamina would have been there to stand the whole time and preach and remember.

Sunday afternoon was tough. I was weary but when I tried to eat some soup it didn’t stay in my stomach very long. But you don’t want here that saga. 🙂 It was a lazy day as they have all become. One family was really kind and brought some soup and crackers, a couple of baked potatoes, and some other items. Friday one family blessed us with Ensure and Pedialyte for me, some veggies  and soup and crackers. Saturday one family blessed Jo with some Zero and Diet Coke. I’m not sure about the other two on staff but I certainly can’t complain how we have been taken care of. Plus the texts and emails have been nice. Oh yeah…one family brought us a Christmas meal on Christmas evening after their family Christmas. Not that we could eat it or taste it. 🙂

Jo and I called it a day at 8:00. Yep 8:00. Seems to be about the norm these days. I’d like to believe I am on the mend. It has been a week since my test but well over that since I started showing symptoms. I should have been more honest and aware and introspective with myself. Gone to be tested sooner. Not gone to Ohio. Funeral? But hindsight is 20/20 and there is nothing I can change. It seems strange the way it has hit us all about the same time and in the same way. Others also have got it-part of our friends group-so there is a common denominator there somewhere. But who wants to try to figure that out. Not me. It is what it is.

I’ll close by saying I’m looking forward to putting this behind me and moving forward.

December 22

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

These days, in fact many days in the past, Christmas gift-giving in our household is an interesting study in perplexity.  As in most households, we start asking, “What would you like for Christmas?” around or before Thanksgiving Day. Tami and Janna have always been fairly easy to buy for since they were pretty much upfront with their list. Braden is not so upfront but I figure Ohio State or Reds clothing or a gift card to Dick’s or Chik-fil-A will do him well. I’m pretty content with what I already have so I would suggest a gift certificate to a bicycle site (names included) and some jigsaw puzzle sites. It didn’t matter though because for the most part those suggestions were ignored. 🙂 But Jo?? She is extremely hard to buy for. She doesn’t wear jewelry (for which I am grateful for since I see what some wear and its cost). She doesn’t even wear a watch. Her Fitbit is most often in her pocket. She doesn’t wear perfume very often and was always picky as to what she would wear (Coty Wild Musk was a favorite). I don’t dare buy her clothes. Too big or too small I can’t win! 🙂

So one year I decided I wasn’t buying anything. I decided I was going to give myself. How’s that for a real treat? I made each one of them a booklet of 12 coupons. Any time during the month stated they could cash it in. I’m not very handy or creative so I can’t remember much about it. I do KNOW they liked the Date Night-a meal and doing whatever they wanted. I remember Janna and I actually seeing Back to the Future 3 on one of them.

Point: The greatest gift we could give each other is ourselves.  While other gifts fade away, that one lasts forever and there are no returns. No too big or too small. No wrong color.  There is, however, lasting impact and unforgettable memories. Give the best gift possible…YOURSELF.

“Father, you gave yourself in the person of Jesus. ‘The Word became flesh’ is the way it is put. May I always remember it isn’t the presents under the tree that matters but my presence.”

December 13

Friday, December 18th, 2020

I’ve been doing this “pastor-gig” for over 45 years officially, and close to 50 if you count college ministries. There is one thing that has been a constant-something that never changed-and that is the ability of people to wear a mask at Christmas. The hype gives them a temporary lift-a “high” to use another word-that seems to pull them through the season and celebrations. December 25 masks the painful reality of December 24 & 26.

The widow/widower mourning the loss of his/her mate. The parent who walks through the house that has missing sounds. The teen whose parent left home with someone else, leaving behind a trail of betrayal and even hopelessness. The mother with the empty womb. The one left behind because suicide was the choice. That list could go on and on.

Christmas for these people is empty. It is a painful reminder of an empty bed, an empty chair, a sense of being unwanted, and more. But we have gotten really good at masking our true feelings. Like the commercial where the woman struggles with depression but holds up a smiley face to cover her true feelings. I can understand why people do that, especially at Christmas. They don’t want to be seen as “Debby Downers.” They don’t want to be seen as the stick-in-the-mud. They won’t want to be the one raining on everyone’s parade.

Jesus came to change that. He came to save us from our sin. He came to give us hope and life and joy and peace and yes, laughter. He also came to heal our hurts, to bind up wounds. You may be the one who dreads Christmas. All I can say is He is there for you. You may be the one who knows or sees others struggle. Let me encourage you to practice the real meaning of this season: reach out with the love of Jesus and help ease their pain. Sometimes all they want is to know someone sees their pain, knows why they are hurting, and then caring. Be the one.

“Father, may I be that one with open eyes to see others.”

October 12

Monday, October 12th, 2020

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned a few things along the way.  That’s good isn’t it? In those early days in an obscure church on a main thoroughfare that shot from one city to another in Ohio, sat a little burgh. No stop lights. A few stop signs but really only at main intersections…where the country roads hit the main drag. My life was as obscure as that little burgh that had no store, no gas station, no post office, 2 churches and nothing else. It was there I learned…you make your own way. As a pastor I had no one. I had an occasional pastor “friend” but in those 5 years, I can count on one finger (okay less than a hand) how many of those there were. Pastoral life was lonely.

But as I’ve gotten older I now realize how important it is to have others. I’ve always been a social creature so there has always been a desire for others. But not always good. Some dragged me down. I needed to leave them behind. Some sucked the life and energy out of me by being so needy. I had to “kiss them goodbye.” But every once in a while I found one who was a friend and a kindred spirit. Strangely, more often than not, they were people (men) from the church I pastored. I soon learned I was not and am not an independent, self-sufficient, super-capable, all-powerful hotshot, i.e. God’s gift to the pastoral world. No, I’m just one of many-a vital link in a chain of amazing work accomplished by God. I’m not the end-all; no, I’m just one to help bring about God’s mission in this world: to draw people to Him.

As a common phrase will say: “We are all in this together.” We need each other.  What are doing to link with others?

“Use me as I am, Father. Take what I bring and link it with what others bring.”