Friendship

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May 17

Wednesday, May 17th, 2023

I’m continuing my series of posts on the ladies spoken about on Mother’s Day by several of our ladies.

Lady #1- Mary of Bethany

Lady #2- Tamar

Lady #3- Sarah

Today is Lady #4: Lydia

What is it like to be successful? Further even: what is it like to be successful as a woman in a male-dominated society?

Hmmm. We could ask Lydia…if she was alive.  🙂 In Acts 16 we read of a woman named Lydia, a seller of purple goods (v.14).  Industrious. Hard worker. A worshiper of God. Just being a seller of purple goods was enough to show her success. She also had servants. She had a house. She opened her home to Paul and Silas. After their release from the Philippian jail, they stopped at Lydia’s house on the way out of town to see her and the others who met at her house.

It takes a lot to be successful. Sure, there are those who are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but not for a women, especially in that day.  Lydia had to be industrious. She had to be innovative. She had to be unafraid. What is interesting to me is that she actually operated with a double whammy: she was female and a worshiper of God. One was bad enough, but with both of those “on her record”?  Man or woman being a worshiper of God often meant isolation and loss of income.

One thing she cannot be accused of is being lazy. The Bible calls it sloth. Think of a sloth and the first thing which comes to mind is the animal that does everything in slow motion…very slow motion. But consider this: sloth doesn’t just mean sitting around all day watching TV and eating junk food.  It also means indifference. Apathy. It’s like standing on a street corner and watching all things go by and not giving a rip.

We have too much of that going on in our society these days. If it doesn’t affect me and my circle, why should I care? An earthquake in Turkey or California? A tornado in Oklahoma or Texas? (Big difference when one lands in your own “back yard” as it did here less than 2 months ago). A flood in TN. A shooting in NYC (and elsewhere).  If it doesn’t affect me it is “out of sight out of mind.”

It is too easy to get apathetic when it doesn’t involve us or people we love. Lydia shows us the importance of hard work. Her concern for others and their spiritual lives (see in Acts 16:15), and her concern for Paul and Silas show us how important it is not to be self-consumed. Let’s not forget who we are and how to serve others.

Then we must might learn what true success is all about.

May 8

Monday, May 8th, 2023

Common in many news cycles is the passing along of what are called conspiracy theories. The past several elections (and I’m sure future ones) have been filled with them. They are on both sides of the aisle-R or D; conservative or liberal; cultish or mainstream; religious or non-religious.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new though. In the days of Jesus, one that was passed along by those who wanted to downplay or deny the resurrection was that the disciples had stolen the body (Check out Matthew 28:11-15). The religious leaders bribed the Roman guards to spread the rumor, i.e. conspiracy theory, the disciples has stolen the body. They even said they would straighten it out with the authorities.

Theories about the resurrection abound. The wrong tomb theory (the ladies went to the wrong tomb). The swoon theory (Jesus didn’t really die on the cross; He just passed out.  He then revived in the cold, dark tomb, mustered enough strength to roll the stone away, overpower the guards and walk away).  Wrong person theory (someone took His place on the cross and was mistaken for Jesus). Tell me: how ridiculous do those all sound? The conspiracies go on and on-ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Unfounded “truths.” Gossip. Slander. Lies. Mean-spirited words. All are part of a subversive element that should not be, but is, in the church. Relationships and friendships cannot survive with that kind of garbage being present in individual lives, and especially in a church.

Let’s stick to the facts, the truth. Let’s not pay one bit of attention to political conspiracy theories. And certainly not give any credence to conspiracy theories that make their way into the church. THEY AIN’T WORTH IT!  Let’s leave the conspiracy theories where they belong…in the trash.

April 26

Wednesday, April 26th, 2023

Pete the Cat…Play Ball.

I suppose you might be wondering, “What in the world? Has Bill lost it?”  While some may have suspected that a time or two over the 70 years of my life, I have not. Least I don’t think so. 🙂   One thing I have learned is that lessons can be learned from a variety of places, people and events.  This past year I have had the A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.L.Y.  most fun reading to the Kindergarten classes in our school district.  Five classes. Once/month. A different book each month. (The church’s youth pastor, Ryan, reads to two other classes).

This month was a read barn-burner-to the kids-but to me? Not so, but it wasn’t supposed to be. I mean, how excited can an adult get over a book read to Kindergarten kids about a cat? But the kids? They absolutely l-o-o-o-v-e Pete the Cat. They especially enjoyed Pete the Cat…Play Ball.

After I read I always try to draw out some lessons which come from the book. So…what did Pete teach them this time through?

  • Pete the Cat always tried his best. So should they. If their teacher has them working at their desk; if they are playing outside; if they are playing a game, they should always do their best.
  • Pete the Cat cheered his teammates on. The first batter got a hit and Pete yelled, “Way to go!” The batter after him (he struck out but tried his best) hit a home run. Pete yelled with a big cheer.
  • Pete’s team won. He high-fived the opposing team. The K-kids were quick to remind me they line up after the game and do that. They slap hands and say, “Good game” to their opponents.

I had fun reading and teaching the lessons, but their importance to me as an adult cannot be dismissed.

Do I always try my best or am I content with a lackluster effort? Do I look for shortcuts? Whether it is something I like doing or not, do I give my best effort?

Do I cheer others on with genuine support or am filled with envy and jealousy over another’s success? Do I see another’s efforts promoting the team or organization as good and not a threat to me? In my line of work (a pastor), am I happy to see Jesus promoted…no matter who does it?

Am I quick to high-five another’s success and not care who gets the credit? Competition in sports is good, but when someone becomes combative or cut-throat and resorts to cheating or gossip or back-biting, it spells the death of whatever good can be accomplished. I believe Ronald Reagan is credited with saying, “There is no telling how far an organization can go, and how it can succeed, if no one cares who gets the credit.”

Jesus once said, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me.” I realize He was speaking of His crucifixion, but it begs an action from me.  My motive should never be to promote myself, but to promote Him. Not doing my best; putting others down; taking the glory for myself, is not promoting Him or His work.

Let’s take it from Pete the Cat. Let’s leave the bad stuff behind and let’s promote each other, but most importantly, Jesus.

April 18

Tuesday, April 18th, 2023

In this day and age of anger, hatred, malice, and vitriolic words, a person of peace, tranquility, and yes, sanity, is rare. Sadly rare. As I have given some thought to how I must react to these actions and words by others, I read a devotion. I must give credit to Cheryl E. Smith for the “germ” of my thoughts today. See the end of this post for information about this devotion.

Cheryl was writing about her husband, Kevin (whom I would love to meet), and how he was a humble man. The scenario is as Kevin is talking to their son about some of his experiences in the banking business. Here is what Cheryl wrote:

“Kevin respects people-all people. Regardless of their condition, age, race, discrepancies, behavior, or differences. I have never seen him mistreat anyone in all the years I have known him.

“The main thing I noticed about how he handled the customers he mentioned was his refusal to embarrass them. Even though they didn’t fit the everyday ‘normal’ mold, he never made them feel inferior. He never drew attention to their differences. He gave them all the time they needed. He treated them the way they and all people deserve to be treated. He handled them with the utmost respect, kindness, and patience-how he wants to be treated.

“He never embarrassed anyone. He never made anyone feel secondary. He loved each person with equal intensity. He was never partial. He never showed favoritism. He never recoiled, no matter how disfigured, marred, or ‘abnormal’ the person appeared.” (Excerpts from pages 126-127)

Hmmmm. That sounds like Someone else I know.  His name is Jesus. He didn’t play favorites, unless you consider giving hope, love, and acceptance to the down-and-out, the “less than,” the hurting, the physically imperfect, or the lost soul.

Imagine a world-small and big-if we all did like Jesus. Talk about change!!! But it starts with us in our own small world.

{Note: Cheryl has written 2 volumes called Homespun Devotions. I have resisted doing a review because I wanted to savor my time with them. Since I “won” Volume 2 in a blog give-away, I am reading it first. (Yeah…I know I’m not “right” sometimes).  I’m reading one or two of the short chapters at a time. I will give a complete review when I am finished with Volume 2. Hint: Buy it!}

March 23

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Do you know what a cool bean is? No? Well some kindergarten kids in our school system do.

One of the programs I was involved in was called Real Men Read sponsored by the UW of Monroe County. I live in Owen County but it was a partnership since we don’t have one. Each month I would read to Mrs. Lee’s K class as part of the program. COVID shut the program down, although I was able to keep reading to Mrs. Lee’s class (we met outside when possible). I approached the K teachers (which my daughter, Tami, is one of) about restarting it and received 100% approval. Once a month I read to 5 different K classes in 3 different schools (1-1-3) and our youth pastor, Ryan, reads to three classes in the other school.

This month has been a book called The Cool Bean. Long story short: It’s about a bean who was left out of his pod of four beans. The other three became well known all over as The Cool Beans. He tried wearing sunglasses like they did. He tried slicking back his “hair.” He tried swagging when he walked. He tried acting cool.

He failed and was left out.

Then one day everything changed. One of the cool beans helped him when he spilled something. Another bean used a “beandaid” to cover a wound. And another helped in class.  He was included in the cool beans and they had his back. One day he saw a fellow bean fall and spill his books and papers everywhere so he asked if he could help. The other beans saw it and said, “Now that is C-O-O-O-L.”  Yeah…I know…cheesy. But effective.

The story taught several lessons. One I stressed to them is you’re not cool by the sunglasses or clothes you wear; you aren’t cool by anything outward. Then one of the little girls yelled out, “It’s inside. It’s your heart!”  “Absolutely right,” I told her. She got it. “Who you are, how you treat others is what really matters.” I also told them to go home and yell out to their parents, “I’m a cool bean! and when they wonder what you are talking about, show them the book.” (The three teachers yesterday bought them the book I read to take home).  “Then, ask them to read it to you.”

When Samuel was choosing a successor to Saul as king, he had Jesse bring his sons before him. Each one he thought was the right specimen. But God had other ideas. “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” Case closed.  (And no, I didn’t tell this part of the lesson).

Being accepted, being loved, is not really determined by our outward appearance. Surface is not important. Beauty is more than skin deep. Don’t treat others on the basis of the outward. Serve because you don’t care about the outward and because your heart is full of humility.

Then you too can be a C-O-O-O-L BEAN!!

March 9

Thursday, March 9th, 2023

A man wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap positioned himself against a wall beside a trash can at the Metro station in Washington, D.C. He pulled out a violin and began to play. In the next 43 minutes, as he performed six classical pieces, 1097 people passed by, ignoring him.

No one knew it, but the man playing the Metro was Joshua Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on a $3.5 million Stradivarius. But no crowd gathered for the virtuoso. “It was a strange feeling, that people were actually ignoring me,” Bell said.

When I read that story this morning, a song came to my mind: “This is for all the lonely people, thinking that life has passed them by.” (“Lonely People” by America-1971)

Our world is filled with hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of people who are depicted by the story and the song: they go through life unnoticed, uncared for…lonely. They feel as though life and love has passed them by.

The truth is they aren’t necessarily the pandhandler or the homeless. They could work with you. They could play sports with you. They could be your neighbor. They could even be in your house living with you. Then again, it could be you.

There is a commercial of an anti-depressant where the people are shown interacting, but sad, all the while they hold a smiley face on a stick in front of them. That is the way a lot of people are. Hold up a false face so you don’t see what they are really like.

Challenge for today: keep your eyes open for lonely people. They may put up a false front so you may have to look hard. Don’t let someone be lonely today. Don’t let you be lonely today. Open up to someone. Be a friend. Seek a friend. EVERYONE MATTERS.

March 1

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

I hear a lot of different words and thoughts expressed at a funeral. I hear “Man, he loved well. He love Jesus. He loved people. He loved his/her family.” I might hear “He/she was a person of integrity” or “a person who had such a kind heart.” Words of love, appreciation, and thanksgiving.

But the saddest words I hear are not “I’m going to miss him/her” (although they do make my heart hurt), or “I have a hole in my heart.” No, the saddest words are two: “If only.”

They are words of regret. “If only I had told him/her I love them more often.” “if only I had gone to visit them like I wanted to.” “If only I hadn’t forgotten.” “If only I hadn’t been so busy/preoccupied.” The “if onlys” could go on.

As I said, they are words of regret. One last visit never happened. One last act of kindness goes undone. One last word of affection goes unsaid.

In Matthew 26 there is a story of a lady who understood what Jesus was saying about His imminent death. She may have been the only one in the room who did. She took a jar of very expensive perfume (I’ve heard estimates of its worth being about $25,000 in today’s currency) and poured it on His head.  When protests were made, Jesus rebuked them and said, “This woman has done a beautiful thing.” You see…she understood there was no waiting.  There would be no “if only.”

How about you? Is there something you need to say to or is there something you need to do for someone? Is there someone you need to go see? Is there someone with whom you need to reconcile or at least try to repair a relationship? Why wait? Why allow “if only” even the remotest possibility to be part of your vocabulary?

Now. Now is the time. Avoid the “if only.”

February 20

Monday, February 20th, 2023

Alfred Nobel got a chance at something most of us-possibly all of us-never do.

One morning Alfred Nobel was reading the newspaper and he was shocked to find his name listed in the obituary. It was obviously a mistake. He was even more stunned to read that he was being remembered as the man responsible for dynamite. In that time period, dynamite was mainly used for war.

As a result of reading that, he determined to change what he would be remembered for. He committed himself to world peace (a never-ending, daunting, and impossible task if you ask me), and established what became known as the Nobel Peace Prize. Mention his name today and dynamite will not be the first thing on the lips, if mentioned at all.

As I said earlier, he got a chance to do something very few, if any of us, get to do. He changed the course of what he was known for in mid-stream.

The truth is all of us will be known for something. Hatred. Bigotry. Kindness. Peace. Love. Good attitude. Surliness. Selfishness. Big heart. Generosity. (You can add more).

It’s called a legacy. Someday we will have to stand before God-who is a righteous Judge-and give an account to Him of our lives. And while what others think of us down here on earth will not affect that, it behooves us to consider the kind of legacy we want to leave behind.

What will your obituary say and how will your friends and family and co-workers remember you?

February 15

Wednesday, February 15th, 2023

“14 year old girl takes her life after bullying.”

“Teen girl/boy found dead after cyber bullying.”

“Homeless veteran beaten to death in wheelchair on street.”

Over the last few years or so we have seen more and more headings like these than we would care to admit.  Someone shooting several people then taking their own life is not only cowardice, but commonplace. Bullying someone and causing that person to lose joy in life and the will to live is sick. Just recently a teen girl took her own life because of the beat down she received in the hallway at school. A 9 y/o was filmed being beaten on a school bus while no one stepped in to help, not even the adults.

When did we become so calloused? When did we become so uncaring about another person and either become the perp or the one standing by filming and watching?

I know actions like this have always been around. Sin is real. Maybe because of social media we hear and see it more. But it is heart-breaking and sickening that we have that much disregard for others.

We all need somebody to have our back. In Acts 9, the Apostle Paul (formerly Saul) converted to Christ after a period of hatred toward those who followed the Nazarene (Jesus). This was 3 years later and the early Christians were still skeptical of his conversion. It took Barnabas to have his back, to introduce him to the others, for the ice to be broken, fear to dissipate, and for them to open their arms.

Barnabas had Paul’s back. We all need a Barnabas, or two, or three.  See someone hurting? See someone getting a beat down emotionally or physically? See someone in a daze from bullying? Don’t just stand idly by. Come along side them. Have their back and fight back-to-back(like several scenes from Gladiator depict).

DON’T LET THE PAIN OF ANOTHER GO UNNOTICED AND “UNREACHED.” Be the one who who says, “Enough! I will stand with you.” 

February 14

Tuesday, February 14th, 2023

Today is Valentine’s Day. Shocker! As if you didn’t know that. A trip to any store will reveal that, even if you were Rip Van Winkle and just woke up this morning. Cards. Candy. Stuffed teddy bears with hearts. Candy. All sorts of stuffed animals. Candy. Commercials about love and rings. And did I mention candy?  All kinds of candy.  (IMHO the only legitimate candy is the one that says “chocolate” on the wrapper).

There are a lot of ways to show love. To a married couple a kiss, an embrace, words, flowers, and of course, other things express love. A hug from a parent to a child. A phone call to a loved one, especially one who doesn’t live that close. The list is endless.

Once a month, I read to 5 different K classes in our local school district. This happens to be the week this month. The book I’m reading is on Kindness from A to Z.  Each letter of the alphabet tells something they can do to show kindness.  Kindness is a way to show love.

In Deuteronomy 15, the people of Israel were to show kindness to one another, especially to those who were poor. They were warned of 4 dangers:

  • A hard heart
  • A closed hand
  • An evil thought
  • A grudging spirit

It is easy to get jaded, especially when there are people who are trying to take advantage of or hijack the system. But like in many things, among the bad are those who legitimately need help.

Let’s not close our eyes and hearts off to those who legitimately need our help, our kindness, and our love. There are those who truly do not like where they are. We may be the one who helps lift them up from their discouragement and the trap they find themselves in.

Don’t stop showing love and kindness. Guard your own heart against getting hardened to others. And when you show love, you don’t even need a card, a bear, or even candy to show it.