Friendship

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June 24

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

“No man is an island” we often hear and say.

True statement.

I have a friend who has told me that if his wife ever dies before him, he will pack his things and move to TN or some place where he could be a hermit living in his cabin away from everyone. Would he really? I hope not to find out.

Not me. While I enjoy a short respite from time to time of being alone and away from people, I know I do need (I refrained from saying, “Craved”) other people. While some people are introverts, I am not.

Last night I spent some much appreciated and much needed time with a friend. Since my schedule is far more flexible than his, I drove to his town and met him for supper. Mexican. (It was actually pretty good). But even better was the 2 hours or so we spent eating chips and salsa, our main course, and talking. Laughing. Emotional. Opening up some. It was one of those A-a-a-a-h times for me.  I didn’t have to put up a wall with which to guard myself. The opposite. A “de-walling” process took place. We even texted each other later and said, “Let’s do this again soon. Like once a month.” So I suspect we will make the time to do that.

Proverbs talks a lot about the importance of friendship. I’m grateful for mine. But remember: to have friends you must also be one. People don’t come crawling saying, “Oh please! Be my friend!”  Least that has not been my experience. No. Friendships develop over time. One step at a time. I have one friend I have had since college (that was many, many moons ago…trust me). This current friendship started when he and his family moved from Florida in 2007 (if my calculations are correct) and began attending the church I pastor. My life has been richer since.

“Thank you Father for friendship. Earthly. One with skin. And thank you for that heavenly friendship with You. One who will always be my friend.”

Note: I wrote this yesterday (Wednesday-6/23/21) and posted it for today. Jo, Tami and I are leaving for Ohio for a couple of days to watch our amazingly, fantastic grandson/nephew play some baseball.  No prejudice there. 🙂

June 15

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

I was thinking this morning (Yeah, dangerous thought). We often hear about avoiding people who are bad influences. I even spoke this past Sunday about toxic people. We will even go to I Cor. 15:33 where it says, “Bad company corrupts good morals” to make our case. With that admonition in mind, we will say something along the lines of

“CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY.”

Or some variation of that.

We are usually thinking that the people we hang around with can have a negative influence on our lives.

And that is true.

But let’s look at in a more positive light. The people we hang around with, the friends we choose, can also influence us for the good. They can encourage us to keep going. They can be the “wind beneath our wings,” so to speak. They will support us, love us, move us, rebuke us, hold us accountable, give insight to us, and a whole host of other positives.

So I suggest we begin choosing and surrounding ourselves with people who can enrich our lives.

Who are you surrounding yourself with these days? What kind of influence are they having on you?

“Father, show me who to choose as my friends and whom I should choose to hang around. May I also be a friend and a confidant and someone who builds others up.”

April 19

Monday, April 19th, 2021

Reading Proverbs is always enlightening. During 2020 I broke a long-standing tradition I had. From January 1-December 31, I would constantly read and reread Psalms. Every other month I would read Proverbs-one chapter a day. I’m not sure why I broke that tradition. But recently I picked it back up. I started reading the NT in the New Living Translation on January 1. I started reading Psalms on February 1. And through the month of April I have been reading Proverbs. It has been a rich experience again.

On the 17th (chapter 17) I read this verse:

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

That reminded me of a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Wise words. From both.

How many time have I opened my mouth and it would have been better to have kept it shut? More than I care to admit. How it would have been better to speak less and listen more! And how it would have been better to not have spoken at all!! It pains me to think of the lives I have hurt by speaking first and thinking last.

I go to another verse in Proverbs 17 that stood out to me:

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (v.9)

I’ve needed that forgiveness more than I can say. It is starts with keeping my mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. And I follow it up with this: “A truly wise person uses few words.” (v.27a)

“Father, help me to watch my words and to speak wisely.”

April 16

Friday, April 16th, 2021

One of the phrases we heard a lot of during the pandemic -ad infinitum, ad nauseum- was “we’re in this together.” I know. I know. It was supposed to be true. And yes, I know what it was supposed to mean.

But if I want to be cynical (Who me?) I would say this: if we were supposed to be in this together, why was 2020 a year of unrest and riots and upheaval and hate speech and vitriol? We may have been going through the scourge of the pandemic together, but we weren’t really together.

But I digress. The point I really want to get to is found in I Cor.12: 22-26. Take a moment, please, to read it. Several points stand out to me:

  1. Those who think they are the most important very often are not.
  2. We need to take special note of those who seem less important. I’ll call them the “behind the scenes” people.
  3. A real “in this together” body laughs and cries together. They experience life together.

This pandemic has done several things to the church. One has been to separate people. The church is a body, uniquely put together and made up of different people. We were designed to need each other and no amount of zoom meetings, or even cards or phone calls, can take the place of personal, in-person contact. I’m not delusional enough to think all will come back-at least not right away.  Maybe never. But when we do and when we do see each other I pray we will “honor” each other; know our place, and laugh and cry with each other.

I don’t think that’s asking too much. Do you?

“Father, may Your body- the church-truly be an example of being in this together.”

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.