Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Gift of Friendship


A friend loves at all times
and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 17:17

Perhaps it is because Thanksgiving is a few days away. It could be because I just spent some time with my friend of longest standing. (We do not use that nasty word, o_ _!) Or it could be because of some communications I have had with another long term friend. Whatever the reason, I have been a bit nostalgic lately. I've spent quite a lot of time thinking and praying for various people who have crossed my path of life. Those thoughts and prayers have brought me to a place of realization, I am who I am in part because of those relationships. Surely I have changed and grown over the years but some things remain, some ideas, opinions, desires are still a part of me because when I was much younger certain people influenced my life. This is a tribute to them.

As I said, the catalyst to this whole train of thought, most likely, was being with my dear friend Mary and talking about so many of our other friends, remembering our crazy childhood and being so incredibly grateful that there were no smart phones, video recorders or social media during that time. We both agreed that one of our precious friends, Carmen would have felt the need to record and publish things all of us would much rather forget. Fun to think about together, not so much fun to explain to the children.

Talking about Carmen, who has gone home to live with the Lord, really made us both think about how precious those memories are and how dear the other people in them still are to us, though we never see them and have limited communication with most of them.

Even Mary and I aren't able to see each other nearly as often as we would like. Time and distance make it hard, but we talk all the time. We are alike in so many ways and totally different in others. We challenge each other to this day. Mary is always in my prayers.

I was raised with four sisters so the idea of having a brother has always been intriguing to me. In looking back, I can see where my Father provided brother-like relationships for me. My thoughts and prayers have included John, Pete, Geno, Kevin and Carmen's family.

Memory lane is a long winding road. As I walked it I remembered, Loretta, Debbie, Doreen, Kim, Moon (Donna really but no one calls her that), Niki, Liz, Ellen and Lynn, girls, now women, who in various ways have touched my life.

Most of these people were a part of my life in my childhood and early adulthood. Some are still with me in varying degrees of closeness and some sadly, are gone.

Our Father has provided friends for us to fill the spaces in our lives that are empty, like my lack of brothers, and to provide guidance, inspiration and most importantly, love.

I would encourage anyone reading this to celebrate your friends. Reach out to someone who meant the world to you who maybe you haven't seen or spoken to in years. Hug the ones who are still close. Allow the sadness of the loss of the ones who have gone home to teach you the importance of the ones who are still with you. Pray for all of your friends and thank God for them.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Giving All That You Have


But a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny. Mark 12:42

Yesterday was Youth Sunday at our church. It was a mix of preciousness and chaos. The preciousness coming from the fact that to most of us, though they see themselves as pretty adult, these people are still children. The chaos results from the fact that they are not children so much as they are the “youth”, teenagers, people who don't need a lot of advice or guidance, as far as they are concerned.

They're in church every Sunday. They help out. They watch how things work and therefore know how things work. They've got this, right? Um, not so much.

What we saw was a comedy of delightful errors, delightful from the seats, terrifying from the perspective of the kids, I'm sure. One young man was designated to give the sermon. Much like Monday morning quarterbacks, many people know what they would say and/or how they would say it. It looks pretty easy. Get up and talk about our faith, our beliefs for fifteen to twenty minutes. No problem! I could talk about Jesus all day long. Add to that erroneous view the impetuous confidence of youth and oh dear....

To begin with our sweet young man was not exuding confidence. Add to that, he had no notes. No paper or electronic gadget to guide him. Somehow I felt a train wreck coming and I wasn't completely wrong.

His sermon lasted a record two to three minutes before it stalled on the tracks. There was a silence that rapidly turned into an awkward silence that was saved by our pastor. After a several agonizing hours, okay, maybe another two to three minutes, our pastor, a pretty young guy himself, bounded up to stand beside our young man and rescue him, but not without tossing a little dig his way. At first that shocked me until I realized a sweet sympathetic approach would have undone the poor kid. Pastor Ryan knew that teasing him would lighten the moment and it did. Pastor then gave an impromptu sermon on giving sermons, giving of ourselves and they both sat down.

Perfect! It wasn't their plan. I'm sure our young man had envisioned something entirely different. It wasn't their plan but it was Someone's plan. The Someone who orders every minute of our lives.

The sermon was supposed to revolve around the verse above, Mark 12:42 and it did. A young man stood on his faith and stepped up to speak. He didn't have much to offer, the verbal equivalent of two small coins, but it didn't matter. God took what he offered and filled in the rest. Merely standing in front of us that young man showed what risk, what a leap of faith looks like. As our pastor said, “Actions really do speak louder than words.” Both of those young men demonstrated what it means to be obedient. I doubt that anyone jotted down a sermon note yesterday but I also doubt that many will forget what they learned.