The Cops

We see the cops in the media often lately.

What are they usually doing?

Beating someone up, choking them… Sometimes killing them.

I’m sure that bothers you like it bothers me. We need a new mode of thinking and training for police. They cannot go beyond what the law allows.

I mean, pulling a gun out and emptying the bullet chambers as a suspect flees – just because you feel unsafe, this is not acceptable. These policemen should be tried for murder and permanently removed from law enforcement – period.

But let me tell you something else… Something you already know…

Putting our law enforcement officials in harm’s way in today’s culture is a lot like putting our young men in Vietnam back in the ’60’s and 70’s – the enemy is all around them. Families including children were all part of the war effort. You had no idea if some little girl was offering a gift or a bomb wrapped in a package. Crazy, right? Crazy war. How could entire families be part of that war against American-supported, pro-democratic South Vietnam?

Before we look down on the Vietnamese people – let’s get real for a moment. So you’re telling me that Vietnamese people who were in support of their homeland but on the communist side, were crazy for not remaining neutral bystanders? Can you imagine Russians invading the USA? Are you really naive enough to think we would all remain “neutral” innocent bystanders and let the uniformed soldiers fight their own battles?

But I digress from my main point – that we need to gain some kind of understanding of what is going on in the minds of today’s law enforcers just as we understand the psychology of our anxious and frustrated soldiers in Vietnam a few decades ago.

It is not only understandable that police officers sometimes lose their senses and misuse their authority – it can almost be expected when in a very hostile neighborhood.

“HOOD” LIVING

I have many friends that live in some of the most dangerous “hoods” in America. In fact, in the 1990s I put my money where my mouth was, and moved into an area right next to a “hood” so that I could relate to them in a real way.

So much to say here – wow. It changes your perspective to say the least. First of all, it was no longer them but “us” in my mind when I thought about gangs in the hood; inner-city living; whatever you want to call it.

Secondly there is no denying that when an block or street or neighborhood begins to grow in violence and dangerous activity, everyone loses. Property values go down, businesses leave, urban decay begins its cancerous spread. And everyone suffers for it.

I don’t have any answers. But if the only time an authority figure is seen in most “hoods” is when they are sent in to stop a serious situation. It’s only natural to distrust them and the image of what begins to develop in the minds of kids and adults in the hood.

If you never see your daddy around unless he is very angry, well of course that relationship is going to break down and unravel. Of course both sides will be totally polarized. Of course police will not trust anyone in that area and of course no one on that area will trust the police.

REBEL NATION

When I was growing up it was in vogue to be a rebel. Smokey and the Bandit came out in 1977. It was an obvious caracature of the law as arrogant and pompous idiots who can’t fight their way out of a paper bag. But man, was it entertaining!

Then Star Wars came out that same year. Who were the bad guys? The Imperial Empire – and the bad guys? The Rebellion! Luke Skywalker was a rebel! We love us our rebels!

Even the popular cop shows on today – the only cool cop is the one who ends up fighting cops himself!

It’s American to rebel, dag-nabbit!

In fact, that’s how we got here in the first place right? Rebelling against our Englush authorities in the 1600’s. Yes, we understand rebellion quite well, thank you! “Taxation without representation? No thank you, Pappa Brit! Toss them tea bags in the Boston harbor boys!”

Look at Westerns – the lone gunfighter riding out into the horizon with his six guns packin’! I can hear that ‘rebel’ played by Bruce Willis in the “Die Hard” movies yelling at the cops right now.

So you see, we sometimes reap what we sow.

OUR HYPOCRISY

We Americans live in this hypocritical dichotomy – on the one hand, we perhaps more than any other nation in history live in safety and creature comforts because many young men took the bullet, the bomb, the lethal booby trap that was meant for us.

We daily rely on the ongoing sacrifices of other men and women who were selfless enough to allow their bodies to be destroyed for our freedoms. But then we turn around and act like it was no big deal. In fact, “I am a pacifist” is not literally possible in the USA; if you paid or ever have paid any taxes to the Federal government, it’s too late. You hire people with guns to keep you safe – YOU DO IT!

Let’s get down to brass tacks – SOLDIERS are only “hired guns” sent out to protect YOU! I understand, okay… I get that you can say, “Well, that’s not me behind that stuff, that’s our crazy political leaders making decisions on their own.” Yeah but, they are all voted in. So, you may not have voted for certain leaders, but you enjoy the fringe benefits and blessings and perks of living in a nation that voted for them.

Cops in your hood? C’mon, every US citizen depends on local authorities, police to defend, protect and keep us safe. They carry a gun so that you don’t have to. They shoot the guys with the gun and will and determination to come to your dwelling and do great harm to everything and everyone you hold dear.

So – don’t tell me you are against guns and violence on a moral standpoint, if you are a US citizen. I would say – move to another country if you want to remove yourself from your conflicted, dichotomized hypocrisy.

I get that we don’t trust authority. I get that we enjoy our rebellion psychology. I understand not liking officer of the law soldiers who have never shown any kind of selflessness in our defense.

But I don’t get not appreciating and respecting those people who willingly take the bullet aimed at your head. That – I don’t get.

That – is the reality. You can lump every authority together if you want to.  But I think there is a world of difference between these two kinds of authority figures.

One day there was a rebel who walked the earth, calling out corrupt and evil authorities. He was embraced by the lower class and the down and outers. He took interest in their situation. He cared about their problems. He lived with them and walked with them. He socialized with them and was considered one of them by these corrupted authorities.

And finally he was killed by death on a cross by the authorities. But one soldier bent his knees and cried out “surely this man was the Son of God!”

Jesus did not side with all the authorities, yet he never broke the law. He never acted out in violence. He was innocent, yet made a great difference in the lives of the most needy.

What we need today in our cities is to “cry out” to Jesus and asked him to walk among our most needy places once again.

In answer to that prayer, he might just come in the form of you and I.

Till next time

Jeff

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“HH Polizeihauptmeister MZ” by Daniel Schwen – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HH_Polizeihauptmeister_MZ.jpg#/media/File:HH_Polizeihauptmeister_MZ.jpg

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Changes Remain

Things change.

I’ll never forget the day my dad was taking pictures of us kids during Christmas – and the Polaroid camera he was using was out of film. And one of us just volunteered our cell phone.  He was in awe of the technology shift that had yet again taken place.

Even digital cameras had already become yesterday’s news – now our phones had better technology. You snooze, you loose – is today’s technology mantra. Another way to say it, I guess.

Today, our lives are on a rapid merry-go-round. We get acclimated to a new job, or a new home, new child, new neighborhood, new neighbors, new government leadership… and then – things change.  And next, we are back to the unknown – fear and doubt attack our minds and we once again must face our fears, take a step of faith, and hope it works out.  Well, with God it does work out. We know he is able. The kicker question is this: will we choose to trust and obey?

Our grandparents and great grandparents were probably one of the first generations to face multiple major changes in the world. One could argue that this past century our earth has been through as many changes as all previous centuries put together. It’s amazing to think that before this, “normal” included having the same job until you retire, living in one home, in the same state (if not town) for the duration. Today, changes happen at a rapid pace. Entire families can fly to the other side of the world on whim and start fresh and anew.

Maybe this explains the growing lack of concentration in many people today – a condition that may include various forms of ADHD. Soon change will be so normal, that when some remains for even a period of several months, people won’t be able to handle the boredom. “Give me change now!”

As you wrap your head around “life in 2015” I hope you take time to pray and ask God to give you clear direction on where He wants you to be.  He may bring big changes that you didn’t expect. The good news is He is more than able to help you adapt and embrace the change.  Until next time, Jeff

Who knows?

Sooner or later, all drivers are forced to make a decision. We asks the question in our minds, “Which road do I take?”

I was on a two-week trip to England many years ago. As it happens, I was given a car by some friends and was able to drive all over the location where we were staying. It was great, but two things you will learn quickly when driving a car in England: First, the driver side is on the right side of the car. You can imagine the confusion that initially grips you when you are turning left and you realize you normally would be dozing off, people watching or staring out at the scenery. And then it hits you – YOU ARE DRIVING, NOT YOUR PASSENGER! Secondly, when driving in England there are many nooks and crannies and roads, none of which look wide enough to fit a motorcycle, let alone a vehicle. And you have to get your map out and figure it all out!

If you don’t have a map, you a re in trouble. If you are male, you are even in more trouble because you will not get out of the car to ask someone for directions. But if you do, take care – if you have just arrived from American soil, you might have a hard time understanding half of what they tell you! (Contrary to what you have heard, English spoken in the “mother tongue” still qualifies as a foreign language!) When all is lost, we throw up our arms and say, “Who knows?” It is then that we have to say a prayer and hope for a miracle. Funny how we eventually get where we need to. Coincidence? Divine Providence? Hmmm.

Someone knew. They guided us all the way.

I remember the shear terror that gripped me when I graduated from High School. “What am I gonna do now?” I asked this over and over in my head that whole post-graduation summer. I had virtually ZERO aspirations, being a very talented procrastinator, party animal extraordinaire and carefree / no-thought-for-tomorrow kind of guy.

I played the fool all through high school. And the most foolish of all things – I actually thought I could live this way indefinitely. But God knew differently.

That’s the thing; God knew.

When I was at the end of my rope, my back against the proverbial wall during my first year of college, I couldn’t take the despair and fear anymore. I needed God to show me. I needed God to tell me my future.

You know what’s funny? He didn’t tell me anything about my future… except that I was going the wrong way! It was as if that RED SIGN on the Freeway Exit Ramp that says “WRONG WAY” was placed in front of my face. God called out to me and told me it was time to grow up, get up, and get going with my future – His way.

I don’t know where my path will lead me in the coming days. I would guess, if I did know, I would probably freak out anyway.

Tarot Cards? Palm Reading? Horoscope?

Really?

I think it’s much more fun to trust God and know as LITTLE AS POSSIBLE of my future. That’s me. If I was told when I and where I would meet my wife exactly, I probably would have messed it up somehow. I may have tried to speed up the process. Or worse yet, I may not have felt the necessary freedom to make the right choice in the first place.

All I can tell you is this – I STILL don’t know where I am going! I STILL don’t know my future. God knows. I guess, that’s really all we need to know.

Who knows? God does. And because of that, you can trust Him to guide you every step of the way.

Until next time,

Jeff

Photo used by permission. Flickr / Creative Commons License

You’re So Annoying

“You’re so annoying!”

That’s exactly what my wife said to me recently after a friendly discussion about the garbage disposal. I don’t know why she said it. I wasn’t trying to be cute or snide or sarcastic. I thought the disposal was just fine. It works. Sure, it’s old and smells bad. But it works.

Another reminder to us men that women truly are from VENUS!

Seriously, I think all of us, married or single, would admit that we annoy one another at times. And if no one has ever annoyed you before, you are either a true saint in whom there is no blemish, or you have always lived alone in a cave!

Sure, we conflict with those we love the most at times. That’s part of the relationship process – known as “iron sharpening iron”. Only problem is, this reality is often a grating and conflicting experience, resulting in frustration and sometimes, exasperation.

“Does this mean that relationship is bad for me and I need to get out of it?”

No. Relax. You’re relationship is just fine.

Now if there is abuse of any kind occurring then read no further because what I have to share today is for those healthy relationships in our lives that sometimes include conflict.

If you grew up in a large household with many siblings, at least more than yourself, you already know conflict just happens automatically when you include any other human being into the equation.

But guess what? This is a great opportunity for The Life to have a new growth spurt in your spiritual life. Those little pet peeves and creature comforts that we secretly cultivate and make room for suddenly get jostled and jilted when you live with others.

Eventually you have to let those go to an extent, or find ways to compromise so that all parties involved can each benefit. And when we are the ones being affected in some way by someone else, it requires management of our emotions, irritations and even anger.

If I can look to The Life inside me, I find there is grace and patience that I personally do not possess, and I find myself having the power to deal. And sometimes, accept, and occasionally, enjoy.

You know what? That person may be “so annoying”, but then again, without them, The Life will never get chances to grow and stretch and develop inside you.

And that may be annoying in an eternal sort of way.

Until next time!

Jeff

A Few Feet Away

Just a couple of feet away.

That’s all that separated my grandfather from instant eternity as he fought in the trenches of France during World War I.

Starting in 1914 and lasting 4 years up to 1918, ” The Great War” was an unbelievably brutal conflict in which Germany fought Britain, The United States and other Allied nations along a long trench that split the geography of France. This “trench warfare” really had no complete victory as both sides pummeled the other with mortar shells, grenades, cannons, mustard gas and other chemical explosives, and various kinds of guns, ultimately amounting to a stalemate war of attrition.

War technology advanced 20 years ahead within that four-year span. By 1918 tanks, planes, armor, guns, and modern battle strategy had surpassed the old ways of direct combat, trenches, armies fighting row upon row et.

But sadly for my grandfather, he was drafted at age 18 and sent to live, fight and hopefully survive the gruesome reality of the trench.

A great amount of fatalities and casualties that occurred in the trenches involved exploding shells. Sometimes these shells would explode a few feet above the heads of soldiers, blowing their heads apart like watermelon. New steal helmets helped in some circumstances, but anyone who spent any amount of time fighting in those trenches saw plenty of awful and unsightly deaths.

As my grandfather was walking in the trench one day, some shells began to hit very close to where he was. And then suddenly, he heard a shell coming right for him! He tried to run away, but it was too close to him – it blew him sideways immediately and his fellow soldiers figured he was dead.

Thankfully, the shell did not hit him directly, but hit just a matter of feet on the floor of the trench. Instead of blowing his head off, it just blew hundreds of pieces of shrapnel into his lower leg.

He was taken out of the trench and to the medical area immediately. The doctors did everything they could to save his leg. But they were unsure – time would tell depending on healing and infection. Thankfully the leg was intact and he was able to hobble along.

Before long his leg had healed up and he was able to have full use of both legs throughout his life. The only minor nuisance he had to deal with the rest of his life was chronic pain.

I recall as a youngster, grandpa Ray used to bandage up his leg every morning. But when we were present, he would first let us have a look at his leg. It was constantly swollen, red with many tiny dark speckles of metal and lumpy from the permanent scarring. Hundreds of tiny pieces of shrapnel from the Great War in France were a permanent reminder of what grandpa Ray endured as a teenager for his nation.

I tell you this story not so much from a patriotic standpoint today, but maybe even more from the aspect of divine providence. You and I are not alive today by accident. We are intentionally here for a reason. My grandfather made some unfathomably selfless decisions for the good of humanity.

The fact that I am alive today because my grandfather was a few feet away from annihilation – well, that gives me pause for contemplating my purpose and my destiny.

Life is precious. We all have the ability to make a difference in positive ways. Those who live to bring death and destruction to this planet, well all I can say is it is a total waste of their good fortune of even being allowed to live on this third rock from the Sun.

I am very proud of my grandfather and his willingness to give even his own life for the cause of worldwide freedom.

And I realize today that I must follow in his steps, and live for the betterment of others.

For I am only here on this planet by the difference of few feet.

Until next time,

Jeff

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Are You Dressed Up?

I remember hearing that phrase over and over every Sunday morning when my mom and dad would get us three boys ready for church.

Like most good church-goers, my family strongly adhered to the popular adage – “look your Sunday best for God.” And we did. Every Sunday, we wore clothes that we would never otherwise wear outside of funerals and weddings.

Well, outside of Sundays we were your typical pre-adolescent boys – pretty much dirty and grimy after a long hard hour or two of kick-ball, swimming, tree climbing, crayfish hunting, sewage tunnel exploring, and of course motocross bicycle riding.

Another common phrase that is heard in many such households on any given Sunday is “you need to dress nicely out of respect for the temple of The Lord! When you are in a God’s house you behave respectfully and dress appropriately.”

So… My adolescent takeaway was this – God only wanted to be around us when we were in His “house”, clean and showered and “dressed appropriately.”

This is how I grew up in my perception of who God was. I saw Him as an out-of- touch, distant Father who only cared about me when I was in His temple looking a certain way on the outside.

Now let me just say, I have no problem with dressing nice in church or being respectful in a house of worship. But I think many people today have the same experience as I have had regarding God and church – Over time a message begins to become ingrained in our minds, even unconsciously, that would evolve into a total misconception of who God is and what He truly cares about.

Juxtaposed to this vision, I also found myself as an adolescent drawn to the lowly child who was born in a stable named Jesus. Jesus seemed to be comfortable associating with the dirty, filthy, lowly people of the world – like me. So much so that the religious leaders of his day condemned him. He showed compassion to those who were regarded as “unclean” and unfit to even walk into the local houses of worship.

This Jesus didn’t seem to dress as nicely as the Pharisees. They had impressive religious garb and looked down on him for not looking as good as they did. And he greeted lepers and other unclean pagans and even hung out with them.

To a God who I was brought up to believe was mostly impressed with people who dressed the best and acted respectfully when in his house, this Jesus wound have and should have deeply offended.

And then the kicker was this – Jesus finally made the most audacious claim hitherto as he boasted to his disciple Philip who asked him to “show us what God is really like” when he replied, “Philip when you have seen me, you have seen the Father. ”

What?

What about dressing up nicely for a God who cared about how nice I looked on the outside? What about the God who wanted me to be quiet and reverent when in His temple?

How can this non- conformist claim to be the very representation of God? He was born so poorly that his crib was filled with straw from a dirty stable! His earthly arrival was so inauspicious that he couldn’t even “get a room”!

This law breaking Rabbi who told everyone to allow their own hearts to be the temple of God – this was not at all the same message I had grown up hearing!

A tension is upon you and I that is quite literally a fork-in-the-road moment: will we continue to follow the ideas of this off-the-wall Jesus, or will we go the other way and keep in the old-school view of a distant God who might give you some attention if you dress up nicely and get into a beautiful house of worship first?

Which way will you go?

Next Sunday when you and I get “dressed up for church” and act reverently, keep in mind our namesake (Jesus Christ) dressed up nicely when it was appropriate to do so , but his lifestyle certainly carried this “respect for God and his house” over to every area of his daily walk – including showing compassion for the dirty and lowly people.

These same people might very well end up sitting in the same pew next to you.

What will you think? What will you do?

As Hamlet claimed, “that – is the question. ”

Until next time,

Jeff

The Secret is Caring

Good Day to you!

It’s kinda nice to have someone give us a nice warm greeting each day, isn’t it?

I once knocked on a door of someone’s home as I was inviting people to a special event at our church, and was quite shocked when the owner of the home opened the door and, before I could say a word, launched into a multi-syllable cuss fest about how much of a “hypocrite you are for walking across the street from your church to talk to me when you could care less about me! You just want to show everyone you are better than them and act like you are so holy!”

This tirade went on for about five minutes, but lasted for an eternity – it seemed to me anyway. The funny thing was, this was decades earlier when our society wasn’t quite as turned off to cold call invitations. But this house was maybe a few hundred feet from our church building. I was totally shocked to hear such negative words directed at my character.

I have since learned to not take this kind of thing personally (I very much recommend a special brand of duck-feather oil – you will live a happier and longer life!)

Anyhoo… yeah, this blew a little wind out of my sails at the time. What shocked me was that this lady had me all wrong. Or did she?

As I considered her words, I realized that she was wrong in that I wasn’t out there to make anyone feel bad, or think i was more holy than they. I was out to merely be used by God to offer eternal hope to people.

At the same time, she was also right – I did NOT care about her personally. I mean, how could I? I had never met her. Sometimes we need to show people we care before we do anything else. This woman had probably been preached to and “evangelized” many times before by well-meaning church people, or others not as well-meaning.

I have learned that I need God’s compassion for others. I have seen that when I show someone care, concern, compassion, they are very open to hearing anything I have to say.

I used to think it was what I KNEW that would change the world. Now I know that it isn’t about what I KNOW, its about how deeply I CARE. True love and compassion has moved many mountains in our world.

Ask God to give you His compassion for others. And then, once you care, ask Him to show you how to show that love and concern.

The secret lies not in KNOWING, the SECRET IS – CARING!

Until Next Time
Jeff

Check out updates for my upcoming book with co-author MIKE STEHR at https://www.facebook.com/GetTheLifeBook


The Greatest

In Luke 9:46 we have recorded a rather hilarious event that took place among the disciples. Apparently they felt it was necessary to establish a pecking order among themselves early on. This of course resulted in an argument – and the ones who were the most outspoken basically “got dibs” on the titles such as “CEO, CFO, P, VP ” and other key “VIP” titles.

There is an entire study on the phenomenon of how and why people choose to rule over other people in sociology. It’s simply human nature – we need a leader, and leaders need to be followed.

I remember one person on my high school who was always running for some kind of office at school. I know people “say” they do this so they can better “serve” the group or body at large, but many times one gets the feeling they are on some kind of power trip and feel the need to lead. Politicians call themselves “public servants” but many times they seem to want others to do the serving while they “lord it over” them.

Stories like “Lost ” or “Lord of the Flies” remind us that people naturally look to dominate and usurp one another as they gather together.

It’s no wonder the disciples were doing this too.

It’s funny especially in light of the previous few verses where Jesus just got done warning them that one day men will come and arrest and imprison him. Hardly the ideal situation for these disciples who yearned for “greatness”.

The great thing about “greatness” in the kingdom is that it is very attainable from a practical standpoint. But the way to eternal greatness is counter intuitive to say the least.

If you seek true greatness, you must seek to be the least – the floor mat for all of your friends and acquaintances to walk on and upon. I’m not saying you must be a pushover – but in terms of humility and how we position ourselves on this planet, Jesus is asking us to serve others, to seek his greatness and not our own, to build up others as if they outranked us, and to remove all pretense and false humility since God sees that anyway and he is not fooled.

Is this the greatness you were looking for? If not, there are plenty of opportunities to become great in this world. Enjoy them. It might be the only greatness you will ever see in your eternal life.

Until next time,

Jeff

Now & Later – Part 4 of 4

Yes!

If you have been following my “Now & Later” Series you have made it to the final post…

Congrats are in order!

Basically the notion that we can have good friends both for now and later is not that incredibly deep. Many people have best friends for a lifetime. I wish my life worked that way. I think a person could have a best friend for life if both parties live in the same area their entire lives.

For me, it hasn’t really been possible to stay in the same place. I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried. Somehow I got the reputation of being a bit on the ancy side when it comes to longevity vocationally and locationally. But you know, God’s will is the result of what happens while we are making other plans.

I tend to make a deep friendships – more than many acquaintances. Not that I am shy or socially awkward. I can flutter and flit with the best of them. But I get bored with being merely a social butterfly, barely landing on an individual’s shoulder long enough to get beyond the surface. I like to get deep. Yeah, I like deep. I like to really get real, honest, vulnerable.

“How you doin?” “No… really. Come on man… talk to me.”

Good or bad that’s what I like about human interaction. I hate it when someone is listening to you but their mind couldn’t be further away from you. I remember one time, I was sharing with a prof in college about my classes and some frustrations I was having with another teacher, and my prof fell asleep at his desk while I was in mid-sentence!

He fell asleep!

So I stopped talking and just stared at him.

Okay. So what does one do in moments like that? Should I start yelling? Should I, slip out of my chair and twinkle-toe-it outta there before he wakes up? Should I pour water over his head? Maybe I should have called “911”. But instead, I just stared at him. I was miffed. Finally he awoke and saw me staring at him. He shot right up and said almost on cue, “Well it sounds like your on the right track, brother.” I wished I had been telling him I was a horrible addict with a huge record of felonies. That would have made for an amusing reply from him, assuring me that I must be on the right track.

In his defense, I found out later that he had severe sleep-apnea. Ya think?

You see I’m not out to take from others. I do believe that when it comes to relationships, people are either givers or takers – they are either looking to get, or looking to give.

Ladies, try to stay away from the guys that are looking to get from you. Instead, look for the guys that are givers. I know, I know… easier said than done. Well I have had so many life-changing experiences that have deepened me, stretched me, and really made me more of a giver than a getter.

Have you noticed that those who are ‘getters” tend to keep all of their relationships at the surface level? They are too self-centered to think about giving to others. It would be way too inconvenient for them to give without getting back. I think Now & Later friendships have to be built on an equal exchange of giving and getting. Kinda like withdrawing money from your checking account – you cannot make withdrawals if you never make deposits.

Think about your friendships today. Have you been frustrated with very small withdrawals lately in those relationships? Maybe it’s time to make a big deposit in someone’s life today. Take a moment and write down someone who really could use a deposit from a friend. We all have those special people in our lives that have blessed us in the past.

I think it is time to make a deposit. It’s time to be a giver to that special person

I really hope that once you make that deposit, you will see that friendship grow in fresh new ways! I believe you will!

And when that happens, you will be the NOW & LATER friend that everybody wants!

That’s the real secret of friendships – give to others, even if they don’t always give back. If you ARE a good friend, you will HAVE more friends that you can handle!

Until next Series,

Jeff

Now & Later – Part 3 of 4

So where was I?

Oh yes! Now and Later candy. Yummy. Can use, re-use… even re-re-use.

Only thing is – it will screw up your dental work! Man I could tell you stories of when our mouths would lock up during a Now & Later chewing episode. I remember I used to get scared as I would be chewing away and then after stopping for a rest, my teeth would suddenly bond! I tried and tried to re-open my mouth. But to no avail! The Now & Later candy had fused my teeth together! Lowers stuck to uppers forever and ever AMEN!

I remember in my wonder years that this would almost send me into panic attack – wondering would I ever be able to eat again. Or would I have to get a pry bar and rip it all apart and sort my extracted teeth out later!

I think they could use Now & Later candy as a NASA commercial-grade glue on the space shuttle. Or maybe as a fastener for high speed engines in NASCAR. The stuff is beyond sticky. I could take you to my parents home where we grow up and show you the Now & Later spots in their carpet where that stuff fell, never to be retrieved again. Once it sticks, that’s it until Jesus comes back!

So likewise should great friends stick together.

Friends are to be friends forever (as the Michael W. Smith song says), but many times we just move on to the new friends. Right? “Old friends, meh… what do we need them for? Their OLD!” We want NEW everything in America.

The value of old friends however, goes far beyond the “honeymoon phase”…

Proverbs 17:9 says “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (New NIV)

I recall a time I was struggling with an offense that a very dear friend had done to me. It was quite severe, at least to me and how I experienced it on the receiving end. But at the same time, the close friend that committed this act against me very likely didn’t realize it, and possibly was going through enormous pressure with other things that were tearing their personal life apart at that time. Even though I knew this, the offense still was very real and raw and I pulled away from this friend for a couple years. We didn’t even speak; which was mostly on my end, since the friend would sometimes try to reach out in small ways.

But I wanted them to apologize.

Then I read this verse in Proverbs 17:9 (CAUTION: Beware of just randomly reading your Bible on a given day! You will get hit with a truth bomb like a submarine running into an enemy depth charge! Ha ha. Just kidding. That’s the goal, right?).

I thought about my friend immediately as the Holy Spirit brought… not really conviction, but just a very sweet reasoning. “So Jeff, you and this person were amazing friends for a long time, right?” I had to admit we were. “This person has done more for you than almost anyone has in your entire life.” I thought, yes that is true. Then this douzy hit me – “Jeff, this friend will never ask for forgiveness for this sin. It was way off their radar screen at the time. You do need to forgive them. They did sin against you. But it was more of an unconscious act on their part. They won’t ever understand your side. And it happened several years ago. They wont remember the details of it. Is it worth it to let this sin separate you two forever?”

I had to admit that I valued the friendship much more than holding on to the offense. So I contacted my friend.

To this day we are good friends and our relationship is back on track. I think I would have lost that friendship forever. And NO – I did not bring up that offense!

Maybe you are not like me, maybe you cannot forgive sins that are committed against you by someone close to you. Some sins are obviously much more severe in consequence. But also it is true that EVERY GREAT RELATIONSHIP will be tested by potential offenses on both parties. No one is perfect.

The skill of friendship lies in being able to forgive, as well as communicate offenses in a loving way when its appropriate. This verse suggests as well that their are some offenses that should not even be communicated, just forgiven and forgotten.

We can talk about boundaries and earning the right to be brought into a closer circle of depth in regards to friendships. But for certain kinds of issues, we sometimes need to just move on, and love, and forgive and just – DROP IT ALREADY!

Tune in next time as I address NOW & LATER – PART 4 of 4!

Jeff