Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

friendsMy Facebook profile says that I have 353 friends. My LinkedIn profile claims 614 connections. I think we all know the number of true friends among those is barely double digits. I am thankful for many great relationships with colleagues past and present, with so many people from my years growing up in Winchester, Kentucky that I’m still in contact with, and with those other friends from churches and elsewhere gained along the way that are truly special people in my life.

There is a difference between being an acquaintance and being a friend. With acquaintances, you may go long periods of time without contact and be just fine with that. In fact, cold as it sounds, you can take or leave most acquaintances. You’re cordial when together and perhaps enjoy the company, but they really aren’t an ongoing part of your life, so if circumstances change and you never meet or cross paths again, it doesn’t really matter.

Friends, of course, are different. You think about friends and anticipate the next time you’ll be together. Friends build on histories together and have key events that get remembered, shared repeatedly, and woven into the fabric of their combined life story. Friends enjoy being together whether there is a lot of talk and chatter or whether there is mostly quiet. With friends, a good time isn’t defined by what happens as much as it is by who is present. Friends expect you to be yourself even with your oddities and shortcomings. Friends forgive you; they don’t hold grudges. Friends come to your aid of their own accord when you’re down or down on your luck. They give without any expectation of return. They comfort you, challenge you, defend you, encourage you. Friends make you laugh at life and at yourself. The thought of a good friend brings a smile to your face.

I count myself fortunate to have friends that go back to high school days. I may not see them in person very often, but Facebook has been an avenue of keeping those relationships alive. I’m thankful for friends I’ve had since college – relationships formed in that critical period of life that have withstood the test of time. I’m thankful for dear friends I’ve gained through churches where I’ve served on the ministerial staff or been a member. I’m thankful for the added bonus of some work relationships turning into friendships that outlive working together at a company. I’m thankful for those special, closest friends where conversations just seem to pick up wherever we left off regardless of how much time has separated our being together.

We don’t need a lot of friends in our lives, but we do need some. I am thankful for all the special people in my life that I call friend.

Thank you, God, for my friends.

image from toddstocker.wordpress.com

image from toddstocker.wordpress.com

Many of you have probably seen others posting daily notes on social media this month about things they are thankful for. Perhaps you, too, are sharing your “30 Days of Thankfulness”  messages publicly. The timing of the thankfulness theme is tied to the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

I have not done that, but it would be unfortunate not to reflect in a series of posts here about those people, circumstances, things, etc. for which I am most thankful. So today I begin a daily reflection on the theme of thankfulness. I’m not going for any set number of posts on the topic. I’ll write about those that most readily stand out to me over the next several days and then I’ll stop. Simple as that.

In the long list of that for which I’m thankful, it’s difficult to start with anything besides family.

I was blessed to be born into a family with wonderful parents who still are a source of great joy, pride, and good times together. If I was to start saying “thank you” now to my parents for all that they mean to me, and if I was to repeat it every second for all the years ahead of me that I have life and breath, it would not be enough. There is no way to repay such an example of love.

I am thankful for the memory of my sweet sister who succumbed to cancer many years ago. Her face may be frozen in time in my thoughts at the age of 40, but life with her for nearly four decades still brings joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

Living on the same street growing up as both sets of grandparents was a treat that few enjoy, and a source of countless times together. A childhood of very close extended family connections and frequent get-togethers made family a core part of who I was and am and always will be. Life with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great grandparents and more in the small town of Winchester, Kentucky was a way of life that shapes a person and his/her familial expectations forever. I would not have it any other way. I realize many on this earth did not have it so lucky growing up with a close, extended family. I am thankful to be one who did, and I am especially grateful that many of those relationships continue.

As an adult, the meaning of family expanded. I’ve been married to Linda for over 34 years. I am thankful for a faithful, loving wife and for a marriage that will last til death do us part. We had some skeptics in our college days when I asked her to marry me after we had only dated for two weeks. Of course, she took three months to answer the question and we didn’t get married for over a year later, but I think we’ve proved the skeptics wrong after 34 years.

We have two grown sons – Brian and Jason. Jason extended the family by marrying Lauren and then the two of them gave us our first grandchild, Abby. I am thankful for the family joined to ours through the marriage of Jason and Lauren – good, good people who are a pleasure to be around.

I am thankful for Linda’s parents, Jean and her late husband, Chuck, and Linda’s sister, Jill. I am thankful for memories of Linda’s wonderful grandmother and the times at her house in St. Louis.

With most families, things like jobs, educational pursuits, marriage and wanderlust can eventually limit the frequency of times family members get together. We inevitably end up feeling closer to some than to others for a variety of reasons, but the bonds of family are still lasting. The impact of earlier years together continues. The potential of future endeavors with new family members creates new opportunities and defines what family looks like to the next generation.

Anyone without a family is missing a critical component of life as it is meant to be. Those estranged from their family are missing out on greater possibilities and experiences that only come through those familial ties. With so many around us in such circumstances, consider reaching out this holiday season and inviting them to experience the holidays with your family. You may just redefine “family” for yourself and others by doing so.

I am blessed in many aspects of life. I am truly thankful for family past, present, and future that make up the core, enduring relationships I have on this earth.

Thank you, God, for my family.

AloneA few weeks ago I saw a Facebook post from someone I follow that read: “Whoever apologizes first is bravest. Whoever forgives first is strongest. Whoever forgets first is happiest.” A Web search will reveal other slight variations of the quote. I’m not sure to whom the quote should be attributed, but it’s wise regardless of its origin.

Relationships can be tricky. Obstacles arise and barriers get erected over time that can easily become permanent if we aren’t careful. We can become satisfied with the new normal of broken relationships, allowing them to continue because in one sense that is easier than trying to mend what is broken.

There is a cost that comes with broken relationships, however. The distrust, the ill will, the emotional toll of failing to forgive, and the distraction of living in the past rather than working together for a better future are just some of the costs of failing to be reconciled with others. It’s hard to imagine many (if any) scenarios where the cost is worth it.

I saw the above quote about the same time last month I finished reading again the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. After being sold into slavery by his older brothers, Joseph eventually revealed himself to his surprised and frightened brothers years later when Joseph was the #2 man in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh in power. The brothers were immediately terrified that Joseph might take revenge for their awful action from years earlier, but instead he forgave them, saw the good that God had worked in the midst of a bad situation, and was reconciled to his brothers.

You and I probably don’t have dramatic stories like Joseph to tell, but chances are good that we have some relationships in need of reconciliation. The damage may be due to the action of the other person. We may be perfectly justified in the eyes of the world for not having anything to do with others who have knowingly wronged or harmed us. The broken relationship may be between you and a (previous) friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, etc. But because continuing to reinforce barriers between yourself and others consumes time and energy best spent on other more positive endeavors, isn’t it better to put an end to such negative chapters and then move forward in a fresh way – if not for the benefit of the other person, at least for your own mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical health? Isn’t that the more mature response, even if it requires you to swallow a little pride along the way? It may not be easy to do, but most worthwhile endeavors aren’t easy.

“Whoever apologizes first is bravest. Whoever forgives first is strongest. Whoever forgets first is happiest.”

In Essentials UnityAround the year 1627 a German Lutheran theologian named Rupertus Meldenius wrote a small tract on the subject of Christian unity. The tract was written, according to an article by Dr. Mark Ross, “during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), a bloody time in European history in which religious tensions played a significant role.” From that tract written by a theologian otherwise unknown to most of us came a phrase I have heard many times in my life: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” It is a wise bit of advice we would do well to remember today, and not just in the context of religious beliefs and practice.

To break the phrase down a bit just to make sure we understand, the first part – “in essentials unity” – assumes that there are some things on which we must agree and around which we must be unified. In the original context, this contains the most basic elements of the Christian faith. This is no small task to define, even for Christians who find themselves divided from other expressions of the Christian faith around the world to varying degrees. The challenge, then, is to define what those non-negotiable essentials are and to hold firm to them regardless of what nonbelievers and others may say. The unity sought is not unity for the sake of unity, but unity around a common core belief and experience.

The second part of the phrase is “in non-essentials liberty.” This means that we must willingly admit that there are some beliefs and practices of lesser importance about which we can legitimately disagree but still get along with one another and not feel compelled to condemn or force others into our way of thinking and behaving. We might call it agreeing to disagree. It is important to note that this is not a replacement for the first phrase above; there is still that core component on which we should agree, but there are many gray areas where people of equal faith and motive should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to practice as they deem best.

The final part of the phrase is “in all things charity.” In this case, charity means love and comes from the Latin word for love, caritas. Bottom line: whether we agree or disagree with others in matters of faith or practice, we are to demonstrate love in our attitudes and in our actions. We do not have the biblical option of being unloving.

As I consider the wisdom of “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity,” my thoughts first go to application of that wisdom in the Christian context originally intended by Meldenius. For a brief but good discussion from that angle, I refer you to the article by Mark Ross. It seems to me, though, that there is great value in the phrase today apart from a religious context as well.

For example, we just witnessed the failure of both major political parties in the U. S. House and Senate (and White House) as they spent weeks calling each other names and acting like immature children rather than doing the job they are elected and are paid very generously to do. Unity? Not in this political theater. Liberty? No way. The prevailing attitude is “it’s my way or the highway.” Charity (love)? Nothing about political life hints of that. We ought to have the right to expect of our politicians that some core, basic beliefs as Americans unite us. We ought to expect them to be civil as they agree to disagree. They ought to have the decency we try to teach preschoolers to treat others along the way with basic goodness and kindness, if not heart-felt love. Is that too much to ask? I realize that I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen, but is it too much to ask? I think not.

My encouragement to you today is to consider those groups, affiliations, memberships, etc. that you share with others and then consider the wisdom of “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” How might your attitude and behavior be positively shaped by following that advice? What would happen if we determined to treat others around us with kindness – even love – in the midst of our differences?

Our world would be a better place.

Lessons From My Dog

Posted: October 18, 2013 in Pets
Tags: , , , ,
DogBeard

Callie helping me form a dog beard

For years I’ve kept a tall poster hanging beside my favorite chair. The poster is titled “All I Need to Know About Life I Learned From my Dog.” It contains the following advice which makes perfect sense for dogs and to some extent for people, although I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of all the suggestions from a human standpoint:

  • If you stare at someone long enough, eventually you will get what you want.
  • Be direct with people; let them know exactly how you feel by piddling on their shoes.
  • When it comes to having sex, if at first you don’t succeed, beg.
  • Be aware of when to hold your tongue and when to use it.
  • Leave room in your schedule for a good nap.
  • Always give people a friendly greeting; a cold nose in the crotch is effective.
  • Don’t go out without I.D.
  • When you do something wrong, always take responsibility (as soon as you’re dragged out from under the bed).
  • If it’s not wet and sloppy, it’s not a real kiss.
  • When you go out into the world, remember: always take time to smell the roses…and the trees, the grass, the rocks, the street, the fire hydrants…

We learn a lot about life from the magnificent creatures and creation around us. I marvel every day at the simple fact that another species lives contentedly in our home as a member of the family. I’m amazed that we seem to understand each other perfectly. The joy the relationship brings is satisfying and consistent – a source of comfort every day. I shake my head in wonder at the depth of love we share, and the unlikeliness of how it all came to pass walking past a Humane Society location in a pet supply store over three years ago.

There is much more to life and this universe than what we humans sometimes imagine in our self-centered, human-centered perspective. This day and every day I am thankful to be part of a larger story – one that involves the mystery, joy, and unconditional love of a sweet little canine friend, Callie, who is such a big part of my world. I’m an even bigger part of her world. I don’t understand how it all works, but it does, and I am thankful.