Celebrating the Friendships That Didn’t Last a Lifetime

They all cried as they embraced and kissed him [Paul] good-bye. They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship. Acts 2:37-38 NLT

Growing up back in the 20th century, long before Facebook and social media, a pastor or Sabbath School teacher we all loved would move away. It seemed there would always be one member of the congregation or Sabbath School class who would keep in fairly regular contact with the pastor after he moved. Through this member we would hear about the pastor’s current mission trips and his daughter’s graduation and marriage. Looking back now, it never occurred to me to get the former pastor’s contact information. It was enough to hear the stories through that one member who kept in contact, and I suppose subconsciously in the back of my mind, I assumed if I ever needed to talk to the former pastor again personally, all I had to do was get his number from that one member who had it. Looking back, before social media, we still had a healthy and balanced way to stay in touch. 

Often times I read memes about lifelong friendships and how wonderful they are-and yes they are! I treasure my friends that I discuss current events with, while remembering going through Watergate together. A couple weeks ago I shared a story about a lifelong friend who had to remind me of an accident I had decades ago. That was very special albeit embarrassing. yes, lifelong friendships are very special, but let’s not let that distract from the specialness of the friendships that didn’t last a lifetime. 

While I was in first grade my family moved into a home just a couple blocks from the church school, so I moved with them. Next door lived “Hans” who was about my exact age. In no time we were playing together all the time. He was into puppetry, and we even did a puppet skit on a local TV cable station. We played super heroes and on certain summer nights would sleep outside in the treehouse, with the plans of waking up at 4am to go fight crime. Looking back I thank God I never could wake him up. No telling what trouble we would have ran into. Later in middle school we started drifting apart, and in our teens while we still lived next door we seldom saw each other at all. He had his public school friends and his music. Even as a little boy he loved playing the “Entertainer” on the piano with his front door wide open. To this day I can’t hear that song without thinking of “Hans.” I digress. Anyway Hans and I drifted apart, and for the last few years we were neighbors we were basically total strangers. However, there were times in high school where I was struggling with Algebra and Geometry.  “Hans” was great at math, and would let me come over so he could explain it to me. I would thank him, and he would express his pleasure at being able to help me, then I would go back home. That was the extent of our friendship at that point. 

At the turn of the 21st century, I learned from his sister that “Hans’ was living in New York City. (Thankfully his sister did indeed turn out to be a lifelong friend.) About this time I got my first computer with Internet capabilities, and had some questions. “Hans” was into computers so I called him up, and once again he enthusiastically helped me out. Once again, I thanked him, he said I was welcome, we hung up and have never spoken since. Ever since 7th or 8th grade “Hans” has had his own friends, hobbies, career and a life that I simply haven’t fit into since around 6th grade. I love staying in touch with people. I love lifelong friends. At the same time I realize it is not practical or even healthy and balanced to expect everyone from my past to still be an active friend today. That would be about as silly as a playwriter putting the entire cast into every single scene. The entire cast does not belong in every single scene, not even the star. It would be about as crazy as a field goal kicker expecting his coach to put him in on every play. That’s not how it works or how you win games. 

Fact is, there is a time for actors, once they have served their purpose, to make their final exit from the play. Solomon’s wisdom teaches us there is a purpose for every season, but seasons change and so do our needs, and so do the needs of our friends. But while we celebrate lifelong friendships, lets remember the wisdom of Solomon and also celebrate those wonderful friendships that did not last a lifetime. They still served their purpose. Every friendship howbeit ever so brief, serves a purpose and brings a lesson. While my friend “Hans” had moved on with his life, and really did not need me in it, he was still there when I needed him for Algebra. Through him I have learned how to move on in my life and leave some people alone, while leaving the door wide open for that moment when I may actually be able to serve them again. That’s why I also came up with the analogy of the field goal kicker. While the field goal kicker is not needed on every play, he is needed to be on the sidelines throughout the entire game for that one moment he is needed to kick the winning field goal as time expires. Just because the coach seldom puts the kicker in on a play does not mean he does not value the kicker-he does! Just because a friend called another friend for lunch today without calling you does not mean your friend does not value you. We don’t have to be in on every “play” to be valued and appreciated. 

Let’s learn from the stranger who helped us fix that flat tire and then disappeared into the night never to be seen again. He came and taught us kindness, served his purpose and exited the scene. He doesn’t even need to exchange Christmas cards. He taught us a lesson, served his purpose and that was enough. 

Let’s learn from the Sabbath School teacher who harped on that one idea all the time till it drove you crazy. You haven’t seen or heard from her since the turn of the century. But sitting in Sabbath School class last week a question came up and you remembered what she said so many years ago. You used it to help someone last Sabbath understand the point a little more clearly. 

My ex-fiancé dumped me over 20 years ago, but I still remember how she showed me to add sour cream to mashed potatoes and gravy. I still love making them that way to this day. And as I look back, I learned some important lessons from that relationship that are more important than mashed potatoes and gravy. I learned some hard lessons that have helped me in my relationships today. I am glad she was a part of my life! 

While the blessings of lifelong friendships are amazing beyond words, lets not forget to celebrate the friendships that didn’t last a lifetime. After all, those friendships were not in vain even though they did not last. They served their purpose and they taught us valuable lessons that last a lifetime. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 23 (Beyond the Manger,Loneliness)

I am writing today from my parent's beautiful icy home near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I am writing today from my parent’s beautiful icy home near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:5 NKJV

I love being with my family and friends. I love people. But you know what? I also enjoy being a lone. When I moved to Texas, 20 years ago, there was no texting or -email (that I knew of at least) and it took time to make friends. So, I would go to restaurants by myself, and bring a notepad and write hand written letters home, the kind that you mail with a stamp, to family and friends while I enjoyed my meal. However, soon I started making lots of friends in Texas, and so I had people to go dine with, and so the letter writing stopped.

Fast forward to just a few years ago, living in Tampa Florida now.  I was sitting at a stop light, looking at a nice restaurant on the corner, which for some reason reminded my of my letter writing days long ago. I decided, even though I have lots of friends I enjoy dining with here in Florida, that I kind of miss the days when I would go into a restaurant alone and write old fashioned hand written letters, so I did so!

I don’t feel lonely when I am eating by myself. I don’t feel lonely when I take a solo bike ride down the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. I don’t feel lonely when I enjoy a good book on a park bench near the beach. I know I have friends even if they are not right with me at the moment. I know they are just a call or text away. So what does make me feel lonely? When people misunderstand me. When people misjudge my motives and intentions. When that happens it does not matter how many people are around. If they don’t understand me, that makes me feel alone. Thankfully I have good friends who are very understanding. Still, I think there are moments in our lives when we at least “feel” like no one understands. That can be a very lonely feeling.

Jesus knows how that feels.

 Yet through childhood, youth, and manhood, Jesus walked alone. In His purity and His faithfulness, He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him. He carried the awful weight of responsibility for the salvation of men. He knew that unless there was a decided change in the principles and purposes of the human race, all would be lost. This was the burden of His soul, and none could appreciate the weight that rested upon Him. Filled with intense purpose, He carried out the design of His life that He Himself should be the light of men.  -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 92 

We can ease that loneliness by joining Jesus in His cause. When we lay aside our own ambitions and join Jesus in His ambitions,  we have fellowship with Him.  In Gethsemane, Jesus longed for someone to pray with Him. Everyone was too sleepy and tired to appreciate what was going on at the moment. Jesus freely excused their weakness and human flesh, while in His humanity He longed for fellowship and someone to pray with. Some one to understand and join in His sufferings. It is not too late. We can have fellowship with Jesus today, by appreciating His sacrifice and praying with Him for the salvation of others, so that His sacrifice will not be in vain.

Just a few days before Jesus’ death, a woman anointed him with perfume. This was not just any perfume. This perfume was very expensive and potent. Back in those days, people did not shower every day, and so the perfume was made to last for days to make up for that. This perfume was especially rich and potent. Just a few days later, Jesus was hanging on the cross. When the people jeered and mocked Him, and Jesus in His humanity was tempted to think that He was alone, He pushed his feet into the cruel spikes, the heave Himself up, so He could take a breath. As He inhaled He took in the aroma of the perfume poured all over Him just a few days earlier. The aroma reminded Him, there is someone who cares and understands! It eased His  human loneliness.

So today, our prayers and gifts for the cause of Jesus are an aroma that Jesus loves to breathe, knowing His sacrifice was not in vain. He is not alone. We have fellowship in His sufferings and in His glory, and He has fellowship with us!

Worship: In Spirit and in Truth

I am writing today from my beautiful hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

This week’s SS lesson reminds me of an article I wrote several years ago before I moved from Fort Worth, Texas to Tampa Florida. How cool is that? Writing in Tulsa about an article I wrote in Fort Worth about moving to Tampa Florida. After living over seven years in Tampa now, it is interesting to look back at my perspective before I made that move. I also hope this gives us some perspective as we look at this week’s SS lesson. Here is the article:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  John 4:24

With the possibility now, of me moving to Florida where I will be hundreds of miles from any of my friends, it has me thinking a lot lately about my friends and what their friendships mean to me. In light of this, I found something in the above verse that is very comforting to me. I am sure that you have friends that no matter how long you are apart from them, once you get together, your friendship resumes right where it left off as though you had never been apart. This may sound weird, but maybe in one dimension you never were apart! We have physical dimensions such as time and space, but have you ever thought that there is another dimension we can be in that is not bound by time or space? To me, that dimension is the Holy Spirit. I believe why many of our Christian friendships take up right where they left off even after long periods of no physical contact is because we have actually been together the whole time “in the Spirit!”  Why do those friendships take up right where they left off as though no time has passed by? Because we are in the great “ I AM”. With God there is no time. He is in one eternal now. He is not the “I WAS” or “ I WILL BE”, He is the I AM.  Same with space, The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is with our Christian friends, so if we are in the Spirit and our friends are in the Spirit then we are together.

As a matter of fact, all the love we receive from our friends actually comes from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if I leave my friends in Texas and go to Florida and make new friends there, I am still receiving the exact same love I had in Texas. Love does not come from human beings. We can not generate love; all we can do is let the Holy Spirit’s love flow through us. Therefore, the love I receive from people half way across the world is the same exact love I receive from the people I live with right here. It all comes from God. So as long as you have God’s love you can’t miss a friends love, because the only love they gave you came from God and He is still with you!

I am so thankful for all my friends whom I can share God’s love with! Thank you for being a part of my life. I hope God has been able to love you through me as we worship Him in Spirit.