Sunday, June 24, 2007

Donde Esta Alison?!!! And the Gift of Friendship...

Okay, I'm getting concerned now. I think we should have heard something more from Alison by now... Let's pray her through, folks!

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At church this morning, I learned this is Friendship Week. (Hey, I don't get out much or turn on the TV much.) Un Kyong, a pew mate of mine, gave me a necklace she made herself. The wonderful thing about her gift is that she gave it to me before either of us knew this was going to be a service about friendships. When we found out the sermon topic, we both looked at each other and tears filled our eyes. AND WE HARDLY KNOW EACH OTHER, except for praising and worshiping together and hugging and hello-ing and goodbye-ing!

It's amazing what sitting in a pew with others can do to and for you. I arrived at CFAN alone and was a stranger. Over time, I have developed "pew friendships" with three or four people. We have never visited one another's homes or gone to lunch together, but we feel like family somehow...

The lady who sits on my right in church, Marian Hawkins, is in her late 70's (I estimate). I learned just this year that she has been an extra in a few movies. She was in a scene in SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. She walks with a cane and this week she is back east visiting with a sister she has not seen in 38 years. Their finances have not allowed them to get together in all that time. Some benevolent soul blessed her with an airline ticket (wish I had been financially able to give the blessing; my heart certainly wanted to do it!) and that's where she is today. I can't wait to hear how it went next Sunday when I see her again.

On my left often sits either Un Kyong or Grace Choe, two Asian Americans. There is a bit of a language barrier and it always embarrasses me a little to communicate with either of them because I have a hard time understanding what they say in response. Part of this is their accents, part of it is the public address system in the Worship Center which is always broadcasting in the upper decibel stratosphere, making it hard to hear oneself think, let alone to hear another person speaking. (I belong to a large church, You can catch today's sermon about friendships on the web at this address in a day or so -- and I highly recommend that you do!) But I do know one thing -- the look of affection and the hugs I exchange with my pew partners are among the most genuine I have ever received. I know they love me and that they pray for me, as I do for them. I can see why "the family that prays together stays together" in so many cases. You can't get "naked" before God in church or at home and not feel that only His grace will get you through the encounter. These folks also do this, sitting beside me, and so we know we have been together when the refining of our souls has been going on. That creates a bond between us. The love and forgiveness and grace that each receives from above gets dispersed and flows out to the person you sit next to... I think that's it.

Heaven will be like this. All nations will be represented and the language of love and grace will be spoken fluently!

Un took a copy of STAR TREK Magazine home, wanting to read my interview about De. I have no idea if she is a STAR TREK fan or if she has even a fraction of a clue about who De was or what he did -- but that's what friendship does: It expresses great enthusiasm for whatever it is in your life that animates you. Friendship says, "What you consider important matters to me. Let me find out more about it, because then I will know and cherish your heart songs better."

I could learn a lot from my pew friends... about reaching out and not feeling like I'm imposing if I want to know someone better. I have a real problem figuring out how to get to know people better. My life is an open book (an open FOUR books to date!), so people know me pretty well, at least on paper, but I have never felt comfortable asking them to open up about themselves. It seems to me to be an invasion of their privacy to ask. I think, "They will tell me whatever they want me to know about them whenever they decide to tell me. Don't force the issue."

But this respect for their timing may make me seem unconcerned about them or uninterested in them. I'm not unconcerned or uninterested. My "aloofness" is my promise that I will not violate their space or their time without an express invitation!!!

I don't know if this reserve comes from a lifetime of feeling that what I have to offer "ain't much" in the grand scheme of things... or if the essential interests and passions were just ignored or belittled so much as a child that I didn't develop a decent sense of being worth anyone's time. Really, I don't know where it comes from, but this morning's friendship sermon convicted me in a number of ways. It didn't intend to do that, at all. The Holy Spirit was just dealing with me, quite aside from what was being said and shown on the big screen.

I know one thing about me for sure: I'm an amazing friend if you're in crisis. (My De book pretty much proves that point.) But on a day-to-day basis, I feel I'm "intruding" unless you make the first move -- and all subsequent moves -- to include me. I'm an official "fifth wheel"
-- great when you get a flat tire -- but I wonder, now, how good I am at maintaining friendships during the in-between times, when life is pretty much on an even keel...

Not very good...

I don't call my friends. Or family. Ever. Unless they call me first and say, "Call me." I feel I may intrude on them if I call unannounced. Even when I KNOW they would enjoy hearing from me, I hesitate. This is pretty insane. Don't you agree?

I have a handful of friends I have known for thirty years or more. Some of my more recent friends, I know I will have for life -- for the next thirty years and more -- and on into eternity. It has taken me this long to figure out that friendship is a gift God gives us to choose for ourselves new members of our eternal family! Our biological families are usually among our closest friends, but not always -- and not in all cases. We develop friendships over a lifetime that bless and support and help us conquer our fears, get through tough times, and celebrate victories. A good friend warms your heart.

I have not always been a good friend. I'm getting better as I age and as I evolve as a Christian, but there is still a long way to go. This morning's sermon let me know (via self-evaluation) where I succeed and where I can improve as a friend. I am going to ponder this all week in my rare spare time and see how to tweak my "Friendship Action Plan" to make me a better friend.

Loving someone isn't enough unless it somehow translates into loving actions. They don't have to be huge or cost a dime. It can be a gift of time, of holding a hand, of listening, of encouraging... of showing grace and mercy...

Jesus called me his friend. Then he laid down his life to give me eternal friendship with him.

I am supposed to emulate that when I am with friends. Lay down my life and be available in theirs. I didn't even do that at the beach last weekend. I invited my loved ones along and we shared a degree of quality time together, but I did not lay down my life and truly "enter in."
I was protecting "my" time because I feared it was my last free weekend for a long time.

Supposing it had been my last weekend on earth? How would I have acted differently had I known ahead that it would be? (Smile -- I would have insisted to them that God must become first in their lives IMMEDIATELY so that I would be sure to see them all in heaven someday! And in a way I did that, didn't I? My free time that weekend all went to getting to know God better... whenever we weren't swimming, watching a parade, building fires, eating s'mores, runnning in the shallows, etc.)

What kind of strategy is it in Satan's game plan that knows to "Keep her thinking she can't be of much value to anyone one-on-one. Keep her thinking she's a fifth wheel, only good in a crowd once in a while -- whenever someone wants to know about De."

That limits me to being a blessing to De's fans every few months, is what it does. Good strategy, if you're Satan. It makes me feel "too humble" to step out boldly and shout about God from the rooftops.

Thank God for the Internet and blogspots! HERE I can get on my soapbox and shout it from the rooftops:


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