Finding Friends

A friend of mine died last fall, and it got me thinking. This is one way I process, I write things out trying to make sense of them. Have you ever had someone in your life who just lights up when they see you? Feels good doesn’t it? Bill was like that. He’d light up when he saw me, pour a cup of coffee, say “hi kiddo,” sit down and just talk about anything and everything. I’m gonna miss Bill, he taught me a lot about friendship and about life.

I’m sure everyone has seen that email chain that’s gone around that says “friends for a season, a life time… etc” and listing the purpose of each. I get it about once a month or so, and now when i want it, I can’t find it. Figures.

Having moved over 20 times in my life, it wasn’t until I came to Tulsa that I really started makeing friends – that lasted more than six months, and got attached to people. I mean really attached. But then something happened, several died, and I was beside myself because I’d never had to experience that before. When you move a lot, friends ships are kind of like – fraternity rushes. You rush in, make as many surface friends and possible, but you don’t have time to get close because you know you’ll be gone again in a few months or a year. Good byes don’t hurt as much if you aren’t vested in the relationship.

I read a pretty cool interview with Reba McEntyre in one of my magazines this week and she talked about girlfriends. It was really a promo piece for her new CD “Duets” and it was more than just a promo piece if that makes sense. Reba opened up about some big losses in her life, like the time a plane carrying her crew crashed and eight people who were very close to her died. She went on to say that after that, she didn’t want to be friends with anyone anymore – it hurt to much to lose them. Somewhere in her healing she discovered that staying isolated and refusing to connect kept her from builiding memories and from growing. People do come and go in our lives, and it’s important that we build memories. It’s the memories that keep us going long after they are gone.

I liked that story a lot. four years ago our family went through too many changes and it was hard on all of us. We changed churches, our school closed down, and ten of my friends died from cancer or sudden heart attacks. My three main circles of support were suddenly, radically changed. To add insult to injury, I was deeply hurt by a relationship and I’d never really expereinced that before either, and I had no clue what to do about that. For a while there, I felt like the kiss of death woman and didnt’ want to attach to anyone ever again. It showed.

Someone tells me I have a “vulnerable” trait about me which makes me endearing? i have no idea what that means. She just smiled and said it’s not always a bad thing you know, being vulnerable. I’ll have to chew on that one for a while. After losing friends and being hurt, I’d decided “vulnerable” must be a a defect of character and I needed to get rid of it completely. My friend disagrees. Like I said, I’ll have to chew on that one for a while.

I’ve slowly and surely started making new friends and the level of friendships are all different. Some are myspace friends, people I may never meet in real life – or I may, but there is still a connection there. We share things and talk about stuff. It’s safe really. I’ve made new friends in my church who are all at different stages in life. Some of young kids, some have no kids, some have grandkids. We all learn from each other. And I’m making friends at my kids school. I don’t work outside the home anymore because of my son’s epilepsy, so finding places to meet people has been a little challenging. Volunteering opens doors though. And I”m doing that now. – I’m not a good stay at home kind of gal, I actually climb the walls. I’m a social bug, I hate being alone for too long.

I was explaining a friendship to someone this weekend. Chonda Pierce is coming to Tulsa, and I’m one of her Turbo hostesses. She has women in each city that helps promote her show and gets to help during the show sometimes. We work with her best friend Alison, and with her promoters. I was passing out fliers at my church and sitting at a table was one of my call me in the middle of the night if you need me girlfriends was sitting there, along with a say-hello-but-not-much-else friend was there too. I handed them the fliers and said “my girlfriend is coming back.” One gal knew what I was talking about, but the say hello gal wanted me to expound on that a bit. We settled on – she knows who I am and I know who she is and we talk when she is in town, and sometimes email each other – girlfriend. I drive her where she needs to be, and we get to talk mom stuff – friend – when she is here. I call that a girlfriend too.

It’s okay to have friends like that too. It’s a step up from say hello, but not quite call me in the middle of the night. But it’s still a relationship.

When I was working in a church a few years back, I made a different kind of friend. Bill was an elder at the church and he was in his 70’s or early 80’s. He’d come in once or twice a week, pour a cup of coffee and just chat with us. I looked forward to his visits. he was always happy to see me, and very warm and very kind. He’d tell me stories about WWII (he was a bomber pilot), about his kids, about golf, and about his brother in California. I’ll admit that at first, I didn’t’ know what to make of his visits, I thought perhaps he was just lonely, and maybe he was. But after a while I really looked forward to them. he was a nice man.

One day Bill showed up and just sat in the hall. It was the middle of the week, and he looked lost so one of the gals went out to ask if he was okay. He said he was meeting someone there to get the coffee made for church (they did that together on Sunday Mornings and this wasn’t Sunday). He got agitated when she told him it was the wrong day, but he went home.

Two weeks later, he did it again. this time we called his son to come get him. And just like that, my friend was gone. He never came back. Old age does that. Poor Bill had taken a detour in his memory, I think they call it dementia. On top of the dementia, he was having mini-strokes they found out and he could no longer live alone. His son moved him to an assisted living place, and I could see him if I wanted but please know, he won’t remember me. I hate getting old.

Bill died on a Sunday and his was on Wednesday. I went to say goodbye to a friend. Saying goodbye isn’t as hard when you can remember the first time you said hello and all the steps in between.

I have good memories of Bill. And it’s those good memories that keep me going. Building positive memories makes saying goodbye worth it.

The LORD Calls Samuel

The LORD Calls Samuel

The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of
the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’ ”

Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the LORD. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.” Samuel answered, “Here I am.” “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.” The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD.

The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel
through his word.

I’m studying Samuel right now. It’s an interesting study, looking back at the Old Testament. It starts with Eli, and high priest and ends with King David. It’s all about leadership. I’m calling it the Good, the bad and the Ugly. I’m really more of a Jonah than a Samuel. I hate conflict, my face turns red, I look like I’m going to cry, and I sound angry when in reality, I’m just snotfaced scared and nothing more, especially if the person I’m disagreeing with, is someone I admire and whose approval means a lot to me.

If taking on the Characteristics of Samuel is what is required of being a leader, God and I have a lot of work to do.

Samuel is the son of Hannah. Hannah was barren and cried out to God with such passion and fever that Eli thought she was drunk. She wasn’t, but she was hurting. She wanted a baby, and she promised God if he gave her one, she’d dedicate him back to the Lord. He did and so did she. She gave her son, Samuel, to Eli to raise as a priest.

Samuel grows up, and Eli’s own sons do all kinds of things against God and even though Eli rebukes his own sons, they don’t listen so God eventually replaces Eli. Guess who’s job it is to tell him? Yep. Samuel. Poor kid – God speaks to him for the first time, and it’s a message to his mentor of “You blew it, and you’re being replaced, with me.” Yuck.

Can you imagine, being alone in your room and hearing God call out to you? God doesn’t do that to me, thankfully. If he did, I’d think I was crazy. God choses to speak to my heart through nature, people, and his Word. Even worse though with this young man Samuel, is God not only called out to him, he had a message that would force Samuel to confront his mentor. I for one think, if God wants to speak to me, that is be good news, rather than this. Couldn’t God have started out with a nice greeting? You know, something “Hey Samuel, how ya doing? I remember when your mother asked for you. She was so joyous when she had you.” Something simple and happy. But no, that’s not what God did. Which probably explains why God is God, and I am not.

But that’s not what God did.

God uses Samuel to deliver a lot of hard to hear messages. It’s Samuel that get’s replaced for a King (Saul), it’s Samuel that confronts Saul, and it’s Samuel that annoints King David when he’s still a shepherd.

Samuel gets to do a lot of unfun things. I don’t want to be a Samuel. I’m too much of a people pleaser for that. But still, I can learn a lot from Samuel.

  1. He told the truth in love
  2. He was more afraid of God than he was his mentors
  3. He never abandoned those he loved – including Isreal. Even after they replaced him with a King, he still stayed close by to pray for and support.

Neat kind of Guy Samuel.

I’m not there. I hide the truth through acquiescence more often than not, I’m more afraid of my mentors than I am God, I’d rather run away and leave, than stay and confront and work through.

I’m not Samuel, but I can learn from him.

Broken Limbs yes, Broken Life? No…

Just a short blog really. Ton’s to write about, but little time at the moment. I’m too busy enjoying my kids and my husband during Christmas break.

I will write this: My day began with emails from some CCA people. (CCA is the Christian Comedy Association, with members like Chonda Pierce, Ken Davis, Nazarath, and other Christian speakers and artists too numerous to mention, all of us Christian.) It started with a word of encouragement from our President of CCA, followed by an Amen from one member. Another shared the wisdom of how important it is *not* to contract food poisoning while in Cambodia on New Years (his web page is ironically called – he’s a juggler) and then my next email following this chain was another exhortation for the new years.

Life’s up’s and downs in one chain. All I could do was look at those emails (from a few of my hero’s in the faith and industry) and consider myself blessed beyond measure, that God would allow me to be part of such an amazing group of speakers, comics, and evangelists.
2007 was a rough year for some of us, depression, cancer, epilepsy, ministry struggles, and what not. A friend lost her nephew to suicide last night, and another lost her husband this morning. More of life already unfolding. And yet “because of the Lord’s Great love, we know that we will not be consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. And no matter what this day brings, His faithfulness is great. (lam 3:22-33)

On the morning of the great Tulsa ice storm, I sat on my back porch with my coffee wrapped in a blanket, whining at God about the devastation taking place right before my eyes. Standing proud and presently unharmed was my maple tree. She was my lone tree. The only one left. So I started talking to her, much like an old friend. “You’re strong you know. Beautiful. This storm doesn’t mean anything. You are a Maple Tree. Created to last. Created to withstand harsh winters. Created to give fruit (maple syrup) to other’s. You are important. Hang in there.”
Great words of affirmation – even if it was for a tree. Then I started talking to God. Asking him to spare my last remaining tree. The one my kids climb. The one that is about 20 years old. No, it doesn’t look like much – but it’s my tree God. And then he whispered in my heart, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.”

Wasn’t that cool of God? Speaking to my heart in the storm. Reminding me of his faithfulness. Putting a scripture on my heart just when I needed it most. I snuggled down in my blanket with my cup of coffee in my hands for warmth, and felt for a moment, cozy and safe in His arms.

Then from out of nowhere, I hear this C-A-R-A-C-K!!!!

Down falls the biggest branch from my sad maple tree.

“Oh Thanks a lot God!, Great Visual! Here I am all happy to be part of your vine – YOU put that verse on my heart. It’s not like I made it up you know~! Yeah, I’m comforted.
With that, more branches fell.

This time, I hunkered back down in my blanket, not in secure warmth, but more like a childish pout. He could have left me like that, but he didn’t. Again I heard his whisper, “You don’t get it, do you? YOU’RE not that tree, and my vine? Nothing can snatch you away, no storm, no weight, no sin. Your name is carved into my hand, and you are mine.”

You don’t have to drive far to see how badly this last storm whiped out some of our greatest trees. It’ll be a long time before Tulsa looks the same. Our streets are lined with the debris, waiting for FEMA to pick it up. And yet, God’s word remains.

His mercies are new each day, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 31-39

And in case someone hasn’t told you lately. “You’re strong you know. And when you’re not feeling so strong, remember that God is stronger. You are beautiful. This present storm in your life doesn’t mean anything. You might be pressed, but you will not be crushed by it’s weight. You are created to last. Created to withstand harsh winters and sweet summers. Created to bear fruit to other’s. You are important, to God and to me. Hang in there.”
Speak to the storms in your life, and most importantly speak to God.

God Bless you all in 2008