Thursday, August 30, 2007

Good-Byes Are Different Part 2

It was hot outside, about 106 degrees. It is often very hot in Phoenix in the summertime. We were packing up the belongings of Bud, Diana and their family. Shipping them off to Pennsylvania where they hope to begin some new organic churches. Bud and Diana moved here about 10 years ago from the place they were returning. Bud and Diana have meant so much to the organic church we are all a part, ValleyLife Church. Bud is an elder here and has been for almost all of his 10 years with us. Diana had been my office assistant and a major energy in helping to organize our children's time when we met corporately. In the process of packing them up, Diana had some coaching type questions for me so we stepped out of the boxes, cleaning and crying that was taking place inside to the hot openness of the backyard. We found a corner of shade and talked. After Diana had asked her questions and our conversation was waning, I looked her in the eyes to tell her how much I appreciated her, loved her and would miss her. My eyes were swelling with liquid and my heart was breaking. Diana returned some comments that will always mean so much to me. She shared some thoughts that I might have guessed were in her soul, but once they were spoken - when they left her mind, flowed over her vocal chords and hit my ears - I was blessed and curious at the same time. I'm guessing Diana might have felt the same encouragement and curiosity when she heard me tell her my appreciation of her. The curiosity is the same as with my saying good-bye to Jerry a few weeks ago when he passed away. Why do we often wait to share our deepest hearts with those we love and appreciate until good-byes? It is still baffling me. I've even thought about it over the past 2 weeks when I've been in conversations with those I love and appreciate - and I still don't let down the walls of vulnerability with how I feel as I did with Jerry and Diana, Bud, Jeff and Becky- another beloved couple who moved to Georgia. I really don't have the answers to my questions yet - maybe I never will. It did (does) feel wonderful to know how much Diana, Bud, Jeff and Becky have loved and appreciated me. It feels great to hear how their lives are forever different because of our relationship. I know my life is better because of being loved by them and being able to love them. I've cried with these folks, sought God's will with them, had deep discussions and have even been wounded together by the choices and words of people we loved. Maybe you can't always (maybe even often) tell those close to you how deeply you feel for them. Maybe the good-bye moments are designed for truer and deeper feelings to come forward. Maybe I don't want to express my deep love for people too often for fear that they will not receive it, or continue to return it, or be scarred away and I'll be left hurting. Maybe, probably, I should love deeply and recklessly, letting others know how I feel and experience the roller coaster of loving others well, leaning on the ever loving arms of Jesus. I don't want to say good-bye to good friends anytime soon, but I do want to tell them how much I love them.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Good-Bye's are Different

Why is it that good-bye's are different? I'm pretty sad these days because I've had to say good-bye to a friend and two families (they are my friends too :-). I'm not afraid of sadness or the pain of relationships but the good-byes seems to draw out things that I wish would have been said and experienced much earlier on in the relationship(s). I met Jerry about 11 years ago. We were drinking coffee together and pontificating the issues of life. We were both hanging around a group of 20 somethings (I was in just 40 and Jerry was approaching 60) learning from each other and enjoying the relationships. Jerry and I would end up spending the next 11 years doing coffee, lunches and dinners - often with our wives with us. Our conversations roamed from the writing of novels (which Jerry completed,)to Theology to psychology to good food and other oddities. I thought I would have to say good-bye to Jerry about 3 years ago when he had a massive heart attack, but that only made him more stubborn! Alas, a few months ago Jerry found out he had cancer in his lung and bones. The cancer took his life in early August. I was at his bedside hours before he died. His beautiful wife, Bette and her sister Clo were there as I spent some time with Jerry. He was mostly cognoscente and together we sang some old songs about Jesus, heaven and the cross of Christ. In the past, Jerry and I would talk about faith and hope. Jerry was a self-proclaimed 'convenient Christian'. I asked him what that meant and he said that he called on God when he needed to. After we sang some songs together at Jerry's deathbed, I read some Bible verses. Many of them were requested by Bette. I choose a few to read myself. They mostly had to do with death, victory and how we can know without doubt that we will be with Jesus. I ended by sharing with Jerry 1 John 5:11-13. I then got close to Jerry's face and I asked, "Jerry, do you know for sure that you will be with Jesus. Does Jesus live in your heart Jerry?" He shook his head in the affirmative and I rest in that. Is it foolish to rest in that shake of the head...I rest in that. I then, tearfully said good-bye to Jerry. I shared my love for him, my admiration of him and my hope for him. I shared some of the things that he taught me and how his life had influenced me in wonderful ways over the past decade. With tears streaming down my face, I held my frail, pain filled friend and prayed with him. Then I left. At 2:00am the next morning, I received a call from Bette telling me that Jerry had just died. I pulled on some pants, dabbed some gel in my hair and went to be with Bette and hold her. My question with saying good-bye to Jerry is, why didn't I say the true things about Jerry to him while he was healthy? Why did not I choose to encourage his spirit when we could still gaze into each other's eyes with mutual admiration? Why at good-byes does a seemingly deeper connection take place? I'll share about the other two families I had to say good-bye too in a few days.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Who Do You Invest Time With?

In my LTG, we are reading Luke 14:25-35. At the end of Chapter 14, Jesus has really difficult things to say about people who want to be His follower. I would really encourage you to read Luke 14:25-35 and just sit and think if you are following Jesus the way He prescribes. You may be startled! After saying these difficult truths in Luke 14, chapter 15 begins with these words; "Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him." Luke 15:1 This is impressive to me because of what Jesus has just been saying to the crowds. Whether these tax collectors and sinners actually heard Jesus' words from chapter 14, I don't know. I would assume that what He said was at least reported to them and certainly some (maybe all) actually there when while He was teaching. With their knowledge that Jesus has some really difficult things to say and that following Him will cost them much, they were coming near Him to listen to Him. Notice that Luke 15:1 doesn't say they came to Him to healed or loved or to see Him do great things. They came near Him to listen to Him. They wanted to hear His heart, His words of truth for mankind. They came near to Him knowing that some of what He said would be hard for them to live out. Obviously, living for Jesus was more appealing and true than living for themselves or for what other religious leaders taught. What Jesus said rang of authenticity, not manipulation. His truth gave life and hope, not empty promise or dream like ideas not based in reality. There was another group who probably heard Jesus' teachings in Luke 14:25-35. These were the Pharisees and the scribes - the Jewish leaders and important men of the day. Here is what Luke 15:2 has to report about their response to Jesus; "Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" Luke 15:2 Apparently the scribes and Pharisees were too good to have friends with problems or character issues. What I learn from this is that the message Jesus, even though it is tough, is LIFE to the soul of people who want truth. Jesus' message was truth and when shared, you'll know who are being attracted to the light (Jesus) and who are running from the light. Spend (invest) time with those who after you tell the truth, run to the Light of the World.