The road that runs beside Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

No such thing as goodbye

I don’t like goodbyes, but it feels like I’ve been saying them for most of my life. Not because of death, though. Because of life. I have so many friends who have chosen to become missionaries in foreign countries, and I’m so excited and proud of all of them. But staying behind while they go is sometimes very sad.

I’m not sad that I don’t get to go to the mission’s field, though. I know I’m not called there. Some people are called to stay behind, and that’s always been me. What makes me sad is missing my friends, their faces, their laughter, getting to be actively involved in their lives. What’s really awesome is technology has made the world so small. With a computer I can carry in my pocket, I can have face-to-face conversations with people across the Atlantic Ocean. That’s a luxury missionaries didn’t have even ten years ago. Now it’s practically free.

But Skype or Google Hangout isn’t the same as being in the room, and even though I do plan to go see my friends, there is a good chance it won’t work. They’re all scattered everywhere, on nearly every continent (not Antarctica, though I’d still love to visit just to say I’ve been there). And flights can be hard to get, and in spite of my best intentions, I may not be able to make it happen. So there’s always a good chance that when I see my friend before he/she leaves the states, that’s the last time I’ll see them.

Depressing? I know. Keep reading.

The road that runs beside Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The road that runs beside Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 35:10.

Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
They will enter Jerusalem singing,
crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

There are many perks to being a follower of Christ, but the best one is the fact that we never really have to say goodbye. Maybe in this world we might never cross paths again, but in the next world, we’ll be together. And not just for a day. Forever.

We can’t really wrap our minds around the concept of forever now. Eternity is too big a concept for our puny little human brains. But our perfect home forever will be a place of joy and light and family and friends and Christ. So saying goodbye down here really isn’t goodbye. At least, it shouldn’t be. Granted, you may get to see a friend again, but then you might not. But as long as you both believe in Christ, there’s no such thing as goodbye–not really.

It’s easy to get caught up in this life. It’s easy to think this is the life that’s worth living for, but it’s not. As awesome as our life down here can be, the life to come is better, and that should be our focus. And that’s exciting because the life to come is so much better than this one.

So the next time you have to say goodbye, remember. If you’re parting ways with someone who loves Christ, you don’t have to say goodbye. There are no real goodbyes. You’re just going to travel separate roads for now, but both of those roads lead home.

Ridiculous looking rabbit at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Laughter is good medicine

When was the last time you had a good laugh? I mean, a seriously good laugh where your sides hurt and your face hurts because you’ve been laughing so hard? Can you remember? It’s interesting to me that our world seems so dead set on being so serious all the time.

Granted, our world is ridiculous, but when you get right down to it, our everyday lives aren’t really a laughing matter. We have stress at work, stress at home, stress at church, stress everywhere. There are bills to pay and food to put on the table and houses to clean and clothes to buy and all sorts of other necessities that we can’t get by without, and there’s very little time to actually do anything that needs to be done. Real life is a downer. Being a grown up is a downer, let me tell you.

Maybe that’s why people can make a living as comedians. People just want to laugh. But it’s hard to laugh when you know you’re facing difficult times. It’s hard to laugh when all you feel like doing is crying. But there’s something about laughter I think we forget sometimes, in our frenzied rush to get through life: laughter is good for us.

Ridiculous looking rabbit at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Ridiculous looking rabbit at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 17:22.

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

Some of the most hilarious memories I have as a child were hanging around Hutchinson with my dad and my brother. Actually, most of my hilarious memories come from my dad and my brother. It was always so much fun to go places with them because they have a similar sense of humor–sarcastic. Like the photo for today? I snapped that at one of the Kansas State Fairs as a reminder of the times we would all go to the fair and make fun of the silly looking rabbits.

Other times, we would entertain ourselves for hours just wandering up and down the toy aisles in Target making fun of all the magic potty babies. Those were great memories, memories that have stuck with me through the years. I mean, how often does a kid say some of their favorite memories are wandering the toy aisle at a big box store? Normally that would be a sad statement. But not the way we did it. We laughed so hard in those toy aisles, I’m sure someone must have thought there was something wrong with us (maybe there is!).

Laughter is good medicine. It just does something to you inside.

So how do you laugh when your world is falling apart? How do you laugh when you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring? How do you laugh when everything in your life feels like it’s completely out of control?

I think it varies from person to person, but I truly believe that all of us need to have someone in our lives who brings us unbridled joy. Someone who sparkles. Someone who can spark laughter just by being there. And if you think that sort of person doesn’t exist, you’re wrong; you just haven’t met them yet. They’re hard to find, and a lot of time you don’t find them right away. Sometimes you have to do some investing in that person before they show up. Maybe it’s a parent or a child or a friend, but if you have one of those people in your life, treasure them. They’re the people who add value to your everyday. Don’t take it for granted, but make use of it.

Life down here is dark and sad, and God knows that. Yes, He’s in control. Yes, He knows what He’s doing, but this world is broken. And all of us face terrible sadness every day, and I think that’s why God wants us to laugh. Faith is wonderful. I love having faith, I love trusting that God is going to keep His promises, but that’s hard work. Faith and trust wear me out sometimes, but if I can laugh about it? If I can laugh in spite of life’s troubles, faith isn’t so impossible.

Find something that makes you laugh. Do something that makes you laugh. Just laugh. It will change your perspective. It may not change your circumstances, but it will help you get through them. And if you can cling to joy through your faith, your burdens won’t seem so heavy.

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Is your friendship about you?

How important are the friends in your life? Sometimes I forget how awesome my friends are. I’m so blessed to have amazing people in my life, and I’m so overwhelmed at their kindness and their encouragement, especially in the dark times of my life.

As many of you know, I tend to be somewhat independent (stop rolling your eyes). I don’t like depending on other people, and I don’t like asking for help. But there are times when I need it. And in those times, I have an arsenal of amazing people who step up to surround me with prayer and words that have to come straight from God.

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Romans 12:10.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

I thought of this verse today when I thought about friendship. So much of friendship in our culture is about what others can do for us, but what I’ve learned over the years is that friendship–the ones that last–should be about what you can do for your friend.

Have you thought about that? Have you ever asked the friends in your life what you can do for them? Or is your friendship all about you?

What does it mean to show genuine affection to someone? Well, to me, that means you treat someone else kindly out of pure motivation. You do kind things for others because it’s the right thing to do, because you truly want to do it. It’s not a front. It’s not for show. It’s genuine. It’s real.

Show me a friendship with genuine affection, and I’ll show you friends for life.

But genuine affection is a concept, and concepts are great, but they aren’t good for much until you put them into practice. And that’s where the second part of the verse comes in.

Take delight in honoring each other.

Okay. That sounds complicated and religious. Well, it’s not. What does it mean to honor someone? Honoring someone is simply putting that person before yourself. It means showing preference to someone else.

Practically speaking, it’s giving your friend the bigger slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner.

Another translation says to outdo each other in kindness. And another translation says, “practice playing second fiddle.”

Do you need the attention in the friendship? Do you need the be the one who’s at the center all the time? Honestly, ask yourself, because if the answer is yes, I’m sorry to be blunt, but you’re missing the point of friendship.

God made friends so we wouldn’t have to stand alone, so we could be part of a team, so we could be a part of something bigger than we are. There’s a song on the radio right now with a lyric that always makes me smile: “God put a million million doors in the world for His love to walk through/One of those doors is you.”

And that is so, so true.

If you have friends, take the time to find out what they need. Ask them how you can help them. Get involved in their lives for more than just what you need. Practice playing second fiddle. Skip the attention you think you need. You don’t need it. Shower them with the attention. And something amazing will happen. Your friendship will get stronger. Your friend will grow, and so will you.

I have amazing friends who have poured themselves into my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. What about about you?

A peaceful spot at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Work at living in peace

Drama confuses me. No, not stage drama. Life drama. Life drama is an incredible waste of time, emotional resources, and opportunity. I don’t care for it, and I have a hard time feeling compassion for people who thrive in it.

You know those people in your life. You know who they are. They’re the ones who can make mountains out of mole hills. They’re the ones who are only content if their life is in a crisis of some kind or another. Having those people in my life makes me appreciate the understated friends I have. Those understated friends are the ones who can be in crisis but you wouldn’t know it. They’re the ones who are experiencing all sorts of difficulty in their lives, but they don’t focus on it.

A peaceful spot at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

A peaceful spot at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Hebrews 12:14.

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

Which camp do you fall into? It’s okay to admit it if you tend toward the drama queen side of the coin. In some cases, being dramatic about stuff is helpful. Those personalities can be valuable in many circumstances because they tend to get stuff done. They tend to prod others into action. They tend to be ferocious doers.

I’m not dramatic. I’m dry. And sarcastic. And I have this awful tendency … when people nag me about something, I usually go out of my way to avoid doing it. It’s not a very Christ-like response, and I’ll admit it. I’m a work in progress. But nothing gets under my skin like nagging. But part of my non-dramatic reactions to things is a disadvantage because I tend to minimize situations that probably need to be maximized.

So both personalities need each other, the dramatics to spur the non-dramatics into action and the non-dramatics to keep the dramatics planted on the ground instead of whirling around like crazy people. It’s absolutely possible to work together, but it takes effort on both sides.

Working together is harder than it sounds. If you’ve ever been part of a team, you understand what I mean, but no one person is sufficient on his or her own. We all need each other.

Mainly, we just need to be patient with each other. We need to take a moment, take a step back, and remind ourselves what the point is. The vast majority of the time whatever is causing the drama isn’t personal. It’s just different personalities clashing, different points of view crashing into each other, different ways of communicating muddying the waters.

If you’re a dramatic person, recognize it and embrace it. Your intense emotions are a gift, but understand that not everyone around you feels with the same intensity you do. So ease up!

If you’re a non-dramatic person, do the same thing. Realize that your penchant toward the more logical side of life is also a gift. It’s just not as loud. So lighten up!

God made each of us with our own personalities and our own hang ups and our own special gifts. Don’t discount someone just because they burst with emotion over every tiny little thing. And don’t shun someone because they barely react at all either.

Try to see the best in each other. Try to learn from each other. They’re in your life for a reason, and even if you think you escape having a relationship with them, God will bring another one just like them into your life to take their place. He’ll keep doing it until you learn the lesson you need to learn.

So don’t be stubborn. Trust me, you may think you’re the most stubborn person on the planet, but God can match you any day.

Claymore on display at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Friends make each other better

When you run into an obstacle in your path, what happens? Everyone encounters obstacles, but some people give up and others press on. Why is that? Granted, there are a number of reasons, and many of those reasons depend on how many other obstacles you’ve encountered previously. But I truly believe one of the most important factors for those people who press forward are their friends. And they don’t even have to be close friends. Even an acquaintance can help someone make the decision to keep going when without them they might have given up.

Claymore on display at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Claymore on display at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Today’s verse is Proverbs 27:17.

As iron sharpens iron,
    so a friend sharpens a friend.

I’ve always loved this verse. I love the symbolism of it. Iron sharpens iron. The thing about it that’s so cool is that if you try to sharpen iron with a metal that’s softer than it is, not only will you destroy the softer material, you’ll dull the iron too. Not saying you can’t have friends who aren’t the same kind of iron, because diversity in our friendships is important too. But a friend who doesn’t challenge you, a friend who doesn’t encourage you won’t help you much.

And I really think that’s what it comes down to most of the time–encouragement. What is encouragement? See many people hear encouragement and think it means you have to love. And that’s not untrue. A lot of encouragement is love. In fact, encouraging someone is pretty difficult if you don’t love them, but love is only a tiny part of what encouragement actually does. Some people hear encouragement and think that means they have to make allowances for people’s failures and accept people where they are with no question. And that’s also good. Part of real love is making allowances for people’s’ faults and meeting them where they are. But just because we’re supposed to love people that way doesn’t mean we need to help them stay there.

Encouragement is building others up. Think about the word itself. It means to give courage. And you don’t give someone courage by giving them a reason to sit on the bench.

Encouragement isn’t easy. No, it’s the farthest thing from easy. It’s so much easier just to pat someone on the back and let them roll around in their insecurities and their failures and their insufficiencies. It’s so much easier to just listen while they want to give up, to stand by while they make terrible decisions, to remain silent when they start down a path that will ultimately lead to trouble.

I’ve been there and done that. I’ve been that friend who was too afraid to encourage someone to make the right choice, and I’ve been that friend who tried to help them pick up the pieces afterward. I don’t ever want to be that kind of friend again.

I have so many friends in my life who have encouraged me–really encouraged me. Yes, I have many who have loved me and who still do (miraculously). But the ones who have encouraged me stand apart because in the moments of my life when I was ready to give up, they wouldn’t let me. In the times when I was on the verge of letting go of my dreams, they helped me find the courage to hold on. When I was facing insurmountable obstacles, they stood beside me.

Do you have those kinds of friends in your life? Do your friends make you better? Or do they just love you from a distance? Maybe they don’t actively tear you down but they aren’t doing anything to build you up either.

Sharpening isn’t really a pleasant experience. To me it feels like pruning. But the stronger we get, the more we can accomplish, the more God can use us, the more people we can help. And iron can’t sharpen itself. Left on its own, it rusts. Without sharpening, it will become dull. The same is true with us. Friends will keep us sharp, and the sharpest friends are the ones who encourage us, even though it may not be fun at the time. The best friends are the ones who never let you give up. The best friends are the ones who tell you the truth in love and respect. The best friends jump into the trenches with you.

If you’ve got those friends, thank God for them. They’re priceless. If you don’t, don’t give up till you find some. You’ll be better off with friends like that in your life. Maybe the people you know now are good at patting you on the back and congratulating you for mediocrity or even when you give up. But I wouldn’t call them friends. Friends accept each other, yes, but they also make each other better.