Saturday, March 19, 2011

You'll Find Out Who Your Friends Are...

    All of us know people who are the "popular ones", the "in crowd", "nerds", "losers", "cast outs", "weirdos", "jocks", "blonds" etc. and all of us have been in different categories during our lives. Usually the ones in the "popular" and "in crowd" categories had more friends, hence the category title, but do they really have real friends? We've all watched it happen... the popular cheerleader gains weight and gets abandoned, or the football jock that gets injured and can't play anymore etc. I am getting to a point here, so stick with me.
    A mentor of mine once told me that there are 5 levels of friends. 1- Friends that you know you can get in trouble with. 2- Friends who don't take much convincing to do something you shouldn't. 3- Friends who are average, they won't encourage bad behavior, but they won't really challenge it either. (The majority of friends usually fit in this category). 4- Friends who will challenge you, but aren't "grandma". 5- Friends you know will always shoot straight truth with you and slap you upside the head when you need it most. Now, I do have friends that fit into all of these categories, and you know who you are, and I'm not condemning anybody in categories 1 and 2, but this blog is gonna focus on categories 3 and up.
    Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.". I never realized how many real friends I do have until the trials arose. The injuries, the family trials, the moves, loneliness, unemployment, and just plain every day struggles. Each time friends that I thought I had (categories 1, 2 and occasionally 3) would disappear, and friends that I didn't realize I had would appear out of the woodwork.
    But a friend's love doesn't just come in the form of encouragement, hugs and chicken soup, there is also tough love. Now, call me weird, but I am a fan of tough love. Proverbs 27:5-6 says "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.". I'm not saying that I only feel loved when I'm rebuked, that would be REALLY weird, but that I have come to discover who has the guts to stand up to my strong will when I am in the wrong, even when I don't ask.
    All of this said to say that sometimes it takes friends from the first 2 or 3 categories burning you to realize how valuable the others are. This hit home for me when I was recently severely burned by a relatively new relationship. The hurt, pain, and realization of it all proved beneficial in clearing my head as to who my real friends are, and the ones who's relationships I can always stand on without fear of being ditched or dropped. So "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24

Sunday, March 13, 2011

That's The Good Stuff...

   "The good stuff" takes different forms for each of life's stages, but those things are what carry us through. The little reminder's that God really is faithful, and that it really is okay to have "tough skin and a soft heart", and not just be tough all the way through like an over-cooked steak. So, I bet you are wondering where I am going with this... over the past couple of weeks a lot of random "good stuff" has been drifting through the abyss of my mind, and not just random good stuff, but good stuff that happened in rough times. Moments like my dorm mom bringing me breakfast in bed when I was injured... different people being there for me only when God could have brought them across my path... a chocolate milk on my car the morning we moved from NY... unexpected notes from friends far away... midnight talks in the bathroom with roommates... the hours spent in vehicles where I could ask any questions and get honest answers... learning how to drive stick... quotes, songs, and scriptures in random places... and pages of journal entries.
    These are all special moments, sometimes very brief periods in time, where God's faithfulness, compassion, and unconditional love shown through those around me. Points in time where I realized who really was close to my heart, and who I could really trust. God works in mysterious ways, and a lot of times the biggest blessings and most special moments come amidst the greatest trials. Just as the Israelites were to erect the memorials as they headed into the promised land and tell their children the stories, so am I to do the same. Remembering is what strengthens me in current trials, what gives me perseverance and patience when I don't see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I heard this song on the radio while I was riding this past week and it put to words what I was thinking.

Kenny Chesney - Good Stuff

Well me and my lady had our first big fight
So I drove around till I saw the neon lights
At the corner bar it just seemed right so I pulled up

Not a soul around but the old barkeep

Down at the end and looking half asleep
And he walked over and said what'll it be I said the good stuff

He didn't reach around for the wisky

He didn't pour me a beer
His blue eyes kinda went misty
He said you can't find that here

Casue its the first long kiss on the second date

Mama's all worried when ou get home late
And droping the ring in the spiggetti plate
Cause you hand are shaking so much
And its the way she lookes with rice in her hair
Eating burnt suppers the whole first year
And asking for seconds just to keep her from tearing up
Yeah man thats the good stuff

He grabbed a carton of milk and he poured a glass

I smiled and said I'll have some of that
We sat there and talked as an hour passed like old friends
I saw a black and white picture and it caught my stare
It was a pretty girl with beuphant hair
He said thats my bonnie takin bought a year after we were wed

He said I spent five years at the bottom

When the cancer took her from me
And I've been sober 3 years now
Cause the one thing stronger then the wisky

Was the sight of her holding my baby girl

The way she adored that string of pearls
I gave her the day that our youngest boy earl
Married his hight school love
And its a new tee shirt sayin im a grandpa
Being right there as her time got small
And holding her hand as the good lord called her up
Yeah man thats the good stuff

When you get home she'll start to cry

When she says sorry say so am I
And look in to those eyes so deep in love
And drink it up

Cause that's the good stuff

I know this song is about romantic relationships, but the concept applies to other things as well. Anyway, I know this post hasn't been incredibly "deep", but it is what has been on my heart this week.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's A Great Day To Be Alive, I Know The Sun's Still Shining When I Close My Eyes

Because you had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

     This was definitely the tune running through my head almost 2 weeks ago. A lot of pent up anger from dealing with a particularly difficult horse at work to handling some touchy relationships had me completely on the edge of blowing my top or falling apart in tears.It felt like the people close to me had pushed me away, and I was all alone to just "buck up" and deal with things. Just stuff my emotions like I am such a professional at, tell the world to go to hell and do my own thing, like I tend to when I get depressed and angry. I didn't want to talk to anybody about it anymore, was afraid to make myself vulnerable to anyone, and was letting my fear, and therefore not my faith, rule my actions. If you ask anyone that spends any amount of time with me I was not the most pleasant person to be around. Nights were spent crying myself to sleep, days were spent in a "throw myself into work to bury the hurt" haze. The scary part was that, at first, I didn't care. I was sick of the crap, sick of my emotions being played on, sick of feeling manipulated, sick of feeling like any of my efforts were hopeless. I couldn't do anything to fix the relationship, I felt like I was just going in reverse with the horse I was working... just utterly useless.
    That Wednesday night I went to Bible study and we did a review of the entire book of James, which started to get me thinking, but thinking isn't always good for me. I get home, go to my room, want to scream but can't, and end up crying myself to sleep.
    Thursday, my boss and the crew leave for a show in southern Utah. I just want the day to end, to go home and hide from the world, but I stick to my task. Friday doesn't vary much from Thursday until Friday night. Friday night was special because we were having a worship night at our church. The one hour service started with a couple of more upbeat style worship songs, but in the middle it slowed to some very sincere hymns and songs that began to crack, and finally crush my self-focused strong will. As I cried and sang with the joined voices of over 600 people it brought back memories of being an apprentice, being surrounded by friends and family that loved me, and worshiping together. My heart changed from focusing on me, to focusing on the One who is all powerful, the One who loves me no matter what, and the One who was simply waiting for me to say "ok, I can't do this, I need your help."
   As this week progressed the first 8 verses of James chapter 1 were floating through my head... and in New King James version from memorizing it as an apprentice. James 1:1-8 - James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My bretheren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye make be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord.
   So, the trying of my faith worketh patience... I am not good at being patient, which is what a lot of the trials the week before had to deal with. Then patience can have her perfect work so that I can be complete... ok, taking a step back and not getting frustrated with that mare proved productive as she rode much better this past week, learning to be patient in this relationship is going to be a much longer process. Anyway, beyond that, the asking for wisdom was what I was needing to do the most, but my pride had been getting in the way. Once my pride got put in its place my journal pages and my heart started to fill with wisdom that only my Heavenly Father could provide from the pages of my Bible and the words of others. Here are some of them:

Proverbs 4:11-12 - I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; if you run you will not stumble.

I cross referenced this to Isaiah 40:31 - Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Proverbs 4:25-27 - Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.

So, to put it all together I'm going to sum up what I've been challenged with in the past 2 weeks in one simple phrase that my first year adviser told me "Don't fear. Don't control.". As long as I keep that wisdom at the forefront of my mind then it is a "great day to be alive".

And it's a great day to be alive,
I know the sun's still shining when I close my eyes,
There's some hard times in the neighborhood,
But why can't every day be just this good?