Riding Shotgun

I had a long chat with an old friend and colleague this morning.  We’d worked together years ago and spent a lot of time together, usually riding around in cars in lots of places in northern New York but also Michigan and Hollywood and New York City, to name other interesting locales.

I told him I missed our drives together.  When you ride shotgun or walk alongside someone, you get to know them.  And yourself.  I have many other friends, besides the one I mentioned—Kirk, with whom I chatted this morning—whom I’ve grown close to over five decades.  “Riding shotgun” takes many forms.  First, sitting in a moving vehicle.  But also walking, talking face-to-face, long chats on smartphones.  You get the idea.

Walking alongside someone is one of the most intimate things one can do, outside of sex and breaking bread together.  It is in these encounters that we deepen our friendships and make new discoveries, often about the other and always about ourselves.

Someone has said that “friendship is a sheltering tree.”  How true. Cultivating friendships, versus merely making someone’s acquaintance, is an art and a science.  The art part is knowing what and when to say something.  The science is actually making the effort to be with another.

Walking with someone, often literally, is an apt metaphor for cultivating and maintaining relationships.  It takes time, commitment beyond comfort, place and vulnerability.  Being a friend is not easy.  Sometimes being a friend means saying what will take you both outside of comfort.  But it is necessary.

Some questions for reflection:

  • Do you have people with whom you’ve walked that you’ve lost touch with? Call them.  Chat them.  Arrange a meal.  Relationships, even difficult ones, are gold.  Make the effort.
  • Are you willing and able to meet your friends on level ground—i.e. understanding the human condition, its complexities, and yet willing to continue to love them and pour into them even though the status of many of your relationships are best described as “it’s complicated” or “it’s past?” Some friendships are low maintenance—you just pick up where you left off.  Others require work and patience.  Do the work and cut them at least as much slack as you cut yourself.

So, here’s to my shotgun partners.  Kath, my wife of twenty-nine years, my children–Anna and Jordan, Emily and Joshua.  And so many others–Larry, Sher, Robert, Don, Keith, Tony B, Jim P, Gunnar, Jim B, Dan G, Bobby P, Lynn A, Tim, Mark K, Peabo, Ron, Tom M, Ken, Jay, Greg, Top, Christian, Gary, Jim L, Tom, Kirk, Mike G, Christopher, Mooney, Doug O, DB, Mom, Mom P, Char, Dad and Paul, and my siblings. (Apologies to any I may have forgotten.)

 

Suggested Resources:

The Walk (Michael Card)

The Chosen (Chaim Potok)

 

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True Friends…Rarer Than You Think

True FriendsThere is a proverb in the Bible that goes like this: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

We all survive and thrive on the comfort of those who know us best, who get us back on our feet and help us to carry on when the going gets tough.

I am continually challenged to take my ability to be a friend to another level.  My wife and I have made some strategic decisions for the next year and are laying out goals for our personal and professional development.  Often, in my desire to offer comfort I sabotage her by offering a way out of difficulty rather than challenge in the pursuit of her goals and dreams.  She’s told me, “I really need you to be a friend to me and not let me out of these goals when things are not easy.”

I have to admit, it’s far easier for me to soothe when I should be urging her on to hit the marks she has set, with affection and encouragement.

How about you?

As a friend, you are able to speak in love to those closest to you and help them become the best they can be.  In fact, it’s your love and commitment that makes such direct challenges palatable.

Here’s some starters to help be a better friend:

  • “You’re overextending yourself.  Why don’t you get to bed a little earlier? You need sleep—not more movies.”
  • “Come on.  You’re better than that!”
  • “Do you really need that second bowl of ice cream or can of beer?”
  • “There’s a trend I’m seeing in your attitudes.  Let’s talk about it.  I’ll walk with you through this and stick with you.”
  • “You need to take better care of yourself.  Why don’t you make an appointment to see a doctor?”
  • “Be a class act.  Don’t descend to the level of petty gossip and malice over what [insert name] has disappointed you with.”

Being a friend surely means offering solace and empathy.  But it also has the character of a good coach—you help those you love to win.  Be that friend.

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Marry Well! (You Won’t Regret It)

Photo1The title for this post is not original.  It’s from Bill Hybels’ outstanding book Making Life Work.  Were someone to ask of me advice about what it takes to have a happy life, one of the first things I’d tell them is this: Marry well.  You’ve no idea the wonder and joy that follows on such a decision.  Nor the incredible sorrow that follows when you marry poorly.

(Sweetheart, if he’s a bum now, he’ll probably be a bum long after you marry him.  Dude, if she’s a diva now, chances are diva will grow into a monster.  Avoid.  Like the plague.)

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in life.  Most of the unhappiness I’ve ever experienced was a product of my own skill at doing stupid things.  But one thing I did, with God’s help and goodness, was marry well.

When writing about home and marriage years ago, Michael Card penned the memorable line “that half of your heart that somebody else treasures, the one who’s your forever friend.”  The song aptly titled “Home.”

Boy, that sums it up nicely.

When choosing someone to spend your life with, there are few things more comforting than knowing the one who cares about you at your best  and worst.  Who picks you up and puts you back together again when life crushes you.  Who is there in the dark with words of encouragement and sunshine.  And forgiveness.

In today’s sexually-charged culture, it seems that the friendship factor in choosing one’s spouse is given short shrift.  Those who’ve been married for years will tell you that feelings and romance can ebb and flow.  Eros is capricious if nothing else.  But being married to your soul mate, your best friend can carry you through things nothing else can.

Here’s to the one I love and will grow old with.  The one I dream and pal around with.  The one I’d rather be with more than any other person on Earth.

Kath….

A Fruitful Environment (You Can Design It)

Creative EnvironmentsWise mentors tell us that to be successful in life and meet our goals, it is supremely important that we prepare our environment in a way that maximizes our potential to succeed.  Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  The Bible tells us, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20).   Pretty important, therefore, to choose carefully those who inhabit your orbit.

Both positive and negative mindsets tend to be contagious.  I’ve observed that the tendency toward being negative, defeatist and pessimistic is a little more “natural” than the opposite tendency—that is, towards finding the good in life.  This is a by-product of living in a fallen world.  But it does not have to be that way.  It just takes effort.  And it is worth it.

Choose wisely what and whom you associate with.  “Like attracts like.”  This I’ve found to be true.  If I’m angry, sullen, mad at the world and depressed, I tend to attract people just like me—without even trying!  My anger somehow validates them.  And of course such anger usually sounds reasonable, even logical.  Most of the time, it’s simply a cloak hiding some unhealed pain or disappointment.  The anger is just a symptom.  And being angry with the world is a downward spiral and just doesn’t work.  I’ve learned this the hard way.

I’ve found that when my disposition is positive, loving, cheerful and optimistic, I attract people with similar thinking and outlook.

Vineyard owners will tell you that every year or so, they must prune back their vines to ensure a fruitful harvest in the coming season.  This pruning is both painful but necessary.

In our lives and associations we must, at times, prune activities and relationships to be the best we can be.  I don’t mean by this cutting people off but we must be wise about what and whom we give our time to.  Some times we cultivate associations.  Other times we limit them.  It depends on what is ultimately the healthiest thing for both parties.

Newly pruned vines don’t look especially appealing to the eye.   But it is this pruning that brings full, mature and healthy grapes.  And the finest wine.  So it is with us!

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What Makes A True Friend Anyway?

There is a proverb in the Bible that goes like this: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

We all survive and thrive on the comfort of those who know us best, who get us back on our feet and help us to carry on when the going gets tough.

This year, I’ve been challenged to take my ability to be a friend to another level.  My wife and I have made some strategic decisions and are laying out goals for our personal and professional development.  Often, in my desire to offer comfort I sabotage her by offering a way out of difficulty rather than challenge in the pursuit of her goals and dreams.  She’s told me, “I really need you to be a friend to me and not let me out of these goals when things are not easy.”

I have to admit, it’s far easier for me to soothe when I should be urging her on to the mark with affection and encouragement.

How about you?

As a friend, you are able to speak in love to those in your orbit and help them become the best they can be.  In fact, it’s your love and commitment that makes such direct challenges palatable.

Here’s some starters to help be a better friend:

  • “You’re overextending yourself.  Why don’t you get to bed a little earlier?”
  • “Come on.  You’re better than that!”
  • ”You really don’t need that second helping of goulash (or glass of wine).”
  • “There’s a trend I’m seeing in your attitudes.  Let’s talk about it.  I’ll walk with you  through this.”
  • “You need to take better care of yourself.  Why don’t you make an appointment to see a doctor?”
  • “Be a class act.  Don’t descend to the level of petty gossip and malice over what [insert name] has disappointed you with.”

Being a friend surely means offering solace and empathy.  But it also has the character of a good coach—you help those you love to win.  Be that friend.

Image Credit

Marry Well (I Was Blessed To)

The title for this post is not original.  It’s from Bill Hybels’ outstanding book Making Life Work.  Were someone to ask of me advice about what it takes to have a happy life, one of the first things I’d tell them is this: Marry well.  You’ve no idea the wonder and joy that follows on such a decision.  Nor the incredible sorrow that follows when you marry poorly.

(Sweetheart, if he’s a bum now, he’ll probably be a bum long after you marry him.  Dude, if she’s a diva now, chances are diva will grow into a monster.  Avoid.  Like the plague.)

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in life.  Most of the unhappiness I’ve ever experienced was a product of my own skill at doing stupid things.  But one thing I did, with God’s help and goodness, was marry well.

When writing about home and marriage years ago, Michael Card penned the memorable line “that half of your heart that somebody else treasures, the one who’s your forever friend.”  The song aptly titled “Home.”

Boy, that sums it up nicely.

When choosing someone to spend your life with, there are few things more comforting than knowing the one who cares about you at your best  and worst.  Who picks you up and puts you back together again when life crushes you.  Who is there in the dark with words of encouragement and sunshine.  And forgiveness.

In today’s sexually-charged culture, it seems that the friendship factor in choosing one’s spouse is given short shrift.  Those who’ve been married for years will tell you that feelings and romance can ebb and flow.  Eros is capricious if nothing else.  But being married to your soul mate, your best friend can carry you through things nothing else can.

Here’s to the one I love and will grow old with.  The one I dream and pal around with.  The one I’d rather be with more than any other person on Earth.

Kath….

Iron On Iron

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17)

I got a call from an old friend yesterday.  It was good to hear his voice.  We walked together some years ago when we both lived in another state.

He’s a solid guy.  Honest as the day.  The type who would lay down in traffic for you and shoot you straight.  He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. He understands right and wrong.  He knows when things are black and white.  He can spot a phony a mile away and will tell him so.  A man of integrity.  A rare thing in this day of political correctness and playing it safe.

We spoke for about three hours.  As we talked, I felt that tug to return once again to values that I’ve let slip and wiggle in recent years.  He challenged me.  He’s the kind of person who would tell me to my face—rather than stab me in the back—that I have ketchup all over my necktie.  He’s a real friend.

Our interaction sharpened me, like the proverb at the top of this post.  A good friend, a true friend, challenges you to be your best.  At times they get in your face.  Not the phony friendship made of plastic love that says, in effect, “You rub my back; I’ll rub yours.”  That is détente.  There is a difference.

Those who love you—and I mean really love you—will care enough about you not to give you a pass.  They won’t say, “Hey, it’s okay” when it’s not.  They won’t rubber stamp things that are hurting you.  They won’t euphemize your failures and transgressions.

But they are real.  Kind of like One who once said, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”

Do you have any real friends?

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