Relationship That Outlast

friendshipRelationships get richer when they outlast their original purpose.

We often begin relationships with a common goal in mind, whether it’s at work, school, ministry, or committee. But even after we’ve moved beyond the original situation, some relationships stick. Their purpose deepens from something external to the personal commitment to each other. We know longer have to get together and connect but we want to get together and connect.

I’ve met many people as I’ve traveled around the country and even to other parts of the world. Some relationships stayed in the confines of the original event or purpose. I still appreciate and respect the people I met, but I didn’t partner with them beyond a specific situation or season. But there are others who lasted well beyond the original intention. We got to know each other and began to partner in new ways, learning from each other, investing in each other’s lives, caring and encouraging for one another.

And those relationships that last are rich.

I am grateful. I am blessed.

Connections Over Time and Distance

1-Samuel-22--e1420912619919.jpgEach year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. (1 Samuel 2:19)

Hannah dedicated her son to God and followed through by placing Samuel in Eli the priest’s care and training. The separation must have been difficult. She and her husband when to see Samuel each year, and Eli would bless them. They would return home.

It’s as if Hannah continued to give over and over. She continued to sacrifice over and over. She chose to keep her commitment to God over and over. Yet it must have been tough.

We often have to let go of people in some ways, yet we can also provide for and connect with them even as we let go. We connect via memories and promises. We continue to move forward with a string that connects us to the past, not to keep us there but to also connect us to the future. We don’t camp under; we persevere through. We don’t stay in the moment but proceed into more.

How do you need to stay connected to your commitment to God despite (or because of) time and distance?

Practice When You Don’t Know Why

We don’t have to completely understand the purpose in each discipline to benefit from and commit to it.

Consider Daniel in Karate Kid. He wanted to learn karate, and Mr. Muyagi committed to teaching him, but he starting with waxing cars, sanding floors, and painting fences. Daniel wondered when the actual training would start. He was confused and irritated, not understanding the important conditioning of his discipline.

We sometimes read sections of the Bible while wondering why the details are even included. We pray without making a connection to any benefits or results. We serve on a ministry team to get involved and end up frustrated with the dynamics of the group. We give generously yet feel a strained need for provision and wonder where we went wrong.

There’s not always a clear cut if/then causal relationship with spiritual disciplines. Results aren’t as important as the process. Yes, we need to keep the results in mind, but sometimes what we believe should be the result differs from what God says about the process. He wants us to rely on Him throughout the discipline, trusting Him even when we don’t completely understand. We could jump through discipline hoops and end up no closer to Him. We could choose legalism over relationship.

Instead, God wants us to trust Him, take one step at a time, and rely on Him for the refining process. He will train us, but not always in the ways we expect. That’s okay, because He’s not taking us where we want to go but where He wants us to go. And that’s a better destination.

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The First Time

Some firsts are exciting.

  • 1st day of kindergarten (I really liked my pink pleated skirt!)
  • 1st paycheck (Even if I got sun poisoning lifeguarding that summer.)
  • 1st dorm room (Cleaning the floor with furniture polish was not a great idea.)
  • 1st plane ride (And the grandest view of a sunset in my life.)
  • 1st cell phone (Even if it didn’t fit in my pocket!)

Some firsts aren’t so exciting.

  • 1st speeding ticket
  • 1st overdraft notice
  • 1st surgery
  • 1st perm

My first date was boring. My first kiss was sloppy. My first bridesmaid dress was hideous.

Firsts can be thrilling, frightening, or disastrous. The first is always a beginning. We don’t stay in the first. We grow from it. We shouldn’t steep in it; we should step out of it. It’s a journey.

You experience a first every day of your life. You have a choice to live today in a way that sets the foundation for tomorrow. Hopefully, many of the days leading up to this one have set firm foundations on which you’re now building. The firsts of today set the pace and priorities of tomorrow. You can wait until tomorrow’s today to make changes, but why waste today?

I remember the “today” I decided to live all other todays of my life for God. I appreciate the memory of that day, but I’m not going to reside in it. I don’t want to lose today and the opportunity to choose to live for God in the details of my new today. I haven’t filled every today with great choices. Not even close. But each day sets the pace and priority for the next.

What pace and priority are your setting today?

Challenge: Write a number one on your index finger in ink or permanent marker. Each time it catches your attention through the day, consider what you’re experiencing that can be used a foundation for tomorrow. Be intentional in your choices, responses, and adjustments.

Who is First?

Yesterday, I shared about persevering even when I wondered if I should quit–not that I wanted to quit but I wondered if I should, if it was best. Through the struggling process of discerning God’s will, not just in this one area but throughout my life, again and again He reminds me that I must give it all to Him. I must give my needs, my cares, my words, my thoughts. It all gets offered to Him completely, and that’s no small task. At the center of it all is giving Him my heart.

I want to seek You,

I want to keep You,

More than anything I want, I want You
First

Invest In Your Legacy

“Here the saying is true, ‘One person plants, and another harvests.’ I sent you to harvest a crop that you did not work on. Others did the work, and you get to finish up their work.” Many of the Samaritans in that town believed in Jesus because of what the woman said: “He told me everything I ever did.” (John 4:37-39)

Bill Gaither wanted a piece of land to build a house in Alexandria, Indiana, the town where he had grown up. He noticed a piece south of town where cattle grazed and learned it belonged to a 92-year-old retired banker named Mr. Yule. Mr. Yule owned a lot of land in the area, but he wasn’t planning to sell any of it. Bill and his wife Gloria decided to personally visit him. Bill shares the story in I Almost Missed the Sunset.”

“He looked at us over the top of his bifocals. I introduced myself and told him we were interested in a piece of his land.

“Not selling,” he said pleasantly. “Promised it to a farmer for grazing.” Then he said, “What’d you say your name was?”

“Gaither. Bill Gaither.”

“Hmmm. Any relation to Grover Gaither?”

“Yes, sir. He was my granddad.”

Mr. Yule put down his paper and removed his glasses. “Interesting. Grover Gaither was the best worker I ever had on my farm. Full day’s work for a day’s pay. So honest. What’d you say you wanted?”

I told him again.

“Let me do some thinking on it, then come back and see me.”

I came back within the week, and Mr. Yule sold me the property.

Three decades later I said to my son Benjy, “You’ve had this wonderful place to grow up through nothing that you’ve done, but because of the good name of a great-granddad you never met.”

How did people who came before you prepare the way? Consider more than your biological family.

How are you preparing the way for those who come after you?

My parents grew up in a small farming community in central Illinois. They built relationships because people in the community relied on each other. They trusted each other, watched out for each other, and helped each other. They worked fields side-by-side, lent and borrowed equipment, and lived through trials and tragedies together.

When my parents had been married for 45 years, my sisters and I planned a surprise party. It was a wonderful party. They were thrilled to see so many friends from their decades together. They hadn’t seen some people in years. Others, they lived alongside daily. With each turn, as they looked around the room, they were greeted by another smiling face full of memories.

After the celebration had been going for a couple hours, a friend and I were talking. He and I had been friends since birth, because our parents were friends, as well as our grandparents. The family farms were only a couple miles from each other. We shared weddings, births and funerals. Looking around at the multitude of friends, circles overlapping circles, my friend reflected, “You know the sad thing is, we – our generation – probably will not get to experience this when we’re our parents’ age. We’re too busy to make the depth and extent of friendships they have.”

I’m not saying it’s impossible. In fact, if anyone will have a 45th anniversary celebration with extensive circles of friends, it will be this particular friend, but I completely understand what he was saying. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often skirt around and skim over the importance of long-term relationship-building. Our relationships can use more intention and attention. Our relationships can be bumped up on the scale of priorities.

Who are you investing in, and who are you allowing – even inviting – to invest in you?

It’s not just about who you’ll call in the best and worst times of life. It’s about who you’ll call, drive to, sit with and sacrifice for during daily life.

Consider the people surrounding you.

Are you focused more on short-term benefits or long-term investment?

Are the people by your side going to be by your side in 10, 25, 50 years?

Life changes. People move. Interests change. Transitions are part of every person’s life. But you might see life as so transitory that you’ve become comfortable in the transition instead of investing in the long-term possibilities.

Many people avoid investing money because they’re overwhelmed with the amount they’ll need. They can’t fathom such a sacrifice.

Are you doing the same with relationships?

Investing even the smallest amounts of money will accumulate into a growing investment.

Surely, you have time, energy and resources to invest in growing relationships.

Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Stick with It…but Don’t Be a Pest

indexThere’s a fine line between pestering and persevering.

I recently heard results of a study that determined kids expect to have to ask parents something nine times before they get the results they want. From a parent’s perspective, it might feel like pestering. The parent finally gives in because he or she just can’t take it any longer. Or, perhaps the parent is so distracted and disengaged that it actually takes that long to fully process the request.

From the kid’s perspective, it might be manipulative: “If I just keep asking long enough, eventually my mom or dad will give in.” We don’t want to raise pesky kids. Yet there’s another perspective–that repeatedly asking is a form of perseverance. It shows determination and commitment, which can be positive.

God wants us to develop perseverance in our faith. He wants us to repeatedly go to Him, rely on Him, and trust Him. Yet He filters everything through His will. You can ask Him gazillion times for something that you never receive. You can ask once and immediately receive. So how can you know the difference between pestering and persevering?

What’s your motivation?

What’s your ongoing relationship with God?

If you’re trying to get what you want more than seek what God wants, it’s pestering.

If you’re wrestling with the difference between your will and His, it’s persevering.

Perseverance is about wanting God more than you want anything or anyone else in your life. You persevere through your needs and requests toward God. Pestering keeps you stuck. Persevering, even when it feels like you’re stuck, keeps you moving.

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)