Saturday, August 28, 2010

Categories of Friends

A friend recently invited me to a luncheon at her house because "my Kenton County friends want to meet my Campbell County friends." Her invitation said that her golfing friends wanted to meet her non-golfing friends, which must boil down to the same thing.

That made me think about how I group my friends into categories and sub-categories. For example, there are two couples that we know fairly well that I think of as "our rich friends." That's purely a money designation, for many of my friends are rich in other ways.

Tonight we had for supper four couples (rich in love and children) that fit into a very specific category, but not one I think of often. They were all couples for whom Steve performed their wedding ceremony. The oldest are now grandparents; the youngest have a three-year-old. Five other couples had previous plans.

Worshiping with so many couples that Steve married seems especially unusual because the present generation of marrying age tend to have our youth minister marry them. He's been at our church for 16 years, so they are close and it is appropriate for them to choose him. But two weeks ago Steve performed the ceremony for a 29-year-old man who used to go to our church and still holds us in high regard. It's touching that a person who has been gone from our congregation for over 10 years still feels that connected to us. In counseling with the couple, Steve paid them one of his highest compliments for engaged couples: "They seem more interested in their marriage than in their wedding." The wedding and the reception were beautiful and well-planned, but that was not their main focus. Friends of the bride's family thanked Steve for emphasizing faithfulness to God in the ceremony. We were reassured to know that her family and friends are believers who live out their beliefs.

As a part of a toast, the best man/brother reminded the couple not to depend on each other for happiness, but to look within themselves and their relationship to God. This was a poignant moment for many listening who realized the young man was speaking from his own experience and mistakes.

Tonight we loved being with families with whom we have a long shared history. Thirty-five years with one congregation creates unbreakable bonds. I look at each of these couples and remember: a roadtrip with Bev before she was married; the year of dinner and Bible studies that Ruth and Bob had with Jim before he became a Christian; Kim's strong faith throughout the death of her first husband; Scott being the only person at church besides Steve who calls me "Nita;" Donia, from a family of twelve children, traveling to China to bring back this precious albino little girl; Cathy, who is more beautiful in both appearance and as a person now than when she married; Bill and Gene, whose quiet service keeps building and grounds functioning smoothly and their families grounded. What a special group of people!

Such a pleasant time together makes me want to plan a time when the other five couples and their children can come. But how could it match this?

Now to think of other categories of friends to invite: those who are unbelievers, strong believers that are part of other faith traditions, new hires at the university, neighbors, those of our church older than we, our children's peers that Steve didn't marry, people new to our congregation in the last two years, those who persist in special ministries that are often under-appreciated, couples with babies, singles of all ages, former elders and deacons and their wives, those who taught our children (now grown) in Bible classes. The list is endless. It was fun to have them guess their commonality. Bill figured it out, but the rest were surprised to know Steve married Bill and Bev.

Life is cyclical and we must savor it and examine it without letting it slip by unnoticed. God gives us each day, each friend, each moment. Let's pay attention to our relationships in every sector of our lives. Only by keeping up these connections can we avoid the "if only I had...." regrets in our lives.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Flying Time

My flight plan from Malaysia to Cincinnati couldn't have been more streamlined: Kuala Lumpur to Paris to Cincinnati. Except for leaving Paris late, all went very smoothly. Thirteen hours plus nine hours in the air.

Plowing through all the accumulated mail after being gone seven weeks is quite a task. Taking care of urgent bills takes more time. And balancing the checkbook? Just a dim memory. Then there’s the detritus in suitcases after traveling to two countries with the accompanying miscellaneous shopping. Putting away the clean clothes and dropping the others down the laundry chute was the simplest part of unpacking.

So yesterday morning I finally got to my yard. Steve, Kelsey, and Stephen had done a great job of keeping everything watered and alive, but all needed to be watered again and there were weeds to pull and deadheads to remove. Three of my eight hardy ferns in the back yard have yellowed and shriveling fronds, so I suspect that some local animal has been using them as a toilet. My basil is flourishing (and nowhere near the ferns), so I’ll get to have lots of basil on tomatoes and in salads right away.

But to my dismay, as I was working, I saw a golden leaf flutter to the ground. Looking around, I realized that our borderline maple tree (I’m not sure if it’s ours or the next door neighbor’s) is shedding its leaves all over the back corner of our yard!

“How did this happen?” I even said aloud. I was shocked. The last time I worked in my yard, little green shoots of plants were popping up, full of the promise of summer. Now signs of fall were here and I was not ready for that. I know it was officially spring when I left on June 14, but it’s still officially summer, as well. We’re certain to have another six weeks of warm to hot weather, so the leaves are supposed to stay green and stick tight for a while longer.

And as I mulled this over, I thought of other parts of my life that seem to slip by too quickly. There are many people who need my help and encouragement, but I’m too preoccupied with putting away my stuff, and cooking for my friends and family, and shopping for gifts for my loved ones, and getting in my physical and spiritual exercise times. I understand how often I use the word "my." It's appalling how narrow my circle of activity can be.

And that time is slipping away just as quickly as summer. How can I be more proactive to use my time for others? Last week I thought I’d have more time this week. Now I’m thinking it will have to be the next week.

My friends Linda and Lynette are having surgeries tomorrow, and I’d like to be there. But my children and grandchildren will be here for dinner this night only, and I want to shop and cook for them and pick them up at the airport, so how can I fit everything in? I think of pillars of the faith that I’ve read about—those who said they couldn’t get everything done if they didn’t spend two (or four or five) hours in prayer for preparation. Dare I try spending more time in prayer? Not this week, except in my car as I take care of all these errands. Maybe next week, Lord. Keep reminding me.