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butterfly exhibit Houston Dec 2012 052When I passed the end display in our local office supplies store, I paused. It was the clearance section. Yeah, I’m a sucker to see what bargains I can pick up.

This bin was full of day planners. Most were based on a weekly format or at least included that as an option. Long ago I switched to an electronic planner on my PDA and computer but these pocket planners still fascinated me.

The first thing that caught my attention was the weekly format. Every one of the planners from multiple companies all began their week on a Monday. The end of the week was clearly reserved and identified as the weekend gathered Saturday and Sunday together.

I don’t live my life like that. That kind of calendar would disrupt the flow of my thinking. The first day of the week will always be Sunday for me.

Often in my prayers I thank God for Sunday. The activities that fill that day focus my attention on the Lord, His people, His grace, His goodness, the hope to live today and prepare for tomorrow.  It is the historic day that celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus from His death three days earlier on the cross.

When Christians gather for worship on the first day of the week, they can be challenged in their pursuit of holiness, grow deeper in their faith and strengthen their fellowship with fellow grace recipients.  Inspired and fortified they can then enter the week with determination and initiative to make a difference for eternity.  When they drive out of the church parking lot, they can set their hearts on representing Christ well in whatever walk of life that occupies their days.

The New Year is not so much about making resolutions as an expression of putting off good things to do, rather it is about gratitude for a good year and anticipating another year to see His grace unfold again.  His goodness is unending.  If you know Him personally, then you are familiar with this endless generosity of mercy.

Should you not know Him and happen to be reading this entry, please consider His offer.  His name is Jesus Christ.  He died on the cross for your sins. 

You feel badly about your sins.  But, He can clean your life and give you a gift of forgiveness that will be your guarantee of life in heaven with Him forever.  Believe in His Resurrection and you will know real love.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

The entry door at the adult semi-care facility opened easily.  Clearly someone had designed this complex with professional skill.  Everything looked new, maintained well and there were plenty of people and activities going on around me.

Our host waved us down.  With a broad smile she walked with us to the cafeteria where the fragrances were very appealing.  She seated us and the chaplain joined us with enthusiasm.

The menu for the dinner was like a restaurant.  We made our choices when the waitress came up to take our order.  Pleasant conversation followed and continued through dinner.

On our way to the chapel the chaplain introduced us to several of the residents.  We enjoyed their cheerful fellowship.  They followed us to the chapel.

I preached for those who had gathered.  Their response was full of gratitude.  Some walked out with energy.  Others a lot slower.

We paused when several took turns to tell how much they appreciated that we had come.  Often they told us how much they appreciate their new home.  They point to the activities, food but most of all the company of others.

Not everyone was so high on the company.  One elderly woman was alone. She and I struck up a conversation.

She reflected deeply early in our first meeting.  Maybe she knew that it would our only one and it would be over soon.  Experience was her teacher and she lived by the lessons that she had learned.

Her children were scattered around the country.  They had to move in order to chase the jobs that would advance their careers and give them the resources to support their families.  She was not regretful, just realistic about those currents of life in the modern culture.

Yes, she was very grateful for this fine facility to live from day-to-day.  But, she sighed, it was hard to have her friends regularly die off.  Each farewell made her sad that all she had left with so many of those who were once close were now just fading memories.

Loneliness is a tough nut to crack.  Family helps but that is only a limited solution.  Who wants to be a downer for their kids?

But, we can live full and rich lives while we can.  Build into friends and pass on what we have discovered to make life worth living to the younger generation.  Pour into others and that may be the best anti-loneliness investment ever.

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His countenance wasn’t beaming with its usual cheery and carefree optimistic glow.  I missed seeing that for months.  Something was wrong.

When it was right, I shouldered up to my friend and smiled.  Let’s grab a Pepsi sometime soon, ok?  He was free on Thursday so we set up a rendezvous.

It was a dive of a place but it was always quiet there.  We ordered and did the small talk until the food arrived.  Usually we did the guy thing and scarfed the food down between jawing and exaggerating.

This time we just pushed our food around from one side of the plate to the other.  We had other things on our minds besides our appetite.  It was time to broach the subject.

What’s got you down?  You’re carry a burden that is too heavy for any human.  Let me know how I can help.

There was no specific allegation against him.  But, the insinuation was loud.  There was no sin but extreme bias was locked into place.

His accuser had very few facts but lots of emotions.  He was facing a barrage of anger, insults and speculation.  It would mean a major change in his life.

He looked up without tears, “Are you going to abandon me too?” 
“Why would you ask that?”
“They made it sound really bad but it’s all speculation.  It’s like they wanted me out and I had no chance.  Now, that I’m gone so many are treating me like a pariah.”
“Of course I’m not going to abandon you.  We are friends.”

It’s odd how we forget that we have been redeemed and accepted by the One whose righteousness was offended by our choices.  He accepted us unconditionally through HIS Son Jesus.  Yet, we talk ourselves into abandoning others for far lesser offenses.  We slip into a self-righteous judgmental mode and turn our backs on a hurting friend.  I know Jesus would not do that.

My friend and I shook hands.  It was a strong shake and it lasted longer than courtesy suggests.  Our eyes met and locked into our souls.  It was a grace moment.

His loneliness would not be deepened by me.  That dark experience in life had wounded him but it was a gash that would not be allowed to fester.  Friendship and loyalty would help him climb out of that awful pit.  He would not be alone.

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One morning I rearranged my schedule. It wasn’t hard to do. When I can schedule a meeting during breakfast, I will. That is my favorite meal of the day. Besides, I am always ready to meet with a friend.

He wanted to eat breakfast late. Our rendezvous time was 8:30AM. Since my usual wake-up time is 5:30AM I had three hours to assign for other projects. That’s not too difficult.

First, I spent a chunk of time writing. Then, I spent my usual time praying. Have you plugged-in time spent for prayer as a key part of your day? It will change your day to be both productive and satisfying.

Finally, I had some bank business, planning and organization to do before I was off to breakfast.  A big clock in my office kept me on schedule.  My internal clock for promptness kept me on schedule.

My buddy picked the restaurant. It surprised me. I had been past that location many times but I never remembered the restaurant. But, once I rounded the corner, there it was. He arrived first.

We had the usual pleasantries.  There were a lot of laughs.  Good natured teasing is a part of what men do.

It wasn’t long before we were into the meat of life and its challenges.  My friend is alone.  His marriage disolved officially in this past year.  I watched him travel down that painful road.  It is a horrific experience.

The process of a marriage coming to an end is ugly.  Two who know each other closely and now have rigid lines of bias against each other is painful to watch.  Knowledge used to cause pain in the life of another is a sad experience.  Intimate knowledge used to inflict deep agony is unimaginably excrutiating.

All I could do was listen.  He talked.  He talked some more.  Then, he talked even more. 

Breakfast was served and we both poked at our food.  We stirred our eggs around and nibbled on our breakfast meats a bit.  But, the real reason for meeting was for one to talk and another to listen.  There was no great advice to be given.  So, I didn’t give any.

He picked up the tab.  We shook hands.  He smiled.  With his smile he expressed his appreciation for our time together.  He wanted to do that again, soon.  I watched him drive away.  Loneliness is the pits.


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