Posted tagged ‘friends’

Funerals Bring out the Best in Us

March 17, 2017

Dr. Steven J. Callis

Being a pastor has afforded me many opportunities to preach or attend funerals over the years.  While these occasions provide some truly interesting stories, one common theme connecting them all is the goodness of the deceased remembered by family and friends.

In one instance where I had no personal connection with the deceased, I listened to the personal remarks of a couple of people and concluded that this person was truly a blessing to his family and church.  That’s when an elderly lady seated in front of me leaned over to her friend and “tried” to whisper, “Do you think they’re talking about another Bill Davis?”  Apparently, they thought that what we heard was too good to be true!

I recall only a handful of times when the obvious negative traits of the deceased were acknowledged.  Those speaking on behalf of the individuals were realistic and honest about the rough, sharp-edged, and even mean-spirited traits portrayed in these person’s lives.

These courageous friends and family dared to mention the ‘elephant in the room.’  Yet, their acknowledgment opened the door to also recognize some of the redeeming qualities in these individuals that may often have been overlooked by others or overshadowed by their own difficult personalities.

I was unacquainted with the deceased at the funeral I attended yesterday, but it was another of many instances where I sensed a missed blessing by not having the opportunity to know the deceased.  Though it was indicative that he persisted on having things done only his way, his love for family, friends, and church – along with an over-active sense of humor – endeared him to many people, and especially his teenage grandchildren, most of whom referred to him as ‘the greatest person they had ever known.’                 Our society has conditioned us toward suspicion, hesitant to give another person the benefit of the doubt.  We are quick to find fault and slow to look for the redeeming qualities in people.  We tend to make assumptions based on what we see (appearance) rather than what we could observe (character).

Further, we are swift to judge and unwilling to forget.  We are prone to allow a person’s single lapse in judgment or behavior to taint forever their image in our minds.  We typically are not big on mercy or second chances, which is part of our own unpalatable qualities.

The speakers at the funerals where the true colors of the deceased were stated unknowingly taught the listeners a lesson: look for and encourage the redeeming qualities of those present around us rather than waiting until they are no longer here to realize how their goodness impacts others.

I want to live my life in such a way that those who come in support of my family and to bid me farewell will readily remember the redemptive traits of behavior and attitude that, by God’s grace, I was enabled to portray.  The Bible teaches us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility to consider others more important than ourselves.”  That is what it means to live redemptively.

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“C” Words We Try to Avoid

May 9, 2014

by Steven J. Callis

I attended the memorial service of a lifelong friend last week. What he thought to be severe sinus, then a wisdom tooth problem, then TMJ, turned out to be cancer in the neck and throat. He would have preferred dental surgery over chemo and radiation, for sure. The battle lasted less than a year.

Cancer is a cruel enemy. It likes to be in charge. It demands its own way. It gives no thought to setting its own time schedule and ignoring one’s priorities. It is painful and debilitating. It refuses to succumb even to the pleas of the wealthy and healthy and powerful and beautiful. It cares nothing for age, gender, ethnicity, education, or politics. It is a friend to no one.

Commitment is another “C” word many people like to avoid. It, too, is very demanding. It insists on being number one. It expects to be permanent; to be written in stone. It has no room for slackers and half-hearts. Like cancer, it will not be compromised by age, gender, ethnicity, education, or politics. It will not give in to the rich and powerful. From the least to the greatest of those who choose it, commitment demands absolute loyalty.

My friend is an example of what these words can do to a person. He did not choose cancer, it chose him. In its normal fashion, cancer turned his world upside down and did a number on him physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is a disease that cannot seem to help itself. Yet, its havoc-wreaking attack did not cause complete devastation. That was its goal, but it failed.

For in the midst of this intense battle, priorities of life were examined and commitments were evaluated. Despite all the bad it caused, the battle led my friend to a place where his faith in Christ and his love for others were solidified. Oh, he had faith, and he had friends and family, but these changes in his life circumstances made his focus more about others and less about self. His Cancer became a Catalyst for Complete Commitment.

We would expect a bleak prognosis such as untreatable cancer to send its victim into a frightening, dangerous, downward spiral of emotions and energy. Not so for my friend and others who become motivated to settle their debates and unanswered questions. His newfound commitments gave him a peace, a positive outlook, and a heart for those around him.

Cancer is not the key to that equation. Commitment is the key. It is a “C” word that will be your friend and take you to the better places of life when you give yourself to it. That is especially true when your highest commitment is to your relationship with Jesus Christ.

No Unfinished Business

February 17, 2014

by Steven J. Callis

I read that the longest love letter ever written – and the simplest – was in 1875 from a painter named Marcel de Leclure to Magdalene de Villaore.  The letter contained the phrase “jevous aime” 1,875,000 times, or 1000 times the calendar years of the date.

Even more astounding is that he did not write the letter himself, but hired a scribe to do the work.  Let’s not be too quick to judge; he verbally dictated every word to the scribe as the letter was written, and then had the scribe read it back to him verbatim. The phrase, which means “I love you,” was written and spoken collectively 5,625,000 times before it ever reached its intended recipient.

For many people, Valentine’s Day demands creativity; seeking new and unique methods of saying, “I love you.”  While there are differing versions of the true origins of the holiday, I feel certain that it did not begin with the goal of retailers expecting to rack up about $650 million dollars selling food, candy, flowers, and other Valentine’s Day related goods.

On the positive side, this holiday reminds us that expressions of love and affection – both romantic love and friendship – are important in the sustenance of relationships.  The danger, however, is to relegate such expressions only to special occasions, which otherwise become lost in the daily routines of life.

Country music legend Garth Brooks may have been aware of that danger when he thought about his own relationships.  He pondered such questions as these:  “If tomorrow never comes will she know how much I loved her?  Did I try in every way to show her every day that she’s my only one?”

In other words, he did not want to risk going to sleep with unfinished or unresolved “business” in his life.  He could not bear to think of withholding words and expressions of affection from those who mean so much to him until it is too late to share them.  Every positive expression of love breathes life into the relationship and sustains it.

Now that the holiday has passed, let’s be more determined and deliberate to make every day Valentine’s Day. “So tell that someone that you love just what you’re thinking of…” (Brooks).

It’s a Small World

August 1, 2013

It’s a Small, Small World

By Steven J. Callis

 

My family and I just wrapped up a one week vacation at the beach.  It is always good to get away, and equally good to be back home.  The forecast called for isolated thunder storms every day, but we were blessed with mostly good weather.

There was one afternoon when thunder and lightning sent most of the beachgoers running for cover with their chairs and towels and umbrellas and coolers – by the time I had showered, the sun was out, and the skies had returned to their beautiful blue with white fluffy clouds, and some of the more determined beach enthusiasts were lured back to their favorite spot by the ocean, only to be caught in a second downpour.  I heard one of the locals exclaim that weather forecasters in his town have a very difficult job!

On another day I had engaged a family of three in conversation when the wife mentioned that she liked my shirt.  It was a gray shirt with “Walk for Life” printed on it, along with reference to a biblical truth, “He knows my name,” and a cross.  I explained that Walk for Life is an annual fundraiser for the Pregnancy Resource Center and Clinic in Douglasville, and went on to explain the services and ministry of PRC which I wholehearted support, along with my church.

I noticed their facial expressions grow from normal to a slight grin that seemed to increase as I informed them about PRC, indicating their pleasure and approval.  She finally responded that their church supports The Gabriel Project near their home in Charleston, West Virginia.  The description of that ministry included the very same characteristics as our own PRC!

We marveled together at how ironic it was to cross paths 7 hours away from home and have something like that in common.  That simple link to another family, discovered because of a t-shirt, gave us a connection that lasted through the week.  And on a grander scale, I have come to realize, as have you, that simple common bonds can be found nearly anywhere, serving to break down walls of isolation to offer a sense of universal kinship.

The only time I have lived outside the southeast was during my years as a seminary student in the Midwest.  Being newlyweds, far from our friends and relatives, an older couple in the church we attended invited my wife and me to their home for Christmas dinner.  Not only did we enjoy a great meal and a fun afternoon together, but we discovered in the course of conversation that we were distantly related!

These are only two of many similar examples I could list where threads of commonality run wide and deep to connect us with other people.  In nearly every instance, the discovery of commonality was made because someone took the risk to step outside their own little world and reach out to another person, which led to the idea that, in some ways, it is a small world in which we live.

For the sake of our community and our world, let us choose to build on our commonalities towards connection and unity.  It usually does not take much; a smile, a handshake, a friendly greeting while waiting in line at the checkout register – are you curious to know what you have in common with the person seated across from you in the waiting room of the doctor’s office?  Differences are inevitable among members of the human race, but discovering and building on our commonalities increases the strength of our unity.

By the way, among the last of our shopping stops was a place called Crabby Jack’s General Store.  The forty-something man behind the counter asked where we were from, which quickly led to the fact that he is a native of Douglasville, graduate of Alexander High School, and resided here all of his life until he moved to the coast two years ago.  It really is a small world!

Bridge Building

May 19, 2013

Are You Ready to Build a Bridge?
Steven J. Callis

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, sometimes called simply the Causeway, is composed of two parallel bridges crossing Lake Pontchartrain in southern Louisiana. The original Causeway was a two-lane span, measuring nearly 24 miles in length. It opened in 1956 at a cost of $30.7 million. A parallel two-lane span opened on May 10, 1969, at a cost of $26 million. It remains the longest continuous bridge over water in the world, according to Guinness Book of World Records.
The purpose of the bridge was not to establish a world record or achieve any level of claim to fame. What the Causeway did accomplish was a shorter route to the New Orleans area for commuters, saving nearly one hour of travel time, compared to the previous route around the body of water.
In 2006 there were an estimated 600,000 roadway bridges in the United States open to the public. This statistic does not take into account other types of bridges, such as railways and walkways.
There is another type of bridge whose origin can be traced back as far at the 5th century B.C. in ancient Greece. We know it today as a handshake. A bridge is defined as a connecting, transitional, or intermediate route between two adjacent places, or something that spans a chasm. Have you ever noticed how the arms of two individuals span the chasm between them when they shake hands?
Last weekend two well-known professional golfers were paired together in the third round of The Players Championship. Having witnessed some tension between the two golfers over recent years, the media really played the hype on this pairing.  As it turned out, there was an incident early in their round that added to the tension of the circumstance, eventually resulting in mutual negative comments to the media later in the day. But it could have been much worse.
Something took place at the close of their round of golf which, in most instances, would seem commonplace in a professional golf tournament. Under these circumstances, however, it was a gentlemanly gesture on the part of each golfer: they built a bridge.
Despite their personal thoughts and feelings towards one another, on the 18th green they removed their hats and shook hands. There were no smiles; they may not even have made eye contact. They did, however, hold true to the tradition of professional golfers, which certainly required some amount of humility.
In a number of other sports, duking it out may have been a logical outcome at the end of the match – or even on the second fairway where the incident took place! Even there on the 18th green, they could have ignored tradition and, thereby, added fuel to the fire. (I have to wonder if that is what the media was hoping would happen!) But they chose to build a bridge. Certainly there is a chasm that exists between the two personalities, but a handshake spanned that chasm for a couple of seconds, somewhat easing the tension, and seemingly wowing the commentators.
Is there is a bridge that you need to build with another individual with whom some slight conflict has developed? Ignoring it will not make it disappear, and could even cause it to grow worse. You can choose to extend the right hand of friendship and span that chasm. The gesture may not resolve the conflict, but it could be the first step to easing tension and restoring communication. I hope you will choose to build a bridge.