Posted tagged ‘friendship’

“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.

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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).

Removing the Mask

November 1, 2013

Removing the Mask

By Steven J. Callis

              

               However one might explain it, they all just showed up.  A Power Ranger, a princess, a lion, a couple of bumble bees, a baby pumpkin, a football player, a gypsy, a politician, Batman, a cheerleader, Little Red Riding Hood – – there were so many, I could not possibly recall all of them.

               One thing they all had in common is that they had their hands out, expecting something from me.  Now, looking at that list, we might readily expect that attitude from some of those characters, but some of them looked too sweet and too cute to be so demanding.  Actually, those are the ones who did not need to ask.  They were so adorable, how could anyone not put a treat in their bags?

               It is fun to dress up, to be someone other than who we really are.  It can be refreshing to step out of character for a couple of hours and be someone else.  After all, how boring would this special treat night be if everyone dressed in their normal daily attire?

               Then, there is the morning after.  We are greeted with a double whammy: enduring our candy hangover, and then assuming again our true identities.  Well, that is what most people expect of us, anyway.  The mask comes off, the costume is hung in the closet, and it is back to the daily routine.

               There is a word that does not necessarily apply to our annual trick or treat event, but it does have to do with wearing a mask.  Our English word, “hypocrite,” is derived from the Greek word meaning “to act on stage; to play a part, or to pretend.” History tells us that actors would wear a mask on stage, and often the mouth of the mask would include a kind of megaphone shape to assist the player in projecting the voice throughout the auditorium.

               Today hypocrisy has to do with actions that do not support a personal belief system.  Whether it is a matter of insecurity, the desire for acceptance, or a number of other reasons, the result most likely includes the inability to experience genuine, interpersonal relationships with other persons; a sad and lonely way to live.  The logical progression will develop a mutual lack of trust between the mask-wearer and his/her counterparts.

               If you are one who may struggle to any degree with the feeling of low self-worth, or in thinking that no one else could possibly believe in you and accept you for who you really are, I encourage you give others the benefit of doubt.  Most people are not nearly as demanding as we believe them to be.  Knowing that you can be trusted, that your motives are pure, and that you are true to yourself goes a long way in developing friendships.

               And because I believe the Bible to be the Word of God, I take comfort and encouragement from Psalm 139, as the Psalmist perceives humanity from the perspective of the Creator.  I must wonder if these words of David are what inspired the familiar adage, “I know I’m somebody, ‘cause God don’t make no junk!” 

The Problem with Oreos

August 9, 2013

The Problem with Oreos

By Steven J. Callis

 

The Oreo Cookie was introduced in 1912.  No changes were made at all until 1975 when Nabisco introduced a new Oreo Cookie – Double Stuff.  Do you understand what that means?  First of all, the original cookie stood on its own for 63 years!

Here’s my theory on that:  one day on milk and cookie break at the factory, some ordinary employee candidly remarked to his supervisor, “You know, after eating these things for 63 years, I’m getting kinda tired of them.  Why don’t we double the stuffing and see what that does to the flavor!”

The second implication is this: when they finally decided to make a change in the cookie, they did not change the coloring, or the recipe – they just doubled the amount of crème between the two cookie halves.  Brilliant!

Since then, they have tried several different ways to stay on the cutting edge of the cookie world.  They have even tried Cakesters – somehow it does not seem the same without the crunch!  Nabisco has made all of these attempts to keep Oreo on the top of the wanted list.  To my knowledge, however, Nabisco has never tried to sell a crème-less Oreo Cookie.

Think about it.  Without the crème, we would have a crunchy, dry chocolate cookie with cute little flowers on it to keep it from appearing to be a bland, chunky, dry chocolate cookie.  I am sure you’ve seen someone, maybe even yourself, twist the Oreo apart and eat the crème by itself.  I have even seen kids eat the filling and throw the cookie away.  On the other hand, I have never seen anyone eat the cookie and discard the crème.  And that, my friends, is the problem with Oreos – it’s the cookie!  Don’t get me wrong, the cookie is not a bad tasting cookie.  However, without the filling, it would not even be on the most wanted list!  Remember, Nabisco did not double the cookie in 1975, only the stuff!

Let me say it another way: it’s what’s inside that really matters!

The same may also be said for our everyday lives.  Human beings are imperfect creatures.  We make mistakes.  We sometimes choose poorly.  We can be unjust, self-absorbed, and lacking focus.  While I am responsible for all my actions, it does matter to me whether a specific hurtful action is intentional or careless – it matters what is on the inside behind that action.

As a child, I recall hearing it said of certain persons, “He/she has a heart of gold.”  This was a way to say that such a person would not intentionally say or do anything that would hurt another person; that nothing is beyond the limit of what he/she would do for someone else.

Here, then, is a twofold reminder: first, let us check our own motives, seeking to keep them pure.  Second, let us consider (but not assume!) the motives of others, and extend grace where the motive is innocent, even if the action caused hurt.  The Golden Rule is known inside and outside religious circles, and certainly it fits here: treat others the way you want to be treated.

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.

Saving a Life is Pretty Cool

August 20, 2012

Saving a Life is Pretty Cool – Steven J. Callis

“Saving a life is pretty cool.”  These are the words of Bryce, a 19 year old college student who endured a painful week-long procedure to donate bone marrow to a 47 year old leukemia patient in need of a transplant.  The young man’s mother said the pain he experienced during the process actually brought him to his knees.  He compared it to severely straining a muscle while lifting weights, except all over his body.

            As if this story needs another mark of character in it, Bryce knowingly sacrificed a starting position on his collegiate football team this fall in order to serve as a bone marrow donor.  Because of the procedure, his bones will be too weak to risk playing football this year.  How did he feel about that?  “When you compare losing a passion to losing a life, they are pretty easy to weigh against each other,” Bryce said.

            Bryce’s friend since elementary school is also fighting a battle with leukemia and is in need of a transplant.  While Bryce was not a matching candidate for his friend, he was able to transfer that life-saving desire to help someone else, having learned about the potential while attending a donor drive for his friend.

            This reminds me of a similar story about a little boy whose brother needed a life-saving operation.  The parents explained to him that he had the same blood type as his brother, who would need blood during surgery in order to survive.  Agreeing to give his own blood to save his brother’s life, the nurse made the necessary preparations and then began the procedure.  After a few seconds the parents noticed tears running down his cheeks.  Asking if he was in pain, his quivering lips spoke, “How long before I die?”  In his mind, he thought giving up his blood to save his brother’s life would end his own.

            The Christian faith believes in the crucified and risen Christ, whose volitional, sacrificial death on a cross made atonement for the sins of humankind, by which those who believe receive His gift of eternal life.  Through one man (Adam), sin entered the world, and through One (Jesus), sin is pardoned.  I don’t mean this sacrilegiously, but I think Jesus would agree with Bryce: “Yes, it’s pretty ‘cool’ to save a life.”

If you have not experienced this life-saving gift, I urge you to contact a local church pastor to find out more about God’s gift of life. 

By the way, donating blood could save another person’s life, and you can find more information about that act of kindness through the Red Cross.  Also, doing a simple kind deed for someone else may not save the person’s life, but it could rescue a moment of it.  Reach out and give someone else a reason to smile today.