Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Command to Love

At the Bible Study yesterday morning the subject was friendships. Nothing stirs up emotions for me faster or more profoundly then this topic. Good friends are such a gift!

I’ve written before about the friends I’ve lost, not to death, but to brokenness. Joni (the Bible study teacher) shared about a silly feud she once found herself embroiled in. She didn’t even know what she’d done, or how it started, but she knew her friend was mad at her. So, she confronted her.

As it turns out, the other woman was angry with Joni for moving a plant on the church platform. Ridiculous, right?

Women can be ridiculous. We can be jealous, petty, catty, gossipy, and just plain mean. I’ve penned many a post on this very topic

So, what IS a friend? According to the Miriam/Webster Dictionary a friend is, “One attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion.” The Bible says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, NIV).

In politics, a “friend” is someone who shares your philosophy, or supports your agenda. For me, a friend is someone who cares about you even when they don’t agree. A friend has your back, walks and cries with you through the tough stuff, makes you laugh even when life throws you a curve, and holds you accountable when you’re being a ditz.

One of the women I loved dumped me because, among other things, I walked away from her after seeing her in the hall at church. She says I made eye contact with her, then turned and walked the other direction. “I have no choice”, she said, “but to assume you’re jealous of me.” Well, I don’t even recall that incident, but my mind is often someplace else and that may have been the case that day. Who knows? I’m sure it had nothing to do with her!

That particular friend had her list of reasons that I was “too weak” to be her friend, but it all comes down to this—she no longer liked me. Period. Losing the relationship with that woman wasn’t exactly a big loss. Unfortunately, she took a few other people who I loved and trusted down with her. THAT is the source of my greatest sadness.

When I was growing up my mom always said that to have a friend, we needed to be a friend. I always thought I was a good friend. Caring for others is second nature to me—watching a friend’s children when she’s sick, preparing meals and helping with the laundry after a surgery, driving miles to hold a hand at a funeral, or defending someone I loved when they’ve been wronged. It never occurred to me to NOT do those things.

The saddest point about the lost friendships is that they were Christian friends. The verse just before the above stated scripture says, “My command is this, love one another as I have loved you.” It’s not a suggestion or a piece of arbitrary advice—it’s a command from the God we claim to love and serve. What gives us the right to be so petty, judgmental, critical, and mean?

To have a friend who has my back. Wow! I hope to one day have that kind of friend, and I long to be that kind of friend.

Friday, January 21, 2011


A couple of days ago I wrote about the sadness caused by friends who keep silent. The post was inspired by my friend, Cameron’s Facebook status in which he quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. Today I’ve been inspired once again by a Facebook status, and the power of words.

From a friend: The day just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Random encounter at a gas station. Went in to fill up, a bully from my days in junior high comes up to me. At first did not recognize him, till he called me by my name I used then. Instantly my guard went up. He came over and apologized for the way he treated me back then. WOW! So long ago, but I appreciated that so much.

The bully could have stayed silent. My friend hadn’t even noticed or recognized the tormenter from his past. But the man didn’t keep his mouth zipped; rather he shook off any hint of embarrassment and humbly faced his ugly former self.

There’s a lot of talk these days about bullies. Look, we’ve all got our stories. My maiden name was “Santori” and since I’m six feet tall I was often called, “Two-story Santori”. I went to a Christian high school and never really felt like I fit in. I was too poor, too tall, too unattractive, too whatever.

As an adult I’ve been bullied - mostly by other women. No matter the age of the antagonizer, there are some truths to remember. They need to put other people down to make them feel better about who they are. They’re jealous, insecure, scared, envious, or just plain mean. It’s rarely about the victim.

Of course, when you’re the one getting tormented, gossiped about, or the one about whom people are telling lies; it’s almost impossible to not take it personally.

Several people responded to my friend’s Facebook post, and he himself wrote a follow-up comment. Still in shock. For someone to do that. I can't tell you how much time, and therapy, I have gone through dealing with a lot of that "junk" from my past. Nice to scratch off a name from my "list" of people who caused me so much grief back then.

He went on. You know the old saying, "sticks and stones...yada, yada, yada, but names will never harm me." SO not true. Words are extremely hurtful and CAN stick with you for years. They have and they did. Hopefully by this man’s action, maybe karma has been unkind to him. Karma is a powerful thing. I forgave him, and wished him well.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Like my friend, I’ve been through tons of therapy because of WORDS. Stupid, hateful, and dumb words! Crazy! And, as I wrote the other day, silence can also hurt and tear friendships apart. We’ve all faced the opportunity to stand up to a bully, but how many of us have done it? Not enough, I’m sure.

Notice my friend’s last sentence, “I forgave him and wished him well.” I forgave him. Wow! That is what grace looks like. Awesome!

To those of you who used to be the schoolyard bully, listen up—it’s not too late to do the right thing. Words hurt. The pain caused by ugly words lessons over time, but never disappears altogether. It’s never too late to say, “I’m sorry”.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"The Silence of our Friends"

On Monday of this week we celebrated the life of human rights advocate, Martin Luther King, Jr. For the week leading up to the holiday my friends posted some of their favorite King quotes on Facebook.

Cameron posted the following King quote on his profile page: "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Dr. King’s life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968. I was six years old—a kindergartner at Tarpey Elementary School in Clovis, California. I don’t remember how my parents reacted to the leader’s death, but I remember people around me expressing concern for the state of our world.

We lived in California, where everyone accepted everybody and everything, and I never sensed the deep-seated kind of hatred that white people in other parts of the country seemed to feel toward blacks. That may be why I was much older before I really understood the risks that Martin Luther King, Jr. took in speaking boldly.

Dr. King encouraged all of us to refrain from silence. It wasn’t enough to have black friends, he asked us to speak out and speak up for said friends. He gave us all—regardless of skin color—the courage to speak boldly.

I do understand how silence can ruin a friendship and shatter a trust. I long ago accepted the ugliness and weakness of character as revealed when a person opens their mouth to condemn, criticize, or castigate an innocent person. But the friend who sits quietly by and says nothing? I can’t comprehend what motivates that kind of silence.

We don’t hesitate to open our mouths and vomit our opinions on anyone who might be within earshot. We declare the democrats are too soft, the republicans lack compassion, Christians are hypocrites, and the police are corrupt. We whine and complain about the weather, high gas prices, the cost of pack of cigarettes, and the volume at which television commercials are blasted at us.

We don’t hesitate to express our opinions concerning subjects about which we have little knowledge, and yet we fail to speak up on behalf of a friend in need of our support.

Have you kept silent for too long? It’s not too late to let your voice be heard. Someone needs you to break your silence today. I bet you can think of a friend who needs you to do more than nod in agreement. They need you to open your mouth and tell the truth—to defend them against a terrible wrong.

At the end of my friends’ lives I would hate any one of them to spend a minute remembering a time when I could’ve spoken up, but didn’t. How sad that would be!

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dancing With Skeletons

It's Wild Ride Wednesday. When I'm gone, I'll be leaving behind a messy legacy...and I wouldn't change a thing! I'm gonna dance with all the skeletons in the closet!

My life is messy, and I like it that way.

Several years ago a friend of mine was lamenting about the different girls his son had dated. There was a huge difference, he noted, between the young ladies who came from intact families, and the ones who grew up in broken homes. The girls whose parents were still married were decidedly more stable, and my friend hoped that just such a young woman would end up being the mother of his grandchildren.

I was a bit offended by that generalization. I’m the product of a broken home AND I’m divorced, and I’m fabulous!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about pedigrees and family legacies. Like most kids, I wished and prayed for my parents to stay together. However, as I grew and matured I came to understand that mom and dad were healthier people apart from one another then they might have been if they’d stayed in a bad marriage.

People brag about their family legacies. I know people who come from a long line of doctors or teachers or artists. They wave the branches of their family trees with honor and pride.

Many of my friends are Christians. Christian legacies are very important. It’s not unusual to meet pastors whose parents and grandparents were pastors, or couples whose families haven’t seen a divorce since the turn of the last century.

I also know many people who are ashamed of some of the nuts growing on their family tree. They sweep the dirt of their kinfolk under the heirloom rug and bury ugly skeletons deep in the basement closet. They don’t talk about the uncle who once spent time in prison, the crazy cousin who’s been divorced three times, or the brother that doesn’t spend holidays with the folks.

My own father didn’t know his dad had been married to another woman before his mom until he was in his mid-twenties. That was a well-kept family secret.

I’ll be leaving a messy family legacy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! My parent’s marriage wasn’t perfect, and I thank God. If it had been, I wouldn’t have a beautiful little sister named Megan. My husband’s mom and dad both said “I do” more than once. Although Tom was the only child born of his parent’s union, he now has eight brothers and sisters—all wonderful and incredible people. We’re so lucky.

I divorced my oldest son’s dad after he walked out more than 25 years ago, but we are blessed to have my ex’s family in our lives. My kids have made bad choices and they’ve taken us on a wild ride, but oh, the incredible people we’ve met along the way! I’m so grateful for the counselors, parole officers, wayward kids, and parents of prodigals who’ve inspired and loved us. My life is better because of each and every one of you.

Yep, my life is messy. Our family isn’t perfect. We’ve stumbled along the way and we’ve got skeletons in our closet. Unlike some of you, however, we bring our skeletons out to play. We dance and rejoice with them as we remember where we’ve been, appreciate where we are, and look forward to the good days yet to come.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Everyone deserves another chance!

Every person has been gifted in wonderful and unique ways. Everyone has a diamond inside of them - a diamond just waiting to shine. This wonderful video reminds us to look beyond the wrapping and see the fabulous gift inside each and every man and woman.