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Hello Friend

Friend

Is there any other phrase that can bring joy to your heart as that does? What emotions and thoughts come up when you hear this? Who’s face do you imagine?

For me, it’s getting off the train in Rochester and seeing my friend Jason’s car pull up. Who knows what the next few days will bring, but I know there will be plenty of food, plenty of stories, and conversations and oh my goodness… we’re going to laugh until our guts threaten to burst out. It’s always a time of joy.

So recently I’ve been going to the website of a ministry that is very close to my heart quite a bit, and greeting me every time is a large welcome that simply says “Hello Friend”. Now they don’t know me, or any of my hopes or desires or faults or fear. Maybe they sat around in a committee and determined what might be a greeting on task with their brand that would bring the greatest attention to them. Maybe my first response should be, “I’m not your friend. You don’t even know me!”

But it’s not.

Rather it’s a moment of delighted contemplation. It’s a rush of Oxytocin rushing through my head and a sigh of joy. I don’t really know these people and they don’t know me, but I do know their heart. I know that should I be there in person, even for the first time, this greeting would not be out of place. There is a place in their heart for a desire to get beyond the stranger phase and into the deeper issues of life, the heart and God with this new friend in their midst.

So every time I open the site I find myself whispering, “Hello to you, my friends”

Because, and I firmly believe this, friendship is a choice. Friendship is a heart language and a life attitude. Friendship is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.

I saw this knowing full well all my hangups over having friends.

Yah, it started early in life, but a million things run through my head when I am around people. “Am I coming across as kind enough? Approachable enough? Am I cool enough to hang with them? Are they being polite and considerate, or am I really fitting in? Will I be invited back? Am I fun enough? Am I talking too much? Am I asking enough questions? Will I be seen? Will I be remembered? Have I been staring too long at them in silence while I ask all these questions in my head?”

So yah. Hangups.

For some, friendships come easy and natural. For others they are hard-fought and far between. Some are smooth and fluid. Others are forced and fragile.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I want to get deeper into it with you, my friends.

Beyond all the weird pleasantries and awkwardness that comes from human interaction, there’s something that friendships have that really separates the real from the surface. It always asks the question, “Where is your heart?”

See, that’s why that “Hello friend” greeting at the train station means so much to me. Beyond the food and laughter and catching up, I’m going to get to ask him where his heart is and he is going to be able to ask me. Sometimes this life can get so lonely and our heart goes through its seasons alone in the darkness of our chests. But sometime a friend has the ability and desire to see us. And isn’t that what we all really want? To really be seen?

We tell ourselves if someone saw us for who we really are, they would reject and hate us. We tell ourselves that because all of us have had people see us for who we really are and reject and hate us for it. It’s a cruel world sometimes. But with our friends, it’s a different story, isn’t it?

Not to say they aren’t human and we aren’t human, but I think that’s what makes them even more important. To have someone that loves us for who we are, but also challenges us to grow a little kinder, be a little braver, forgive a little deeper and try a little harder.

When I first saw that big ol’ greeting on the website “Hello friend”, I thought of an old friend I had named Rich Mullins. I say that like I even met the man before he died. Only saw him once in a short concert in which I had terrible seats. Never even got within handshaking distance of him. And yet… yes… I consider him my friend. Maybe he never “saw” me, but I feel I got to see him. He would constantly challenge me to grow a little kinder, be a little braver, forgive a little deeper and try a little harder.

I remember where I was when we first met. I was a scared 16 yr old kid at a mission base in New York City. I was being stretched father then I felt I could and was ready to break. On top of it, I felt friendless and alone. (refer to my above hangup). I was sitting in the common room and found a cassette tape someone had left behind. I put it in and it started playing the song, “If I Stand”.

I knew I had immediately found a friend.

It’s going to be so awkward in heaven when I go to give him a big hug and then have to introduce myself.

On second thought… maybe not so awkward. I think many of us will be giving and receiving those kinds of greetings.

So anyways, I open the website and am greeted by a big sign that says “Hello Friend” and I thought of Rich Mullins. Specifically I thought of his song “Hello Old Friends”. It’s been playing in my head ever since.

It says things like “So we meet again after all these many years. Did we sow the seeds we’re reaping now that the harvest calls us here? Seems love blooms out of season, and much joy can blossom from many tears.”

Seems love blooms out of season. Thats something that a dear friend brings to the table. You know those seasons in your life where your heart is lost in a dark and lonely place and a single text from a friend changes everything. It’s not a season of rejoicing and joy. It’s a season of fallow ground, bitter tears and barren landscape. But then BOOM… there’s love, growing where nothing has any right to grow. Amazing.

He also says things like, “So old friends you must forget what you had to forgive and let love be stronger than the feelings that rage and run beneath the bridge. Knowing morning follows evening makes each new day come as a gift.”

Right? I’ve forgiven. But it’s harder to forget, isn’t it? Some people vow never to forget. “I’ll forgive, but I swear to God I will never forget!”

But God does.

He takes our sins in which He paid the price for, and throws them into a very deep sea (Micah 7:18-19). In Isaiah 43:25 He says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” And aren’t we called to forgive like He does?

But it’s so hard, isn’t it? It’s easy for me to forgive, but my mind never wants to forget. It pulls up all these harsh emotions and makes me angry and bitter all over again. But a friend once told me to let my love pull me up higher. Not to ignore these strong emotions, but to stand on a bridge of love above them as they rage and run beneath. And when the times is right, which it is…

…to forget what you had to forgive.

My friends always have the best advice. The best stuff to challenges me to grow a little kinder, be a little braver, forgive a little deeper and try a little harder.

Now sometimes I will forget all these friends, especially when I’m in a dark place. Sometimes I will swear I have no friends and that nobody is interested in seeing me… really seeing me. I will feel like a ghost walking through this life. The night is cold and dark and long.

But I will remember the words of a friend that once told me that morning follows evening and makes each new day seem like a gift. There is always hope and there is always a divine pathway out of the darkest cave… if we will accept it.

I have one more friend that I’ve never actually seen yet. I know him and am getting to know him more and more. All I want to do is to get to know him more and more. But I’ll never know him as much as he knows me…as much as he SEES me.

He said this to his disciples in John 15:5, but I know he also says it to me. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you…

friends

For everything that I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

So there you go. One day I’m going to see this friend face to face. I want to hear him say “Well done my good and faithful servant”, but that’s not the first thing I want to hear him say. As I look over that beautiful field of Karmel Gal Chayah at the grass blowing in the wind of the Spirit and I look up to see him there walking towards me I dream of these two words being the first to come out of his mouth…

“Hello friend!”

It’s the joy that keeps me going. It’s the light in the darkest of nights. It’s what I think of every time I open that website to it’s wonderful greeting. It’s my hope.

So old friends, there’s really nothing new to say. But the old old story bears repeating and the plain old truth grows dearer every day. When you find something worth believing…

…Well that’s a joy that nothing could take away.

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