I was desperate, and you weren’t there

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“The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.” – Pudd’nhead Wilson (Mark Twain)

“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.” Job 2:11

 

From the above quotes, I hope you can identify the theme of my appeal: friendship. So let me get straight to an important request. If there is a friend in your life that you haven’t talked to in a while, reach out to them. Ask how they are doing. Just contact them to say hello. Don’t read this and do nothing.

I am not trying to inspire you to wishful thinking. I am admonishing you to act. Reach out to a friend that you haven’t heard from in a while. If you do that right now then you are excused from reading the rest. I want to share a few personal examples of why it is so important.

This past November was the one year anniversary of the death of a good friend of mine. He was 44 years old, had two young children, and drank himself to death. In high school, we were a close circle of about 6 friends who did everything together. As his life started to spiral out of control a few years ago we were there for him – to golf, to watch football and to have a few beers. None of us knew the pain in his life that was causing him to completely unravel until it was too late.

In retrospect, there were a lot of things we all would have done differently. And as overwhelming as his situation was the solution was simple. More on that in a moment.

More recently another friend – by the grace of God and with courage from the Holy Spirit – reached out to his circle of friends for help. He was in a dark, desperate place and was plagued by depression. This had been going on in his life for a few years. But of course, I was clueless to his pain because I had abandoned him.

Sure I thought about him a lot. “I wonder how George* is doing?” I would think to myself before immediately getting distracted. I would invite him to dinners or get-togethers and think nothing when I did not get a response. He would be included in the silly email strings that circulate on occasion, and that was the extent of my friendship. I justified my abandonment by telling myself that George is busy…has a demanding job…has young kids – all the typical excuses.

Little did I know that he was hurting and needed help. He had fallen into a pit of depression, and I was not there to help him out.

To be sure if a friend of mine calls and desperately asks for help I would move mountains to be there. But what about the friend who doesn’t call? Easy to help someone who asks for it. Far more difficult to find ways to be helpful to those who don’t ask.

But you don’t need a degree in psychiatry to help. The story of Job is informative. Upon hearing of his afflictions, Job’s friends traveled to be with him. Job was being tormented by Satan and was desperate and confused. When his friends arrived, “they sat on the ground with [Job] for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Job 2:13

What could they offer except their availability? They didn’t have the answer. They didn’t offer the exact right words to soothe his pain. They simply sat in his presence. In doing this Job knew he was not alone.

So take 5 minutes this week to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Maybe you will have a polite conversation, catch up on each other’s life and find that all is well.

But maybe in doing so, you will be reaching out to someone who desperately needs to know they are not alone.

*not real name

-Gavin

Are you listening to me???

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When was the last time someone really stopped and listened to you? How about you… be honest… when was the last time you stopped, set aside your own agenda, and really listened without trying to figure out how you were going to respond and what you were going to say next or thinking about all the to-dos you had on your list? What an important skill and what a gift it is… this difficult thing called listening.

In our transition over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many new people and test out this important skill. I’ll be frank… I’ve not always done it well! Trying to get stuff done, too much on my plate, unable to stop and set aside my own agenda and too tired to really pay attention… there are so many things that had gotten in the way of listening! Our busyness in life and our constant striving to achieve keep us from listening to our children, grandchildren, and our spouses. That doesn’t even touch on how flippant we can be with those who we just run into…

Poor listening causes so many unnecessary heartaches.  Anger, misunderstandings, broken relationships, hurt feelings, and feelings of inadequacy just to name a few.

I’ve also noticed that people are starving for someone to just listen to them. There are so many people who just want someone to care enough to set everything aside and be present for them… not with any answers or advice… just a listening ear. You may be feeling that right now.

So how can you be a better listener? An old saying that has always struck me is:

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus

Scripture speaks into this also:

To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13 (NIV)

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20 (NIV)

So, what it comes down to is take the time to listen. Take the time to understand. Take the time to respond appropriately. Stop what you’re doing, put down the electronics, suspend your own filters and agendas, and look the person in the eye… try to understand their situation… ask questions and then just listen. Some cultures teach about “reading the air”… hearing the hidden meanings and the needs behind the words… try listening for what’s behind the words. You will be astounded by what you will learn. You will be amazed at the leaps forward in building relationships. What an amazing gift you will be given when people start listening because you listened to them.

But hear this. God hears you. He is a faithful listener. It’s in Him that we can learn to become the listeners he has made us to be!

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV)

Let me know what you hear!

-Gerry

January 2017 Newsletter

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Happy New Year! Welcome to the January edition of the Whetstone Newsletter. You’ve probably read or heard a lot about resolutions, goals, and habits lately. They are the usual topic du jour for a new year. They are usually about adding something into your life. A new diet, a new exercise routine, a new bible reading plan, a new budget. So what about subtracting? What can you or should you subtract from your life? I’m not just talking about bad habits here, but those subtle influences that you’ve allowed in your life. What forms of media should go? What social website do you need to abandon because it’s not healthy for you? What guilty pleasure TV show should you jettison? What are you spending money on that you shouldn’t? There are some great articles below on just that. We’ve got so much as Americans, that even though we can have it all, we don’t need most of it.

Read

Your New Fitbit Won’t Change Your LifeTrevin Wax

Sometimes, we think about sin and sanctification in terms of cigarettes and Fitbits. We think that if we just warn people away from the consequences of sin, then people will steer clear. Sometimes, that works. But often, it doesn’t. Sin, after all, is irrational!

Did you get a Fitbit or similar tracker for Christmas? Did you make a New Year’s resolution to get in shape? Then you’ll want to read Trevin’s article and see where your motivation lies.

The Bachelor is Killing Romance in AmericaKareem Abdul-Jabbar

So, what’s so wrong with a little harmless entertainment of watching people scramble for “love” like ravenous crabs on a washed up seal corpse? In the short term, nothing. Just good, clean fun. But the long-term effects of their choices — from the types of people selected to be on the show to the promotion of a subversive, childish concept of love — is like smoking or listening to Kenny G: it can have serious consequences.

Yes, it’s that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If you’ve been wondering why relationships and marriage have cheapened, look no further than what we consider entertainment. Kareem lays out the argument against treating relationships, marriage, and romance like a game with winners and losers.

Digital Minimalism and Some Thoughts on Transitioning to Digital MinimalismCal Newport

Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, IM, text, CNN, Fox News, Feedly, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Have you thought about what the technology that you use costs you? In time, in attention, in relationships. Do they add or subtract from your life? What value, if any do they bring? We have a responsibility to steward our technology wisely.

A New Year and Another New BeginningSteve Smith

The beginning of a new year gives us all the choice to get something right that has been, well…not right, for perhaps a long, long time. When we think this way, it is really grace for us. We give up the weight of having to try and to try harder. We simply begin and we learn to begin again.

Need some inspiration and perspective on thinking through the new year and your future. Steve has 5 great suggestions to think through.

Watch

Minimalism – Netflix

This is a convicting documentary to watch. We have been extremely, exponentially, materially blessed in America. While I believe that the documentary has some of the problem correctly identified (sin is the real problem), I don’t believe that minimalism is the answer. A deep abiding faith in God is. That given aside, we have the responsibility to live as good stewards of the blessings we’ve been given. Just because we can buy, do, or have doesn’t mean that we should.

Listen

Obsessed – Jim Gaffigan

I used to be thin….when I was 6.  I’ve put on some weight, but luckily this is intentional. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’m preparing for a big role. It’s a cinnamon roll.

Jim Gaffigan is a hilarious and family friendly comedian. Have a good laugh or several (it’s good for you) and listen/watch his Obsessed show.

Stay Sharp!

Matt Rise