Friends: A story of Christmas

It was 4 years ago, the winter of 2010. I was headed back to Union College in Lincoln, NE from Thanksgiving break with my family in Wisconsin. I started to notice that I was losing power. Something wasn’t right. I pulled over to see if I could figure out the problem. As soon as I saw the milky-white oil, I knew I wasn’t driving any further that night. 85 miles from Lincoln, in zero degree weather, at 11 o’clock in the evening, I did the only thing I could: I called my friend and housemate Stephen Baker.

While I was waiting for Baker to come pick me up, an Iowa State Trooper pulled up behind me. When I told him my situation, he offered to take me to the state line and drop me off at a gas station where I could get out of the weather. I gratefully took him up on his offer. About an hour later, Baker arrived at the gas station and picked me up. He drove a total of 2 hours in the middle of the night just to help out a friend in need.

The next morning, I needed to go back and get my truck. I called my friend Garrett McLarty, and we got the campus ministries pickup and trailer, skipped class, and headed out to retrieve my truck. McLarty skipped a full day of classes at the tail end of the semester in order to help me get my truck back to school. Not only that, but he also bought me lunch.

I spent the next few weeks sleeping very little, and working on my truck every moment that I wasn’t at work or in class. I skipped several classes, and took more than one test covered in grease. Throughout this time, my friends Stephen Baker, Scott Erickson, and Jamie Syvertson gave me help turning wrenches and let me take their cars when I needed to go to Advance or AutoZone on parts runs. Thanks to their help, I was able to get my truck back together on the very day that Christmas break started–after replacing the head gasket, water pump, and doing a complete timing job. (The timing chain guide had snapped, and the timing chain had worn a gash in the water jacket of the timing cover.)

I washed the grease off my hands and face, threw a bag in the truck, and headed home, happy to finally be done with auto issues.

I was premature.

In my haste to be on my way home, and my focus on fixing the mechanical issues, I forgot to weight the bed of my pickup. There was no snow in Nebraska, but I ran into snow somewhere in Iowa. Everything was going fine until I got into Wisconsin. Just outside of Platteville, while crossing an icy bridge, I broke out of the cover of the trees and the back of my truck was caught by a gust of wind, sending me sliding sideways across the road. When I came to a stop, a post from the bridge railing had punctured my radiator. Even in the heavy winds and -5 degree temperature, my engine quickly began to overheat. I got the truck to the nearest rest area, and did the only thing I could do: call my friend Michael Rybicki.

Mike lived 2 hours away, and it was about midnight, but he immediately started on his way to pick me up. We got to his place at about 4am, and I caught a couple hours of sleep on his couch. Then I had to deal with getting my truck home. My folks were out of the country, so I did the only thing I could do: I called Jim Johnson, the Camp Manager for Camp Wakonda all 7 years I worked there, the man who taught me to weld, and one of my major role models. Jim hooked up his trailer and came to get me. Jim drove an hour to pick me up from Mike’s place, 2 hours to get my truck, 3 hours to get me and my truck home, and then another 2 hours to get back home himself, for a total of 8 hours on the road.

I was thankful for all the help from my friends, and glad to finally be done with auto issues.

Unfortunately, I was once again premature.

Since my parents were out of the country, I needed to go pick up my sister from Wisconsin Academy. While my truck was out of commission, it wasn’t too much of a problem, because my Dad had left his minivan at the house. I dug out the keys, loaded my brothers Kreed (12 at the time) and Kevin (10 at the time) in the van, and started off to pick up Keturah. We were almost to Wisconsin Academy when I accidentally took the wrong exit. As I was decelerating on the off-ramp, I noticed a thumping sound coming from the right rear wheel. I pulled over and got out to investigate.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Out of 5 lugs, 4 of them were snapped. Only one lug was holding the wheel on the axle. I called my sister, and told her that we were going to be late. She told a family friend, Darrell Buchholz, what was going on, and he arranged for a tow a few miles to the house of some other family friends, the Kings, who had a heated garage they let me work in. Then he went to AutoZone and picked up 4 new lugs and lug nuts for me. A couple hours after my sister’s Christmas program ended, we were back on the road headed home.

I was glad to finally be done with auto issues.

In the course of just a few weeks, I had to rely on friends more times than I can count. I never repaid any of those friends. I can’t. The value of the help they gave me in those few weeks far exceeds any value I can give back to them. All I can do is be thankful for the quality of friends that I have been blessed with, and try to be as good of a friend to my friends as my friends have been to me.

This Christmas, give the best gift you can: be a true friend.

Be the Man

I was enjoying a peaceful pipe.

One of my female subordinates walked up, lit a cigarette, and began complaining about her husband. “Every relationship I’ve ever been in, I always end up being the man, and the guy ends up being the woman. Now my husband is doing the same shit. Why do I have to be the man?”

Hmm…

“So, *Amy, what you are saying is that you want your husband to step up and be the man in your relationship?”

“Yeah. I hate being the man.”

“Then what you have to do is refuse to be anything but the woman. If he’s not stepping up and being the man, you have to leave that space unfilled, rather than stepping into it yourself. It will be uncomfortable. But eventually, he will realize that you aren’t going to fill the role and that it’s up to him to step up and fill it. Most guys are afraid to fill that role, because feminism has told them they shouldn’t want to fill it. But if you don’t, eventually he will.”

“That kinda makes sense, but how do I do that?”

“Don’t take over those things that you resent taking over. Let them fall through the cracks until he realizes it is up to him to handle them.”

“Do you really think that will work?”

“Nothing draws out masculinity like femininity. They balance. The more masculine you become, the more he will tend to become feminine. The more feminine you become, the more he will tend to become masculine. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. It’s how men and women were made to work. Today you don’t have many masculine men, but you don’t have many feminine women either. They go hand in hand.”

“I never heard that before, but it makes sense.”

So now I turn to my primary audience, young men. What do I expect you to gain from this conversation? It applies to you as much as it applied to Amy. Are you frustrated by a lack of femininity in the women around you? Then your job is to be more masculine. Your job is to so fully provide masculinity that the women around you feel comfortable being fully feminine.

Just as femininity draws out masculinity, masculinity draws out femininity.

Are you tired of being the woman in your relationships? Do you secretly wish that she would let you be the man? Well, I have news for you. She probably wishes you would step up and be the man. But the likelihood is that she isn’t going to run into someone in the designated smoking area that will explain to her how to make that easier for you. Instead, you are going to have to stand up and wrestle that position back. She wants you to take it back, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t going to fight it–women are weird that way. A man that needs permission to be the man isn’t really being the man. Be confident in who you were designed to be–God made you a man because He wants you to be the man.

I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man —1 Kings 2:2 (KJV)


*Not her real name.

Book Review: Victorious Christian Living, by Alan Redpath

I read this book on a recommendation from a pastor friend, and found the majority of it unremarkable. However, I did enjoy chapters 8-11 (the middle portion of the book). While most books have the weakest portions at the middle, this book had its strongest portions there. Here is a selection I enjoyed:

Fellow Christian, if you have made your mistake, lost your battle, and find yourself in difficulty, you cannot make that an excuse for breaking your word. The Christian is a man (or should be) of principle and integrity. Of course, mark you, there are some covenants better broken than kept. For example, Herod’s oath to give anything she asked to the daughter of Herodias, who had inflamed him as she danced before him, was no justification for murder. For heaven’s sake break today a covenant made in open, blatant sin. But some Christian may have entered into a wrong alliance in business or in marriage, and find himself tied to a Gibeonite for the rest of his life. What about that? The Word is the answer, not me. “If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. . . . How knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (I Cor. 7: 12, 16). Of course, young people, that cannot be taken as a reason for entering into marriage with an unbeliever, for if you do that, you are breaking the Word of God, which tells you not to be yoked with unbelievers. If, however, you stepped into such a marriage inadvertently and found yourself linked in partnership with a man or woman who professed to be a Christian in order to win you, but since has made your life a hell on earth, the Word of God teaches very plainly that you cannot break that alliance. But the Word also tells you that if you come in humbleness of heart and acknowledge before God that you have sinned, He will cause the Gibeonite to whom you are married to be the chief means of bringing you to Him in prayer. The flame on the altar of your love for Jesus will burn the more brightly, and through your life many will be saved. It happened to John Wesley. It has happened to many a man and many a woman since. What they thought was a curse, the mistake from which they thought they could never be free, which seemed to have ruined their testimony for right, was used by God to strengthen their prayer life and deepen their devotion. God turned the curse into a blessing!

When it Fails

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. —Luke 16:9

When it fails. Not if it fails. It will fail. The question is not if, but when. The question is not how you can avoid it, but how you can be ready for it. We tend to forget this. We think we can insulate ourselves from penury by building up a savings account, a retirement account, or perhaps some investments. But pelf does not eliminate penury, and we become more destitute even as we become more pecunious. James speaks to the lot of the destitute rich:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. —James 5:1-3 (ESV)

That last sentence from James is reminiscent of the words of Christ Himself:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

This is a well-known and oft-quoted passage, but it is often taken to say that which it does not. Too often, this passage is used to preach that if you lay up treasure in heaven, then it is perfectly ok to also lay up treasure on earth as well, as long as your treasure isn’t solely on earth. However, that’s not what Christ said. I’m afraid He couldn’t have been more clear: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Writing to Timothy, Paul makes it quite clear what the limits of our ambitions for the ephemeral things of this world ought to be:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. —1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV)

He goes on to explain how one can lay up true and lasting treasure:

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. —1 Timothy 6:18-19 (ESV)

And that brings us back around, full circle, to the words of Christ in Luke 16:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. —Luke 16:10-13 (ESV)

Do you hate money? Do you despise it? Or is money the master you love, and God the master you hate?

Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. —James 1:5 (ESV)

I’m not sure what I would do without this verse. Lately, it seems every prayer I pray, whether aloud or silently, begins with the words “God, I need wisdom.” Wisdom to navigate relationships. Wisdom to handle situations at work. Wisdom to give wise counsel to those who ask it of me. Wisdom in what I write here.

The more I am asked to give counsel, the more aware I am of my need for God’s wisdom. I do not want God to say to me, like He said to a much better and wiser man, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Sometimes it makes me wish that I could refuse requests for counsel, yet I cannot.

And so I claim the promise.

I ask God for wisdom, and trust that He will give it generously.

Before I pick up the phone: “God, give me wisdom.” Before I write: “God, give me wisdom.” On my way to work: “God, give me wisdom.” When asked for counsel: “God, give me wisdom.”

Do you need wisdom today?

Then ask God, and He will give it to you generously and without reproach.