Tag Archives: Friends

Jesus is My Friend

A sermon preached at The Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta.

Easter 6, Year B.  Watch it here.

If you’re over the age of twenty, you’ve likely had an experience similar to the one I’m about to describe. Your best childhood friend is getting married, and you go to the wedding. Chances are, you’re even in the wedding party. At some point you run into the mother of said friend, who is elated to see you. You say, “Mrs. Smith!” and give her a hug. She pulls away from you and says with all sincerity, “Honey, you’re an adult now. Call me Jane.”

Incredulous, you think, ‘I couldn’t possibly call this woman Jane! She used to cut the edges off my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! She had to tell my parents that one time I cussed in Sunday School. She caught us sneaking out in high school… I could never in a million years call Mrs. Smith just Jane.’

If you know anything about long distance running, you know the name Meb Keflezighi. But just in case Meb isn’t a household name where you live, I’ll tell you he’s an Olympic marathoner, and he won the NYC Marathon in 2009 and the Boston Marathon in 2014, the year after the Boston bombing. In the world of running, Meb is a celebrity not just because of his achievements, but because of his humility. If you ever see Meb after a race, I guarantee you the first words out of his mouth will be, “how was your race?” You could be the last person to cross the finish line, and Meb will ask with all sincerity, “how was your race?”

In both these examples, we are taken aback by the esteem and the worthiness Mrs. Smith or Meb bestows upon us. You may still feel like a kid in Mrs. Smith’s presence, but then she says “call me Jane” and you begin to see in yourself what she already sees in you—an adult. Or you may feel like the slowest hobby jogger next to Meb, and then he asks, “how was your race?” and you begin to see in yourself the runner he already recognizes in you.

Jesus says to his disciples, “I do not call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends.” Friends! And I can just imagine the disciples’ response, “But rabbi, you are the Messiah!!” And Jesus goes on, “You did not choose me but I chose you.” And I imagine the disciples looking at themselves and beginning to see that which Jesus already sees in them. I imagine them standing a little taller, feet a little more grounded, shoulders a little lighter, head held a little higher. ‘Friend, me?’

And Jesus goes on, saying it is the job of the disciples to bear fruit and to love one other as he has commanded them to do.

It’s interesting to note that loving one another as Christ has loved us is “the great commandment” in John’s gospel. In the synoptic gospels, we get the familiar, “Love the Lord will all you heart, mind and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself.” But in John’s gospel, the greatest commandment is condensed even further: that you love one another as I have loved you.

It’s a simple command, but it’s not an easy command. It gives meaning to all that Jesus has done in John’s gospel—this is the reason that the Word became flesh! God came to dwell among us so that we would see in Jesus how to love one another, how to be in relationship, how to be friends. And here in this passage, Jesus knows he won’t be with the disciples much longer. He knows that this work of loving people selflessly, of introducing people to God through the sheer force of love, that that task is going to fall to this motley crew. And so he calls them friends. He calls them friends not just to make them feel better about themselves, but to call out in them the potential they were created with—the potential we are all created with as children of God to love one another selflessly, radically, deeply, truly.

Friends, I want us to take this gospel message home with us today, and to hear Jesus’ words as if he is sitting in this room talking to us in every moment. To hear Jesus say to you and to me, “I do not call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends. You did not choose me, but I chose you. I’m appointing you to bear fruit, that you may love one another.” Hear those words from Jesus and stand a little taller. Begin to see in yourself what Christ sees in you. Use that self-knowledge to embolden you in your love. Be courageous in your love for one another. And then look for opportunities to be that same voice of empowering and encouraging love in someone else’s life.

Because loving others as Christ loved us is as simple as it is hard. And we are all friends of Jesus.

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that settles it

in the past week, i have come to realize… i’ve settled. i’ve been here less than a year, but this is definitely my town, my house is definitely my home, and my friends are true friends… not just on loan.

i think hosting the 5th annual (1st one here) wine and cheese party last friday sealed the deal. i had to (finally) unpack the last few boxes that had been living in various corners for months. i (finally) took all the empty boxes lying around up to the attic. i finished hanging pictures, many from once familiar, now distant, sites in africa. i even hung up my “mali mud cloth” that i’d been waiting to collect from rhett in dc, but finally caved and asked him to send it to me. my house looks like a museum of artifacts from all over. add to that the very grown up grass rug, leather dining chairs and real (versus hand-me-down) sofa i just obtained (it’s my new form of investments… buy furniture i’ll keep forever while the stock market struggles). it’s all very adult and not temporary and slightly contrary to my nature.

and it’s becoming my town too. i know people everywhere… the movie theater, grocery store, waiters recognize me and say hello. it’s a little different from knowing all the bouncers and bar tenders in baltimore. 30 people were crammed in my kitchen friday night (the living and dining rooms were much less popular), and 30 more couldn’t make it (out of town for the long weekend). how did this happen? in 8 months? less than 4 seasons?

makes me look forward to what this next season, spring, will bring.

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you are my sunshine

i’m at caribou right now… working on my LAST theology paper (for this term anyway) and procrastinating (obviously) as i wait for one of my 10th grade kids to meet me for coffee (to discuss a recent break-up). good times.

and i’ve been working on my paper the better part of today, as i will be doing tomorrow, because the material is so dense that i can hardly make hide nor hair of it, despite my love for karl barth.

anyway. whenever i’m feeling down… like i’m failing as a writer… i look at this:and all my sorrows and self-doubt melt away. keegan has that effect on me. the little boy i call my nephew, who (whom?) i love to no end.

thanks keegster.

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not the juan for me

deep down inside, i know i probably shouldn’t write this post… that it will bite me in the butt someday. but i’m going to anyway because i think it’s a good story. my fear is that it’ll come across as if i’m making fun of someone… of juan… but this is really a story of how i am a complete idiot.

see, i have this kinda outgoing personality. and sometimes that can be misconstrued as being flirtatious when i meet men. i suppose that was the case with juan, because he started calling me last week (after getting my number from a friend), making good conversation, and eventually asking when we could hang out.

now he never actually asked me on a date.

so i wasn’t sure about his intentions.

hence my entirely ridiculous response.

juan: you got plans thursday?
me: yep. going to a benefit.
juan: drinks afterward?
me: nope, may be out late.
juan: how about this weekend?
me: i’ve got a lock-in with my kids… really busy.
juan: sometime else?
me: i’m pretty much booked till mid-december.
juan: how about mornings?
me: mornings work. i can do that.

**awkward pause while i’m figuring out how to dodge a bullet i’m not sure exists**

me: um, juan, i gotta tell you… i don’t want to sound presumptuous, but i just have to let you know i’m not interested in dating you right now.

**shoot!! right now?? that doesn’t sound right?!?!**

me: errrr… or… ever.

**ahhh! what am i doing?!? or ever?!? how mean is that?!?!**

me: i mean, i know i sometimes send mixed messages unintentionally, so if that’s the message i’ve been sending, i just want to correct it.
juan: ok. are you seeing someone?
me: no.

**i’m the worst person ever!**

juan: ok. so you want to grab coffee friday?
me: sure!

**how can he be nice when i’m so mean?!?! why wasn’t i born knowing how to do this??**

and then we had a lovely coffee this morning. no real surprise there. he’s a great guy. smart, funny, conversational, nice, handsome. i’d set him up with one of my friends in a heartbeat. hey, there’s an idea…

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i went to see religulous last night with a group of friends from various faith backgrounds. it was about what i expected from bill maher. some parts were hilarious (everyone had to put up with my snorting), some parts were offensive, and some (especially the ending) were extremely depressing. i definitely wouldn’t tout it as a documentary. the cuts and editing were way too much in favor of bill and his agenda.

and what is bill’s agenda? to put an end to religion before it puts an end to the world. to take up the banner of doubt. this assumes two things: 1) faith and doubt don’t mix, and 2) doubt would end all conflict.

i think it’s sad that bill is under the impression that faith leaves no room for doubt. that faith and certainty are synonymous. isn’t it the opposite? is it not certainty that leaves no room for faith? yes, hebrews 11 says, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” but this is HOPE we’re certain of. faith is the beginning of knowledge, not the the end of it. st. augustine says “i believe that i might understand.” the theologian paul tillich says, “doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” the scientist dr. francis collins says, “doubt is an unavoidable part of belief.” speaking from personal experience, the two go hand in hand… creating this back and forth conversation with God that grows me as a person every day.

and how would pure doubt end all conflict? is it not doubt that sends our economy spiraling downward? doubt that causes paranoia? faith in nothing? hope in nothing?

overall, i wouldn’t suggest watching religulous to learn anything. but it does spark some great conversation. so if you do go, make sure you follow up with beer and pizza.

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b’more & buffalo

okay here it is… the weekend roadtrip synopsis.

it started in baltimore, where i landed just in time for a lovely dinner with christina and andy (soon to be married) at pazo. sadly, christina’s car broke down, so i had to leave them to wait for the tow truck while my friend john picked me up and took me to the ole’ neighborhood standby, ropewalk.

From 2008 Fall

if you don’t know it already, ropewalk is a “republican bar” which really just means that the owners are republicanists and they aren’t afraid to show it. doesn’t really describe the clientele, though. anywhoo… a picture with the gipper is a must. lots of great friends came out to catch up (laurel and david came up from dc!) and that was awesome.

mike and i hit the road early saturday, bound for buffalo. we arrived just as mollie’s plane from denver landed, so we picked her up and drove to canada (yes, we all had our passports) in time to see niagra at sunset.

From 2008 Fall

we did get lost on the way. we accidentally drove north of niagra, but didn’t realize it until we were crossing the (wrong) bridge into canada. there was no way to turn around, so we just waited in line. the security was so chill (and cute!! mollie and i wanted to steal the guard and take him with us!!). he laughed once he figured out we were lost (such a cute laugh it was, too) and pointed us in the right direction. the drive was beautiful! all the changing leaves and rolling hills, ahhh. finally we made it to niagra falls.

From 2008 Fall

one thing about canadians… they love their snails. snails have the right of way!

we drove back to buffalo for a little party at the “love shack” (the bride’s maiden name is love… it’s cute) where we caught up with lots of friends that i hadn’t seen in months. awesome.

sunday we stopped by the anchor bar, birthplace of buffalo wings, for some yummy finger lickin’ food.

From 2008 Fall

this came at the recommendation of susan and others, and i have to say, it is a must when in buffalo. my mouth is watering now just thinking about it!

finally, the big occasion was upon us… the start of adam and bethany’s marriage. i have to say, this was one of the neatest weddings i’ve ever witnessed, even before it started. their invitations were thoughtful, true, and humble. no response cards were used, saving lots of paper and expense. over and over again, throughout the engagement, wedding and reception, adam and bethany continually pointed to Christ in their relationship.

From 2008 Fall

it was (and is) beautiful.

then dancing ensued…

From 2008 Fall

and the shenanigans began.

eric, the best man, did an awesome toast. our table was literally reeling with laughter, though some of it might have gone over the general public’s collective heads.

From 2008 Fall

i have since learned that you can look at best man speeches on youtube… this is apparently how the modern best man gets all his toast material. very unoriginal, and yet hugely successful! i imagine eric was the only one to quote both emily post and amy vanderbilt, though, paragon of etiquette that he is.

monday we made our way back to baltimore, so excited to stop at sheetz, the best gas station in the world, along the way.

From 2008 Fall

where else can you order a side of mac & chili? yum. erin and i had lots of girlie talk and catch up time in the car, which was awesome.

we came home to keegan!

From 2008 Fall

the best little nephew in the world.

christina joined us all for dinner and then she and i went back to her place for hours of uber productive wedding planning (she’s the bride, i’m the maid of honor) and just good ole’ sister time.

it was, by far, the best weekend ever. and there you have it.

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so excited

this time tomorrow, i’ll be on a plane to BALTIMORE! the city that claims my heart. i’m headed to adam & bethany’s wedding, which is actually in buffalo, but i’m flying into b’more JUST so i can get an extra 20 hours of quality time (in the car) with my friends. AND i get to do some wedding planning with the lovely christina, due to be married in may! i’m so excited about his weekend, i can hardly stand it!!!! start warming up the beer taps at ropewalk… lau’s coming home.

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onion love

one of my favorite people in the world, who happens to be horrible at updating her blog or sending emails, yet wonderful at “superpoking” and keeping up with my blog, is engaged. i found out via text message last night… oh, how times have changed.

i’m going to call susanne as soon as i finish typing this post to check the facts, but i believe she and ryan met online… and not just any old internet dating service… but the classifieds on the onion. the onion, if you don’t already know it, is one of america’s oldest ironic news sources. it is the mother of all pop-culture political satire that has peppered our media this past decade. and thank goodness… one needs a sense of humor to survive.

i have friends that have met online and married before… but this is the first onion love i know of. makes me wonder if my friends’ threat to give me an online dating membership for my birthday wasn’t such a bad idea after all.


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almost perfect camping

just about every year, graham and i go camping. this takes quite a bit of coordination, since neither of us have lived in the same state for 5 years now, but we all make time for what we think is important. we’ve camped the beaches of maryland, the mountains of virginia and north georgia, and now we can add north carolina to the mix.

after getting some advice, maps and books from my new favorite outdoors store (it’s local) we decided the 2.5 hour drive to horsepasture river (which runs through gorges state park and nantahala national forest) was a bit far, but do-able. we had plenty to catch up on anyway.

typically, our camping trips, though awesome, have been marked by some kind of drama. usually in the form of rain… once with the added fun of a sand storm. but this time everything was just so beautiful and easy! our gear was ready, the weather was perfect, our pace was good, the sites were well worth the trek. there are 5 falls along horsepasture river, of which we saw two. turtleback falls is about 1.4 miles in from the trail head. it’s easy to see why it’s called turtleback, with a short round slide that provides a 15-foot drop (depending on where you start) for those brave enough to go over the edge. this would be an easy spot for a day trip-and-dip. rainbow falls is just 0.2 miles further, with a 125-foot drop. there’s a swimming hole at the base, which also looked like fun… but we hiked on, leaving everyone else behind. really, i don’t think we ran into anyone past rainbow falls (till the next morning). about 2 miles in, we decided to swim. it was a lot like goshen, va (my favorite swimming spot in the world) and the water was surprisingly warm for a mountain hike. we hiked on some more, thinking we might make it to the 3rd cascade, when we stumbled upon the best camp site ever. the ground was flat and clear, logs were placed as benches around a campfire spot, fire wood had been gathered and left behind… it was almost eerie. a stream about 10-yards away was great for washing up and collecting water. so we stopped, unloaded and set up camp in no time. when has it ever been this easy?!? we feasted on couscous, tuna and chicken noodle soup for dinner. we made a fire. we talked, told ghost stories, got a little scared, told jokes, laughed, and went to bed tired. pretty much perfect.

graham was slow getting up the next morning, so i chilled out on a log for a long time, which is the kind of thing i like to do. once he got up, we went for a swim and stretched out like lizards on rocks. graham wasn’t feeling well at all, and it didn’t look like he’d be feeling better any time soon, so we packed up to hike out. on our way out, we saw lots of people enjoying the various water holes and slides. this looks to be a popular spot in the summer. about 2/3 of the way out, we threw down our packs and sat on the side of the trail. graham waited for hikers to walk past before vomiting directly onto the trail. so much for perfect camping. miraculously, the vomit soaked right into the ground, totally unnoticeable in less than 2 minutes. in typical boot-and-rally fashion, we loaded up again and didn’t stop walking till we got to the car. i drove home, graham rested… and continued to rest till he could drive home the following day. being sick sucks, but being sick while you travel sucks a little more.

still, it was an awesome weekend, and a great way to christen the mountains of north carolina, of which i hope to see a lot more.

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mission (pretty much) accomplished

i just had a taste of benin right here in the good ole us of a.

last night i took the train down to dc to catch up with some peeps in our nation’s capitol. it was a great cast of characters… melissa (friend from benin) and her boyfriend pedro, lily (old roommate), laurel (one of the previously inseparable b’more foursome… till we all left b’more), skye (college buddy), rhett (friend from benin), brian (old work buddy) and various innocent bystanders.

we met up at ghana cafe, which serves up some okay fufu (starchy mush) and a mean peanut sauce, among other things. they also have a good west africa music selection… all on the computer so you can pick your own songs… and i hear it’s quite the place to be for live african music on weekends.

while people, food, and conversation were definitely the point of the trip and worth every moment… the kicker came later in the evening.

first off, rhett and i dusted off our salsa shoes (flip-flops in my case) and made our debut on the latino scene. i will say that the salsa here is quite different from africa, and i, for one, was a bit intimidated. but we danced, and i think we held our own. i actually danced with a couple latino men as well, and one of them (a kind old man) told me i danced well, and that he hoped to dance with me again… THEN he turned to rhett and gave him the thumbs up. ooooh, just like old times. why do peeps always assume two whities in a salsa club must be together?

next, we flagged a cab. and as soon as we started moving, the cab driver began to speak on the phone in what sounded like a familiar african language. i smiled at rhett as he asked, “is that yoruba or igbo?” “yoruba!” said the cabby. an excited conversation ensued about benin and nigeria. the cabby then asked, “are you two married?” he didn’t seem to understand when rhett laughed and said, “no… but we would be if i loved Jesus.” he gave us his congratulations, though neither of us is sure why.

so, yeah. good friends, starchy mush, salsa and yoruba all in one night. benin’s not so far away.

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