Wednesday, June 25, 2014

LOVE HURTS! by Linden Malki

A true friend is one who matters--
There is no "reason" for a a special friendship; you may like things about the friend, but they are not the "raison d'etre" for the friendship.  It is not earned.  It happens--you find that something in them resonates with something in you.  There may be an emotional "rush" but it doesn't last. That may be all there is. But hopefully you can find the  base of a lasting friendship.

This does not mean that everything is easy.  When someone is truly important to you,  as a Dorothy Sayers character * says, "you can hurt each other so dreadfully", often without intending to; in fact, often your best intentions make it more devastating when something goes wrong.   It can eat away at the underlying trust.  This is a real test--can you deal with each other's imperfections in a realistic, non-judgmental way?  Can you forgive?

"Forgiveness" does not mean sweeping it under the rug, but choosing to love anyway.  It can help you realize the strength of the bond between you.  It allows you to tackle the problem as a team--or perhaps simply choose to live with it.  It gives you the opportunity to choose your friend over your own self-pity, to get out of your own way.

 I think it has taught me something about God. He doesn't love us because we earn it by being good. We can never be good enough on our own. He loves anyway--even when we disappoint Him. He wants us to forgive each other, to suffer with each other, and ask  for help and strength.  We refuse to forgive, and He grieves. We hurt each other and He hurts with us.   If we were perfect (or thought we were) we would depend on ourselves too much and be insufferably proud. We all know people like this, too. He's much more about mercy, and our being real, than about judgment--which He has taken care of for us.
The payoff is that this kind of a friendship is more than 1 + 1 = 2. At best, it's more like 1 + 1= something like 3 1/2.   I have never forgotten reading of Elizabeth Taylor's reaction to the death of her husband Mike Todd: "I feel like half a pair of scissors.". Two separate halves of scissors are not any more useful than one; but connected properly they are what they were designed to be.  We are designed to be connected; to be friends.

*"Gaudy Night", Miss De Vine to Harriet Vane

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Faith of My Father--by Linden (Lovegren) Malki

My Dad built things. He had grown up in the lumber business, and always had projects going.  Another of his major passions in life was our church, Grace Baptist in Spokane.  A Christian Education wing was added on to the main building when I was growing up, and included in the new building was a new furnace room (very important in Washington winters!)  Dad kept thinking about the space where the old furnace room had been in the lower level of the main sanctuary building, and decided that it was a good size and a good location for a really good kitchen. The main kitchen at the time was a small, antiquated room off in a corner of the fellowship hall in the basement. He felt sorry for the folks who cooked church suppers (he himself was an excellent cook), so when he retired he compiled the designs he had built up in his head when he couldn't sleep at night, recruited a volunteer crew of church members and friends in the building trades, collected donations of building materials, and they gutted and remodeled the whole lower level of the original building. I was in high school at the time; while obviously there were costs involved, I don't recall a lot of high-profile fund raising. God showed him the need, gave him the inspiration and talent to do it, and he did it with the faith that the people and materials would be there when needed.  I remember that a flooring company gave them free boxes and boxes and boxes of two-inch commercial-grade floor tiles in a variety of greens. So a bunch of hardworking and appreciative guys started in the middle of the room, laid down one color of these little bitty tiles in an expanding square until they ran out, got a contrasting color and laid that those next,  and kept going until the entire room had a new floor, two inches at a time. When I was in Spokane about forty years later, that floor was still there and still good. (It was finally replaced a few years later.)

The kitchen is still modern-looking, very functional, and still in use. He didn't do it for personal credit, even though it was named after him when it was dedicated--it is still Lovegren Hall, even though "our" church has since merged with another congregation. He would be pleased to see something I saw happening there recently: a Bible study with lunch provided for people who worked at the nearby courthouse and other area businesses. He was committed to this church and this community, and his faith is an important part of my own spiritual life.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

People of the Book--by Linden Malki

All human societies have words. Even the most isolated and primitive people have stories, folklore, traditions and  some kind of shared memory. People who grow up in a preliterate environment have minds capable of learning to  read and write. It is amazing what all is hardwired in  the human brain from the beginning, talents that may not be expressed without the right opportunity.

God spoke  the world into existence; He also spoke with Adam.  He spoke to Cain,  Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses,  and many others--in different ways with different messages, some with promises and some with judgment.We have a record of many of these conversations. God told people to remember His words and teach them to their children. They appear to have been put into written form pretty early;  fragments have been found by archeologists. Other writings have been found from other similarly old societies, but they are in languges that were lost and only recently recovered. Hebrew is one of the oldest languages that has been in continuous use; not always as a common street language, but there have been scholars who have maintained it. The written word has been the glue that held  God and His followers together.

You may hear people speak of "faith" as "believing something that isn't true".  That is actually the opposite of reality! We are asked to believe truth on the basis of good evidence, experience and responsible authority.  One of those sources is the written word which we have been given.  I found 99 uses of the phrase "it is written" in Scripture, going all the way back to Deuteronomy.   We are expected to know the writings that God has inspired in His servants.

In addition to the books that the Jewish scholars and the Early Church accepted on good evidence and inspiration to be authoritative, we are also fortunate to have many other writings by people who have had experiences of God's mercy and wisdom over many centuries.  They vary from very profound and complex to very straightforward.  It is fascinating to read of amazing experiences of God  working in peoples' lives in many times and places.  One of my favorite writers said that some people are afraid to surrender to God, because they fear being turned into some sort of boring cookie-cutter person.  But if you look at people who have really gotten serious with God, they are not less than they were, but more individual and unique than ever. 

As I have been moving from my former house in Devore, I realized that I had to deal with a lot of books. Many of them are God-related:  inspirational, historical, theological, educational, geographical.  It was obvious that it is time to share many of them with others;  NorthPoint folks may have noticed the book box on the Welcome Table the last few weeks. Those are FREE for the taking; I am adding new ones each week, so check them out.  I will be posting a list on the NorthPoint San Bernardino Facebook page soon.  These are all ones that I recommend. 

Just because something is in writing doesn't mean that it is a dependable source; there have always been things out there that do not jibe with the main core teachings of Scripture.  Some of the New Testament books were written to counter off-center writings, and the early church had to deal with writings that did not pass the tests of inspiration and legitimacy.  Listen and read with your brain on; and if you have questions about something you've run onto, I will see if I can check it out.  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What are our Choices? by Linden Malki

Life is all choices. Every morning we have the choice to get up or not--but this is a good example that not all choices have equal consequences.  I very often have customers describe what they're doing to their car, and say "I could do.." . Yes, you probably could do it. That doesn't mean that it is a good idea or that it will actually work for any length of time.  Occasionally, a customer tells me that he found something really odd in a car he recently acquired. Sometimes I know what he found--because the previous owner told me what he  "could" do to  get the car running long enough to sell it. 

Despite Yoda's advice, yes, we can try. Sometimes this is a good choice, but often it is a  shortcut or an excuse to get off the hook.  Sometimes we didn't know things we ought to have known before trying it. And sometimes we get stuck on the idea of "perseverance", because we can't or don't want to believe that it really isn't  working.  And sometimes we say "I tried...." to excuse not actually doing the job.

" Doing something" just for the sake of doing something  better than nothing, can be the wrong thing. When I was involved in competitive debate in high school and college, the first thing a debater has to prove is that there is a need for change.  Most debate questions have good reasons on both sides of that one. There are usually advantages and disadvantages to the way things are, and it often depends on what side of the situation you are on. It also depends on your information.  If you have bad intelligence,  you may find yourself somewhere you really shouldn't be.

"Doing nothing" is also a two-edged blade.  In my business, we often have to make a decision between "while you're at it" and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  How often do we try to second-guess God? Sometimes we think we can improve on His design--and sometimes He has left us options--but there are often unintended consequences. The history of medicine is full of practices that seemed like a good idea at the time, but turned out to either not work or create worse problems. I personally have known or experienced enough negative side effects that I have a healthy respect for the way God created us and His world.

I have spent the last few weeks moving out of a house I lived in since my grown kids were small.  I've already written about the choices of dealing with "stuff", but this last week I've run into another class of problems.  In the process of moving, I've been dealing with the electric company, and the phone company, and the storage pod company, and the postal service, all of whom have made the choice of substituting automation and arbitrary procedures for actual human competence.  As a result, I've had a couple of days of chaos.  People that couldn't reach me because they didn't update their records to my cell despite our instructions. The phone company didn't  the refer the home number as promised and couldn't  figure out how to move it to my daughter's house.  I got a recorded call at 9:30 this morning confirming an appointment that had happened at 9 am; fortunately we had someone there.  There was an express mail delivery that was promised "before 10:30". We found out the mail person drove by my store at 7:47am, decided I looked closed, and didn't even stop and knock to see if I was here (which I was), or plan his route around reasonable business hours.

God gives us many choices, and also instructions for making good choices. He also gives us the freedom to make stupid choices, uninformed choices, stubborn choices, self-serving choices, greedy choices, irresponsible choices.  Or as an old proverb says: When all else fails, read the instructions!