Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Friend Peter

Friday was a good day. Scratch that. Friday was a great day! First off, it was Friday, thus making it automatically a good day. It never lets me down - it begins the weekend...every week. I began work at the bakery at 8:30, as usual. But this morning my coworker, Liz, and I decided to spice things up a bit - we played Christmas music!!! Now, hold on a second, I can just hear you arguing that Thanksgiving gets cruelly left out as we speed ahead full on toward the 25th of December. Well, for those who care to know, Thanksgiving is in fact one of my favorite holidays. Simply put, playing Christmas music beginning November 1st (now your eyes are really rolling!) in truth helps me get in the holiday spirit altogether. Come up with some Thanksgiving music and I'll play it. Until then, I'll revel in my holiday music collection as I enjoy Thanksgiving as much as Christmas. I don't discriminate.

Now that that's off my chest, I can adequately move on to what turned a good Friday into a great one. It involves Peter. I've mentioned him before. He's a mall walker. An elder British man who seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder while still having a soft side hidden somewhere in the crusty exterior. He came into the bakery the other day while I was in the back room. One of my coworkers said, "Hey Erin, your friend Peter is here." It struck me as funny to refer to him as my friend. He is, of course, but admittedly it's an unlikely friendship. Peter and I have never had more than a 15 minute conversation (although the one 15 minute conversation we did have provided a rather large window into his life story). I've never run into Peter anywhere but the bakery. We have no relatives or friends in common. He is 57 years older than me. Prior to yesterday I'm not even sure he knew my name. But we see each other five days a week...and he's my friend. I always inquire about his agenda for the day. Our exchanges often remind me he's quite the quipster. But he makes me laugh, and I feel like there's a part of him that enjoys my extra-cheery smile and "Have a great day, Peter!" as he walks away with his coffee in hand.

During our "life story" conversation, he shared with me that he would be 83 on November 19th. Apparently I misunderstood this, as it's actually his mother's birthday, but I swear to you he said it was his. We'll chalk it up to miscommunication due to either his old(er) age or my inability to sometimes understand his accent. Either way, I was under the impression that Friday was a day to celebrate Peter. So I did. Awhile back we made British flapjacks at the bakery. He loved them! His eyes lit up as he recounted memories of his mother making them. He's been on me to make them again - one day he said, "I'll see you later, now go make some damn flapjacks!" Well, I took him up on that. I made some Thursday night and boxed them up for him with a card tucked on top. I was so excited to see him at his usual time on Friday morning! When he told me it wasn't his birthday (but it was his mom's), I pressed to know the actual date of his birth. He wouldn't budge. So I told him I declared yesterday the day we would celebrate it since he wouldn't tell me the real day. I told him if his mom wasn't born, he wouldn't be born. Reason enough for me! He agreed and read the card. I busied myself as he read my attempt at dry cynical humor as well as honest kindness. The look on his face and the exclamation that came from his mouth as he opened the box of flapjacks was the moment my day became great. He looked so smitten. We got to talking about his weekend, his plans to go to the fresh market to stock up on British items as well as a stop at the British bakery for pastries. He commented on how it can be lonely at his age..."after living with someone for so long, it's quiet when they're not there..." He thanked me, picked up the box and his cup of coffee and said, "This is the nicest thing anyone could have done for me" and was out the door. I held back tears as I turned back to the tasks at hand. There were no other words that could have brought me more joy.

It was a great Friday, indeed. Next Friday has a lot to live up to...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cookie Cutters (as promised...) and Treading Water

I once told someone "Cookie cutter cookies are good. Cookie cutter friends are bad."

It sparked a conversation. And a promise. A promise to expound on the meaning of my words via blog. On the eve of this dear friend leaving the country to pursue God's calling on his heart, it seemed an appropriate time to do just that. I've thought a lot about friends lately. How you gain new ones from each life stage. I keep in touch with friends from high school, college, post-college, and world travels; now I'm developing relationships with people here in Georgia. But that doesn't mean I love those from cities past any less. To be honest, no two of my friends are alike. And I like it that way. They all bring something unique to the table, I connect with each of them on different areas. It's kind of like the Olympic rings. Yes, I just compared my friend network to the Olympic rings. They're all different colors, they all connect somehow, but they all stand alone in their own way. That's why a cookie cutter wouldn't work for friends. Aside from being too much of the same thing, there would be no challenge, no interest. It'd be just plain boring. Let's face it, none of us would be who we are if it weren't for our friends.

And so tonight, one of those uniquely shaped non-cookie-cutter friends is stepping on a plane to a distant land (although distant is now relative thanks to Skype). He is following God's call. Giving (up) everything to help bring the Kingdom to earth. Moving to Thailand for a year is no small thing. Neither is the work he will be doing there. Lyrics from Bebo Norman's "The Hammer Holds" comes to mind.

But my dreams are not the issue here, for they, the hammer holds
The task before me seems unclear, but it, my Maker holds

This move, this act of obedience, it's what life is all about. It's radical made normal. It's accomplishing something that a cookie cutter friend never could.

Ok, I've been wracking my brain for some great segue into the "treading water" part of this blog, but to no avail. So I'll just jump in. (Ha, no pun intended.)

I was worshipping at church a few weeks ago and assumed my usual worshipping position: both hands halfway raised or one halfway and one all the way. With eyes closed, I had an image. I saw a child reaching for his parent, obviously with both arms stretched high. I thought, why don't I do that? Why don't I sing to my Father with both hands stretched upwards, a gesture of surrender, of asking to be held? There's something humbling about doing this as an adult. Sure children do it all the time. They fall and cut their knee, they want something to eat, they long to see up on your level...they raise their arms up in the hopes of being picked up. Doesn't our Daddy want us to do the same thing? Raise our hands to Him in a gesture of surrender, longing to see up on His level? I hadn't thought of this again until Friday night when I was worshipping at a conference. One of the speakers used this illustration of both arms of a child reaching up to his parent. God's subtle reminder of something He revealed to me, His words echoed in the voice of another.

At this same night of worship, I was hearing God speak to me about faith. I'll admit not much scares me, but I am seriously afraid of swimming in the ocean. Like past the point where my feet will touch. I don't mind swimming pools. But you put me in the ocean without a life jacket and it's panic. Heart pounding fast, shortness of breath, the whole shebang. But I'll go as far as my feet will take me (with my height that isn't very far!). God was pressing in about trusting Him to take that bold step of faith into the water. I told him I was afraid of the ocean.

He immediately responded with It's ok. I'm not asking you to tread water. I'm asking you to walk on it.