August 4, 2006

Painter Dave

Posted in friends at 1:41 am by jimazing

I just have to brag on my friend, Dave. He’s known to the Cobra community as Painter Dave. I stopped by to see him last week as a customer was picking up their Cobra from his body shop. They buy them as kits and he makes the body shine. He sent me the this link to photos the customer took because they accidentally got me in the shots. What a beautiful job! Dave you are truly an artist. Click here.

The customer was bragging about the great work Dave does. I told them that they may have come because he does excellent work. I come because he is a great friend. Dave, I am so proud to know you and do life with you. I pray that your business prospers.

July 21, 2006

With friends like this

Posted in friends at 2:15 am by jimazing

A quote from Jeff VanVonderen’s Good News for the Chemically Dependent

… human beings have three basic needs. First, we need to be convinced that we are loved and accepted, without strings. In order to get love and acceptance, we do not have to act or refrain from acting a certain way, perform, excel, be polite, or quote Bible verses… This love builds people because people, not behavior, are loved.

Second, we need to be convinced that we are capable, valuable, important, special, and worthy….biblical terms that communicate the same concepts: chosen, gifted, called for a purpose, given to one another.

Third, we need to be convinced that we are not alone. There are two aspects to this. We need to know that we are not the only ones who think, act, feel, and struggle as we do… We also must know that there are resources and support in times of need. We are not alone!

This book is written to those who are struggling with chemical dependencies or love someone who is. Reading it, I realize that this is about something even more pervasive that addiction. I have habits and hurts and hang-ups that I don’t want anyone to know about. I feel like I have to perform in order to be accepted. I sometimes feel like I don’t measure up and I do feel like I’m all alone.

I believe in the power of God and the power of godly friends who accept me as the broken, unlovable goofball that I am. I believe that I can make it through life because of the good news that He loves me in spite of me. He loves me! He wants to be my friend!

It is not about being correct, nor having all the answers. It is not about performance. It is about being vulnerable with a few good friends and admitting my screw ups. It is telling one of my friends what a mess I am and how I screwed up… only to find this in my email soon afterwards…

“Do you know that I admire you ? I DO.. You are after God’s own heart and that is a man I admire. You area also a great GREAT friend. I want to be around you, to know you more and have you rub off on me. Thanks for giving of yourself to growing this friendship. It continues to change my life and it’s outcome. Forever”

With friends like that, I’m going to make it! God help me to be a friend and brother like that.

June 28, 2006

High School Reunion

Posted in friends, memories, travel at 1:30 am by jimazing

Last weekend was my 30th High School Reunion and I don’t get it.  None of my classmates showed up.  Instead, they all sent their parents in their place! 

Seriously it was a great time.  It seemed to me that everyone was more relaxed than at previous reunions.  Maybe we have finally gotten to a place in life where we are going to just be ourselves no matter what people think.  Or maybe we just don’t really remember one another and we pretend that we do.  Or maybe it was just me who doesn’t care any more and can’t remember anyone.

That’s not true though.  While there were a few that I honestly don’t remember at all, there were a few who I would have recognized anywhere.  In the middle of a conversation, I noticed Doug walk by and made a mental note to be sure to say hello to him.  

As soon as the opportunity presented itself, I walked up to Doug, looked him in the eye and said with confidence, “I don’t remember a lot of people here, but I sure remember you.”  Without looking at his nametag, I asked, “How are you, Mike?”  

I thought he would burst with laughter as he pointed to his nametag and said, “I am Doug.  Mike is my brother.” 

I know my face was red, but it was way too funny for me to be embarrassed for long.


It was interesting to notice my feelings around my old friends.  Thirty years ago, when we were together all the time, we were teenagers with all the hormones and emotional overload that goes with it.  Talk about intense feelings!  When I felt my stomach do the little flip thing, I asked myself what it was all about and realized that I was reliving some of those old feelings both good and bad.  When I realized it, I gave the feelings a 48-year-old kick in the pants.  No one knows what I’m feeling.  No one can see inside me.  And I am not the same person I was 30 years ago… and neither are they.  

We have some special memories that only we can share and friendships that will remain for our whole lives.  I am blessed!

May 3, 2006

Accountability (on purpose)

Posted in friends, reflection at 1:38 am by jimazing

Kids are totally accountable to their parents or guardian for everything they do. When they are really young, they do not get to decide anything for themselves. As they grow older, good parents allow them to make some decisions on their own or with limited input from the parents. These parents know that the goal is to work themselves out of a job.

The kids see adults as the decision-makers. In their childish view, adults don't answer to anyone! “You get to do anything you want.” Of course that is not entirely true for anyone, but it is an easy jump for kids to make.

We were once kids. As kids, I’d guess that most of us made that leap. We were sure that when we grew up, we wouldn’t be have to answer to anyone.

We grew up.

What kind of grown-ups did that kind of thinking produce? Most adults (at least in my experience) live their lives in such a way as to avoid voluntary accountability. By that, I mean that we are accountable only where we have to be. I hate that phrase “have to”, but it really is the “have to” mindset that drives what I am talking about. I “have to” be accountable to someone at work, but that accountability is not a voluntary thing. It is the way work works. My boss tells me what to do and I do it. It is actually quite codependent.

If we voluntarily made ourselves accountable to some others, what might that look like?

What if I had a friend I could go to and say, “I totally screwed up. I did something I am not proud of and I wanted you to know.” What if that friend offered to help me stay accountable about that thing? What if he asked me first? Totally voluntary! On purpose! Radical! Accountability! James 5:16

What if I had a friend, who I trusted to take me aside and say to me, “Jim, I see potential in you, but I see you behaving as if you were clueless. As your friend, I think you can do better.” Proverbs 27:6

What if it cut both way? If my friends and I were accountable to one another? What if I was sometimes on the receiving end and sometimes on the giving end?

I have those kinds of friendships and these are three observations I would like to make about it tonight…

  1. I don't have to be accountable. It is a choice I freely make.
  2. It is uncomfortable. It is never fun to confess my sins to a brother. It is never fun to be challenged that I’m not living up to my potential. It is never fun to confront a brother when I feel like he is not living up to his potential. It is never fun to listen to a brother tell me how he has “screwed up.”
  3. It is rich. It is only through the vulnerability that results from a life of voluntary accountability that any of us stands a chance at reaching anywhere close to our potential. It is only through the pain of confession that we come to realize that we are not the only ones who are a mess.

Thank you, God, for good friends.

April 1, 2006

Running the Race Set Before Us

Posted in community, friends at 3:09 pm by jimazing

I invited my buddy, John to run with me in the Cooper River Bridge Run (10K), which was today. I ran it last year for the first time… not just the first time for the Bridge Run, but the first time for any race at all! It is hard to teach 48 year old muscles that they can actually do this. John accepted my invitation to run and we did it together—today.

John is an experienced athlete and I am not. He has played and continues to play all kinds of rough and physical sports from soccer to Gaelic Football. All that to say, John is in great physical shape. I am not. Why then are our finish times exactly the same? How did I get done in only 1 hour 6 minutes? How is it that John didn’t do so well, (his time was only 1 hour 6 minutes)? How could our times be exactly the same? What are the odds? The odds are exactly 100% when your buddy gives up his chance at beating the Kenyans to the finish in order to be with his friend.

Here’s the way I saw the race:

We arrived and parked downtown just in the nick of time to catch the bus and get over the bridge to the starting line before the bridge closed for the race. The ones who didn’t get over in time had to go the long way around and risk starting the race late. Grabbed some water and found our place in the lineup. Never did find the bananas. Where were the starting side bananas?

At 8:00, the gun went off… wait, no gun this year, just an announcer counting down the time. And we were off… walking… slowly… creeping towards the Starting line. The race starts at 8, but each runner’s time is measured by a little chip on their shoe. Our time started when we crossed the starting line. Ok, we were through the starting line and on the obstacle course. For the first two miles we dodged walkers and slower runners. It was pretty dangerous, but par for the course. Look for an opening and dash through.

Then we hit the bridge. I thought the new bridge was harder than the old bridge. The angle of ascent was steeper and it was longer. Once we got to the top of the bridge, the rest was downhill or flat. But that was one long hill! I thought we’d never make it. I was thinking near the top that I ought to walk a bit and I did for about 30-40 yards, then started running again.

Not long after hitting the top, we passed the 5 K mark and I looked at my stopwatch. It read 33 minutes and some seconds. That wasn’t going to be a good enough pace to make my goal of 1 hour for the 10 K, but I didn’t think I could do a faster pace. John encouraged me that runners frequently go through a place where they can run faster after they have been running for a while. I heard him and hoped that I would experience that.

After we were off of the bridge I was so glad to have that behind me. John was encouraging me so much. He would find openings between other runners and I followed him through them. Sometimes he’d jump ahead and look back to see if I was still behind him. I’d catch up and say, “I’m with you, man.” About mile 4, I was really feeling the fatigue and I wanted so badly to walk a while. John wouldn’t “let me” though. He’d keep encouraging me to remember my goal. I remember hearing these phrases over and over; “Come on.” “You can do it.” “You are doing great!” “Run to win the prize.” “Run the good race.” “We are running the race of life together.” At times, I was dazed. I could only see this mass of people in front of me and I kept going thinking to myself, “One foot in front of the other one.” “Baby steps” “Just keep going” As John continued to remind me of my goal, I said to myself, “Have a huge goal, then take baby steps and you’ll get there.”

Earlier in the race, at the first water station, we both got cups. At the second station, I was having trouble and John got me a cup. I swallowed most of it, poured some of it on my face and shirt. The second cup didn’t agree with me, so I decided I wouldn’t get any more water until the end. At the third station, John got me another cup. By this time, I was barely running. Not sure what to do with this water, I poured it on top of my head. When I did that, I kicked it into gear like there was no tomorrow and ran hard. I was determined that I’d finish the race like that. But I couldn’t do it. I slowed back to my slower pace and started thinking about walking again. John wouldn’t let me. “keep going… remember the goal… we’re almost there”

At some point he said, “This is not the end, it’s just the beginning.” By that, he meant that the best was yet to come, but I thought to myself, “NO! This is the end!” I told him that one didn’t work for me and I kept on plodding along. Along the end of the race route, people stood and cheered us on. That was so awesome. Sometimes people would stick their hands out for a runner to slap as they passed by. I did that and it was neat… especially with the little kids.

Finally, we rounded the last corner and I saw the finish line. What a welcome sight! John said, let’s give it a big finish. I kicked it into gear one last time and ran as hard as I could to the finish line. They wanted us to keep running for a few blocks so that other runners could get through. I moved to the side and walked. I had earned that walk! I was completely spent. By the time we got to the fruit and water, I was hobbling like an old man! I have never ever been that sore and tired before.

It is now Saturday evening and my legs still hurt, but there’s a feeling of accomplishment that feels really good. I have another feeling too. I feel fortunate to have a great friend like John. To sum it all up, I must say, “This is not the end, it’s just the beginning.” Thank God it was the end of that race, but there will be more races, God willing, and more time to build our friendships.

January 2, 2006

Iron sharpens Iron

Posted in community, friends at 3:11 pm by jimazing

Praise God for friends! I cannot do this journey through life alone. I need companions. I need others who are on the journey with me. I used to think that kind of talk was a copout. Now I see the wisdom in it.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another Proverbs 27:17

That is one of those Bible passages that sounds so poetic and spiritual. In reality, sharpening a knife with a steel is a violent process. It is a process of knocking off part of the knife. If knives could feel, I think it would hurt. In reality it is uncomfortable to "rub up against" others. But that's how knives (and people) get sharpened.

I want to be sharpened! That means partnering with others who are moving towards the same destination. As I start this new year, I am going public with my desire to seek out relationships with others who will challenge me and help me press on to who God wants me to be. This blog is step one. John, I did it! Thank you for following up with me.

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