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“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’.” Genesis 2:18

The politicians tell us today that there is a war on women. I think that the greater conflict is the battle between the sexes.

It’s no secret that traditional marriage is a difficult thing, and in our age even looked down upon. One fellow told me that he thinks men today think that women are just too difficult and have given up on them. I don’t really know what women think about men, but if the media is to be believed my friend’s opinion may hold true for them as well.

Pop star Sam Smith has written a poignant song about an offended lover which exemplifies a relationship gone bad.

You and me, we made a vow
For better or for worse
I can’t believe you let me down
But the proof’s in the way it hurts

You say I’m crazy
‘Cause you don’t think I know what you’ve done
But when you call me baby
I know I’m not the only one

The betrayal and pain seep from these lyrics. But what stands out even more to me is the how the two people view each other: they both think the other one is nuts, although a case can be made that the offending party is only saying this to their partner to cover their lie.

It is not easy to figure out what to do, but the classic movie “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1944) may give us a clue.

The film opens with World War II soldier Zach Morgan (Joseph Cotton) riding a train full of other service men obviously on leave. Mary Marshall (Ginger Rogers) sits down across from him and they strike up a conversation.

Mary tells him she is going to Pine Hill to visit her uncle and his family and Christmas. Zach says he is also going to Pine Hill, to visit his sister.

Thus, “I’ll Be Seeing You” begins with the two future lovers lying to each other. Mary is actually a furloughed prisoner at a penitentiary. Zach is definitely not from Pine Bluff and he is an orphan.

As their relationship develops, Zach fesses up to his reasons for lying to Mary. He wanted to be with her.

On the other hand, Mary keeps quiet about her prisoner status, and is reassured by her aunt that she should not tell Zach. They will be together such a short time, she explains to Mary, and the matronly aunt says that she should “have fun like other girls.”

Unlike Mary, Zach confesses to Mary his own furlough status from a hospital, where he is being treated for his psychiatric issues. Mary proves to be a kind and caring woman, encouraging Zach that he can overcome. In fact, it his her voice in his mind that helps him stave off a relapse when he is alone in his room.

The film shows Mary to be someone who is treated somewhat harshly by the justice system. She reveals to her 17-year-old cousin Barbara (Shirley Temple) the reason why she ended up in prison.

Her boss had tried to rape her in his apartment, and in the struggle she accidentally pushed him out a 14th-story window. Although it is clear she acted in self-defense, she is convicted on a manslaughter charge and sent to prison for six years.

In this context, Mary and Zach both fall deeply in love with each other in a few days. Unfortunately for them, and of course unknown to Zach, Mary’s furlough ends shortly after the New Year.

She has to go back to jail to serve three more years. He thinks she is a traveling saleswoman and has to go back to work.

Furthermore, when Zach tells Barbara before his own leave taking that he intends to marry her cousin , she discusses Mary’s true situation, not knowing that Zach is not aware of it.

Zach becomes cold to Mary as they prepare to separate. After Zach refuses to admit what is troubling him, it dawns on her that he now knows the truth. The train leaves with Mary unable to explain.

Arriving home, she encounters Barbara, who is distraught and apologetic. This does not help Mary, however. She forgives Barbara, but she lies on her bed, weeping and forlorn.

All is not lost for her, though. At the end of the movie, Mary is shown walking toward the prison doors in the night. The camera reveals the eyes of a figure hovering nearby.

It is Zach, who embraces Mary and tells her he knew right after the train left he was wrong to leave as he did. He apologizes and says he understands why she did what she did to receive a jail term (although it is not clear in the film why he knows this). He vows to Mary that he will be right there waiting for her until she gets out of prison.

Zach’s gracious behavior toward Mary illustrates a statement made by Jamaican singer Bob Marley:

“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you wont give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy. … Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”

Zach understood Marley’s sentiments.  He knew Mary was imperfect. But he loved her and wanted her anyway. Zach appreciated that he too was no prize. The value Mary had for him made her worth the wait.

Although both men and women were created in God’s image and for each other, we are both fallen human beings, and have been for a long time. It seems that we forget this truth in our perception of the other sex.

Why this is the case is complicated. I think at the root of the war between men and women is a more cosmic struggle: the one between God and the evil being known as Satan.

When Adam and Eve sinned, God pronounced a curse on Satan, the perpetrator who engineered their demise:

“… I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.” Genesis 3:15

In some fashion, though we ourselves are culpable, men and women are in no-man’s land, caught in the middle between God and Satan.

Sam Smith’s lyrics also reveal another truth: men and women want and need each other. He writes:

For months on end I’ve had my doubts
Denying every tear
I wish this would be over now
But I know that I still need you here

This is the dilemma. Dutch theologian Desiderius Erasmus is quoted as saying, “Women. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.” I imagine women could say the same thing about men.

If my friend’s observation that men have given up on women is true, then I can see from my male point of view at least one solution to the battle of the sexes. They should heed the words of Bob Marley and imitate the actions of the fictional Zach Morgan.

Men and women ought to be less demanding, realize we are all on a journey ad find a partner that is worth suffering for and endure. We do need each other.

words of Bob Marley and imitate the actions of the fictional Zach Morgan.

Men and women ought to be less demanding, realize we are all on a journey ad find a partner that is worth suffering for and endure. We do need each other.

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I sought the Lord, and he answered me;  he delivered me from all my fears….This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles…The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:4,6,18).
  

E.F. “Sonny” Dewey stands in his room in the middle of the night yelling. Is he screaming at his wife, or his kids, or some other person inhabiting his mother’s house? No, he is yelling at God.

Sonny, a Pentecostal preacher portrayed by Robert Duvall in the film “The Apostle”, has been booted from his Texas church as a result of  a power play orchestrated by his wife Jessie (Farrah Fawcett). The lady has had enough of his womanizing and abuse, and she herself has taken up with the youth minister.

“If you won’t give me back my wife, give me peace,” screams Sonny.” I don’t know who’s been fooling with me, you or the Devil. I don’t know! I won’t even bring the human into this. He’s just a mutt, so I won’t bring him into this, but I’m confused, I’m mad. I love you Lord, but I am mad at you! I AM MAD AT YOU!” 

“I know I’m a sinner every once in a while, a womanizer, but I’m your servant. Since I was a little boy and you brought me back from the dead, I’m your servant. What should I do? Tell me. I’ve always called you Jesus, you’ve always called me Sonny, so what should I do. This is Sonny talking now!”

Apparently such communication between Sonny and the good Lord is not uncommon. A neighbor calls up and complains to his Momma, who tells them,”That’s Sonny. Sometimes he talks to the Lord, sometimes he yells at the Lord. Tonight he just happens to be yelling at him.” 

Sonny’s anger issues aren’t limited to the Lord, however. At his kid’s baseball game he takes a bat to the youth minister and kills him. Knowing he’s in a heap of trouble, Sonny runs.

Somehow, even in the midst of the horrible mess he has mostly brought on himself, Sonny does not stop communicating with the Lord.

Even as a fugitive murderer, the preacher asks God to lead him. Eventually he arrives  in a rural Louisiana community.

His charismatic personality attracts the locals and Sonny plants a church with an African American minister.  He looks for radio time, and when he find out he has to pay, Sonny is offered a place to stay by a mechanic he helped out earlier.

This act of kindness causes Sonny to tell God, “I’m not mad at you, and I’ll never be mad again.” 

In the bayou and on the radio, Sonny is known as  “The Apostle E.F.”.Although his ministry booms and the church grows, his new life is on a short leash. Jessie hears a fuzzy radio broadcast of his one day and calls the cops.

Sonny is escorted away right after he preaches his final sermon. In “The Apostles” final scene, he is preaching at a group of inmates.

Robert Duvall’s portrayal of Sonny in the 1997 movie, which won him an Academy Award nomination, is not one of a typical suburban evangelical Christian in modern America. In “The Apostle”, we do not experience the stereotypical mega-church family cruising in their minivan and sipping lattes at the sanctuary coffee bar.

What we see is a precursor  of what would hit the media in the coming new century: the reality show. Indeed, the lives of Sonny,  Jessie and other characters in “The Apostle” foreshadow the brokenness of  many people in  America in the second decade of the 21st century, folks who still desire, nay, yearn for, a touch from Jesus Christ.

And not just a pat on the back from His hand. They hunger for a deep experience with Him, and one with power that will rocket their lives into outer space.

But they are broken and exhausted and don’t know how to be fixed and the church isn’t helping. Jesus is all the hope they have.

The life of the real American believer today is more true to the story of the average person we meet in the Old and New Testament. Those people were broken too and they needed the touch of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

What they are getting instead from today’s American Christianity in many cases is church politics and hierarchy reminiscent of the Pharisees and Sadducees,  and expectations they do not have the strength or power to meet.

People whose lives are busted into a thousand pieces may  think it is  only the church which is to blame for their  condition. They should  think again and try to get rid of that mindset.

It is not right to think of  the church and pastors in our minds like we do the government and politicians.

It would be wiser to look in the mirror. Once we get past the fact that what we see there  looks like Humpty Dumpty post tumble, and overcome our despair that we shall never be put back together again by all the king’s horses and all the pastor’s men, we would do well to grasp that we are actually right where God would have us.

Although it certainly doesn’t seem that way, He knows exactly what he is doing.

It is only in our brokenness can we comprehend that we need grace and mercy from Jesus. I may currently be walking around my room after hours yelling at God like Sonny Dewey, but he isn’t screaming back.

As Moody Bible Church pastor Erwin Lutzer notes, God has promises for us he intends to keep.

An old friend told me this weekend to think about the term ‘covenant’. In biblical terms, a ‘covenant’ is a set of commitments that God has made with his people.

Lutzer says that God’s promises to us aren’t based on our brokenness, but on his faithfulness and power. If Abraham had gone to God, he says, and posed a set of “what if” questions to Him, God’s answer in each case would be that He would keep his promises to him.

For example, if Abraham had asked ‘what if I lie again” or “what if my people have a king named David who commits adultery” or “what if my descendants crucify your Son”, God’s answer would still be the same.

“How can God talk like that”?, asks Pastor Lutzer. “Because God is not a man like you or I.”

God will not change and he remains faithful because he cannot deny himself. It is upon that that we stand today.”

In the words of an old hymn:

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.”

Like t E.F. “Sonny” Dewey, a man who was purportedly a man of God, many of us are messed up and torn apart and our pieces are spread out all over the landscape.  We would do well to follow his example and hang with Jesus regardless.

The final stanza of the aforementioned hymn says it all:

“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

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“Think of ways to encourage on another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back is drawing near (Hebrews 1o:24,25).”

I don’t know what prompted me to do it: seek advice that is. I am a typical male. I hate to stop and ask for directions.

It could have been the Corp of Cadets at the university in my town. With school back in session, the campus is full of these young men and women.

The other day I passed some of them at an exercise station, the kind with balance beams and wooden bars. As I walked by these students,  about 10 of them were in a circle. They had their arms around each other and were yelling some kind of chant, moving their bodies up and down in unison.

I got the point of the cheer. It was designed to develop and show their comaraderie and unity.

I chose to see some counsel because of a family matter that couldn’t get resolved. It concerned a path one of my kids wanted to take.

So about three days ago I got the idea to send some Emails around to some men I trust. One was a mentor of mine. Another was a high school principal.  The other Emails went to my pastor and an elder at my church in charge of the high school group my child is a part of.

Within a couple of hours these fellows had all responded. What impressed me also was the consistency of their advice.  Although their suggestions differed somewhat, their comments were more like shades of the same color.

Their counsel tended to agree with my wife’s view of things, even though I had not brought her ideas up specifically in my request for advice. While I agreed with my spouse generally, these men gave me some specifics that helped sway my view toward hers.

As we met with child and discussed the pertinent issue, I spoke out the written suggestions of my counselors. With input from my wife and kid, I made a decision.

All seem settled, that is until I heard my wife and child heatedly discussing the issue again in another room a few minute after our discussion. So much for my effective leadership!

I was quite flustered and basically just delegated the whole thing to my wife to solve. (Men: I wouldn’t recommend this as a conflict resolution strategy.)

During the last three days since there has been an edge of contention in my household.  The argument finally came to a head this morning as I was trying to sleep in. (It’s Saturday.)

Again my wife and child were having a loud discussion. Forget trying to sleep.

I came upstairs and got involved in the battle. I wasn’t much help. Indeed, in my pre-coffee state I just added fuel to the fire.

Finally, some thing occurred to me.  It became clear as day that my wife’s spirit was just flat out against the whole approach I was taking. Even though I was trying to be conciliatory and my wife was willing to compromise, it was clear that no matter how I framed the issue, she was not comfortable with how things were going.

It was after comprehending how she was feeling, I made a decision that from my perspective was completely in line with with what was in her heart. What was interesting to me was how, within the next hour or so, I had this complete sense of peace about me. In addition, my wife had the same spirit.

We were both in unity. We both were positive we were making the right decision regarding our child.

None of this would have happened if I had not chosen to ask advice from some other guys. Their thoughts acted as a catalyst to bring my thinking around to that of my wife. It took three days, but at least I finally was open minded and made the decision that seemed to be the best one.

The wise man of Proverbs tells us that healthy counsel is very valuable:

Timely advice is lovely,  like golden apples in a silver basket. To one who listens, valid criticism  is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.  Trustworthy messengers refresh like snow in summer.  They revive the spirit of their employer. (Proverbs 25:11-13).

This same wise man writes that involving my wife in the decision making was a smart thing to do to:

 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)

This sage closes this  thought by reiterating how effective it is in a conflict to not be a loner.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

My adult son and I have been watching the Little League World Series. I am intrigued by how, whenever there is a home run, the entire  team of the boy who hit it greets him at home place and enthusiastically celebrates.

To me. the peace my wife and I gained, a rlesult of a decision borne from our teamwork, was to me a home run. And it was a sign to me that our success was a sign  of God’s pleasure.

He was at home plate jumping up and down with us. If those counselor friends of mine had been here, they would have been patting us on the back, too.

It’s this kind of fellowship I ought to be engaging in every day.  In addition, in the times we live in, and with the difficult contests of life sure to be ahead, it’s essential to be a part of  a community of saints like this.

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A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10).”

As they lay in the bed in their hotel room, Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami can’t sleep. They are under a lot of pressure.

In an episode of the TV drama “Friday Night Lights” Coach Taylor will be coaching his Dillon High Panthers in the Texas state championship game the next day. A pressure-cooker situation under any circumstances, the heat is increased by the instability of his 15 year-old freshman quarterback J.D. McCoy.

J.D. is probably the best quarterback in the state, but he himself is under a lot of pressure to perform from his tightly wound father. In fact, after the game which got the Panthers into the final, J.D.’s Dad hit him in the face repeatedly in front of  the Taylors and other witnesses because the boy didn’t follow his instructions about how to play.

By law, both Eric and Tami (who is the Dillon principal)  have to report the incident to Child Protective Services, and do so. This causes the breakup of Tami’s relationship with J.D.’s mother, a close friend, and an even more adversarial relationship between Eric and the quarterback’s intrusive father.

At first, J.D. is angry at his father’s beating. However, he eventually sides with his father and becomes upset with Coach Taylor for reporting his Dad’s indiscretion.

As Eric and Tami stand on the balcony in the middle of the night, looking over the city of Austin and in sight of the stadium where the state championship is to be played, the coach says,”I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow.” Tami replies,”Well, you’re going to win. Or, you’re going to lose. Either way, the sun will come up the next day.”

Tami Taylor exhorts her husband with some wise words that help him to see the big picture and what is important. In essence, Tami is saying that life is unpredictable, but whatever happens life goes on regardless.

Tami’s statement echoes one Jesus made in the Bible. In the context of this statement, Jesus had just told his disciples to seek the higher values, i.e. God’s kingdom and his righteousness, over temporal concerns and added that they would have everything they needed as a result.

Maintaining such a character in a world that has no interest in pursuing godly qualities, and in fact goes after the opposite, is not easy. Thus, Jesus gave His followers some practical advice to handle the pressure:  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:32-33).

Both Eric and Tami Taylor continue to keep this perspective in the days ahead. Things don’t work out as they hoped, but they still keep their character.

First, the Dillon Panthers encounter a huge deficit in the state championship game.  Coach Taylor courageously benches J.D. in the second half. He has played terribly and acted disrespectfully toward both Coach Taylor and his teammates.

Even though Coach Taylor’s move almost pays off, Dillon loses the championship by a whisker. Even so,  the coach encourages his team and compliments his players in the locker room in front of their parents afterward for playing like champions.

You would think that having almost won the state title and having taught values to his players would make Eric’s job secure. However, in the world of Texas high school football, this kind of behavior is not necessarily prized.

Indeed, J.D.’s wealthy and influential father works behind the scenes to pull off a coup to replace Coach Taylor with J.D.’s personal quarterback coach. The school board is faced with the choice of potentially losing their star quarterback or saying goodbye to their highly successful coach.

At first, Eric refuses to defend himself. He tells Tami that he has some pride, and that the board knows his record.

Tami wisely advises Eric that he needs to come to the board meeting and speak. She knows he has no chance of warding off the attack of J.D.’s father otherwise, and it is clear that his livelihood is at stake.

Although Eric bravely fights for his job in front of the school board, they opt to keep J.D.’s father happy. Eric is basically demoted. He is offered the position of head coach at a previously defunct  high school the board intends to resurrect across town in a lesser district as a consolation. 

At a wedding where Tami informs Eric of  the decision, she continues to display grace, telling Eric,”No matter what happens, wherever you go, or whatever you do, I will be behind you.”  Eric takes Tami away from the wedding  and drive  across town to view the ramshackle East Dillon High facilities.  He obviously plans to make the best of the new situation and coach next season at the reopened school.

The show ends with Eric and Tami standing on the abandoned school’s tiny football field with their arms around each other. Eric is a man with plenty of godly traits, and fortunately for him, he has a wife who is even godlier and helps him to make right choices despite the pressures of life.

Knowing what he has in Tami influences Eric’s decisionmaking.  During the wedding, as various couples, including Eric and Tami, dance a band sings the following lyrics, which help to explain the coach’s choice:

When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found

Eric Taylor has won a state championship previously and  just took his team to another final. He is a highly respected coach and would have no trouble landing a job coaching elsewhere.

In fact, this is not the first time Eric has put  his career behind his wife and family. Once he was offered and took a coaching position at a major university in Texas even though Tami had just had a baby and elected to stay in Dillon. When he saw his family suffering from his absences, he leaves his new job, a dream come true, and returns to coach the Panthers.

Yes, Eric knows what he has in Tami.

 When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Tryin’ to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be ( When a Man Loves a Woman, Jody Watley, made famous by Percy Sledge)

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“My heart has heard you say,’Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming’ (Psalm 27:8).”

Gregory House has had many relationships over the last eight years of the TV medical drama that bears his surname. He has had several girlfriends and even a trumped up marriage meant to get a woman her green card. Dr. House has also had complicated relationships with the members of his medical team.

However, the most important connection he has had is the one forged between him and his best friend, Dr. James Wilson. They have been so close that some critics of the show have termed their friendship a “bromance”.

The pair met at a medical convention in New Orleans. As both recounted to a police officer in another state who was holding them on old charges,  Wilson had been arrested for assault and vandalism. (He threw an object through an antique mirror in a bar argument.)

House thought Wilson had spunk and was interesting, so he bailed him out. Thus began an enduring friendship.

Their relationship has hit the skids at times, however. An almost fatal rupture occurred when House indirectly was involved in the death of Wilson’s girlfriend. House didn’t cause the death, but his dysfunctional behavior led to Wilson’s flame Amber being in the situation which led to her demise.

Healing occurs when Wilson becomese part of a plot to make sure House goes to his father’s funeral. The ole curmudgeon has no intention of going because he despises the man and he believes he isn’t  his biological father anyway.

House is drugged by his boss.  When House wakes up, Wilson is driving him along the highway to the funeral location.

They have not seen each other in two months, as Wilson  quit to get away from House’s damaging and self-seeking  influence. When he notices House reviving, Wilson looks at him and says,”This doesn’t mean I care.”

After House confronts Wilson about his dumping him because of Amber’s death, Wilson becomes angry and throws an object through a stained-glass window at the church where the funeral is held.

House’s response? “Still not boring.”  On the way home House provokes Wilson as they discuss a current case:

“This is fun, isn’t it?”, House says, smiling knowingly at Wilson.

Wilson decides to take his old job back. When he tells House in the office, the latter says wryly,”If you’re coming back just because you’re attracted to the shine of my neediness… I’d be okay with that.”

Wilson tells House why he is truly coming back:

“I’m coming back because you’re right. That strange, annoying trip we just took was the most fun I’ve had since Amber died.”

Fast forward a couple of years. House drives his car into the front window of his girlfriend’s house (his girlfriend is also his boss) after she finally has had enough and ends it. In the process Wilson, who is a bystander, is injured.

Eleven months later House is paroled from prison and returns to the hospital. Wilson never visited and is cold as ice to him.

House reaches out to Wilson, telling him that he likes him, has fun with him. “Do what you have to do to get over this”, House says, suggesting a couple of acts of physical violence Wilson could perpretate toward him.  Wilson replies,”The thing is House, I DON’T like you.”

After House solves the case of Wilson’s dying patient, pushing Wilson in the process and making him a better doctor, Wilson walks into House’s office and punches him in the face, flooring him. “Dinner later?”, asks Wilson.

Fast forward in time to what is now the end of the series. The writers of “House” have chosen to sum up eight seasons by focusing on the relationship between Gregory House and James Wilson.

House learns that Wilson has cancer and has five months to live. Wilson refuses any further treatment after a dangerous chemotherapy experiment he requests House to perform “under the table” doesn’t get results.

Wilson is an oncologist and does not want to go through the slow death that he has seen from his patients. House, on the other hand, does everything he can to get Wilson to change his mind. “I need you” he tells his friend.

House is so frantic to keep Wilson around that he conducts a series of hospital pranks aimed at getting Wilson to give in. One collapses a bathroom, injures some doctors and damages an expensive medical instrument.

Wilson in the meantime is upset again with House. Even his own fatal disease is all about House, it seems.

In the meantime, House finally accepts Wilson’s wishes and their relationship is “good”.  However, House is told the vandalism has violated his parole and he will have to go back to jail.

“How long?”, he asks. “Six months”, the hospital lawywer tells him. House will miss any remaining time his friend Wilson has on this earth because of his hijinks.

House apparently collapses from the strain. He goes off to a warhehouse, does heroin with a dying patient. 

Wilson tracks him down after two days. However, the warehouse is now burning and as Wilson stares at House through the window of a blazing room, his friend is buried under the collapsing buillding.

However, House in typical fashion has had it all planned. He has faked his death.

House sends Wilson a text message as the latter is blasting his friend in a eulogy. “Shut up you idiot” the text says.

Wilson now knows House is alive.  He meets up with House, telling him he has thrown his life away. House replies,”I’m dead. What do you want to do with your remaining five months.”

The series ends with House and Wilson sitting on motorcycles. Wilson tells House,”Uhh..when the cancer gets bad..”.

House interrupts, looks at Wilson and says,”Cancer is boring.” They drive off together, presumably doing what Steppenwolf sang about: “looking for adventure and whatever comes our way.”

What a friendship! Despite its ups and downs, the relationship between House and Wilson is an enduring one.

They both get fulfillment and complete satisfaction in it. This is despite the trials.

I was sitting at home a few days ago not feeling particularly close to God.  I believe this was because I hadn’t really met God’s expectations, just as House and Wilson did not fulfill each other’s wishes at times.

I understand, however, that  even though the closeness of these two men is admirable and even to be emulated, a relationship with the my Lord and Master Jesus is of a different kind on one important respect. Jesus told his disciples,”You are my friends if you do what I command (John 15:14).”  If we want God to confide in us like a friend, we need to fear Him (Psalm 25:14).

As I sat there on my couch, trying to have a quiet time, I missed the fellowship with God. There is nothing on this earth like it. 

I asked Him to take me back into His confidence.  He did.

There is nothing so precious as friendship with God. No experience, work, hobby, or any other relationship can replace it.

I was pretty scared when I thought that I might have lost His friendship for good. It gave me a clear perspective on what is important in this life and how to live.

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 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24,25).

Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly opened his show the other day with these comments:

“So there I am at mass yesterday and the sermon is about to begin. Often these homilies are not very relevant, to be polite. But the African priest speaking said something very interesting. He looked at the congregation and said that God wants the faithful to keep their sanity. The priest went on to say that there is a plan for everybody. And if you are misguided you can’t carry through on that plan. Now, think about that. God wants us to be sane. It makes sense. The problem is we’re living in an insane world where some people completely lose their bearings.”

If you are a fan of the TV medical drama House like I am, you see people whose lives have become unmanageable every week, led by the not-so-good Dr. House himself. “Lead” is probably too kind of a word for the fictional Gregory House, as he doesn’t really lead anyone.
 
Play games with them? Yes. Humiliate them? So true. Deceive them? Spot on. But lead them? Not really.
 
As a result, his team of doctors all come across as lost souls.Oh sure. They are technically the best at what they do, but even on the job their lives are corrupted (and that word is charitable to them).
 
First there is Australian Dr. Robert Chase, who  is serially promiscuous. He once was married to a previous doctor on the House team, but it didn’t last.
 
Of the same ilk as Chase is Dr. Chris Taub. He is separated from his wife.
 
Taub has had two children during the separation. He has a child through a nurse and also has a child through his wife, conceived after they were separated.
 
Newcomer Dr. Jessica Adams is more moral it seems, but has been a victim of men like Chase and Taub. Her husband cheated on her with a woman he met on the plane coming back from their honeymoon. 
 
She seems to have sworn off men, and works all the time. As Taub says of her, “Adams works 80 hours a week fixing bunions on hobos because she can’t face getting to know someone new.”
 
Another recent addition to House’s entourage, Dr. Chi Park, is a young Asian American woman who is still living at home. It’s not that she wouldn’t want to ge involved with men, it’s just she is afraid to offend her family, or so she says.
 
Furthermore, Park  has a major inferiority complex. She tells Taub, when he advises her to go out with a guitar player who asked her for a date,”I’m not that good at guitar. Or flirting or small talk. I’m not as pretty as Adams, I have stuffy clothes, and I hate my hair.”Finally, there is House. He is currently married to a woman solely for the purpose of getting her a green card illegally and it is common for him to take up with hookers. His last meaningful relationship, one with his boss Dr. Lisa Cuddy, ended with House in jail.
 
House  drove his car into the woman’s house  after she broke it off .  Cuddy had come to the conclusion everyone else has: House is hopeless. 
 
On this theme, in a recent episode the “patient of the week” is a man named Henry. His  girlfriend, a woman wh he says “changed his life”broke up with him a few months ago.
 
Henry keeps a life-sized doll customized to look like this woman. Like House, the breakup sent  the poor chap off the deep end.
 
As the doctors discuss whether Henry has a disorder or is just weird, House says sarcatically,” You know what’s really crazy? Living with a human being. Someone with opinions and feelings. Gets mad just ’cause you want to take Salsa classes with them one night a week.  One night.”
 
Taub adds”,He’s just running away. He hangs out with a doll, he never needs to fear rejection.” Park replies,”It’s sad.”
 
House them comes in for the kill. He tells his team individually,”Your doll is your kids( to Taub). Yours is your parents (to Park), yours is your charity (to Adams). All excuses for not being in a relationship.”
 
Not neglecting Chase, House tells him,”You don’t go looking for the right person. You just shack up with whoever’s in the room, and then you get surprised and/or divorced when it doesn’t work out. 
 
“I’m surprised you haven’t asked Adams out yet.” (The sparks have been flying during this episode, something which the perceptive House definitely has noticed).
 
Interestingly enough, it is Adams who later does the asking, after seeing what Henry has become. She tells Chase, who is suspicious,”It’s time for a change”
 
Equally interesting is that Chase the playboy turns her down. He tells her,”I don’t really think that’s a good idea for me right now.” Chase also has learned something from Henry’s case, and from House.Of all people, it is Dr. House, one of the most relationally dysfunctional characters in television history, who has hit on a truism:  We need healthy relationships.
 
Unfortunately, in our time, the tail is wagging the dog. Technology has replaced humans as our source for flesh and blood human dialogue and interaction.
 
Even as late as the early 20th century it wasn’t that way. In Ireland, for example, people would gather around the hearth and fire of a storyteller in large numbers, listening to him tell exciting tales handed down from one generation to another.
 
Today, we  meet with people through machines. One of my students lamented this, saying that people of his generation never see each other anymore. They just text.
 
I think some of the most misunderstood people in the Bible are Job’s friends, men who existed long before Facebook and MySpace. The first half of the Old Testament book which bears Job’s name  shows that he  and his friends really go at it: face-to-face.
 
Knowing the end of the book of Job, we usually think of what insensitive boobs the man’s friends were. However, I think we have them wrong.
 
First, when they learned of Job’s suffering they gathered together to console him. They didn’t even say a word for a week and wept with him (Job 2:11-13).
 
Their arguments were not unkind. They were meant to rattle Job’s brain and get him to think. His responses were of a like kind.
 
For example, Zothar, speaks about Job’s idle talk. Job replies after Zothar speaks that his friends  think they are “it” and that it is clear from their arguments that when they die, wisdom will disappear (Job 11:1; 12:1,2). Job’s friend Eliphaz, after the patriarch goes on for a while,  basically calls him a blowhard(Job 15:2)!
 
I could see me having the same kind of conversation with a couple of my close friends. We will nag, insult, cajole and kid to make a point, knowing full well that below the surface is love, caring and brotherhood. We want the best for each other. 
 
We need in-your-face living and loving relationships, even though they are costly and painful. We need them although it may mean sacrificing our time and energy to be with people who may be different from us.
 
Facebook, your cell phone, and Skype just don’t cut it, that is if you want to keep sane.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out  before a single day had passed (Psalm 139:13-16).”

Yesterday I had an epiphany.

I was looking over some personality test material I had given my students to do earlier in the week. I figured this was as good a time as any to check up on myself, too.

I have done done a lot of analysis of my skills and abilities, passions, values and yes, personality traits the last few years. The purpose (with a nod to career coach Dan Miller) has been to determine what kind of work I would most love to do.

As I’ll be switching jobs in a few month, I thought it relevant to give myself a check up. Not to mention also that for a teacher it doesn’t hurt to do the material you pass out to your students. Doing so gives you some kind of feel for what they will be doing for you.

As I looked over the quadrants showing the personality dimensions most applicable to me, something stood out I had never noticed before. The action plans for the two personality dimensions I straddle say that, to be more effective, I need to:

*validate self worth  

* respect people’s worth as much as their accomplishments.

The recovery programs based on Alcoholics Anonymous tell you that you should do a ruthless moral inventory. Somehow this week I have been doing a lot of that and not particularly liking what I see. I haven’t felt very good about myself as a result.

It has been pretty anguishing to review my character defects. I have come to some realization of how this man has made some major mistakes in terms of being a husband, father and work colleague.

Of late my sins have come back to bite me. I think the author of Galatians was spot on when he wrote, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man shows he shall also reap (Galatians 6:7).” 

 (Of course, he would be on target whether this truth was part of my experience or not. After all, he is writing the inspired Word of God!)

As I have been immersing myself in my “Life Recovery Bible” this year, I have tended to focus on the first four of the twelve steps. They involve admitting that you have an unmanageable life and turning it over to God. Step four is the one involving the moral inventory.

Now, working on my character isn’t new to me. I’ve been at it my whole life, having become a Christian as a teenager. The problem is that I seem to be struggling with the same old stuff decades later. It’s pretty discouraging.

I just watched an episode of the TV medical drama “House” in which a marriage seminar leader suddenly has health problems on stage and goes under the care of  Dr. House and his team. Part of the treatment is giving the leader, a fellow named Joe, testosterone.

It seems Joe was kicked in the groin a few times a few years before during a bar fight. This lowered his testosterone significantly.

As the low testoerone fits into the medical mix, the doctors treat Joe with testerone shots. As he continues with the treatment, Joe begins to revert back the pre-fight version of himself.

Before the kicks in the groin, Joe was a corporate coach. He was cutthroat and ruthless. 

However, after the bar fight, Joe became a sensitive man. He moved from corporate coaching to trying to help men relate better to women.

In the process he attracted a mate who liked this version of Joe. His wife Marlene is horrified as she watches him revert to the brute he used to be.

The source of Joe’s condition is finally determined and the continued use of testosterone treatments advocated. Joe, despite warnings from one of  House’s doctors that a low testosterone level poses major health problems, declines having them administered anymore.

Joe decides that the lower testosterone will keep his marriage intact. Besides, he tells the doctor, he is a better man without them.

Frankly, I think the whole storyline is pretty absurd and was probably meant to be when it was written.  In reality, all men will tell you a kick in the groin is no laughing matter.

For example, I just read a story in the news in which a woman grabbed a man with whom she was in an argument over a parking space in the man’s most vulnerable spot. The man died as a result.

It doesn’t surprise me that a TV show or even real people for that matter would suggest that someone like Joe stay in a less-than-male state. In this day and age men are under assault, and for good reason, as we don’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to relating to women, or anyone else for that matter.

However, the Bible seems to say that chemical or physical acts don’t make for real change. Indeed, there were people back in New Testament days that said that if you were going to be a real Christian, you needed an operation that affected the same area where Joe was injured.

It was said that if you were going to be a true believer, you had to follow the old way of circumcision. However, the author of Galatians, in the same chapter in which he reminded that we reap what we sow, said that this procedure did nothing to produce real change in a person’s condition. He wrote:

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation (Galations 6:15).”

As I contemplated my own condition yesterday I went on to look more closely at steps six and seven of the 12 steps in my “Life Recovery” Bible” . These items move on from the moral inventory to tell me that I should be willing to have God remove my defects of character and also ask Him to do it.

I can’t stay stuck at the “ruthless moral inventory”. All this does is to produce depression and no real healing.

The truth is that God thinks pretty highly of me despite my sins. This realization yesterday shocked me, and also helped me to understand that I do not have to stay stuck in self-hatred.

In fact, to do so will continue to affect my relationships negatively. How can I possibly honor and value other people when I can’t even stand myself?

 He made me and has even written a book in which I am the main character. As an always aspiring author, this just blows my mind. 

My epiphany was that God sees me as hugely valuable to Him. It was also that He has the same view of my wife, kids, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and every one else I come into contact with.

This illuminating discovery changes everything. I see myself and others quite differently today, and want to see this insight from God translated into my character.

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