Category Archives: aging parents

The best friend

In the recent passing of my father-in-law, I am struck by the depths that a real friendship can have. As my father-in-law got older and was able to do less and less, it endeared me to him even more. I was happy to spend time with him, listening to many, many stories of happier times for him. Though I lived an hour away, my father-in-law allowed me to visit him often and he loved taking car rides, going out to eat and “visiting.”

He had a bout of throat cancer a couple of years ago — he was 92 at the time — and had to drive 30 miles for radiation treatment Monday through Friday for 8 weeks. There was a Village Inn down the road from the hospital, and every Wednesday I drove there to wait for him while he got radiated and then we would go to the VI for a slice of “free” pie. The VI always had free slices of pie on Wednesdays but he’d always say, “I’ll pay this time.”

Because of him, I understand what having a “good” friend means.

A good friend teaches you how to be patient, love unconditionally, and sacrifice yourself without complaint or worry for your own interests. And, over the course of the friendship, you begin see your own weaknesses that need refining and lean more into the friendship, rather than fleeing from the shame of your immaturity (impatience), your self-centeredness (thinking of the things you could be doing instead), and your pride (feeling like you’re more important in the friendship than the one you are serving).

Just as my father-in-law was a good friend to me, Jesus is a “good” friend too. Jesus has many of the same attributes in the way that He shows us the areas where we need to change and grow. That really is true love.

Proverbs 27 17-18 says “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. 18 Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.”

John 15:12-15 says “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

I thank God for teaching me through my father-in-law what it means “to be” and “to have” a good friend.

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The branch and the vine

John 15:4 (KJV) — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

Branches that have been grafted into a vine, only bear fruit because they’ve been grafted into a live vine. So, the branch has become part of the true vine. Without the vine, the branches can’t bear fruit and will wither away.

Just like the bible says, my Christian faith is like a branch. I was grafted into the true vine many years ago, but did not start bearing fruit right away. In fact, it was quite a long time.

I was thinking about that this morning and thinking about how grapevines produce fruit. There is a correlation, for sure but it has taken me a loooooong time to relate it to my life.

Grapevines need to be pollinated and depending on the variety, they may flower but not produce fruit until a few years have past. Sometimes, they need fertilizer and pesticides for protection. The branches also must be pruned to make more fruit come on. All of that requires a gardener.

I understand now why I didn’t bear fruit for so long. I wasn’t being pollinated. I had little fertilizer and little protection from insects and disease and I didn’t allow the process of pruning to result in fruition.

God tells us exactly how to cultivate our faith. John 15
Good stuff, but that’s a story I didn’t fully understand but now I can correlate it in human terms.

Pollination means to me that I was not reading the bible and praying consistently. I also did not spend time much time cultivating Christian relationships (fertilizer), and for many, many years, I never thought twice about the type of books, movies and TV I consumed (protection/insecticide). Pruning I think, is the act of my surrendering more of myself and my problems/pain (emotional, physical, or spiritual) and letting the Holy Spirit do the redemptive work in my life.

All of this must be handled by someone who knows how to make stuff grow. There’s no better being to do that, than God.

It’s painful to make this admission, but last night, I felt the nick of the pruning knife again and know that I have more to surrender in the days that follow. I’d like to say I’m done growing — translation: I’m tired of pain, surrender and uncertainty, but I risk the branch dying if I don’t let myself be pruned by the gardener.