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In case you didn’t know it I’m kind of a big fan of relationships.  This from the guy who once was asked to mentor someone.  I asked them to clarify that they wanted me to “mentor” and not “disciple” them.  To further clarify I said, “Look, if you want me to disciple you I don’t have the time.  That involves me gently guiding you in the right direction.  It calls me to knowing what you should do but allowing you to work through the Holy Spirit in finding it out for yourself.  I do that for several people right now and frankly can’t add another.  Now, if you want me to mentor you and simply tell you what I would do and what I feel you should do?  I’m all in.”  Ironically, it worked out just fine for both of us.  Granted, he ended up moving hundreds of miles away but he’s doing great.

Back to relationships.  People complain about the state of communication and how electronic our world has become with this “new media”.  That’s a bunch of poop in my opinion.  I have more diverse relationships with folks I’ve never met as well as deeper interactions with people I’ve known for years with the help of this “new media.”  It’s another example of my last post on things making you more of what you are.  If you are fake, rude, and a hypocrite…that will come through in your “electronic relationships as well.  If you are genuine, caring, and sincere, this new media will enable you to love others in ways never before possible.  If you blame others for everything, you will find more than enough to be angry about in something somebody posts somewhere.  If you let current events, sports, POLITICS, dominate your every conversation (a portion of it as your passion, the other portion is you using it to shield others from what is going on inside of you) then the internet is perfect way to let that flourish.

I was passed over for two jobs in ministry in the past 4 years.  Once I was head to head with another man.  I was told by a member of the search committee that while I was a great leader and excellent communicator he had all the degrees (I don’t) and was super learned (clearly my words not theirs) in theology but not really relational.  They chose him.  In another situation, I was simply told that I didn’t have the degree necessary and it was too important for them to wait for me to get it.  The man that they eventually hired did have the degree but again, wasn’t relational at all.

When I found out, via email, that I didn’t get the first job someone said to me, “yeah, that’s what people are hungry for, knowledge without a relationship.”  The second organization is struggling as the congregation is focusing hard on going deeper in the bible while folks are leaving it due to…lack of openness and relationships from the top down.  Am I being bitter?  No.  Swole (urban dictionary definition #7) sure but that’s not the motivation.  I am sad.

Whether you know it or not your world is comprised of hundreds…thousands of relationships.  From your dearest loved ones to clerks in the stores (how do I drop “swole” and “clerks” in the same blog post?  Talk about diverse if not straight confused).  They are everywhere.  A very dear loved one asked me the other day how to “love someone” that they don’t know very well but was there for them in a very emotional moment.  You see, she works in an information booth at her local church and people open up to her there.  She said that she listens, tears up, and hugs people as they open up to her.  But, she asks, what is next?  I told her that 90% of loving that person was done that very moment that you teared with/for them.  Your relationship with them isn’t very established…but it is very real.  If it is intended to go further, God will lead it that way.  That being said, those people will always remember the day you joined them in their emotion.  They will remember because very few ever do join you in your emotion.

So go, and embrace the relationships that you have.  Take them deeper by being more real.  Realize the other relationships you already have and see where you can listen more and love intentionally by feeling for them.  Go and form new relationships by simply recognizing folks who are already in your world but that you walk past right now.  Do this by nodding to them, waving hello, saying good morning, yelling, “there he is!” when you see someone that you encounter on a regular basis…anything.  Take it one step further than it is and be real.  Form completely new relationships with people that God drops right in your path.

Lastly, for those of you who are reading this, sucking you thumb, and shivering in the corner, rocking back and forth at the very thought of doing any of this, hold on.  Before you type, yell, email, comment angrily “Jay, how dare you?  This is easy for you to post because it’s who you are!  I’m not like you.  I’m not like that!  This is scary and so hard for me to even think about!”  I get it.  Just start from where you are while being who you are.  If you can’t talk to your mailman, drop them a note.  If you can’t ask the “clerk” how they are, simply smile and say thank you for anything or even nothing.  If you can’t comment on a facebook page hit “like”.  If you always answer “fine” even when you are not, try “ok” next time and work your way to “really not so good.”

At this point you may raise a practical question, “All my relationships are crap, what am I doing wrong?”  Well, the next several posts will go over the three most essential components of relationships.  Perhaps your answer will lie there.  It probably will.  For now, I pray that God will open your eyes to the vast array of ways that you are connected to so many people.  Enjoy them for who they are and don’t worry so much about what you fear they will think about you.  If you care about them, they will feel loved by you.  If they feel loved by you it won’t matter what they might “find out” or think about you.

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