We lost a friend today…

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Fort Lauderdale 2015. Left to right, Curtis, Jolene, Colleen, Bruce. © 2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.

We lost a young friend today @ 5:45 AM. His name is Curtis and he had been battling with terminal cancer for almost two years. The pain and sorrow I felt upon receiving the news of his death cannot be described adequately.

I first met Curtis two years ago on a cruise in the Caribbean. His young wife worked with my spouse at a bank. We took it upon ourselves to help them along in their travels – hopefully guiding them through the various joys and pitfalls of international air travel, security, boarding the ship, places to eat, shop, etc.

I spent a few mornings with Curtis on the ship near the pool or on one of the beaches at various ports of call. He was somewhat shy and a little timid of venturing out to snorkel near the man-made barriers or reefs in Haiti, but he warmed up to the experience quickly. Later, Curtis became very sick while on the ship, eventually to be diagnosed, back home, with cancer.

Curtis was an intelligent person, down-to-earth and kind in his demeanour. We will miss him dearly. My heart-felt condolences go out to his young wife, Jolene, and the terrible loss she is experiencing.

Jolene, I can only imagine your grief and pain. You are in my thoughts and prayers throughout the day.

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An Open Letter to a Friend: A Journey Towards Truth and Reconciliation

Truth and Reconciliation

Thanks my friend for your understanding and encouragement. As as an individual who was raised in Catholic orthodoxy and later studied in a conservative Protestant college and seminary, I too am wrestling with the default orthodox and/or Evangelical theological position that the underlying philosophy and practice of the LGBQT community is erroneous (hamartia derived from the Greek ἁμαρτία, from ἁμαρτάνειν hamartánein, which means “to miss the mark” or “to err”) versus tolerance, inclusivity and acceptance of the aforementioned community in the Church.

As a follower of Christ, I am still learning to be tolerant, inclusive, accepting and loving of people from all walks of life, including my friends and associates in the LGBTQ community. At the same time, I endeavour to develop a deeper theological understanding of what Church history and the Bible has to say comprehensively on the aforementioned subject area. This is no easy or simple task to approach without an open heart and mind, continually trusting for guidance under the direction of the Holy Spirit. I have an innate desire to be a on-going learner or seeker of truth, a Berean, and not merely jump on the band wagon of the accepted norms or the status quo of the institutionalized Church or contemporary society for that matter.

In my life experience, I have come to recognize that there is considerable tension and animosity between the aforementioned orthodoxy and the LGBTQ community. Both sides seem to be “at war” with each other. This troubles me deeply.

As a follower of Christ, I have suffered and endured many things, often for no other reason than identifying with Jesus. As one who has been called to be a peacemaker, I have been deeply hurt and offended by individuals representative of both groups. My only recourse is to forgive, yet only time can ease the sting of misguided animosity perpetrated by less-than-perfect people. As humans, we really are fragile creatures, prone to missing the mark that God intends for our lives.

You are quite right, my friend. We should not require nor desire a Christian culture to dominate society in order to moralistically strong-arm people into certain behaviour. People are free to make their own decisions in this life, for better or worse. Isn’t that what the theological construct of being a free moral agent (free will) is all about?

It is my understanding that our witness to Christ and His influence comes precisely from NOT coercing and enforcing as the world does (regardless of the end behaviour we seek to bring about ) but by demonstrating genuine love and vulnerability to all.

We are not at liberty to be repulsed by contemporary culture. Instead we are to engage with and transform culture – to love and serve all people by seeing everyone as God actually sees them – created in His moral image.

Thanks for reading…

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True Friends: There For A Lifetime?

The Spy who does not love me

I could literally count the number of true friends, lifetime friends, on one hand. These are the unique individuals or couples that have walked with me through all of life’s experiences. When times were good they were there to celebrate with me. When I walked through the valley of death with my wife, a time of confusion, sadness, pain, and sorrow – they were present.

Rewind…the truth is that I only have exactly one friend like the aforementioned, and she just happens to be married to me. Many people, those who we refer to as friends, often fall away when life presents chronic trouble.

Like rats scurrying away from the light, when the going gets tough, the less-than-tough run away as fast as they can.

Let’s face reality head-on here. We never really know how a friend(s) will respond to a personal crisis until it actually happens. When that crisis becomes chronic or prolonged, one can pretty well count on many friendships to dissipate quickly.

Granted, I hold to a very high standard concerning the meaning and purpose of friendship.

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17 NLT

Let’s read that again. A friend is ALWAYS loyal! Not some of the time – all the time. Through thick and thin, a true friend remains loyal and committed to a lifetime friendship.

Alex Lickerman M.D., in discussing the true meaning of friendship in Psychology Today commented that a true friend is committed to your happiness (and well-being):

A true friend is consistently willing to put your happiness before your friendship. It’s said that “good advice grates on the ear,” but a true friend won’t refrain from telling you something you don’t want to hear, something that may even risk fracturing the friendship, if hearing it lies in your best interest. A true friend will not lack the mercy to correct you when you’re wrong. A true friend will confront you with your drinking problem as quickly as inform you about a malignant-looking skin lesion on your back that you can’t see yourself.

As I have mentioned a few times before, as a society we have a strong tendency to measure friendship numerically. How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many followers do you have on Twitter or WordPress?

The obvious question is whether or not any of those friends will remain loyal to you through the darkest periods of your life? My lifetime experience, including listening to the stories of many individuals and couples in prolonged crisis would suggest that few, if any of the aforementioned online  “friends” will stick with you when the rubber hits the tarmac.

This is a very sad testament to the times that we live in. The concept that friendship is based on what we get out of a relationship rather than what we put into it – loyalty being paramount to true friendship.

As a person who has worked in one of the “help” professions, and one who is fiercely loyal towards those whom I care for and love, I have often been taken for granted. I was there to meet someone else’s need for friendship with no expectation of reciprocal commitment. That can grate on our sense of self and personhood over time, leading to emotional and physical burn-out (Depression) for many help professionals. No one person can be all things to all people all the time.

Our work and the misguided expectations of others are constantly knocking at the door. The good news is that we have a choice(s) as to who we let in.

Recently, I went through what I would consider to be a betrayal of a friendship. From my perspective, our friendship began based on our mutual love for travel and writing. Although there was a considerable geographical distance between us (we never met in person), and various cultural and life experience dissimilarities, I thought we started off well and had basic trust and loyalty in place. I think I was wrong…very wrong.

In my experience, when we meet people online and begin to develop a friendship based on mutual interests there is always some danger involved as follows:

  1. People are not really who they say they are. Individuals have a multitude of reasons as to why they do not disclose their true personhood and identity, not to mention their motive(s) for online friendships. Writers are a peculiar bunch and have been known to function as literal SPYS. There is an unsurprising link between authorship and espionage. Some, who have studied character types and questioned the motives of writers, have concluded that all writers function like spies. Bizarre, I know, but I have alluded to that reality, albeit in jest, happening right here on WordPress. Most notably, travel bloggers who move freely around the world, especially in countries that are often dangerous to travel to for Westerners. And they claim to do it on a shoe-string budget that, in reality, their stated occupations could not possibly afford apart from outside (government) intervention and financial assistance.
  2. People are looking for a distraction, possibly an adulterous affair, even if it is just committed on an emotional basis. Naturally, based on the aforementioned, some are there to set the honey trap.
  3. People are borderline narcissists or even sociopaths who seek to use and abuse those individuals they seek friendships with online.
  4. People are actually in serious trouble and are legit in seeking outside help from another person online. They may be in danger politically, running from the legal system of their country of birth or residency. An individual may be in danger in an interpersonal relationship or a marriage, possibly suffering at the hands of a controlling and abusive spouse with an alcohol and/or drug addiction.
  5. All of the above.
  6. None of the above.

If I could give my readership on WordPress, especially those who are legit in their writing, poetry, art, photography, etc., some unsolicited advice – be very CAREFUL who you build a friendship with online. Monitor your “friends” and “followers” and weed out those you suspect of being nefarious in purpose and, therefore, illegitimate. Evil is always present in our world.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 NIV

At the same time, don’t get hung up over conspiracies (even the concepts I presented here). Life is full of good people and true friends that seek only the best for you. Now, if I could only find more than one 🙂

Cheers!

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There is someone out there…

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©2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.

You won’t be popular as you step out of line

To befriend the lonesome slightly out of step with time

You see the world is full of people like you and me

But those who are alone are the ones we do not see

 

Show some compassion and reach out like a friend

You never know where this will end

I see tears of gratitude in my new found love

God sees their heart from far above

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Friends for Better or Worse?

fair-weather-friends
“Just once I would like to meet someone who wasn’t a fair weather friend…”

Sometimes, being a friend to another can be a very difficult and one-sided relationship. We find ourselves nearly always in the position of being a giver while our friend keeps on taking and taking until we have little left to give.

As a follower of Christ, it is in my very nature to help other people when I can. Often, that means a whole lot of personal sacrifices for the benefit of others. Nevertheless, when it comes to true friendship, I have set a much higher standard, and that standard includes fair reciprocality in that give and take tug-a-war humans refer to as friendship.

My mom, a former social worker and foster care parent, who has witnessed just about everything good and evil about the human race, once said to me,

Friends that suck all the emotional energy out of you are not really friends – they are emotional vampires.

That statement startled me at first, yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were some friends, and even some extended family members that just had to go. The New Year was going to be much more than broken resolutions, it was going to be a time for personal housekeeping. Those friendships and/or relationships that were sucking the very life out of me were going to be swept away.

My standard for housekeeping is really quite simple. Those friendships that have added little to my emotional and spiritual well-being will be slowly cut off. Those people (the emotional vampires) who are sucking the lifeblood out of me will be cut off immediately.

The natural place to start is that black hole affectionately referred to as FaceBook. Unlike many others, I have kept my FaceBook friendships to a rather small and manageable number – immediate and extended family members, a few close friends, and the rest, categorized as associates, i.e., primarily cycling and xc ski associates. By comparison, my contact list dwarfs the number of my Facebook friends by several orders of magnitude. Last year alone, I neatly pruned away about 60 FaceBook friends from various walks of life. Recently, I unfriended a few extended family members. This was not an easy thing to do, but it was absolutely necessary.

I am a relatively patient person, but I instinctively know that, in time, I will unfollow certain individuals even on WordPress.

I consider my common interest relationships with people here to be a valuable part of my life.

Nevertheless, my personal moral and ethical standards, insufficient as they might be to others more noble, will eventually lead me to filter out both content and people on WordPress.

If you watch and/or read a lot of news, you realize that all the horrific events that are blatantly presented to us can literally affect our psyche and emotional well being. I would like to suggest that the content on social media sites can be equally destructive and erosive in nature. Another reason to do a housecleaning in our ever present and often intrusive electronic lives.

And so, with this in mind, I bid you adieu 🙂

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