Over the years I have had many friends, some good friends, a few very good friends. Many of those (in each category, to be honest) have also been, um, how shall I say it, laughing friends. They would say they were laughing with me, but unless it was out of embarrassment, I wasn't laughing with them.
One on occasion, my very good friend Doug compared me to a puppy dog. Although embarrassed at the time, I believe I will own that, and even look to it as a model.
We have a new puppy dog, Murphy, who is much more like me than our old dog, Cubby.
Murphy is outgoing- he loves, as my daughter Sarah says, "All Humans!" He only meets friends. Every person is an object of love, excitement, and joy.
I think that's me for the most part. Unless you prove yourself to be my enemy, and often even then, I am going to love you. It's not me, it's God in me. And it's my family, and it's my church. I believe very strongly that each person is created in God's image, and is loved sacrificially by God. The least I can do, if a Christian so loved by God, is to love others in that way.
Murphy is also territorial. The only person he regularly growls at is my daughter Sarah, who he loves dearly. But they are still working out who is in charge of their relationship. He accepts Teresa and me as above him, but I think he's still teaching Sarah to listen to him!
He has no personal boundaries because he wants to be real close to his people. Sometimes, I too, need to work on boundaries, and on how much to go into others' lives and to let others in. I have been hurt because of that over the years. But I would still prefer pushing those boundaries to not being as close to others.
He defends himself, his home and family against all other animals, including his next-door neighbor dog (who is about twice his size!) In the same way, at times I am territorial, loyal and competitive.
I don't know how life is for the other 120+ NCAA Division 1 football teams or the other Nazarene Colleges, but am very thankful I grew up knowing and cheering for Alabama and am part of Trevecca. Being the best is fun.
I have been called out by friends for calling the NC Teens (who I worked with for a long time) the best anywhere. One wise leader said that says something less about everyone else. They have great teens and great leaders, too. I know that, but in my experience, I haven't seen a group that has loved, served and behaved better over the last 20+ years than NC NYI.
We won't even begin to talk about how great I think what God does at Eastside is. I feel we have a different perspective than other churches, even other Nazarene churches, and I believe in what we do. Perhaps I defend my territory, team, and folks a little much, but that is part of me.
Murphy is also easily excited and very distracted. He doesn't mean to lose his target, or not behave- but he is SO EXCITED about what's going on! Those who have worked with me in the past 25 years of ministry have often said the same thing. We've called it "Shiny Object Syndrome" or "Ooh, a Squirrel!" But I am passionate about what's going on, grateful for the moment, and challenged by dreams and possibilities in lives, situations and just living. The cup is never only half full, and the possibilities are always much more than current realities. Perhaps that encourages a long-term pastorate in a smaller church, but I am SO THRILLED by what God is and will do! I love my children and wife deeply, my friends greatly and my life is a constant thank you to the Lord.
Murphy is loyal. He knows and loves his family. Everyone else is great, but those he is close to are greater. Those who are my first- wife, kids, family and friends, are the most important. And if I'm your friend, even if at times you're not my friend, I am on your side, have your back, and care about you. Some people ask why I have almost 3000 Facebook friends without any income from it. It's because I care for each of them at some point. And while I have accepted about 100 that I have not met personally, most of them are people I really do know elsewhere. I love my peeps.
So, friends, I may be the excited puppy in your life and my ministry. I will continue to work on correcting some excesses But how bad would a world without excited puppies be?