The gift of wise friends

With Eric Nicolaysen and Sean Randall
outside the Bovine Bakery
in Point Reyes Station, CA

I just returned from an annual 4-day retreat with about ten other pastors, and it served as another reminder that having the right kind of friends is crucially important. One of the things we do on our annual retreats is gather in a circle and take turns talking about what's going on in our lives. We share the same vocation, but we get into real stuff rather than talking shop. In fact, this year more than one person shared things he hadn't opened up about to anyone else yet.

The words my friends spoke into my life were powerful and insightful. They were so important that later I took notes. Now I have a record of thoughts I can return to in the coming weeks and months. I definitely came away with a sense that God is present and invested in my life and ministry. And yet he was reminding me that he needs to be in charge. That's important because in the midst of feeling a sincere sense of responsibility for the church (his church), I often grab the steering wheel away from God in all sorts of subtle ways.

That should sound familiar, since we do it in all areas of our lives. It's like a universal addiction to want to control our own lives and the lives of people around us.

My appreciation for my friends and how God spoke through them leads me to ask you: do you have these kinds of people in your life? It's important, because no matter how good you are at walking with God, you have your blind spots, and you are even now drifting into patterns that work against God's will. He designed people to need not only him but also other people -- most importantly, people of faith and wisdom -- people who know God and you, and aren't afraid to tell you the truth.

So today I write with a full and grateful heart. To my brothers who met this week at St. Columba retreat house, I thank you! To everyone, I urge you to make time with wise friends an essential part of your Christmas season. The "visit of the wise men" doesn't need to be confined to the first Christmas.

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