The Gift of Presence
About the Guest
We become like the people we spend time with. So what happens then, when you spend time in prayer and Bible study? Good things! Jedd Medefind, President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, reminds us that Jesus has something good and true and eternal to say if we’ll listen to him and become His apprentice. Jesus never got distracted from his true purpose, and neither should we, if we’re focused on loving God and serving others above all else.
Jedd Medefind reminds us that Jesus has something good and true and eternal to say if we’ll listen to him.
The Gift of Presence
Bob: When you’re with other people, your wife or your husband, your kids, family members, or friends, are you all there? Here’s Jedd Medefind:
Jedd: When there’s a person in our lives who gives us the gift of true presence, who is really with us, who really is attentive to us, that’s a rare thing; and we want to be around that person more. It’s a special thing.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how focusing on the needs of the people God has placed around you can be a radical way for you to share Christ.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know it seems to me there are a number of voices that have been emerging in recent days to say, “Normal American Christianity just isn’t going to cut it anymore.” I think of David Platt’s book, Radical—
Bob: —Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love.
Dennis: I think there is a young generation, Bob, that is yearning for something different than what they’ve seen in an older generation where their Christianity really impacts the way they live.
Bob: The consumerism, the materialism—all of that kind of has blunted what our witness is supposed to look like. And I think there are voices that we need to be listening to and need to be asking ourselves, “Is what we’re doing as followers of Christ, is how we’re living—is it getting anywhere close to what Jesus was really calling us to?”
Dennis: Yes, and He didn’t come to take sides. I’ve always loved this statement that Tom Skinner made to me back when I was a college student. Tom was the chaplain for the Washington Redskins at the time, and he was from Brooklyn. He and I just hit it off. I don’t know why, but we did. And Tom told me—he said, “Jesus Christ didn’t come to take sides. He came to take over.” He came to transform you. He came to make you a different person. He’s not interested in the status quo. He’s interested in transformation.
And our guest on the broadcast today, Jedd Medefind, believes that as well. Jedd, welcome back.
Jedd: Thank you, Dennis and Bob.
Dennis: Jedd is the President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, which is a coalition of more than 120 organizations and a national network of churches and laymen that are making a difference for orphans. He and his wife, Rachel, live in central California with their five children.
And before we talk about your book, Upended, where you are talking about how Jesus Christ remakes our lives, our marriages, our families, and our world—explain, first of all, what the Christian Alliance for Orphans is all about.
Jedd: Well, you know the Alliance brings together this big, broad, diverse coalition of organizations and churches that really share a commitment to two things: to the Gospel of Christ and to the orphan in distress. And together they are seeking to work that out—and not only as individuals, but really as church communities, seeking to see the church of Christ once again be known, as it has at its best points throughout history, as a people who care for the orphan in distress.
Bob: You host an event every year. Dennis and I have been to the Orphan Summit, the Christian Alliance for the Orphan Summit, which is hosted every year in the spring. And it’s a great event for folks who want to get together and hear what other people are doing and learn how you can sharpen what you are doing in your church, in your family—just people who have a heart to see orphans cared for and want to see the word get out.
We’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com if folks want to go there and click on the link and find out when and where it’s going to be next.
Dennis: And specifically, Jesus Christ transformed your life by calling you to go near the orphan. You and your wife adopted one of your five. And now, you’re giving leadership to this organization.
Bob: We could say your life was upended a little bit with that, couldn’t we?
Jedd: Absolutely. (Laughter)
Dennis: Where did this book come from? I mean did it come out of the orphan care movement, or did it come out of another place?
Jedd: Well, you know, Dennis and Bob, you’re both talking about how there often is this feeling within American Christianity—and I think in other countries, too—that there is this huge gulf between the grand ideals of our faith and Monday morning when we go into the job site, when we’re caring for kids at home—whatever it is. It feels like the big principles are distant from the small choices.
And a good friend of mine, Erik Lokkesmoe, he and I were both serving in the political realm in communications; and we wanted to ask the question, “What does Jesus’s truth have to do with our daily choices in regard to the way that we communicate and interact and connect with others?”
Bob: Tell people what you were doing in the political realm. You were working in the White House, right?
Jedd: That’s correct. Yes. I was serving with President Bush, leading his faith-based and community initiative.
Bob: And so, here you are—were you in the East Wing/West Wing? Where were you?
Jedd: West Wing was where a lot of meetings were.
Bob: In the West Wing. That’s—you were right there at the center of where things are going on, and you’re trying to figure out, “Okay, I’m a follower of Jesus. I’m right here at the hub of what’s happening in our country politically and governmentally. How do those two things intersect?” Was there conflict in that area?
Jedd: I don’t think there needs to be. I mean, of course, there are always difficult challenges and moral decisions; but ultimately, I’ve come to believe with all my heart that Jesus has something good and true and eternal to say even about the smallest decisions of our lives—whether that’s in the West Wing or in our marriages or parenting.
If we learn from Him—not simply as the guy who gives us a ticket into Heaven, but as the Master who is masterful at everything He did—if we learn from Him like a young painter might learn from da Vinci, then, it really changes things, not just on the large scale, but it brings a new vision and purpose even into the smallest interactions.
Dennis: When I was growing up, kind of the key phrase that we, as young people, would make about people who were followers of Christ was “They were hypocrites.” They followed the perfect, God-man, Jesus Christ; and they didn’t just quite match up. In fact, it just kind of looked like there was a gulf, as you said, between their faith and how they practiced their lives.
And what you’re writing about here—you’re calling us to merge our lives and our following of Christ into one. What’s that look like? I mean, you speak in the book about becoming an apprentice of Jesus Christ. How would that happen in a marriage and a family?
Jedd: Well, you know, Dennis, there’s always, of course, going to be some gap—a big gap, right?—between us and Jesus; but as it says in 1 John that anyone who claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. And so, as we begin to look and say, “How did Jesus walk in the most intimate interactions with people? How did He speak? How did He listen? How did He approach those interactions?” That’s where, I believe, we really begin to walk as Jesus did.
And when we do, that really changes things. It takes the discussion of “Hey, we need to change everything. We need to be radical,” and it brings it down into daily choices that we actually can make and that really do change things.
Dennis: Give me an illustration from your marriage. You and Rachel have been married for how many years now?
Jedd: A dozen years now, a dozen really good years.
Dennis: Okay. Give me a recent story of how your apprenticeship to Jesus Christ impacted how you treated your wife.
Jedd: Right. So, well, here—you know this is—here’s one area that I feel like has been very significant to me. You know we live in an age that is totally distracted, right? We’ve got technology coming in. We’ve got noise. We’ve got Facebook, e-mail, everything; and the interesting thing is that Jesus, in many ways, was pulled in so many directions, too, right? He was busy and popular. There were people always demanding His time. And yet, He placed an amazing premium on attentiveness.
So, you think of when He was going through the crowd and He was heading off to heal Jairus’s daughter, right? And so, the daughter of an influential man is dying. I mean talk about an urgent situation. And there is a crowd around Him, and they’re all going in the same direction.
And this woman out of the crowd touches Him, and the Gospels tell us that she actually received what she came for when she touched Him. She received physical healing the moment she touched Him; but Jesus still stopped, He turned around, and He gave His entire attention to her. It was only after that incredibly focused attention that Jesus gave to her amidst all that urgency—did, then, He say, “Go in peace, daughter. Your faith has made you well.”
And so, for me, what that has become is a calling to that kind of attentiveness that pushes back the noise and distraction amidst every relationship and, of course, most of all in my marriage.
Dennis: So, when you come home from work, you’re tired; and Rachel comes up to you and says, “Sweetheart, the washing machine broke, our five kids”—you have five eight and under—“one of our kids has been whiny, cranky, and two others have got runny noses. This is all bad today. I need your help.”
How does that refocus and bring about your attentiveness as you come home thinking you deserve a break today? Thinking you deserve the easy chair and the night off?
Jedd: That’s right. Well, you know there are a lot of facets to it; but let me give you one really practical thing that’s been very significant for me.
When I’d come home, I’d always have my Blackberry. And there was an expectation in the White House that you’re always on. So, I would come in, and I would be physically present. I might even be up fixing the washing machine, but my mind would be racing over a number of issues from work. And I would, frankly, be feeding that by glancing at my Blackberry from time to time.
Now, of course, I’d try not to do while Rachel was talking to me; but I’d slip in the other room, and I’d do a quick check.
And I think we all can identify with that, right?
Bob: I excuse myself to go to the bathroom because they can never tell what you’re doing in the bathroom. That’s how I did it.
Dennis: Like an addict with a fix.
Jedd: That’s right. And what I’ve realized is that even when I come back into the room after having checked the Blackberry—or now, it’s my iPhone—that my mind is on those things and not fully present to Rachel and to the children.
So, I’ve actually made a practice of blocking off that time from the time I get home, even a little bit before I get home so I can clear my mind, until after the kids are in bed that I will not check the e-mail. I will not check the text messages, so that my mind isn’t stimulated by something from outside the home.
Bob: Now, what you’ve just described sounds to me like wise counsel to give to a young husband or a young wife about focused attention; and it’s good—
Dennis: Just the young ones, Bob?
Bob: Well, I could use a little of it as well. But here’s where—I don’t think of that as kind of radical following of Jesus, you know? That just sounds like good marital advice. How do you put the two of those together?
Jedd: Well, again, you come back to the Gospels, and you look at the way that Jesus approached individuals. And you know every bit as much as we today, He was deluged with issues and information and people that wanted a piece of His time. So, there is no saying, “He wasn’t as busy as us.”
Jedd: He was. But when He was travelling through a crowd and there was someone like Zacchaeus up in a tree—who everyone else disliked, by the way—Jesus focused upon him out of the midst of the crowd and said, “I’m coming to your house.” And He wanted to have a meal together.
Or you think about blind Bartimaeus. Again, everyone in the crowd was overlooking this blind guy on the edge. Jesus called him in and then focused upon him. And that story of the bleeding woman—again, desperate urgency—and yet, Jesus pausing and pushing everything back, so that He could give Himself to this one woman.
Bob: You know here’s what’s interesting as you’re describing this. We often think of the radical, committed follower of Christ as the one who gives it all up and moves to Uganda and ministers there among the poorest of the poor and gives his life away, her life away.
What you’re describing is an orientation toward others, those who God brings you near—whether it’s your family, whether it’s the people on the fringes—it’s having an other-centeredness. That’s pretty radical in our day for a follower of Jesus to live like that, isn’t it?
Jedd: Absolutely. It’s profoundly counter-cultural. And when someone does that—when someone—and just you know I think we all think about it. When there is a person in our lives who gives us the gift of true presence, who is really with us, who really is attentive to us, that’s a rare thing; and we want to be around that person more. It’s a special thing.
And I would add, Bob, to you mentioning the idea of moving to Uganda, I think a lot of us are. We are waiting for some big call. We want to be radical. So, we’re thinking, “Well, at some point, if I move to some crazy place, then I’ll be a radical;” but the truth is you could move there, and you’re still going to be yourself.
Jedd: And the only way that you are going to love people well in Uganda—
Jedd: —is if you learn to be attentive to them.
Dennis: Yes, and this morning I had a problem with my mortgage company. And I—truth be known, I was a bit frustrated with the phone tree because it was a phone tree that the roots went, perhaps, down to the core of the earth to be able to finally find a living person to talk to. And I was so glad as I did—now, this may sound like a little bitty deal, but I purposed that I was going to be kind to the young lady who talked to me. Her name—
Bob: Eventually, when you got to a real person.
Dennis: —when I finally got to a real person.
Dennis: Her name was Shaunda. And when I talked to Shaunda, I had determined I was going to be nice. And I was glad because as I unraveled the problem I was having she had to ask me what I did. So, if I had attacked her, really been rude—
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: —and then, said, “Oh, by the way, I’m in the ministry”—but truthfully, I’m finding in my life this is a real test for me because I can go for the objective. I want to get to the task. I want to accomplish what needs to be done, get to the purpose of the matter, and move on.
And what I have to realize is there are people that may not be in the way of my purpose, but they have been placed there by God for me, as you’ve just reminded us, to truly love them as we move toward the purpose.
Jedd: Well, and you know the closing chapter of the book is called “The Biggest Decisions We’ll Ever Make”. And of course, most of us think of those in terms of where we’ll live, what jobs we’ll take, whom we’ll marry—if we’re not married—and those of course are big decisions; but ultimately, the ultimate legacy of our lives, the ultimate impact of it, who we are and who are we becoming, hinges primarily on small decisions like the one you were describing this morning.
Are you patient with the person who’s at the roots of the phone tree?
Dennis: I was this time.
Jedd: Those are the watershed things that over time, cumulatively, both shape who we are becoming and ultimately the impact we have on other’s lives.
Bob: I had a friend who shared this with me years ago. I’ve never forgotten it. He pointed me to the end of Hebrews, Chapter 10. And it describes the people who were the recipients of this letter. It says, “After you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, sometimes being partners with those so treated. You had compassion on those in prison. You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property.”
I think, “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property?”
Dennis: Are you sure that’s in the Bible?
Bob: Yes. That’s right. Then, he went—he said, “Now, skip ahead to Hebrews, Chapter 13.” He said, “It had described what they were going through, the sufferings, their property being plundered.” He said, “You get to Hebrews 13. How should you live in the midst of this? Well, remember those who are in prison. Let your marriage be held in honor. Keep the marriage bed undefiled. Keep your life free from the love of money. Show hospitality.”
And I’m going, “That’s pretty basic, mundane stuff about have a good marriage, show kindness to strangers, help those in prison. These people had their property being plundered, and the instruction is live as people who are radically committed to the good of others for the glory of God.”
Jedd: And that’s how you lay the foundation. For if you get to the point where your property is plundered, how you will respond then isn’t something you can decide in that moment.
Jedd: That is the outflow of a character that has been over years--when it wasn’t your property being plundered; it was just 15 minutes of your morning being plundered because you were on a phone tree.
Dennis: Well, there was some property being plundered in this particular case.
Jedd: It must have been your home loan, huh?
Dennis: It was going to cost me some money.
Bob: But what you are saying is exactly right. We’ve talked to people over and over again who when the diagnosis of cancer came, they looked at one another and they said, “You know we’ve said for years this is what we believe. Now, we get to prove that’s true.” And you’re right. Our theology and our practice are being cultivated in the mundane, so that when the extraordinary comes along we can respond as we ought to respond.
Jedd: Absolutely. And it not only is lived out in the mundane; but actually, when we are apprentices to Jesus in those ordinary moments, it brings a freshness of life into that.
So, I just remember when I was working in the White House and when I would get there very early in the morning and no one else was there and the janitor would come through often. I was there to get work done. I did not want to be interrupted, but I was actually pondering these very things we’re talking about now: attentiveness and the gift of presence.
And I just thought, “I need to do a better job of listening to her.” And we had some amazing conversations. And the truth be told, over time, she started having our family over to her house; and we had the most wonderful times. You know the classic story, but I learned far more from her than she from us—these amazing stories of her immigration from El Salvador and other things.
So, it was—the watershed moment was me sitting in my desk at 6:30 morning deciding whether I would spend an extra three minutes listening or not. That’s the watershed.
Bob: Was working in the White House—of course, you were in the office of faith-based initiatives. So, everybody kind of knew you were one of those faith-based guys; but I’m guessing in any White House there are a lot of folks who aren’t among the faith-based among us. Did you have to be particularly aware of the fact that you were a representative of Christ and that you were going to have to live this out in a unique way?
Jedd: Well, you know certainly I think in any workplace—and maybe in a special way, the White House—when you’re in a visible position—and visible might just mean you have one colleague who is hearing your phone conversations on the other side of the cubicle—
Jedd: --you know that every act is going to be scrutinized. And of course, when grace remains abstract, when the truth that we’re claiming is just some big idea, it’s never going to penetrate; but it begins to penetrate when it becomes concrete.
And by concrete, I mean things like being kind to the person on the other side of the phone; and your office mate hearing that and thinking, “My gosh! If I went through that with Bank of America, I’d be giving them the verbal middle finger. Yet, what I’m hearing is graciousness.”
There is something physical, something audible about grace in that moment; and it breaks through a noisy, crowded over-messaged culture in a way that no amount of words ever could.
Dennis: Jedd, what you’ve reminded us of today is that, again, Jesus Christ didn’t come to take sides. He came to take over. He came to make us different people, and He wants to transform the way we relate to one another.
Go back in one of the Gospels, the Book of Matthew, and you look at what Jesus did when He called men to follow Him. He says, “Follow me,” in Matthew 4. He says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And it says later on in the passage—it says, “Immediately, they left their boat and their father and followed Christ.”
I think there are some who maybe have been obedient to Christ when He called initially to leave the boat, to leave their relationships, their father, their mother, and started following Christ; but along the way they got distracted from following the true King of kings and Lord of lords.
And what you’ve reminded us about today is that we’ve got to get back on the journey. We’ve got to get back on the path and just ask the question, “Am I a follower of Jesus Christ? Have I come into a relationship with Him by faith and am I continuing that relationship today in all my relationships?”
Bob: Has my spiritual ADD left me thinking about other things when I should be following Him?
Dennis: Yes, exactly. Or have the distractions of the world seduced me off into following something else that isn’t going to transform my life? I just really appreciate the exhortation. I’m going to go home tonight, and I’m going to hopefully relate to my wife and my adult children more like a true follower of Jesus Christ.
Thanks for being on our broadcast.
Jedd: Hey, thank you, Dennis. It’s a great privilege.
Bob: Is it my turn now? I’m sorry I was checking my e-mail. Am I supposed to go?
Dennis: Could we talk about your attentiveness? Attentiveness.
Bob: We have copies of Jedd’s book which is called Upended in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online for more information about the book. Again, the title is Upended; and it’s really a book about the choices we make that shape our lives, how we communicate, how we connect with one another and how we often are too busy for any of that.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy of the book, Upended, by Jedd Medefind; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and we’ll get a copy of the book sent to you.
Now, all this week in recognition of our Independence Day celebration, our nation’s birthday, we have been reflecting on the life and the legacy of Adam Brown, a Navy SEAL who gave his life in service for our country.
The reason we’ve been thinking about Adam Brown is because a few months ago we sat down with his widow, Kelley, and we talked about their marriage. We talked about the challenges they faced as a military couple, and we talked about Adam’s final deployment, the one he didn’t come back from. It was a powerful, riveting interview.
This week, we are making that interview available on CD for those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today by making a donation. All you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “I CARE,” to make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make your donation over the phone, request the CD of our interview with Kelley Brown; and we’re happy to send it out to you.
There may be someone you know in your circle of friends, someone with a military background who might appreciate this story. So again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make a donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make your donation. We’re happy to send you a copy of the CD of our interview with Kelley Brown.
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk to a man who has spoken to millions of people all around the world about Jesus. And hearing him today, you would have no idea of the family issues he faced as a young boy growing up in Michigan. Josh McDowell joins us Monday, and I hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today—his name is Keith Lynch—also, our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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