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Free to Be Friends

29 Jan

The world has some funny ideas about friendships:

  • Never let your friends feel lonely; disturb them all the time.BestFriendsForever_LOLwithGod_freedigitalphotos
  • True friends never get tired of hearing your “drama.”
  • A friend is the one who fetches your “I think I’m going to be sick” bucket. A GREAT friend will hold it for you.
  • “It’s one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • We are all mature … until a friend brings out some bubble wrap!
  • We’ll be friends until we are old and senile, and then we’ll be NEW friends.
  • “There is nothing better than a friend – unless it is a friend with chocolate.” (Linda Grayson)

The truth is, God made us for relationships. And friends are a special gift.

I’ve been thinking about friendships for a long time now. I’ve seen “friends come and friends go” (Proverbs 18:24a, The Msg), and I don’t like that so much. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to make lasting friends in my unique circumstances.

To be honest, I was waiting for people at church to want to be good friends with me, to reach out with the connection rather me than seeking them out. I don’t think I’m alone.

Many people in the church struggle with making good, strong friendships. They find it challenging, frustrating, even discouraging. Like me, maybe they don’t want to admit they have that struggle, because they think, “Am I so unlovable?” or “What’s wrong with me?” Maybe it’s because we’re basically selfish. (OK, TOTALLY selfish.)

Others think “making friends” should be simple or easy, just because we’re Christians. Oh, we have so much to learn about creating strong, biblical friendships.

And what is a biblical friendship? 

Book_TheCompanyWeKeep_CruciformPressIn his book The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship, Jonathan Holmes, the Pastor of Counseling at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, says:

“Biblical friendship exists when two or more people, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ, pursue Him and His kingdom with intentionality and vulnerability.”

It goes beyond typical “Christian fellowship” to something deeper and more personal. Biblical friendship adds “depth, refinement, and detail through active investment in one another’s lives,” Holmes says.

But it’s even more than that!

“Rather than serving as an end in itself, biblical friendship serves primarily to bring glory to Christ, who brought us into friendship with the Father.”

Wow. That’s going to be a revelation for some Christians who think friendships only exist for our personal enjoyment and comfort!

Our friendships are not intended by God to be just for us. They are primarily for Him! To bring Him glory.

Holmes explains some mistaken ideas for biblical friendship–basically any kind of relationship we pursue to gain personally. These mistaken ideas, he says, are no different from the world’s concept of friendship.

A “personal gain” relationship isn’t necessarily wrong, on one level; but the point is, God made us for so much more!

Holmes then describes the “four marks” of biblical friendship (constancy, candor, carefulness and counsel).

But I’ve got to tell you, it was his basic premise that grabbed my heart.

The scriptures tell us we are to do ALL things to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31b). I’m not sure why I never included “making friends” in that mandate.

Once we get that concept firmly in place in our thinking, the typical scriptures about making friends (or building any close relationship) make even more sense.

But the motivation of biblical friends will be something more. We will do these things in order to bring honor to the One we love most of all.

One thing is for sure, Jesus is the sinner’s closest, dearest friend. He loves us and sacrificed His life for us, calls us into friendship with Himself, and teaches us how to be His friend (John 15:12-15).

“The One in whom the fullness of God dwells calls you and me friends,” Holmes writes. … Jesus, through His death on the cross, be-friends us so we can now go and be friends with others.”

In Him, we are free to be create powerful friendships.

Biblical friendships.

God-glorifying friendships!

Do you struggle making friends? Does knowing God wants us to build friendships that will glorify Him motivate you to seek out a different kind of relationship?

 – Dawn

* Jonathan Holmes, The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship, Cruciform Press, 2014.

Graphic: Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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A Simple Blessing after Christmas

27 Dec
I always think of Christmas as a time of blessing, but I read these “Christmas Facts”* from the United Kingdom (written after Christmas, 2009), and said, “Oh my!”
Here are just a few of those facts:
  • Hospitals in the UK reported four broken arms after “cracker pulling” accidents. [I cannot imagineChristmasCrackers_FreeFoto this… holiday crackers (see right) look so benign!]
  • Three people die each year testing to see if a 9-volt battery works on their tongue.
  • Thirty-one people died (since 1996) by watering their Christmas tree while the tree lights were plugged in. (The UK apparently calls them “fairy lights.”)
  • Nineteen people died within a three-year period, believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate. (Huh?)
  • One hundred and one people (since 1997) had to have broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet.
  • One hundred and forty two people were injured, just in 1998, by not removing all pins from new shirts.

May your Christmases always be accident free … especially from those silly things!

I’ll keep this short. Christmas is over and you’re probably exhausted from church and family events. But your heart is full, right?

But if your house is like mine, after the holidays, my house feels a bit chaotic. I keep wishing one of my Christmas gifts was a housekeeper!

HeadingInto2015

I want to share a simple blessing I read in Dianne Barker‘s great book about organizing for the maximum life. **

“When life becomes hectic and harried,

   may you find calm in the chaos.

If your floors don’t sparkle,

   may the glory of the Lord light your face.

If grime streaks your bathroom sink,

   may it never corrode your heart.

If you’re racing the clock and losing,

   may you choose the important over the urgent.”

What a great way to head into the New Year – (1) embracing a calm perspective (by focusing on the  peace of God), and (2) living for God’s glory with (3) a pure heart and (4) right priorities.

[Simple scriptures for meditation on these points: Philippians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:31 & Ephesians 1:12; Matthew 5:8; Matthew 6:33]

Take a moment to think about your life right now. Which of those four areas needs a little work today?

Working on even one of them over the next few days might prepare you for the New Year a lot better than a list of resolutions.

– Dawn

Photo of Christmas Cracker: Image Supplied by FreeFoto.com.

* “Christmas Facts” from Sparkpeople.com, 12-26-09

** Book by Dianne Barker: I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! (Crossroad Books, 2014),p. 179.

 

Quirky Wonderful

29 Nov

In popular culture, quirky means being “weird” in an endearing way people or things just weird enough to be interesting and intriguing, but “not weird enough to repel, not creepy.”

Some of the quirky people and things I’ve seen are:

  • Girls and young women painting the nails on their ring fingers different colors from the rest of their nails.BeardAndMoustacheCompetition
  • People who make shish kabobs using chopped hot dogs and pineapple chunks.
  • A whole group of people who grew strangely-shaped beards and mustaches for a national championship in Germany. [Right: American Justin Kellermeister, 2013]
  • Most of the unusual deep-fried foods at our local fair. (Actually, I haven’t decided if they are quirky or yucky. Deep-fried butter sticks anyone?)

You may know some quirky people. You may even be one. I’ve been accused of being quirky … and weird … and strange. But it’s OK. Quirky people have existed throughout history.

Laurie Wallin describes three quirky-but-wonderful well-known “weirdos” in her book, Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful.

  • Abraham Lincoln was a bit quirky lanky and uncommonly blunt. But he was also known for his eloquence, wit and spirituality.
  • Thomas Edison was quirky too. He embellished stories to make an impression and was known as a prankster. But Edison’s creativity and innovation gifted the world with many inventions.
  • Clara Barton was quirky in her perfectionism and lapses into martyrdom, codependency and poor self care. Yet she was also empathetic, kind and determined in caring for others.

Laurie believes even Jesus in his humanity had characteristics that might seem like “quirks” to people. But He “handled them well,” she said.

To some, Jesus might have seemed “irrationally bossy” and, at times, “unfocused,” Laurie said. Jesus stopped to heal people, be with children, and even make an impromptu appointment with a tax collector sitting up in a tree. It was as if He was following a separate agenda that often surprised His disciples. (And He was! See John 5:30; 6:38; 17:4.)

Jesus’ desire was to obey the Father’s will and please Him in all things, and sometimes that made Him seem odd to the world; at least, it put Him at odds with the culture.

Jesus’ “bossiness” and “seeming attention deficit disorder” were wrapped up in his desire to glorify God, and His availability and love, Laurie said.

I’ve thought about this weirdness thing quite a bit.

Sometimes I don’t want to be different. Sometimes I want to conform. Even when I know that’s not what God wants (Romans 12:1-2).

If I want to fear God rather be consumed with what people think of me (Galatians 1:10; Colossians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 10:31), there will likely be times I will appear quirky to people – weird, unusual, strange, out of touch with the culture. It may be years (or maybe never on earth) before people realize there is a purpose behind my weirdness. And it may take a while for God to transform my weirdness into wonderful.

How much better our relationships would be if we understood how God wants to transform our weak traits through His strength and use us for His glory. Every trait has a “Dark Side” and a “Life Side,” Laurie explained, and it is in that “Life Side” we glorify the Lord as He fully intends us to do. When we become more like Jesus, we will handle our little quirks well too.

God created me (and you) with uniqueness; why would we ever want to blend in with everyone else? The Lord wants to use our unique qualities (quirks, weaknesses and all) for His glory, to accomplish His will and to bless others.

He wants you to be Quirky Wonderful!

What quirks do others see in you? How can you allow God to transform your weirdness and make it wonderful to the praise of His glory?

– Dawn

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