Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Staying Knit Together

Community is so incredibly valuable these days.  It's such a precious find. Do you have a group of people in your life that you can lean on, learn from, help out, confide in, pray with, encourage, motivate and/or be motivated by?
So many times in my adult life (during and after college) I have had to make a choice about what amount of time in my daily living will be set apart for spending time with friends.  I know that time with people that are friends is super important to my success in my work life, my family life and in my life-life. ha!
What amount of time each day do you allow yourself to spend with friends....those who will naturally invest in you-encouragement and quality time.....and those in whom you will naturally invest encouragement and quality time?  Its important---whether you are a keep things to myself kinda gal or a share my thoughts with anyone and everyone kinda gal.  Both types of gals NEED community to thrive.  More than money, recognition, fame, etc., having a community of folks that care about you and check in on you is one of the richest things on this planet.  I don't have much wealth AT ALL (in American standards), but I am RICH with a community of people I care about and who care about me. My community is my church and other peers in my town. It is full of folks who care for me and my family.  Only a small few of that group are really close friends, but my church as a whole is a HUGE blessing to me and my family. We can go out into our "work" week (funny saying that as a minister to college students) with confidence that there is a group of folks all over our city who "have our backs".....who will be there for us when times get tough/when times are fantastic.

The next thought on this is that we can't just sit at home and wait for a community of people to come to us.  We must continue pressing in to the world we live in.  We must be willing to get "dirty" so to say; get involved in the lives of those we work with, go to church with, etc.  Community comes to us when we open up our hearts and minds to serving the people in our world of influence.  When we decide each day to invest God's love and kindness into the lives of people in our work place, and in our family's sphere of influence.  We cannot just sit and wait.  The world is waiting for hope. And hope comes many times through kindness and friendship.

We can be the friend someone needs, thus promoting hope to rise up in them. And if you are a believer in Jesus, you can share the story of God's love for the world, in your own creative way, to the people in your sphere of influence and they will hear of the greatest hope there ever is or ever will be. JESUS.

Community comes with sacrifice, too.  We can't live this American dream and have true genuine community. The American dream is all about YOU. But if an American wants true community, that person needs to be focused on others and not on themselves as the center of everything---sacrificing their own desires for the better-ment of others. (this isn't the case at all times of the day, everyday, but you know what I mean.) The me centered mentality is very difficult to thrive in a true community of folks.

The ideal solution to this epidemic problematic thinking (American Dream-"have it your way") is to believe Jesus as Savior and Lord and love Him with all of your mind, heart, body and soul.  Since He is God of all things and the Creator of each person's hearts and desires, Jesus is the key to having the dream life....to having a great community around us.  Sacrificing OUR wants and dreams for the joy of others will ultimately bring us joy, too, because we will be living like the One who gave His life for us on the cross--sacrificed His title of King of kings and Lord of lords. He, Christ Jesus, earns all rights of the greatest fame and fan-club of all time.

Stay knit together with people in your community that the Lord has or is giving you. As usually spoken on this blog: Get real, woman!  Live honestly with those in your sphere of influence.  Watch how barriers will fall between people because they see your honesty....your integrity...your genuine life that shines out of you.  Watch how many gals will flock to you because they've never known someone to be as open about life/joy and struggle, pain and death. They.....we all long for truth....real-ness in our world. (yeah, yeah,....I know my grammar STINKS. sorry.)   So, it's okay to show pain, share hurts and burdens with others. It's a super fabulous way to live.....risking your true identity being known by other human beings.  Yikes!  haha!  Be the woman who the Creator made you to be.  Be free and embrace community.

Veritas, Pulchritudo et Amor: The King's Table

Veritas, Pulchritudo et Amor: The King's Table: 2 Samuel 9:1-8 1 David asked, "Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan's sake?" 2 Now ...

Friendship Is Not Rocket Science

So, I have been noticing a trend in the conversations I am having lately with my college students and my peers at church or in town. We've been casually conversing about how in our culture there is a high expectation for everyone to be able to be a good friend, but very few people actually live out the very expectation they have for every one else.  Which the phrase good friend is a bit of a redundancy to me. A friend....a true friend is good.  And once again, to me a bad friend.....well, is not technically a friend if he/she is bad at it. (My opinions....obviously) We in this culture seem to still get steamed about someone neglecting us, talking about us behind our backs, deceiving us and mooching off us WHEN simultaneously we many times are completely unaware that we behave very similarly toward others.  It's this strange problem. The right desire for the culture to have---healthy friendships, but not many folks are actually attempting to make that desire a reality.  If you want true friends, you have to be a true friend.

At the university in which my husband and I serve in ministry, I overhear girls chatting about this, that and the other with their peers/friends as they walk the sidewalks around me on the way to class or home or to their cars.  It shocks me to hear the superiority in their voices about their friends.  So many young ladies on our campus seem to think that the world owes them....in friendship....in a better job....in a better grade.....in a better boyfriend.  It's like they are just sitting around being waited on and the world just is never good enough for their standards.  Who is teaching them to grow up to be 18-23 years old and not even loosely grasping the idea that life is for giving, not for taking?  The phrase, "It goes both ways" is missing many times in the lifestyles of the youth of this culture.  Who started this wicked trend in our nation that so many young people have today that they shouldn't answer to anyone and that character doesn't matter as much as status and money?  Did no one teach them as children these past 18-23 years that status and money come to people with character?....Whether that be good or bad character is the difference for sure, but character is STILL a huge factor in the world of promotion, acceptance, leadership, servitude, blessing AND defeat.

What has happened??  I feel as though the church is about the only set of people who are seeking, even if just a little bit, to train young people and children the importance of character....honesty, trust, love, faithfulness, sacrifice, devotion, etc.  My church is doing very well to promote this truth of true friendship, but I am curious how many other churches are doing the same. I am weekly talking with my college students (those that are in our Christian student organization at the university) about how they can show or exemplify to their peers (classmates), their roommates, their dorm-mates.....maybe even their professors what real friendship looks like. Especially since it seems to be SO rare in these days to find faithful people.....faithful friends. I am frequently encouraging my college girls to rise up and be the example. I am proud of them for doing so.....taking the challenge.  We need more young ladies and young women to do the same. We cannot wait around and expect someone else to communicate and/or exemplify these things to our culture....to the future leaders of our world. It is up to us. The task is ours.

Real friendship is sacrificial, devoted (faithful), honest, admonishing, hopeful, sometimes blunt, loving, strong, giving, gracious, patient and grateful. It is so much more than the things I just listed, but you get the point....right? When one calls another person their friend, I believe that one means to profess that they see that person is able to fulfill the role of a true friend or he/she has seen those qualities of friendship in action....lived out.

We must not stand by and allow the next generation of people in our culture to grow up from infancy, then arrive at the college level or young adulthood completely unaware, untrained in what it means to be a true friend. It is a HUGE foundational building block for all kinds of other social skills......and societal stability.  If we have a whole society filled with narcissistic or leechlike people, we cannot stand as a culture....as a nation. Sacrifice, honor, forgiveness, second chance, hope, perseverance, faithfulness need to be in our culture (starting with our family and friendships) or we will be won over by another culture who is able to work together.  "Pride comes before a fall." -Proverbs

Every person is born into this world with nothing and in need of everything. As we grow up, we learn how to do things for ourselves, but we realize at a very early age the joy in doing things for others, in helping others. I have a toddler.....I know this.......because I see it all the time with my son and all his little toddler friends.  It's not like learning what it means and what it is to have good character are so difficult to acquire. Friendship is not rocket science. Little children know and desire the continued joy of giving to and helping others.  We need to learn a lesson from them and be true friends to those people God has given us, BUT with the wisdom and mature discernment of an adult to know who to trust as a friend.

Ultimately, though, the LORD---the God of all creation, commands us who are His people to love one another. It is not a suggestion for God's people. It is a command.  And since we, His people, also have God's Holy Spirit in us (for those of us who call on the name of the LORD Jesus as our Savior) to help us love one another. The need for divine intervention in loving others is still as vital as it ever was. We, in this culture, have not "arrived".  We still need the mighty power of God to live a true friendship out.  But thanks be to God, He is faithful, sacrificial, the most honorable, forgiving, second chance giver, our Hope, perseverant and mighty in power.....and He never slumbers nor sleeps.

Let us start new in our daily lives.....choosing this day forward to be women of truth who seek to be the best kind of friends to those whom God has placed in our lives.  Choosing this day, let us seek to find our joy in giving, serving and edifying one another......and not for our own glory.
I pray for me personally, that God would be made much of in my heart, mind and actions....in my friendships.  And I dare you to pray the same.....to pursue that attitude with me.
Get real, woman!  Be a true friend.  RISE UP AND SHINE LIKE THE MOON! Reflect THE Light, who is Christ Jesus the LORD.
Blessings to you,

Monday, November 12, 2012

Collage of Thoughts Continues

Continuing on in my collage of thoughts, my first one for today has to do with the title of my blog.  It is so strange that being real with the women in my life about me and about the world around me seems to make gals un-easy.  But I know....I KNOW they see things similar to the way I do most times, and struggle with things very similar to me.  They just think speaking out about them publicly is.....not cool?....or not ethical....or whatever.  How have we women arrived to this point of such discretion?  It isn't right.  We need others in our lives who truly know us.  It can't continue....this living our lives to our selves.  We must open our lives up to other women.... but only to trustworthy (non-gossipping, God-fearing, full of integrity) women and share what is going on in our minds and hearts.  If not, we are promoting a frenzy of anxieties, depressions, isolations and such that may not really have to be in our lives in the first place.  Hope that makes sense.  
We share life with others.....but it's usually just surface-y stuff. We talk about the weather with such passion; how we like it or hate it or wish it was a little bit warmer, cooler, less windy, less humid.  We talk about our favorite television shows; how we can't stand so-and-so's character or how we LOVE so-and-so in such-and-such show.  We have no problems spilling the beans about what we think of our work life, our pet's life, our favorite t.v. show's recent episode, our neighbor's life, our current town's weather, our future vacation plans, our spouse's choices, our president's view points, our waiter's wardrobe.....you get the picture.  But when it comes to sharing with other women about our hearts, our dreams/broken dreams, our goals, our accomplishments, our loves, our insecurities, our fears.....we freeze....we hide it....we conceal the real stuff most of the time.  Why?
Women of faith especially, I am talking to you.  As a believer in Christ, you should know that you are special and loved by the one and only Holy and Mighty God.  God loves the whole world and everyone in it (John 3:16-17), but when you come to faith in Jesus Christ, you become more than just loved by God---you become one of God's children. Family. God wants the best for His people. You should know that Christ wants you to have deeper friendships, the best relationships, hope-filled hearts, joyful minds and.....abundant life. He loves you. Women of Christ, you are the Heavenly Father's daughters.  Why wouldn't He want the best for his kids??  Yet, we stay quiet about our fears, weaknesses, pains, failures with people who are our sisters in Christ.....folks who have the Spirit of God in them and can help us cope, strengthen us, look-out for us, etc.  Very often we don't allow others to help us.....when God wants to use EACH ONE of us every day to help, to serve, to strengthen, to encourage, to admonish, to love, to protect, to comfort one another.
Get REAL, women and LIVE like no other. In Jesus' name, I pray that you would. AMEN

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pressin' In: A Collage of Thoughts

There are so many things I want to write about.  I have so many aspirations, hopes and dreams swirling in my head each day. I am not one to multi-task very well, but tonight, as I type, I will try to say a few different things on my heart and mind.
First, I just want to say that I sense there is a great distraction in our generation of Christian women.  Women are getting so absorbed in hanging on every word of their favorite Christian author/public speaker gal.  I, too, have a few favorites in the world of Christian women encouragers/authors/bible study writers/conference speakers.  And I, too, understand how cool it feels to go to a conference or a retreat and be in the same room with women of such faith and such influence.  However, one thing I hope we all remember is that we are all given the Holy Spirit and we are all able to pursue God to the same degree and passion these "famous" women do.  We all can know Jesus Christ intimately by reading God's Holy Word and we all can learn how the Holy Spirit speaks to us individually by prayer and daily seeking Him.  We who believe in Christ are all called to follow Him; to know Him deeply--knowing His heart on the issues of our times by spending time in God's Word, praying, etc.  We can't just let the "famous" ladies of our faith do all the work for us.....do all of the growing in the LORD for us.  We must go after Christ ourselves!!  Our husbands, boyfriends, children, friends and family members are looking to us......wondering if we'll take the plunge and love GOD with all of our hearts and all of our minds and all of our souls.
Second, how is it that Christians are more known these days for complaining about the government and school policies and protesting about their rights being restricted INSTEAD OF being known for how much they deeply love people with God's love....for how much they sacrifice for their neighbors and friends....for how much they teach others the amazing story of the Truth?  When is it going to be that this country first acknowledges it's Christian citizens have a deep passion for their Savior BEFORE they acknowledge the Christian citizens' stance on politics, moral issues, work ethics, marriage, etc??  We Christians in America have no legit reason to try to "hide" our faith/our passion for Jesus Christ.  We are not being hunted down to be killed for our faith like our brothers and sisters are in other countries.  We have the freedom to pursue Christ openly in this country and yet, MANY of us Americans claiming to know Christ don't take that opportunity. WHY?  Friends, you are missing out on so many blessings and adventures by keeping your spiritual growth at bay.  I urge you to hoist the sails of your soul and let the Holy Spirit of God breathe life into your spiritual life.  I urge you to sail in the winds of the Spirit and let Him lead you, provide for you, protect you and strengthen you.  There is no better time than right now to stop stalling; and start your pursuit....again and go after God.  Christian means to be a follower of Christ. And a follower of no one else.
Third, along the same lines of the second, I am appalled at all the time Christian people are taking to fight with each other about their beliefs on abortion and homosexuality.  The fighting isn't in terms of actual fist fights, but it is word fights that are so nasty and evil. How does this type of behavior become so normal in such a large number of American Christians. Once again, I believe it is the lack of time Christians are spending with their Savior--reading the Holy Word of God daily, praying and speaking the Good News to others.  If we Christians were daily doing the things that Christ commanded His people to do, the arguments and fights probably would be much different.  The more quality time a person spends with His Maker, the Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, that person will begin to see his or her world through the eyes of the LORD and not through the human eyes of wicked intentions.  Now, I too, have my opinions on abortion and homosexuality, but if I do not have the right audience and the prompting of my Lord and Savior to speak of these opinions, I will not.  It is not helpful for the body of Christ is be looking for a fight.  We are to "seek peace and pursue it".  Psalm 34:13-14 says, "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.  Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."

What I urge all the Christian women who are reading this blog to do, starting today, is to get on your knees before God (whether figuratively or literally) and repent of all the things that are holding your affections that are not Christ.  I urge you to lay all of your selfish ambitions and deep rooted opinions at the foot of the Lord Jesus and ask Him to sift through each one, showing you each one of those things that is dishonoring/displeasing in His sight.  Jesus speaks to the church of Ephesus through the apostle John in the book of Revelation. He says to them, "I know your works,  your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.  I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. ....He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."-Revelation 2:2-7   I don't know about you, but these words Jesus Christ spoke to the church of Ephesus seem to be right for my heart to hear, too.  I feel like I relate a bunch with these believers who lived in Ephesus.  Their city was filled with wickedness and the worship of false gods. Our country today has a bunch of the same characteristics (mentioned in full in the book of Ephesians and Romans).  I read these words from Christ and I am broken.  I....no, WE all need to hear these words and be moved.  We need to be moved to repentance and humility before the Holy God.  Being right with God (righteousness) is THE MOST important thing a believer can do each day before all the other important things; like standing up for what we believe...raising our children, being a the best friend, spouse, employee we can be, etc.  In everything, we need to remember the words of John the Baptizer when asked about what he thinks of the new guy called Jesus who was on the other side of the Jordan river baptizing folks.  John the Baptizer made sure to tell them that he himself was not the Christ and that "He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease"-John 3:30.

Once we take time to go before God and repent of the junk we have collected in our hearts each day and we find out those things that dishonor Him, I strongly urge you to pitch those things as far from your heart and mind as you can.....RUN from them. Give up those things to God.  He can take care of them....get rid of them, by His power.  And if you are living in the blessing of being a child of God, you are bought and paid for.  You are Christ's.  You no longer live for yourself.  Galatians 2:20-21 says, "I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose."  We are not our own anymore, if we are born again Christians.  And this verse 21 is saying that if being right with God was able to be achieved through living according to the book of the law, then Christ died for nothing. And we know, as believers in Christ......as believers in his death and resurrection, that Christ died for us. John 3:16-17 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."