Friendship

“Some friends play at friendship but a true
friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.”
Proverbs 18:24 (NRSV)

What is friendship? True friendship?

The first real friend I had was when I lived on the east coast. We could say what we wanted and hold nothing back, knowing that what we shared would stay between the two of us. We were able to make and keep promises. We could call each other no matter what time of the day or night when either of us had an issue to deal with and we did things together. Before I left the area, she got really sick. We kept in contact for a while, until suddenly there was no more contact, she was gone.

I have had other friends since but began to have struggles.

My struggles began when I confided in a friend, so I thought at the time, some concerns, some future plans and some changes I was planning to make in my life.  People came to me asking questions about this and that, things that I had shared with only one other person, so I knew where the information came from. Of course, it hurt. It’s a long story, but to make it short, this person became very non-communicative and stayed as far away from me as she could.  Although I found out what the problem was, it took me a long time to resolve the issue and learn to trust again.  Could it be that we were just “fair-weather” friends, not really true friends at all?

What does it mean to be a friend, or to “act like a friend?”

An article by Stu Weber just happened to be in my readings this week.  He gives some simple effective “how to’s” to practice when working at being and gaining a friend:

  1. Know yourself.

Ask yourself a few tough questions, and don’t let yourself squirm away from the answers.  Am I positive and winsome? Or am I complaining and pessimistic? Would I like myself for a friend? Am I defensive? Do I let my past failures hold me down or am I ready to get on with life? And, very importantly, am I honest? Can I be counted on?

  1. Identify your vision.

Vision is the stuff of which friendships are made.  Friends stand side-by-side looking at the mountain, contemplating the task, measuring what matters.  And it is that common vision that drives the friendship.

  1. Take the initiative.

Can you remember a time when you were “new on the block” and no one stretched out toward you? It was uncomfortable, embarrassingly awkward, and frustrating.  Don’t let it happen.  Beat that awkward moment to the punch.  You be the one to reach out.

  1. Focus on the friend.

Part of what made Jesus such a great friend was His self-free focus upon the other person.  He did the little things in a big way.  From noticing a little child while in the midst of teaching (Luke 18:15-17) to recruiting help for His mother while He was enduring searing torture on the cross (John 19:26-27), Jesus focused on others.

  1. Keep both your promises and confidences.

Say what you mean.  Mean what you say.  And keep it between you.  The use of your tongue is a key to your friendships.  Friendship absolutely soars in an environment of acceptance, transparency, trust and promises made and kept.

  1. Stay steady, strong, and faithful – no matter what.

Remember, friends are like trees.  There is refuge beneath their branches.  There is safety.  There is a haven to come to, no matter what.  No matter the time (day or night), the weather (fair or foul), or the circumstances (pleasant or painful), trees and friends stay steady, strong, and faithful.  Like a deep-rooted oak, friends weather the storms, hang on through the droughts and grow stronger through the years.

So let’s get on with it.

Since I’ve been struggling so much with this issue of friendship, I think God placed this article in my midst to help me evaluate myself as well as evaluate others when looking for friendships.

I have heard several interpretations of Proverbs 18:24.  The one that stands out the most is, “It is better to have one true friend, who stands by you no matter what, than to have many friends, who could lead you astray or who will drop you like a “hot potato” when the going gets tough.” And, there’s the quote below. It’s long, but it’s true.

I agree that true friendships are hard to establish and to keep.  We all need at least one, I am told.  A conversation between a mom and her pre-school son comes to mind often when I think of friends. The son was having a hard time with friends and his mom mentioned that he had a friend in Jesus, who would always be there for him. In reply, the son said, “But Mom, I need a friend with skin.” Oh, from the mouth of babes.

Have you found your true friend?  Are you a true friend to anyone?

Be safe and have a blessed week!
Dee

****************************************************************
A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend; one human
soul whom we can trust utterly; who knows the best and worst of us,
and who loves us in spite of all our faults, who will speak the
honest truth to us while the world flatters us to our faces
and laughs at us behind our back.
Charles Kingsley
****************************************************************

Life to the Full

I miss my old life. I wish everything could just go back to normal again.

I know the difficulties and fears of today will pass.

Here and there I see signs of new life ahead.

Some businesses look like they’re cleaning up and getting ready to open, but I don’t think life will ever be the same.

When the time comes to resume a normal life after surviving a time of crisis, we often approach it with great expectation. However, as we encounter the new reality of everyday life, disappointments and challenges may discourage us. But they also provide opportunities to pursue life in a way we hadn’t imagined before.

Are you open to the idea of living a life that’s new? Change gives us the opportunity to restart and build a better life. We can reconsider our priorities and goals. We can put our new perspective on life in action. We can work to heal old relationships. We can develop healthier habits. We can also reconsider what we believe about God and what he has to do with our life.

During his time on earth, Jesus demonstrated and taught the people about the full, abundant life he offers. Some people rejected him. Others found hope in his teaching and embraced his purposes. He said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. John 10:10

The apostle Paul quoted the words of the prophet Isaiah when he described the abundant life God offers:

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no mind has conceived”—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

God offers each of us a chance to live a new, full and everlasting life that can’t be stolen or destroyed by anything that happens on earth.

Where does the full life God offers fit into your plans?

        Devotion is from the Bible App, When Your Whole World Changes Reading Bible Plan.

Have a safe and blessed week.

Dee

A Comforting Companion

 The Lord himself goes before you and
will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake
you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

Years ago, when I was young, one of my brothers had his appendix removed and my siblings and I took turns changing his bandages. I freaked out each time at the sight of the incision and blood. That took care of my desire to be a nurse. Oops!

Recently, I was given another chance to be a caregiver. My husband had surgery in June and needed me to care for him at home for several weeks. The care included giving daily injections to prevent blood clots. Another “Oops”! In the middle of the seemingly endless days and nights of caring for him, God helped me learn about the spiritual gift of caregiving: Caregiving is not for the fainthearted; it means being fully present to the one who needs us. A focused heart discerns any necessary needs. The person receiving the care may experience fear, pain, boredom or a combination of all the above. The presence of a loving caregiver can make long hours easier for the patient to endure.

The job of caregiving is bone-tiring at times. I know that it was for me. But God was there and enabled me to be part of His healing for my husband. My role gave me a new appreciation for the many caregivers who are signs of God’s promise: “[I] will never leave you nor forsake you.” Whenever we reach out to those who are hurting, we are offering assurance of God’s promise.

Have a safe and blessed week.
Dee

Uncertainty – Guaranteed

Nothing will ever be the same. There have been so many changes: how we work, how we shop for food, our sense of belonging, how we engage with our community, and even how we live as a family. I don’t know what I can rely on anymore.

It’s true. Life will be different for some time as we recover from the impact of this pandemic, and some things will never be the same. But changes, painful losses, and hardships don’t have the last word.

Being in difficult circumstances doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us or that life will never be good again.

The Bible tells the story of Joseph. He was his father’s favorite son, and his brothers were jealous of him. Joseph experienced difficult circumstances when his brothers sold him into slavery! Despite their betrayal, Joseph became a good slave in an important official’s household. The official rewarded Joseph by putting him in charge of running his household. But later, Joseph went to prison for many years because of false accusations against him.

But bad circumstances don’t stop God from accomplishing his work. Through these struggles, God taught Joseph His ways and prepared him to be a wise leader. Eventually Joseph led Egypt in preparing for and surviving a widespread famine. Even Joseph’s family came to Egypt for food!

How do you think Joseph perceived the unexpected turn of events? Notice his response to his brothers who thought he would take revenge on them for mistreating him.

“We are your slaves,” they said.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:18-21

The future is always uncertain. After everything that had happened to him, Joseph realized that God was always in control and accomplishing his good work.

When you face the uncertainties of life, does the guarantee of God’s goodness give you hope?

Devotion is from the Bible App, When Your Whole World Changes Reading Bible Plan.

Have a safe and blessed week.
Dee

An Ordinary Act

An Ordinary Act

Be kind and compassionate
to one another.
Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

I finished helping a customer and was headed back into the store when I heard a young child crying. I went over and asked what was wrong. Her mom said, “She likes to ride in the red seat of the cart when I shop and the seat is wet from the rain, and I told her, ‘not today’”. I told the mom that I could take care of that. She said, “No, we’ll be okay”. I said okay and went into the store knowing what I was going to do. As I came back out of the store with paper towels to wipe the seat, the young girl was still crying, hadn’t moved from the spot I last saw her. The mom looked up, saw me, smiled and said, “You didn’t have to do that, but thanks”. I said, “No problem” and proceeded to wipe the seat dry for the little girl. She stopped crying and she and her mom said, “Thanks” and I went on my way. The little girl was one “happy camper”. They look for me every time they come to the store now.

I was glad that I was able to turn just an ordinary act into an act of love and to be a blessing for the little girl, her mom and even me.

Thinking of kindness reminded me of a story about a vice-president of a big corporation deciding to try an experiment to see how it would help the company morale. Each afternoon, a cart with tea, sweets and other items would appear on the executive floor for about half an hour, giving people a chance to come out of their work areas and mingle, to get to know each other – some didn’t even know others existed.

After a month, a survey was taken and many employees commented on how they felt the service had increased morale. The “tea party” went so well with the executive floor, the VP decided to do the same for all floors in the building. Shortly afterwards, there was an increase in not only company relations and customer satisfaction, but an increase in profits also.

A kind word, a kind deed, even a kind attitude impacts the way we think of ourselves and others. These actions even impact the way we work.

On my way to work each day, I pray that I will be a blessing to someone and it never fails how I am blessed each time by something I’ve said to or done for someone.

Each small deed of kindness expresses God’s great love” – Author unknown.

How can you be a blessing to someone today? Who’s life will you impact?

No act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness
may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into
a tidal wave affecting the lives of many.
Kevin Heath – CEO, More 4Kids

Loving the “Unlovely”

“In Christ Jesus you are all children
of God through faith. “
Galatians 3:26 (NRSV)

The devotion below was taken from the Upper Room Devotional, 2015.

As a school principal I used to unconsciously place children into two categories: “lovely children (those who were no trouble) and “unlovely” (difficult) children. One particular first grade student was sent to my office nearly every day because his behavior was so out of control. I began to dislike this child because he spent so much time in my office disrupting my routine. One day his mother failed to pick him up from school, so I drove him home. As we pulled into a rundown trailer park, he pointed to a windowless trailer where garbage littered the yard and the door was wide open on a freezing cold day. This was his home. His mother appeared at the door and ushered him in. Stunned, I drove away.

“How could I discount this child who did not have the comfort of a dry, warm place to live? Doesn’t he need me more than others?” From that day forward, I considered all children to be God’s children – not “lovely” or “unlovely”. God holds us responsible to take care of each one of his children. When I treat any child carelessly, I am treating Christ carelessly. When I treat each child as a beloved child of God, I am honoring Christ.

As I was reading this devotion, I started thinking of all the turmoil and violence going on in the world today – the problem of showing favoritism and learning to live together. We allow racial differences, religious differences, political differences, gender differences and many other factors to divide us.

What can you do to make this a better place to live in?

Have a safe and blessed week.
Dee

************************************************
God calls us to love those who are not easy to love.
************************************************

Be A Blessing

“…because the one who is in you is greater
than the one who is in the world. “
1 John 4:4 (NIV)

            My mom was a special person in my life and was a true blessing to me. I am who I am today and do the things I do because of her. Her gentleness, thoughtfulness, kindness and uplifting spirit inspired me to let God use me to bless others.

Over the past few years, I have been so preoccupied with my own problems – moving, health issues, spiritual dryness – that I neglected to pay attention to the needs of others and was not reaching out to them with my cards, phone calls and visits as I did on a regular basis.

According to the verse above, God is greater than any problems that we may have. Knowing that God will take care of our worries helps us to shift our focus away from ourselves and toward helping others. Only when we let go of self-centeredness and become truly concerned about another’s welfare can we then act to meet that person’s needs.

With this pandemic and everything else going on in the world, it’s easy to become frightened and overwhelmed by the problems we face. But, the writer, John, assures us that God is stronger.

I pray for opportunities to show God’s love by reaching out and caring for others. Lots of people can use some loving care – a phone call or a written note, even a smile at a distance (social distancing).

How about you? How can you be a blessing to someone?

Have a blessed weekend.

Dee

****************************
God can work through each
of us to bless others.
****************************

 

Isolation and the Presence of God

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your
presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my
bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide
me, your right hand will hold me fast. “          Psalm 139:7-10

            I was going to tweak this devotion, summarize it to make it shorter. But it’s such a good one, I decided to give it to you in its entirety.

In recent weeks, we’ve adopted new phrases into our everyday vocabulary: ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’.

Many of us are feeling the cost of this new reality. Perhaps you feel cut off from those around you. You miss physical touch; an integral part of human connection. Video chat just doesn’t cut it. The loneliness creeps in. There’s no doubt we were built for relationships, not isolation. And yet, for the sake of public health, isolation is the responsible thing to do.

Today, know that you are never alone. God, by his Spirit, is with you. Always. In fact, Psalms 139 tells us that even if we try to flee from Him, we cannot. Though He rules the whole world, He is also very near.

He Knows You

God’s Spirit was present when the world was created (Genesis 1:2). And, He was present when you were created. There is no one who knows you better.

Our best friends are those who know us best. The ones who know our desires and our worries, without us having to say a word. The ones whom we don’t need to explain ourselves to, but God knows you far better than those friends. Though you may be in isolation today, the one who knows you best is with you.

He Prays for You

Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit prays for us. When we don’t know what to pray, He intercedes for us. That is who is keeping you company today. As you work or study from home today, He prays for you. As you care for your family or community today, He prays for you. When you are lonely, the Spirit knows that and pleads your case to the Father.

He Comforts You

The Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as the Comforter (John 14:16,26). How could He be anything less? He is the Spirit of God, who is Love. If you trust in Jesus, He has given you His Holy Spirit. It is that Spirit who preaches the Gospel to you. He reminds you, ‘Jesus has forgiven you’, ‘God loves you’, ‘I’m with you’.

COVID-19 is scary. But take heart—you have the Divine Comforter with you. Devotion is from the Bible App, Remedy For Anxious Hearts Bible Reading Plan.

Have a safe and blessed weekend.
Dee