Thursday, September 1, 2011

Girlfriends in God - I Need a Friend

August 30, 2011

I Need a Friend

Part 2

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her (Ruth 1:16-18, NIV).

Friendship is the catalyst for every other love and the foundation of every healthy relationship. God created us to need each other. We need friends and we need to be a friend. Over the next few days, we will continue to uncover nine keys to healthy friendships.

Key two: Risk

The emotional demands on women are vast. One of the ways God replenishes the emotional drains we experience is through friendships. Many women are convinced that the risk of having close friends outweighs the rewards. I disagree. There is no love without risk. Every friendship must contain the element of risk if it is to grow and mature, reaching its full potential. Ruth was willing to risk her very future for the sake of her friendship with Naomi. John 15:13 says it well. "Greater love has no one than this; that one lay down his life for his friends." When we choose to lay down our life, we automatically take a chance on being hurt, rejected, betrayed or misunderstood.

Anyone who knows me also knows that living foliage is doomed to die a premature death if left in my care for any length of time. I have even been known to kill a plant without touching it. In fact, the only hope any plant of mine has to live past its purchase date is for me to ignore its existence with great diligence. I am certain you can understand why I am in awe of anyone who gardens and is actually capable of growing green things.

I once had a neighbor who was known for her green thumb. In fact, everyone in our small Mississippi town knew that the most beautiful roses were found in Joyce's back yard. It was in that same yard where I learned an important lesson about friendship.

Every afternoon, after their nap time, I took our two children, Jered and Danna, outside to play in our fenced-in back yard. While the kids enjoyed the fresh air, neighborhood friends and their swing set, I enjoyed visiting with Joyce. Most of our conversations took place over the vine-covered fence and her dazzling rose garden. After weeks of watching Joyce plant, prune, water, feed, talk to and even sing to her "Rose Babies." I noticed that Joyce never handled the roses without wearing thick gloves to protect her hands from thorns. One day, our conversation abruptly halted when she yanked her hand into the air and yelled, "Ouch!" When I asked her why she insisted on growing roses instead of some safer and less prickly foliage, her answer was profound. "The beauty of the roses is worth the occasional wound they inflict," she replied. Joyce had learned to handle the roses with respect and in such a way that her wounds were few. Friendships are much the same.

Friends will hurt you. Friends will wound you. We would be wise to don thick emotional gloves when it comes to handling friendships. It is a fatal mistake to assign the responsibility for our happiness to friends. In reality, depending on a friend to make us happy sets that friend up for failure in the relationship and positions that friendship for inevitable destruction. For example, I have a friend who simply cannot keep a secret. She would do anything in the world for me - except keep her mouth closed. Because I love her and don't want to write her off as a friend, I have simply chosen to be cautious about what I share with her. Every friendship has a price tag of some kind attached. We just need to get to the place where love covers the cost.

The words of 1 Peter 4:8 say it well, "Love covers a multitude of sins." In this verse, "cover" literally means to "hide" or "overlook" the faults. Friendship knows the weaknesses are there, but chooses to love anyway. Friendship is always costly but always well worth the cost.

Key three: Transparency

In verse 16, Ruth offers an amazing display of transparency. "Where you go I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God." Openness and honesty nourish friendship. We are naturally drawn to transparent people because transparency produces authenticity. In fact, one of the most winsome aspects of Jesus was the fact that He was so transparent and lived an authentic life. He did not remain aloof from His disciples. He lived among them, sharing every part of their lives. He ate with them, prayed with them, ministered with them, cried with them and laughed with them. Jesus repeatedly opened Himself up to the disciples.

John 15:15 "I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father."

Jesus made a deliberate choice to be transparent, modeling friendship at its best. He was hurt, betrayed and rejected by those He called friends. Still today, He waits for you and for me, longing to be the most transparent and authentic friend we have. Life can be a very lonely place. Jesus knows. Friendships are not only an important source of encouragement to us as women, but a valuable source of strength as well. I am convinced that if we built fewer relationship walls, we would have more friends and be a better friend.

Let's Pray

Father, I have to admit that it is sometimes easier to be lonely than it is to be authentic and real with others. Forgive me for letting fear keep me from reaching out to someone in friendship. I am willing to risk being hurt. I am willing to be transparent in order to be a better friend. I lay every friendship at Your feet as an offering of praise for the Friend You are to me.

In Jesus' name,


Now It's Your Turn

Think of a time when you were hurt by someone you thought was a friend. How did you respond? Answer the following questions in light of that response.

Would you change your response if you could? How?
Did your response make the friendship stronger or weaker? In what way(s)?
Have you let go of the hurt and forgiven the person who hurt you?
Read Colossians 1:13-14. How do these verses influence the way you forgive the friends who have hurt you?

BlogPress @ iPhone

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unbalanced Relationships Sometimes Feel Like Broken Seesaws...

One of the hardest things for me is unbalanced relationships. You know, the ones where you feel like you give your all but the other person just keeps taking. The relationships where there is no give and take, no security because you don't know if you can rely on that friend. For myself, I usually look to cut those people off. I mean, they're leeches right? They can't just selfishly take and expect me to keep giving! It's like me always pushing up on the seesaw and they just keep sitting there, so I've got to go over and push their side down too. It's just not fair! So they should get off my ride! Right?

Jesus says no. He goes so far to tell us,

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44 & 45 NIV)

He tells us to love our enemies! How much more should we treat our friends (no matter how undeserving in our eyes) with grace and love. Ephesians 4:2 (NIV) tells us to, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Yikes! Bearing with one another in love. So, God wants us to keep on putting up with each other in love, not just tolerance. I mean, seriously, someone puts up with me, and I KNOW I'm not the easiest to bear with.

So even thought I want to give that person what I feel they deserve - one good push off my seesaw for their selfishness - the truth is, how can I, in good conscience, do that? God doesn't hand me what I deserve for my negative behaviors. Instead, he looked at our undeserving actions and said, "Whew! We better get these fools a Savior, quick!"

Furthermore, His word says, "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." (1 John 4:20 NIV) So actually, I can't really love God if I stop showing love to those around me, even the ones who may get on that one last nerve or suck that one last bit of energy without thinking to ever give back.

Real talk, people get on our nerves. And we get on people's nerves. The trick to success, even though it may be hard to do, is to put pride to the side and give grace as fully as we receive it. Yes, pride. I mean, really, who do I think I am that someone needs to be deserving of my friendship to have it? Again, Ephesians 4:2 (NIV) tells us to, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." The first words of that scripture tell us to be completely humble first. Then it says be gentle. Then it says be patient. We can't bear with others in love if we think too highly of ourselves.

So as we deal with each other, let's remember the words at Romans 12:17 - 19 (MSG):

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Don't punch that person off of your seesaw of life. Trust God to take care of it and just keep on loving & giving grace freely. You might be surprised at how strong you actually get.

BlogPress @ iPhone

Monday, December 13, 2010

Who's Lovin' Who?

Time and again, I have had one recurring conversation with Christians and non-Christians alike - what do you have to do to be a follower of Christ? How do you know someone is a follower of Christ? So today I ask, what is the identifying mark of a Christian? Is it how often people see or hear about you reading your bible? Is it how often you make it to church? Is it how loudly you pray? Is it in a showy display of praise? What should set Christians apart from all others?

Never fear, because Christ answers that question loud and clear! He made the identifying mark of his followers crystal clear. He said:

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:35 (emphasis mine)

Yes folks. Love. That is the identifying trait of a Christian. Loving others. I have the symbol above on the back of my car. And I can't tell you how many times I find myself ashamed because displaying love while driving in NYC is one of the hardest things to do. And yet, that is how I show that I am a disciple of Christ. And I'm not just supposed to show any old love. This is not love by my understanding. But Christ made the kind of love that he was referring to very clear. He said:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." - John 13:34

Now, let's unwrap this a bit. Christ said this the very night that he was to be crucified for our sins. He knew what was going to occur that night. And he told his disciples to love each other as he loved them!

Whew! So we're supposed to love each other to the point of laying down our life for each other... That's a special kind of love. But that's just one thing we'd be able to do for each other if we had Christ's love in us.

So, just what is love? How do we show it in everyday life? For that answer, I send you here:
Agape Epistle - Love Letter

~*Be Blessed*~

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rainbows are Precious Gifts

Last week, as I drove to work and back home again, it rained and rained and rained. I saw so much devastation around me. A bus had crashed into a car - a heart-wrenching sight. As I kept driving, I saw a car that had been side-swiped by a truck. And I'm sure that that's only the beginning of the days devastation. However, as I approached my destination, the storm clouds cleared, the rain lightened to a drizzle, and the sun began to set. And behind a cloud, surrounded by sun rays, was a small rainbow (it's very small in the picture above). And suddenly, I had a revelation.

At Genesis 9:13-17, God made a covenant with Noah to never again destroy all life with rain. But the covenant was so much deeper than that. In order for a rainbow hidden in the clouds to appear, the clouds must part and the sun must shine. And it dawned on me - as we travel to our life destinations, there will be storms. However, as we approach our destination, there will be a time for the clouds to part, the sun to shine, and the rainbow to come out. So don't let the trials of life get you down.

As James 1:2-4 (MSG) says: "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."

Now, you may be saying, "You don't know what I'm going through and how long I've been going through it." That's very very true. But there is always a helper who does know what you're going through. The scripture continues by saying,

"If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought." - James 1:5,6a (MSG)

So go through the storms of life, seeking God and asking him for help, without doubting that He'll help. And remember, the rainbow will come out at the end of your journey.

BlogPress @ iPhone

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Need New Clothes?

“Clothe your brother, Aaron, and his sons with these garments, and then anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they can serve as my priests.” - Exodus 28:41(NLT)

The garments referred to here were all created to exacting standards and from holy material - gemstones, gold, and fine linen. God specifically asked for the men gifted with the spirit of wisdom to create these pieces of clothing. (Note: They needed God's wisdom, not their own).

These clothes set Aaron and his sons apart for God's use in a way that those around them could physically see. Over his heart, the priest of God was to wear the sacred objects that determined God's will (signifying a prioritization of God's will over their own feelings). And most importantly, they had to be clothed in each holy article to approach God so that they would not die.

As I read this, I had a sudden revelation: we too should be clothed in holiness, according to God's exacting standards, in a way that those around us can see, if we want to be used by Him. Note, Aaron and his sons were to be fully clothed BEFORE they were anointed and ordained, or taken to a higher level of use.

Now I, for one, will not be going out and purchasing gold and gemstones for an outfit those around me can see, so what are we clothing ourselves in?

In writing to the church, Paul says, “[T]hrow off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” - Ephesians 4:23-24 (NLT)

So we throw off, literally take off, our old nature, guided by the things that make us FEEL good. Then we let God's spirit make our thoughts & desires new, as it cleans us for this new outfit & we prioritize His will over our feelings. Finally, we get to our new outfit - a righteous and holy nature so that we can be used by God. Once fully clothed, our actions will be what those around us see.

Of course, this isn't a one time thing. Aaron and his sons didn't just get dressed once and call it a day. They got cleaned and dressed every time they were going to approach God. So as we wake up and get ready for each new day, let us remember to ask God for a cleaning and our new outfit.


BlogPress @ iPhone

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eating with God

“There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!” - Exodus 24:10, 11

As I read this, the first thought that came to my head was, “WOW! How awesome would it be to sit in God's presence and eat and drink!” The immediate next thought was, “Wait, I get to do that every time I ask the Holy Spirit to be with me or fill me.”

How often do we pray for Holy Spirit, and then forget that we've just asked the Almighty to bless us with His presence. We may not consciously forget, but do our actions show that we've forgotten? Just as these nobles saw God with blue gems under His feet, God joins us in a room when we pray for His presence. Stop for a second. Think about it. I know I straightened my clothes & sat a little straighter when I realized that it was almost as if God was sitting next to me. Do we always bless Him with the reverence He deserves when we ask Him to come in? And if not, do we really expect Him to stay? Think about this: If you invited your friend over (and I like to think of God as my best friend) and you didn’t listen to her as she gave advice, interrupted her, or constantly ignored her, would you expect her to stay? Better yet, if you were that friend, would you want to stay? How grieved Holy Spirit must be when we treat Him that way!

Just because He doesn’t appear to us with gems around His feet, doesn’t mean that we too don’t get to eat and drink in the presence of God. Let’s be good to Him when He’s our guest!

BlogPress @ iPhone

Saturday, August 28, 2010

When Things Seem Rough...

“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” - Exodus 13:17 (NLT)

If you remember the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt, they grumbled about being in the wilderness. They wanted to know why God led them so far out into the wilderness and even accused Him of bringing them out there to die. But here’s what I didn't notice until now: God directed them on the longer path to protect them from even worse troubles than they experienced.

What wilderness times might you be experiencing? Perhaps you wonder where God is in your life. Perhaps you wonder why you must suffer certain things, or when it will end, but the truth is, perhaps you're where you are, and not where you could have been, to escape death, injury, illness, etc. Just because what you're going through is bad, doesn't mean that what you escaped going through wasn't worse. So count your blessings, be grateful, and trust God who never forsakes the righteous.

BlogPress @ iPhone