Tag Archives: friendship

Loving Motivation

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“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  II Timothy 3:14-15

This was the epistle reading in church last Sunday, and the words I highlighted jumped out for me.  It made me think about all the people who’ve taught me about the faith.  What was their motivation to do so?

For many people, learning starts at home at a young age.  Maybe your mother sings hymns, you sit beside your father in the pew, your grandparents give you a Bible or read the Bible to you.  Studies have revealed that when someone is asked this question: “who had the greatest influence on my faith?”, the most frequent answer is “my mother.”  Surely this teaching is motivated by the love called “storge,”  family love, duty, affection.  This love may have its’ ups and downs, but it never stops caring.  Many parents want their children to know about God because they love them in this way. Paul’s acolyte, Timothy, learned in this way because Paul says to him:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”  II Timothy 1:5

Growing in faith can be part of married life also.  “Eros” is a love which desires closeness and union.  How can we be fully one, if we are not both one in Christ?  This kind of love will create a natural desire to share in everything, to teach the other to love Christ as they do.  Peter says:

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives…”  1 Peter 3:1

Then there are our friends.  With them we share “philea” or brotherly love.  In Via de Cristo there is a saying, “make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.”  Most people who are unchurched, come to worship for the first time because a friend invited them.  Because we love our friends, we want them to share in the joy of fellowship with Christ.  We invite them to do the things that have been most meaningful in our own faith walk.

Finally, there are loads of people who share Christ simply because they love everyone as He did.  Dedicated Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, pastors, choir directors and others.  This is agape love, with no motive except to serve and edify others.

So it seems to me that some sort of love is the motive behind all Christian teaching.  No wonder the Bible says “God is love.  How would we learn about His love, how would we begin to experience it, without the love of others who spread it?  Think about the many people from whom you have learned.  Give thanks for their love.

 

 

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Improve Your Health, Make a Friend

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God did not make us to be alone.  Studies bear this out (not a surprise.)  Here are some of the ways that relationships help to make and keep us healthy.

What are the benefits of friendships?

Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.

Iron Sharp

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This article was originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador and also reprinted with permission in The Lutheran Digest.

The book of Proverbs tells us:

A friend loves at all times.”

It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t want that kind of acceptance, isn’t it?  Yet recent studies reveal that 25 percent of Americans have no close friends at all;  another 19 percent have only one confidante (usually their spouse);  and that these unfortunate trends have been increasing over the past 20 years.

A good friend can be an important element in our spiritual life and development.  Now, by good friend I don’t mean the kind of friendly acquaintance with whom we share some common interests or activities.  A true soul friend knows us and accepts us as we really are.  We are honest and vulnerable with them.  We trust them to hear our confessions and keep our confidences.  They love us no matter what, and they always point us toward Jesus.

David found such a friend in Jonathan, who “helped him find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16).  One author says, these are the friends who make us “run hard after God.”

I have been blessed by a number of spiritual friendships, including a long-lasting relationship with my college roommate, Nancy.  We don’t see each other very often because we are busy people who no longer share a room or go to classes together.  We stay in touch by writing letters and sending emails.  Once or twice a year, we meet at a church about midway between our homes.

We bring our lunch and eat together.  We pray.  We share our experiences.  We talk openly about our families, our problems, our joys and our struggles.  Nancy rarely tells me what she thinks I should do,  Instead she asks me to consider what God would have me do.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Nancy sharpens my awareness of God.  Meeting with her and writing to her becomes a spiritual practice, a life-giving activity that helps me notice how God is working in my life.

Some spiritual friendships, like my friendship with Nancy, just seem to evolve and deepen over time.  When this happens, it’s a bit of God’s grace.  Give thanks if you already have this blessing!  However, we can also be intentional in our pursuit of sould friends.

If you do not have such a friend, pray about it and see who God brings across your path.  You might start by asking someone you know and trust to become a prayer partner.  Meet regularly, share concerns, pray with each other and for each other.  You will be amazed to find your friendship drawing you closer to your true self, closer to other Christians, and closer to God.

The Threefold Cord

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“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they will keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Something is drawing me back to Ecclesiastes, the book that Leslie blogged extensively about last month. The verses above have been used to describe the unions of both marriage and friendship. When we go back to the very beginning, God said,

“It is not good that the man should be alone;  I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Genesis 2:18

According to the author of Ecclesiastes we’re meant to live in relationship, in union with others.  With a friend or a mate, life is easier, safer and more comfortable. We will be happier and accomplish more. But did you notice anything else?  In every relationship there must be a third component — that’s God.  God is the glue that holds every human union together.  Without Him, we’re bound to eventually break apart on the rocks of our own selfishness and sin.  It’s the third strand in the cord that keeps them going.

So, we don’t need to just have a relationship with God, we need to make God a part of every relationship in our life.  Peace, joy, patience, kindness, love, self-control–no union survives without them, and we can’t manufacture them on our own.  They’re gifts of the Holy Spirit.  So as Charles Spurgeon once said, “Let the lion out of the cage.”  Don’t keep God penned up except for Sunday mornings–let Him into your marriage, your friendships, your workplace, your family.  Let Him transform all those relationships.

 

Remembering Old Friends

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“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17

I was recently looking some old file folders with information I kept about Via de Cristo.  It reminded me of many of the people with whom I served on retreat teams, met in small groups, planned activities and served the Lord.  Many of these folks were part of my church family.  It was a busy and productive season of my life.  Now I go to another church, where my husband is the Pastor.  I’m still in touch with some of those friends, but others have moved or just moved on.  Life changes.

However, thinking about them reminds me of how influential our friends are in encouraging us in our Christian walk.  Being in an accountability group (Via de Cristo calls them reunion groups) makes it harder to procrastinate or slack off in our spiritual disciplines.  Having a close group of friends to help you when you have an idea you’d like to try (like this blog) is encouraging, too.  There are so many things I’ve done that I would never have dared try without my friends.  There are so many insights I would have missed without them there to notice and tell me.  My friends gave me confidence;  they prayed for me;  they loved me and supported me even when I messed up. They were God’s gift to me.

So today I am remembering and give thanks for all my friends, old and new:  for the things they have to teach me and the many ways they help me in my Christian journey.  Don’t be a lone ranger Christian.  Take friends with you wherever you walk.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow;  but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.  Again, if two lie together, they are warm;  how can one be warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him.  A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

 

At All Times

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“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

I was a little upset with a friend a few days ago.  Do you know what terrible sin she committed?  She didn’t agree with me, and she told me she didn’t. Now I certainly wasn’t furious.  But I was hurt. I got defensive.  I felt frustrated.  I didn’t see why she couldn’t “get” my position.  I don’t like conflict, and even this minor disagreement made me feel out of sorts for the rest of the day.  Sunday of all days.  How annoying.

This morning I remembered this verse and I got over myself.  You see, the Bible tells us to love our friends at ALL times.  Not just when they’re supporting us.  Not just when they’re behaving the way we think they should. Not just when they follow our advice.  Not just when they AGREE with us.  So I wrote my friend a note. I still don’t agree with her, but  I told her I cared about her and valued our friendship (I do).  I told her I appreciated all that she does for me and our community (I do).  I realized that loving each other doesn’t depend upon complete agreement.

Here’s the bigger lesson in all this.  In John 15:15 Jesus says,

“No longer do I call you servants….but I have called you friends.”

Jesus is my friend, and he loves me at all times.  Not just when I am being “good.”  Not just when I’m paying attention to Him.  Not just when I’m praying or praising Him, but all the time.  I‘ll fall down and disappoint my friends.  I’ll get annoyed and say angry words without thinking.  I’ll be inconsistent and bull-headed.  Jesus won’t do any of those things.  He is my one constant, yesterday, today and forever.  And He is my friend.  How wonderful is that!  What does He ask in return?  Just this:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:  just as I have loved you,  you are also to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 12:34

What does this loving friendship look like?

“Love is patient and kind;  love does not envy or boast;  it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

If Jesus is my friend who loves me at all times, shouldn’t I try to be the same kind of friend to others?

Image result for images of a friend loves at all times

 

Remembering Others…

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My next door neighbor, Mrs. Thompson, passed away following a long illness this past year. She and her husband lived next door to us for as long as I can remember. They knew my husband and I when we were just dating, they attended our wedding, and they shared in many holiday and life experiences with us. I was always surprised by how much interest Mrs. Thompson took in our lives. Despite taking care of her husband, visiting with her many friends, keeping her household and being very active in church activities, she always seemed to know what was going on with us. When my beloved cat died, she wrote me a three page letter about how special he had been her. When we first purchased chickens (an interesting endeavor!), she and her husband were the first to come over with their video camera to chronicle the event. She would call just to check in, and drop by to bring us snacks on the holidays. She always made me feel special, loved, and appreciated.

Her funeral was packed. Much to my surprise, many people stood up to talk about those special letters that she had written them over the years, and all of the kind things that she had done for them. How she had time to do so many things for so many people I will never know. It seemed that she actively remembered everything going on in all of her friends lives, and was always passing her love on to others.

Reflecting back on my own actions, I am sorry to say that the same can’t always be said about me. I get easily caught up in my day to day life, and may go weeks or even months without as much as saying hello to my neighbors. I am not much better with friends or family either. I often get the “are you dead?” call from my mom after a few weeks of forgetting to check in. I am not know for my excellent memory of birthdays either- my big sister often calls me on family members’ birthdays, just to give me a friendly reminder ‘not to forget’.

With this being said, if I could make any new years resolution for self improvement this year, it would be to take note and follow in the footsteps of my good friend and neighbor Mr. Thompson. To try daily to write one personal note, make one phone call, or reach out to at least one friend or family member daily to see what is going on in their lives. I have put the following bible verse on my phone as a daily reminder of this:

Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

The Opportunity of Forgiveness

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil.  But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also;  and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well;  and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  Matthew 5:38-41

In this verse, Jesus is telling us not to seek revenge, but to forgive and even do good to the person who has wronged us.  I guess I have always looked at that as my Christian “duty.”  Something I was required to do instead of what I really wanted to do.  Recently I decided I am thinking about it the wrong way.  What if I made it gospel instead of law?  (Lutherans love to talk about the difference).  This kind of situation gives me a chance to show God’s grace to someone.

My husband loves to tell a story about our good friend, Gary.  Gary and his family had moved to a house they were renting.  The first evening they were there, the renter of the other half of the house came home and Gary went out to greet him and introduce himself.  His neighbor responded with curses and a basic message of “leave me alone.”  Gary’s response?  “Gee, you must have had a terrible day, what’s wrong?”  The two became friends because Gary saw his neighbor’s rudeness as an opportunity to share God’s love.  He let him see Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance in the actions of another person.

How often do I let this same opportunity pass?

 

I’m sorry, again….

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Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22

What are the strongest relationships in our world? Best friend, spouse, parent, child, neighbor,  just to name a few. Most of us have several of these close bonds in life, with each being a little bit different and with each bond changing over time. The one thing that all of these relationships have in common is that within each relationship we have probably forgiven, and been forgiven, over and over again for different offenses throughout the years.

In the daily movement of life, I think that we forget how often forgiveness is taking place between all of our close friends and family. I might wake up grumpy and get angry that my husband has (again) forgotten to take out the trash, or become aggrieved when my close friend at work makes a comment that hurts my feelings. I like to read this passage in the book of Mathew when I need a reminder of the bigger picture. Christ wants for us to be loving, accepting, and forgiving of each other in all of our relationships. And in fact, when it comes right down to it, I think almost everyone would say that true love and acceptance in this world is all that we are really searching for within our relationships. So the day will come and go, I will forget my current grievances and forgive my friends, and hope that they will do the same for me.