Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.
The Message puts John 15:12-13 this way, "Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends."
This, so far, is my favorite picture from Becca’s wedding last Saturday, really, for a couple of reasons.
One, it’s just typical of how our family rolls. We don’t just bustle a wedding gown, that would be too easy, and boring. Nope, we turn it into a, for lack of a better word, fiasco.
The dress had multiple layers that had to be bustled before Becca entered the reception. Knowing this, my daughter in law, Sarah Kathryn, and I practiced our bustling several times. We had it down pat. We were ready, or so we thought.
Well, when time came to bustle, we could not for the life of us find all the buttons and loops that we needed to find. It was hot, we were sweating, and gnats were flying up our noses. We had layers of wedding gown over our heads, which of course made things even hotter. Then to make things even more frustrating, we had irritating husbands trying to rush us. It was about to get ugly, fast.
I have a friend, we’ll call her Tracy…mainly, because that's her name, and she gave me permission to share this story.
Tracy’s job between now and June 6 is to get me in "mother of the bride" shape. This is no small task, mind you. I really can’t think of anything I dislike more than exercise, except maybe surgery without anesthesia. Though I haven’t tried that, I’m pretty sure it would beat out exercise for my least favorite thing.
Anyway, the other day, as I pulled into her driveway and parked, Julie, another friend was headed to her car.
“She’s in A MOOD,” Julie informed me.
I felt a panicky feeling begin to rise up in me. What does ‘in a mood’ mean, exactly?
“She almost killed me,” Julie continued as she climbed into her car.
“Well that’s just great,” I thought to myself. Julie is in much better shape than me, so I knew I was sunk. There was no way I could survive if my friend who runs for fun almost died.
As I headed to the front door, my mind began messing with me. When I reached the front door, which is a big, heavy door, I realized that the doorknob was higher than the normal knob and it was gia-normous too… which made me feel intimidated and small - like Alice in Wonderland.
When I opened the door she was standing there, smiling.
“Are you in a mood? Because Julie said you were…” I started.
“What? No,” she assured me as she waved me off with her hand and headed for the stairs. AND I followed her.
As we made our way down the stairs to the basement she said, “You’re really not going to like me after today.”
Well, there it was!
And the hot flashes started.
I am in that delightful stage of life where my internal thermostat is struggling. There are a few things that set the hot flashes off. One would be heat, which is problematic because I live in the south and I own a blow dryer. And the other is anxiety, which I was in the full throws of.
Now listen, I have known Tracy for all of my adult life. I have never picked up on any “sinisterismness”. She has always been friendly and kindhearted. I have never been afraid of her…until now.
For the next hour, she made me do things I would never do left to myself. She wanted me to strengthen my core. “I don’t think I have one,” I told her.
She would say things like, “I know this is hard…you only have 50 more.” Evil I tell you, just evil. And she smiled the entire time.
She corrected my incorrect posture, showed me how to do certain things, and explained how each exercise was beneficial to me even though I was convinced each one was going to kill me.
She told me to do things that in my mind were just too stinking hard and then wouldn’t let me not do them.
Just a little side note: exercise also brings on hot flashes.
At one point, she opened the door to let some cool air in. My mind screamed, “RUN”, but the rest of me said, “It is just so not going to happen.”
To Tracy’s credit, she was very encouraging. She would say things like, “Good job”, and “I know you can do this.”
When I got in my car to drive home, I had two thoughts.
1. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
2. “Where is my ibuprofen?”
As I drove home another thought occurred to me. Just as I need Tracy to come along side me with my physical conditioning, I also need friends to come along beside me with my spiritual conditioning. I need to put myself under strong Godly instruction. I need to seek out those wiser than me and learn from them. I need to surround myself with friends who are also in training. The Bible calls those kinds of relationships iron sharpening iron relationships.
I had asked Tracy for help, and she was doing exactly what I had asked her to do, and she did it well. Truthfully, if it weren’t for her presence, I would not have finished. Okay, while I’m being honest here, I would have cheated on counting the reps, too. It’s true. Sad, but true.
As much as we desire to follow Christ, the truth is, there are times when we face things that just seem too hard. There are times when we just want to do what we have to do to get by, or we just flat out want to quit.
We need sisters standing beside us encouraging us. But we also need them standing beside us lovingly pointing out when our spiritual posture is not correct or when we have become lax in our training and conditioning. Not so we feel beat up, but so we become stronger and healthier in our spiritual walk.
I am blessed to have such sisters.
If you don’t, let me encourage you to consider finding some for yourself. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Seek out a wise Godly woman.
2. Ask her to help you – just like I asked Tracy.
3. Give her full permission to speak truth into your life – even if it is hard or it hurts.
4. Trust her, listen to her, follow her guidance.
5. Meet with her on a consistent, regular basis.
6. Let her see your weaknesses and struggles. Drop the mask.
You will be amazed at the transformation.
Have a great week!
Sometimes the intent of another is not to wound us but rather to prevent us from hurting ourselves. In Proverbs 27:5-6, King Solomon, known for his wisdom, wrote, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”(NIV) The New American reads, “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
So what does that mean? It means that maybe our thinking is all wrong. We think that a true friend is one who always says nice things to us, and tells us how wonderful we are, and of course, always takes our side when we are, in our opinion, being treated unjustly. But the writer of Proverbs says, “Nope!”
My daughter just finished her first semester of college, and yes, we have all survived! Praise God! Survival has come through many hours of prayer, reading Scripture, and lots of free therapy from friends and family. By the way, thank you all for not charging! I can now look back on that first day of college with a little perspective, not through the fear and tears I had at the beginning. I remember getting ready to leave for school on that fateful morning and my daughter asked me how she looked. I was prepared to tell her that her hair looked great, her clothes matched (not always a given in our household), and that she looked very “college-worthy”. My sweet daughter had another adjective in mind; she wanted to know if she looked approachable?
“Approachable?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m wearing my Young Life shirt and do you think people will know about YL and want to approach me?”
I know this is something that we have all shared about before but I have really been pondering this lately. Dickie Jones, our Sunday school teacher, has taught a few lessons on this topic for the last couple of weeks and it got me to thinking. I do think we should share our stories with each other, sometimes our failures are much easier to share because who wants to sound “braggy” with our successes? As a body of believers, we should be there to build up each other in failures and also celebrate our victories. How will we know what’s going on if we don’t “post it”, “pin it”, or “pass it on”? It’s all about making connections just as Jesus did when He shared His stories and parables. So, if we are to be like Jesus… it’s all about our relationships and making connections with other people. The Lord has blessed each of us with a story to tell; He gives us all different experiences to share. Then when we go out, like the disciples, we try to make our connections. We glean something from each story that is shared and then we pass that on to someone else. All of this to build our Christ community and to be His hands, feet, and voice to everyone we meet.
We recently had a few friends over for the holidays. The house was decorated and my husband wanted to cook so we invited a few people over for dinner. Everything was very last minute, nothing really planned. Most of the guests who came were called the day of the dinner party. We used paper everything - please don’t tell my mom! I didn’t even have a dessert ready; we just ate the delicious treats that our guests graciously brought. Truth be known, I did not even vacuum or sweep the floors (gasp!) and guess what, despite the lack of planning or cleaning we had a great time. We enjoyed visiting and fellowshipping with our friends and not one of them minded the unswept floors or the last minute invitations, or if they did they were too sweet to say anything. I love my friends!
Last week, Billy Graham had a new message, “The Cross”, on TV. During the advertisements of the program, we, as believers, were encouraged to invite our neighbors and non-believers to watch this together. I thought that was a really great idea for “everyone else”. I was actually thinking this as I was walking my dog Ellie in our neighborhood. I thought, “Lord I really hope ‘other people’ will do that. It would be awesome!” I was actually quite proud of myself for remembering to pray for that ministry.
As Ellie and I were walking, I told the Lord that I would pray for my neighbors even though they wouldn’t be coming to my house - you know it would be weird inviting people I didn’t know very well. I also reminded the Lord that I had never really talked to a particular neighbor; in fact, I didn’t even remember her name. But as a person of Godly character I would pray for her too.
The Women’s ministry at Alice Drive Baptist Church sponsored their annual Ladies’ Night Out this past Tuesday night. As usual it was a great event. The wonderful men of the church patiently served over 700 women a great meal. No matter how much we harassed them about needing ice or drinks, they kept their cool. Very impressive bunch!
There were tons of amazing door prizes and Judi Gatson from WIS TV encouraged all of us. She shared a recent tough, heartbreaking journey she had traveled on. She had us crying one minute and laughing the next. We were reminded of how amazingly perfect God’s timing always is, even when we don’t see it that way at the time. We were also reminded of how faithful He always is and how perfectly He cares for His children.
Years ago a group of life group leaders attended a conference at Litchfield beach. During a lunch break, I was outside looking out over the ocean. It was a cool day and the sky was a bright blue. There wasn’t a cloud in sight. As I stood there taking in the beauty, Ken Lewis walked up beside me and looked in the direction that I was looking. He grinned and asked me, “Do you know who made that?”
“Yep,” I remember responding, “my Father did.”
He didn’t skip a beat, “Mine, too!” He enthusiastically responded back.
As we stood there side by side, I was overwhelmed by the fact that because of God’s grace in my life and because of His grace in Ken’s life, we shared the same Father. I was standing beside my brother and we were looking at our Father’s handiwork.
I don’t know if Ken remembers that day or not, but I know for me, I felt like God knitted our hearts together in a special way.
Galatians 3:26-29 took on a deeper meaning:
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were
baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew
nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ
Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs
according to the promise."
Years passed. Ken became Coach Ken to two of my boys. Not only did he coach them in the game of basketball; he coached them in their walk with Christ. He loved them well. He treated them as his own.
For years we have prayed for each other’s families.
When God began tugging on my heart to build a website, Ken would not let me push it aside. He coached me, with incredible patience I might add. He came alongside Carolyn, Grace, Lisa, and myself and made this website a reality.
He continues to tolerate our mistakes, our submitting things in the wrong format and at the wrong time, and he endures many late night freak-outs because the computer won’t do what we want it to. If he has said, “Hit the refresh button once, he has said it a thousand times!”
This Tuesday, Ken, Liz, and their children leave for Atlanta. Selfishly, I’m not happy about this turn of events. On the other hand, I am so excited to see what God has in store for them. When all is said and done, I want God’s absolute best for the brother that He blessed me with those many years ago.
When I read Philemon 1:4-9, I think about Ken and Liz.
“I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”
So let me just say, “We love you, Ken. We will miss you so much, but we know this isn’t goodbye. After all, we still know your phone number!
“Choose you this day, whom you will serve.”
Katherine Kehler told her family “I have decided that sitting on the fence is not a God thing.”
I was sitting at my computer (you know how it goes…I’ll just do this one thing) and I came across this statement that caught my attention. Being in a hurry and really not having the time to sit and read the full explanation, something still drew me in and I ended up doing just that.
This is what she said:
“In real life situations, much evil has continued because people are afraid to take a stand. Oh, they may take a stand in private conversations but few will voice their views in public. They are afraid of being rejected. I have been there. Sometimes I am a coward and sometimes I am brave. Sometimes I notice others are cowards. Sometimes they are brave. There have been times when I wished someone would have been brave enough to have voiced their support for me, but they didn’t. Lately I have realized the importance of standing up for what is right and publicly supporting others who are right in the sight of God. Sitting on the fence or being neutral is not a Godly characteristic.”
“Jesus definitely spoke up. He was not a coward!”
Yes, Jesus always spoke up for the things that were right …not by the world’s standards
but by God’s standards. Since he was the only “perfect” human that ever walked on earth shouldn’t we take our cues from him?
I’ve known only a few people whom I could truly say could always be counted on to put what was easiest aside and, without fail, support only what was right and supported by scripture. I have no doubt there were people (maybe even ones who called themselves their friends) who gossiped and said unkind things behind their back as they took their stand. We’ve all been there, right? Hurtful, right?
We were never promised it would be easy but we were promised our Heavenly Father would walk beside us all the way and carry us with his “angel army” if we needed him to. I don’t know exactly why God stopped me on this writing today but I do know he has a plan for everything under heaven. Maybe it’s you who was to be given courage and moved to action today by reading this. If so, take heed, being right in the sight of God is much better than being right in the sight of the world! And remember, “Sitting the fence is not a God thing.”
If you have a testimony of a time when you or someone you know chose to stand up for what was right in God’s eyes please tell us about it below in the comment space or email
me at email@example.com.
We need to encourage each other in our walks because the world in most cases won’t.
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