Day 12: “Be Inventive Today.”

love-and-good-worksMuch of the New Testament was written to churches, giving instruction and encouragement.  We are no different today in our need for constant affirmation of our faith, authentic friendships, a pat on the back. Hebrews 10:24 in The Message says, “let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.”

It’s easy to offer up a prayer for someone in your life who may need it. Today, why not go the extra step and use a little imagination in how you encourage someone in your world?

You often receive back what you’re willing to give when it comes to friendship and community. Think about who in your church might need to hear from you today. See how resourceful you can be in reaching out. Try picking up the phone instead of the easy text message. Invite someone for dinner or coffee. Write a nice card. Bring flowers.

You know the old adage, “actions speak louder than words.” Usually things are cliché because they hold truth. God created us with a need for friendship and support. You aren’t meant to do life alone.

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Who Can You Call A Friend?

myfriends

Throughout my life, friends have brought both the greatest joys and some of the deepest hurts. What happens when we let someone in on our dreams, insecurities, or opinions believing they “get us” only to find we were worlds apart in our understanding? They can betray us or leave us feeling rejected if they exit our “inner circle” unexpectedly.

“There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). How do we define a “real friend?” I heard a great teaching a few years ago from TD Jakes that helps put our relationships in context. Lamenting over a “bestie” who was really just a companion for a season is a waste of time. I’m sure I’ve adjusted the Bishop’s original thought but here’s my take on it:

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

CONFIDANTS are friends that are “FOR YOU” no matter what you are for! They love you unconditionally. They stick by your side no matter where you live, what direction your life takes or what mood you’re in. You can confide in them; they don’t judge you. You can screw up and hurt them; they forgive you. Your best moments will find them cheering. Your worst? Alongside you crying. Time nor distance can keep you apart in your hearts. If you have a couple of these in a lifetime, consider yourself blessed.

CONSTITUENTS are “FOR WHAT YOU’RE FOR” and nothing more. (This doesn’t negate their importance or value.) I would venture to say most people in your circles could be considered constituents. They come along when your kids are in the same class and you have chats over coffee after drop-off. Or, you connect because of a common cause. Maybe it’s political. Or, a project at work puts you in the same place at the same time everyday. You mesh because you’re connected to a vision or the same leader.

It’s easy to feel like “BFFs” but if your commonality changes, you might feel the relationship fade. Understanding constituents properly can help you avoid being hurt when this normal cycle occurs. I’ve often met someone new at church who’s offended because “no one reached out” to her after she left her last place of worship. (You may have experienced this in a job transfer too.)

Maybe you mis-took those friends as confidants when all along, they were constituents? 
Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don't buy one too soon!

Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don’t buy one too soon!

You were connected because you both “FOR” the same thing. If YOU chose to leave, you can’t expect the ones who are still there to follow you. You’ve detached yourself from what joined you together. You may remain connected for a season but don’t be surprised if your relationship vaporizes over time.

Constituents are great. You need them in your life! But if they go, remember they were merely “for” what you were “for.” They were never “FOR YOU.”

COMRADES are actually “AGAINST WHAT YOU’RE AGAINST!” They might be the people on the committee at school who help you fight the administration’s decision to get rid of recess. Or, you’re connected on FaceBook because you all hate Ps Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. Caution: As quickly as you hooked up, you will be dropped because the next bandwagon is available for hire. I see these groups play out in kids sports; everyone is on the same page because they dislike a certain coach or rule. You’re allies as you rant over how YOU think things should be run. Then, when the team disseminates or you get a new coach, nothing remains to keep you connected.

Pastors, be careful of the comrades who join your church because they are against the way the last church operated. They will leave you too once you offend or refuse to bend to their demands.

Comrades aren’t always negative. They can come along like scaffolding to help you fight a fight. Once the job is done, they are gone but their impact and importance aren’t soon forgotten.

Knowing the difference between confidants, constituents, and comrades brings perspective and keeps your expectations in check. Feel free to post comments if this post helped you or you have another perspective on the matter!

 

Fasting Devotion, Day Nine

Philippians 2:1-11

Healthy relationships matter. When we are lonely, we need friends to come around us. When we have a blind spot, it’s nice for someone we love to help us out and have our backs! We value and appreciate acts of kindness and sacrifice of others to stand by us during tough times.

Whether married or single, old or young, introvert or extrovert, most of our days are spent interacting with other people. Christ desires our relationships to prosper. As a matter of fact, we are to be known as Christians by the way we love one another. The greatest commandment after loving God with all our hearts is to love our neighbour as ourself. We are to love one another as Christ loves us, unconditionally. We are to forgive each other when we are wronged.

Proverbs gives many examples of flourishing relationships: Offenses are overlooked; friends can become “family;” reliable friends are refreshing, not draining.

We all know healthy relationships are vital to a good life. But how do we ensure we have them?The Apostle Paul gives us a guide:

We use Christ as the model and commit to living with humility, not seeking a position or pushing forth an agenda. Christ had equal status with God yet gave all that up to come down to our HUMAN level and serve mankind.

Who have you served lately? Who needs you to come down to her level and stand united? Who might you forgive as Christ has forgiven you?

When we invest in other people, we gain a heavenly reward. People are what matters most to God. If we need a friend, we should be the type of friend we desire. Living to serve and honor those in our lives will reap a lasting reward for each of us.

Dear Lord, it’s an honour to call you my friend. You love me unconditionally and modeled true servanthood when you stepped out of heaven to join me on Earth. I pray I can follow your example and truly serve and love the ones you have placed in my life. Mend any relationships that are broken. Strengthen my friendships and teach me how to love so that you may be glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Ode to Friendship

In three short days, we will fly away to Australia to begin our new life.  As I reflect on the last few weeks, the phrase “rich in friendship” comes to mind.  Greg and I truly are rich in friendship.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”  I look back at the last seven years in Austin and all the way to sixth grade where I made a friend for life named Erika, and I can’t believe how many loyal friends we have.

You have been here in our time of transition to encourage and believe in us.  You have prayed for us, cried with us, written us cards and notes, fed us, housed us, made us laugh, sown financially into our church, and more.  What a privilege and honor it is to know so many wonderful people and be surrounded by such love.

Although we are moving several thousand miles away, we are connected forever.  Memories, photographs, laughs, and pain have entwined our hearts and we can cherish that no matter where we live.

I don’t have enough time or words to write to each of you how much you mean to our family.  I can see your faces when I close my eyes and I can hear your laughs.  I once heard that we become the books we read and the people we hang around.  If that’s the case, I feel pretty good about myself.  The people in my life are wonderful.  This gives God great honor as well.  The Bible says we also ought to love one another since God SO LOVED US. If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

We will continue to love one another in this next season.  It might look different and cost a little more to get together for lunch, but we have Skype, Facebook, blogs and Twitter to make connecting so easy.  Please continue to pray for us as our journey is just beginning.  We will pray for you as well!

And with faces like this, we are sure to make new friends quickly!!