What Is Friendship Worth to You?

when-we-are-oldFor the last year, I have tried very hard to delete all the political entries my Facebook friends have posted. I just could not read all that political rhetoric. Facebook is a wonderful way to keep up with my family and friends who live throughout this world. I had hoped that Tuesday would be the end to all the politics. I was sadly, very sadly, disappointed.

Friends are lashing out in anger and disgust because their candidate did not win and their friend did not vote correctly and so – of course – that made the difference in who won the 2016 Presidential Election!!! And if you think this is only a Democratic lashing – I could put names on a list of Republicans who did the same thing after the 2012 Presidential Election!!! It is impossible to bring understanding to my way of thinking!

I have a friend that I have shared a friendship with for over 50 years. To be exact, we met in second grade, 54 years ago. We currently live about 600 miles apart. We see each other every few years. But we can pick up the phone and talk like we saw each other last week. Who is your oldest friend? How long have you known each other?

Make new friends, but keep the old.

One is silver, and the other is gold.

What value do we place on friendship? I don’t mean that list of 358 people who are listed as “Friends” on Facebook. I mean people that when your loved one dies, this person is there. They listen. They have extra Kleenex. They know the way to bring you comfort and, most importantly, healing. And when the world, ie your job, the IRS, in-laws (to name a few), knock you down and leave some bruises, a friend can restore humor and perspective that keeps the balance in a world gone mad.

Friends also do not allow politics to cut a friendship, because friends learn from each other, especially when they have different views about political issues. They learn when they look through the lens of another. They discuss a problem, not to try to convince the other person to give up their convictions, but to learn how someone might think differently and come to their convictions.

So if you took the time to read this and know that you have slapped at a friend in the past year or the past week because of different political voting – shame on you! Pick up the phone – no, don’t do a post on Facebook – Pick up the phone and call your friend. “I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words you can speak. They are right after “I love you” on the Powerful Words List.

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christmas-2003-croppedWill I stop missing you … in time?
Will I stop seeing you in the distance … in time?
Will time become more or less meaningful … in time?
I guess time will tell.

At first time had no meaning. You were not here.
You were there. I wasn’t.
Each day was made of endless minutes without you.
Each night a solitude when I listened for your step, your voice.

Then time began to quicken. There were weeks, then months, then years.
And yet you have not aged in my mind’s eye.
You still have that stare, with those “old eyes” that know more than they should.
You still have that unexpected laugh, which lights up my world with a joy.

Time has passed. Your friends have married. They have children.
I weep for what could have been, but is not.
I weep for words not spoken,
For possibilities without fruit.

And then, time brings a peace. A smile.
Time will soon mean nothing.
You and I will have more than time.
We will have … forever.

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Current Bible Study

Just as iron sharpens iron,
friends sharpen the minds of each other. – Proverbs 27:17 (CEV)

Let us continue to hold firmly to the hope that we confess without wavering, for the one who made the promise is faithful. And let us continue to consider how to motivate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day of the Lord coming nearer. – Hebrews 10:23-25 (ISV)

Are you in a Bible study? Do you meet regularly with at least one other person to study and consider God’s word? Personal, private study is important. But unless you have one other person with whom to study and consider Scripture, I submit that your reasoning and consideration is one-sided.

I am blessed to study with a young woman, Erin, who looks at and considers Scripture differently than I do. I want any given Scripture to speak into my life. I want it to apply to the road that I am currently traveling. Erin has a very flexible mind and is quite content to take a Scripture and turn it back and around, considering how it applied to the people of 3,000 years ago and today and then what it might mean to her grandchildren. She stretches me – and I suspect I stretch her also!

Jonah CoverAnd then there is our choice of study material. Right now we are using Dr. Bruce Epperly’s new study of Jonah: When God Changes. We’ve discussed whether Jonah was a real prophet of his time. We’ve discussed the possibilities of being swallowed by a whale. And made our list of who we did not want to be sent to by God to encourage repentance or die! Given the current political conditions, this study has given us a lot to think about and we look forward to our study every week! We give it 5 stars out of 5!

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Labor – Is this a good thing?

There have been moments in my life that have helped me to define the word “labor.”

My grandparents owned a farm. I grew up learning about milk cows, Angus cattle, and chickens. Bailing hay, gathering eggs, and picking gooseberries in the oppressive heat of Missouri summers gave me my first definition of labor!

When I went away to college, to nursing school, I learned what it meant to labor over books! I had never studied more than an hour for a test prior to college. Suddenly I was confronted with hundreds of new words to memorize and then I had to learn how to correctly apply them into a new field of study. Most importantly, I learned why medicine was considered an art, not a science.

Then came that life-changing night when I labored to bring the first two of my three children into this world! Pain had a whole new intensity but yet, there were ways to handle this pain, using it to achieve a goal. Almost eight years later, when my third child joined us, I learned that there can be definite advantages to having a plan!

Then our family labored in a physical and spiritual battle with cancer in the life of our youngest son. Labor, once again, was given a new definition, and achieving a new level of weariness.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor uselessly.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
its security forces keep watch uselessly.
It is useless to get up early and to stay up late,
eating the food of exhausting labor—
truly he gives sleep to those he loves. – Psalm 127: 1-2 (ISV)

When you decide to buy or build a house, a car, a new shirt or even the weekly groceries, do you ask the LORD for His wisdom? Do you ask Jesus for His input on what and how much to buy? Is your mind open to all the answers? That isn’t easy. What if God wants you to wait for His timing on something? What if instead of a new house, God wants you to rent a smaller home and increase your offering to the poor? Would God ask you to labor for the benefit of someone else? And what about sharing whatever you have with others, whether it is peanut butter sandwiches and apples or steaks on the grill? One of the most wonderful seasons in my life, is when we had “whosoever would come” for dinner on Thursday nights. We did not increase our weekly grocery budget, we never knew how many would show up for dinner, but there was always enough and the fellowship around the table was characterized with laughter, wise counsel and getting to know people that maybe we would not have known in our usual acquaintance. It was fun! It was a labor of love!

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!

My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”   – Matthew 11:25-30 (NLT)

As I enter the winter of my life, I am learning about how Abba, Father God, has things to teach me about utilizing my strength and time in wise ways. He has lessons for me and I am becoming more aware of how much I don’t know and how much He has to teach me! And here is where I am beginning to understand how Jesus has lessons that are not heavy burdens but lessons of trusting the Father, leaning on the Spirit for wisdom, and understanding that the closer I live next to Jesus, the less this world will weigh me down with fear, uncertainty and confusion.

On this Labor Day, I am moving closer to Jesus. I am listening to His words. I am soaking in His presence and laboring under the light load of His presence. Being yoked with Jesus is easy when I trust Him!

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Roses and Thorns

Rose with thornsTherefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. – Romans 5:1-5 (NLT)

It’s wonderful to come together in a fellowship and hear how much God loves us and how He is involved and desires to give us an abundant life. I believe that the words in John’s book of Revelation should be carried out every time we come together (Revelation 12:11) – testimonies of what God is doing in our lives are a powerful force that drives back the temptations and the harassements of the evil one who is our daily accuser!

But for those of us who teach, or preach, we must present the whole Gospel. I once heard a preacher describe his messages as “Twinkie messages” and “Brussel Sprout messages.” We know that if Twinkies are the main ingredient of our daily diet, we will not be healthy. Green vegetables may not be our favorite food group, but they are vital to a healthy, strong body. And so we must also hear the often difficult passages of Scripture that remind us that there are difficulties, trials, that come to God’s children.

The Truth – The Twinkies

John 14 – 15: Jesus tells me not to allow my heart to focus on the troubles of this world but to believe in Him and in the Father. He and the Father are One and, even more, there is their Spirit which will remind me of everything that Jesus taught. We are forever connected with Jesus, He is the vine and I am a branch that receives the nourishment directly from Him.

1 Corinthians 12 and 14: God has given us gifts and power through His Holy Spirit that as we come together as Believers, we may hear Him and know His way. We are His Army, with weapons that combat the forces of evil in this world.

Ephesians 3: We are loved by God Himself. We do not fully know or understand the enormity of His love and what it means. It is a wonderful, exciting, uplifting thing to see, feel and know the revelation of Abba Father’s love. When we live our daily lives in a world which tries to beat us down with fear and confusion and doubt, it is a welcome oasis to come and sit at the Master’s feet and hear Him speak of His love for us.

The Truth – The Full Meal

John 16 – 17: Jesus says He is telling us what was written in John 14 and 15 because He does not want us to wander away from His truth. He wants me to remember that He warned me that there would be trouble, even trouble from people who believe they are acting on God’s orders! But His Spirit, the Couselor, will speak to me with His truth and the grief that I may feel will turn to joy as I realize that Jesus has already overcome this world!

1 Corinthians 13: No matter the power of God inside of me, no matter how powerful the words or manifestations of His power in and through me, that will all mean nothing if I do not use that power, pour out that power, with His love. If what I do in God’s Kingdom, does not speak first and last of His love, then I am only a loud, self-serving cymbal! There is nothing, nothing that God hates more than my personal pride!

Ephesians 4: As I learn of God’s love, I must live a life worthy of His call to me; a life that is humble, gentle, patient and loving. It is to be a life that promotes unity among Believers, encouraging others in their call. I am to imitate Jesus, living a life that not only receives God’s love but is a giver of His love.

My sisters and brothers, our lives here and now are not going to be easy. The abundant life promised by Jesus is an eternal life that is not momentary like this world. It is forever as our life with our Abba Father is forever!

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness [His peace beyond understanding], everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. – Philippians 4:4-9 (The Message, my addition)

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Don’t Throw Out the Baby with His Bath Water

Always be joyful. Continually be prayerful. In everything be thankful, because this is God’s will for you in the Messiah Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not despise prophecies. Instead, test everything. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace himself make you holy in every way. And may your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—remain blameless when our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, appears. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will continue to be faithful. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (ISV)

Have you ever listened to someone who was teaching or preaching and thought, “Wait! That isn’t what I thought that said!” or “I don’t believe that about God!” That happened, the first time, to me about 3-4 months after I committed myself to Christ. I was listening to a man that I respected, who had convinced me that I needed a savior. I needed Jesus Christ. I had sin in my life that I couldn’t stop and pain in my heart that would not go away. Jesus, God in the flesh, could take care of both and did. Now the man who had shown me these truths, was telling me something that did not add up with what I had been reading; what I was reading now. Should I never listen to him again? Should I never believe anything else he would say? Or was he right and I was wrong about the passage?

I know people who are absolutely convinced that they know absolutely what every word of the Bible says and means. As I spend more time over the last 20+ years, I find there is more to learn, more to question, not be absolute about. I have also found that there are passages in the Bible that are – difficult. And often, those difficult passages are smoothed over or ignored. Example: Romans 8 is often discussed and taught. Romans 7 is not. But how can we learn from Romans 8 if we do not take it in context with Romans 7?

We must listen to each other. We need to discuss God’s word together, not to try to convince the right or wrong of each other’s beliefs, but to encourage each other and magnify the LORD.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings,becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrectionfrom the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take holdof that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behindand straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has calledme heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are matureshould take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. – Philippians 3:10-16 (NIV)

James (3:1) says that if we teach, we are held to a high standard and will be strictly judged. Whether we stand in front of people as a teacher or preacher, or we sit with a friend at lunch, we must turn our tongues over to the wisdom and control of God’s Spirit. May we speak only with holy fear. And may we listen with a desire to hear God’s voice and learn from His words – together.

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Obedience: A Choice of the Spirit and Heart

Our Lord, you bless everyone who lives right and obeys your Law.
You bless all of those who follow your commands from deep in their hearts
and who never do wrong or turn from you.
You have ordered us always to obey your teachings;
I don’t ever want to stray from your laws. – Psalm 119: 1-5 (CEV)

I’ve been reading and re-reading Psalm 119 the last few days. It talks about God’s laws, His precepts, decrees and statutes. There are a lot of those in the Bible. I don’t even know all of them. Some of them that I know, I do not obey because they are time conditional. I did not stone my rebellious teenagers (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). And so I continue to study and consider God’s Word and what it says to me. I seek His Truth through His Holy Spirit. I desire His correction and discipline. And Abba Father is a good Father and faithfully meets with me.

And then there is my personal mentor and example, Jesus the Christ. I continue to study how He spoke and interacted with adulterers, fornicators, thieves, prostitutes, gossipers, liars, manipulators and church leaders. Jesus had the knowledge, the insight to know the heart and spirit of Peter, Mary, Judas, the Pharisees, and various “sinners” brought to Him for judgment. (The Pharisees want to “catch” Him in a “wrong” judgment.) But Jesus taught as though He knew that we did not have that knowledge. We needed to follow His example of forgiveness, unconditional love. Paul spoke of this grace in almost every letter he wrote to the churches. He, too, knew that we would need to use grace and mercy, not judgment.

God’s Word is a lamp that lights the way of my steps as I journey through this life. But the will shine brighter when I (1) spend time every day, personal time, with my LORD and His Word and (2) spend time routinely with others in studying God’s Word. “Iron sharpens iron,” (Proverbs 27:17) my friends. We learn from each other, and if I don’t agree with everyone in the group, WONDERFUL! I will study more and consider why I believe and what I believe and read more in cross reference! And that brings more obedience.

As I put my mind and heart more on what is on God’s heart, I will find myself spending more time in things of God, Kingdom mindedness! I become obedient to thinking on the things of God. I see more clearly how God works. I align my mind with the mind of God. He is my Abba, my Father.

Lord, accept my offering of praise,
and teach me your regulations.
My life constantly hangs in the balance,
but I will not stop obeying your instructions.
The wicked have set their traps for me,
but I will not turn from your commandments.
Your laws are my treasure;
they are my heart’s delight.
I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end. – Psalm 119: 109-112 (NLT)

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I am about to collapse from constant pain.
I told you my sins, and I am sorry for them.
Many deadly and powerful enemies hate me,
and they repay evil for good because I try to do right.

You are the Lord God!
Stay nearby and don’t desert me.
You are the one who saves me. Please hurry and help. – Psalm 38: 17-22 (CEV)

Sometimes the pain is so excruciating – it falls like a veil over the entirety of my sight. It is then, when I am too weak to look or reach out to anything or anyone (and woe be unto anyone who tries to reach out to me!) – I look up with my last dribble of strength – and there is Jesus.

There is the one who knows what excruciating pain is. And yet He did not lash out. Jesus’ silence throughout most of His suffering has been a mystery for over 2000 years. Why did the Messiah, the Savior of God’s creation, not testify to who He was, and what was going to be the consequences of His sacrifice, to Pilate and Caiphas?

Jesus knew the loneliness of pain and He is there for me. His eyes tell me of peace which is beyond my pain and understanding. His touch calms and comforts, gentle yet with the strength that assures me He will not leave. No matter the origin of my pain.

Love. Yes, Abba Father loves me. He gave me Jesus. Could He take the pain away? Yes, and I ask Him for His mercy to do that every day. Often I do feel the pain recede. Even medication can work in His plan! I ask Him for complete healing. I know He will do that too. How great is Abba’s love!

Music has been a vehicle to express and relieve pain also. It is a wealth of ways to express what I often cannot express myself. It is despair. It is God’s Truth. It is my needs. It expresses the answer to spoken and unspoken prayers. It opens my spirit to the healing that Abba has for me.

Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”                                                   — John 16: 31-33 (NLT)

Ongoing, unremitting pain, whether physical or mental, requires something as big and powerful as Jesus to heal or show me how to walk through it as He did. In the midst of this pain, I need to be able to look into Jesus’ eyes, study and meditate on Jesus’ way He walked, spent time in prayer, cried out to His Father, and reached out to others as a friend and servant.

And there, honestly, is where I have found my greatest relief – in helping others who may be hurting and suffering. Turning my focus on others, opening my eyes to their needs and opportunities to lift someone up, helps me to see my situation in a more balanced way and maybe even learn from them. There is rarely a day that goes by that I do not recall something that a patient or family member that I met in over 35 years of nursing said to me. They shared the most difficult times of their lives and were generous in allowing me to be a part of that time.

When I am hurting,
I find comfort in your promise that leads to life.
Conceited people sneer at me,
but I obey your Law.
I find true comfort, Lord,
because your laws have stood the test of time. – Psalm 119: 50-52 (CEV)

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Children and Suffering

Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah (31:15):
“A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” – Matthew 2:18 (NLT)

There are people who are going to see the title of this devotion and they won’t read it. It’s too difficult a subject. There are people who are going to expect me to provide some profound answer to a question that troubles many Christians. A question that I have heard many say keeps them from believing in God.

I’ve never understood avoiding hard questions when it comes to my faith. My life has hit many of the hard questions! If God and I do not wrestle with these questions, what am I going to do when the question is no longer a theory, but my reality?! Pastors and teachers, do they tell you in seminary to avoid these questions? Do they say they should only be addressed individually and not from the front of the room? Hogwash! People are struggling! People are limping into our fellowships every week and we are sending them out with their questions unanswered! I submit that we encourage and serve God’s children when we address these questions with a combination of Bible study and personal testimony.

Why does God allow children to suffer with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, abuse, starvation, and more? I don’t know.

Jeremiah lived 600 years before Jesus and brought this word from God when the Babylonians slaughtered children. Matthew repeats those words when King Herold slaughters children in an attempt to destroy the prophesized Jewish king.

Where is God when such heinous events happen? He is right there. He sees the slaughter, the blood. He hears the the cries of the mothers and fathers. These are His children who have died. They died not on His timeline. He is their Father! He is justice.

He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. – Deuteronomy 10:18 (NLT)

You showed what you are like, and you made certain that justice is done, but evil people are trapped by their own evil deeds. – Psalm 9:16 (CEV)

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” – Acts 17:31 (NIV)

But God has promised us a new heaven and a new earth, where justice will rule. – 2 Peter 3:13 (CEV)

Then I saw heaven standing open, and there was a white horse! Its rider is named Faithful and True. He administers justice and wages war righteously. – Revelation 19:11 (ISV)

And so as I have put this question to God and spent time reading and searching the Scriptures, I come away with making another step of faith. I step toward Him and trust His promises that He is just. He will punish the wicked. He will give those who have suffered some balance in their scale of life. It may not come as quickly as I like. It may not come in my lifetime so that I see God’s justice, but I believe that God keeps His promises and justice will come.

There is no conclusion here. But then my life, my relationship with God does not come to a conclusion either. It is an eternal relationship. An so I take my ongoing questions, even my arguments, my tears, my anger, and contnue to walk with my LORD. Conversations between us will continue. Father God can handle my repeated questions. He is just. And He is love.

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Have you read Psalm 170?

Standing in Your presence
Lord, my heart and life are changed.
Just to love You and to live to see
Your beauty and Your grace.

Heaven and Earth cry out Your name!
Nations rise up and see Your face.
And Your Kingdom is established
As I live to know You more.

Now I will never be the same.
Spirit of God, my life You’ve changed.
And I’ll forever sing Your praise!
I live to know You, Lord. I live to know You, Lord.

You’ve called me;
I will follow Your will for me I’m sure.
Let Your heartbeat be my heart’s cry;
Let me live to serve Your call.       – Live to Know You More by Hillsong United Worship

David, youngest son, shepherd, slayer of Goliath, and King of Israel, is credited with most of the 150 psalms, or songs, we know. People who study literature would call them poetry. My husband, who is a biblical languages scholar, tells me that the translation from Hebrew to English of these psalms is not easy as poetry uses the subtleties of a given language, including its format, to express emotions and pictures. And one word in a language does not precisely equal a word in another.

So here I am sharing with you today one of my favorite 21st century psalms. Is it a psalm?
It is poetry.
It does express emotion and life experiences.
It does testify and offer praise to God.
Seems to define “psalm” to me!

Question of my day: Do I live to know more of God? When I lay down in my bed at night, have I learned something about God today? Was it in my conscious mind to be aware of opportunities to learn something about and see God today?

I had a rough morning. By that I mean, I was in pain. Chronic pain is something you learn how to live with; learn how to focus through and around. I saw Jesus in the midst of my pain this morning. I saw how I could focus in on Him and not allow pain to wrap me up and bury me in its shroud. I did live today and learned more about Jesus. I saw how He set His eyes on accomplishing His mission and continued His walk through Gethsemmane. Even when He cried out to the Father with His feeling of abandonment, Jesus took another step and the mission was “finished.” I can take one more step. I can take one more step because Jesus is right there with me. He knows the way through pain.

Hear these praises from a grateful heart.
Each time I think of You the praises start.
Love You so much, Jesus!
Love You so much!

Lord, I love You, my soul sings;
In Your presence carried on Your wings.
Love You so much, Jesus!
Love You so much!

How my soul longs for you,
Longs to worship You forever,
In Your power and majesty!
Lift my hands, lift my heart,
Lift my voice towards the heavens,
For You are my sun and shield!

Hear these praises from a grateful heart.
Each time I think of You the praises start.
Love You so much, Jesus!
Love You so much!                                  – Love You So Much by Hillsong United Worship

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