Saturday, February 28, 2009

Character + Commonality +Characteristics + Frequency + Details + Honesty + Commitment = Quality of a Relationship

What a ponderous title!
Let me simplify it before you stop reading...!

I love Facebook. All of it. The pokes and gifts and flair and ridiculous applications, yep, I'm one of the ones who enjoys it more than is annoyed. But by far my favorite part is finding and being found by people.

This week I chatted with a neighbor I used to babysit for when I was a kid, had a conversation with a manager from a college job, reconnected with two women from a Bible study group I haven't attended in years, chatted with a colleague, and found a roommate from my freshman year of college. And that's all just Facebook! That's not even email and phone calls and visits in person!

We all have this wide range of relationships from past to present, acquaintances to BFF's. And in my opinion much of it is determined by these characteristics of character and commonality and...(you know, you read the title)

There is no doubt that there are some friendships that are timeless, "kindred spirits" as Anne of Green Gables would say. These are the friendships that when you are reunited no matter how long it's been that you're right back to a level of trust and sharing that you had the last time you were together. My college roommate is such a relationship. When I received an email from her it was like 25 years had vanished and I was able to "go home again". However, it was funny that one of the first questions was "Where do you live?" Right now we're filling each other in on our lives in big broad strokes - I have two kids, I'm living here, I'm doing this ...big generalities, basic life info., the same kinds of conversation you might have with someone you'd just met; but soon we will be, as you do with close friends, filling in the finer lines that compose the portrait of who you are

I have been richly blessed by a group of three friends. Incredibly all of us have great friendships with each other individually and then whenever we all get to be together... it's indescribable, like our own little support group or cheer leading section or sisters, people finishing each other's stories, or adding their perspective to the same event, making plans or offering advice. We're lucky to get together every couple of weeks and it's never long enough because there is always so much that we didn't have time to share, things we've yet to catch up with, more details to offer. We have all the characteristics of quality relationships except the frequency!

When you have a friend you're keeping up with, your conversations are different. They are specific asking how was the "xyz" you were doing yesterday as opposed to "how was your week or the past month?"
Fine lines instead of broad strokes.
Details instead of generalities.
Depth as opposed to surface.
The more often I am able to share with someone, the closer I'm going to be to them.

I find the same true with God.
When it's been a while since we've spent time together my conversation is more general. More, "Hi, It's Becky, remember me? This is what's been happening lately that I'm concerned about and need your help with or this is the list of things I need to confess." And when I've gone several days without talking to Him, sadly I find it easier to go a few more...

We experience this often at church when there is time for silent prayer and a person bows their head realizing this is the first conversation they'll be having with the Almighty since this same time a week ago, or since they had communion a month ago...
Is it any wonder we feel awkward in prayer?
That we experience that same uncomfortableness as being in a room full of strangers and not even knowing where to begin?

I wouldn't tell a stranger what's on my heart, just like I won't tell it to God if I'm with Him so infrequently. And if I cannot tell Him what troubles me how can I know His "peace that is beyond all understanding"? (Philippians 4) If I haven't developed a relationship with Him how can I trust that He is control and will do what is best for my life?

Perhaps this is part of the injunction in Thessalonians to "pray continually or without ceasing" not because God won't know things if we don't but so that we are most intimately connected with the One who promises to love us unconditionally and be with us always.

He is perfect in character
He is as concerned about my life as I am
I've been made in His image
His Word is absolute truth
He sent his only Son to die for my sin because He wanted to have a relationship with me, talk about commitment...

He simply asks that I come to Him honestly and talk to Him (Psalms 27:8, Hebrews 13:5)
This part of the quality of my relationship with Him is completely up to me.

It has been said that you are as close to God as you want to be...
Hmm, is this the level of relationship I wish to have with Him...?

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Season of Lent

Lent.
It's not found in the pages of Scripture. It's entirely man made.
But it has worth, and its significance can range from simply following a cultural or religious series of expectations to a deeply personal spiritual journey.

Through the years one friend's son in particular is famous for quipping about giving up brussel sprouts or salmon or even homework! (smart kid!)

What's behind this giving something up?

If done from the heart it becomes a very singular exercise in esteeming the lordship of Christ over our own desire to be monarch. If not it must reach the heart of God resembling the cacophonous piety of the Pharisees of the New Testament.

John Piper in his book A Hunger for God addresses this concept in his discussion of fasting:

"The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world…The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts…They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God… For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable."

Simply put, Lent can be about pulling my eyes and hunger off an object and toward the Creator: the God who gave me this good thing in the first place. It is esteeming Him above what is desired, above my own appetites - be they for physical food or something else that satisfies my needs and instead finding satisfaction in Him.

We enter a season of Lent in these days before Easter but as God tugs at your heart about other things, not related to food or the typical manifestations of this season, do not wait for the calendar determine when you submit to His lordship.

At any time where we esteem His will and His way over our own, despite how we feel or what common sense tells us, or when we hunger for Him more than the good gifts He has blessed us with, we bring honor to His name and pleasure to His heart. And that is far greater than any religious observance no matter what the season.


What are your thoughts?

Is your soul stuffed with small things?

What good gift(s) from God do you "nibble" at instead of hungering for God himself?

What discipline will you invoke for a period of time in order to remember that your greatest desire should be for the Giver and not the gifts?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stupid

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them" -Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is one of those great quotes about friendship! But I've always read this and substituted for "stupid" words like silly, obnoxious, ridiculous, goofy. And while all those things are true, the actual saying itself is also so true.

With a good friend you can be stupid.

We're never stupid intentionally.
And when we are we typically feel, well, stupid: like "I can't believe I just said that maybe I can crawl under the table now".

Do you have friends like that?
Who look at you with that quizzical, "Did you just say/do that?" look and at your agreement then smile and all is forgiven?

I think this is some of the thought behind the Matthew 5 directions for if you've been offended by someone, that you go to them and tell them their offense and seek to be reconciled.

Sometimes we don't even realize how we have been offensive.
I've had this conversation with several friends that when (because no matter that I think I won't, I will) I say or do something to you that is hurtful, please come tell me and let me make it right. How many friendships are thrown away because someone is hurt by something someone said or did that they never realized they'd done? Because someone was stupid?

So not only do you have friends with whom you can be stupid but are you a friend that someone else can be stupid with and you handle it appropriately?

Both having and being that kind of friend is indeed a blessing!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Timing...

to a comedian it's what makes or breaks the joke
to a chef it's the difference between a perfect or a sunken souffle
and to the bomb guys on all those TV crime dramas it's - the - difference - between - cutting - the - right - colored - wire - at - the - very - last - second...! (whew, that was close!)

Timing is not as critical to the majority of us on an everyday basis beyond getting where you need to be on time but I was reminded how time is different when you travel.
I've switched time zones and while I think it's 6 o'clock everyone around me is operating as though it's 7 , which makes a big difference when you're coordinating dinner plans - and if you talking several time zones as in someplace as distant as Hawaii, you'd easily be off an entire meal!

Even though I feel one way about what time it is, the reality is that everyone else is on a different timetable. I could stick vehemently to what time I think it is but all it would get me is frustrated (and either late or early).

Quite often we find that God is not operating on the same time table that we are. We can fight or cajole all we want but if God's sense of timing is different than what we think it should be, we'll get nowhere but frustrated...

If crossing a time zone can teach us this concept, it's easier to understand that often "my (God's) ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8) so then we can understandingly add "neither is God's time table always my time table."

Let's let God be God and trust that He does know what time it is.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Check!

There are days that I am just assaulted by the things I've either forgotten to or not managed to do.

It's 12:24pm and I just remembered that today is ice cream day at school and I was going to put money in the kids lunches...oops! AND it's even written on the calendar I look at constantly. Sigh...another tally mark in the Blew It! column... but everyone did manage this morning to get off with lunches and homework and all their school books so there's a mark in the Got It! column, so does that mean they even out...?! :)

Maybe it's just me and my mind (that has a mind of it's own) but these are the thought processes I'm engaged in throughout the day. And I've got to say that usually one column ends up with many more marks in it than the other (and I leave you to surmise as to which column...).

I am greatly comforted that God does not operate as I do!

As for the Lord His way is perfect, all the Lord's promises prove true
. Psalms 18:30

Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises, O my God. Psalms 71:22

I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. Psalms 138:2

For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations.
The Lord always keeps his promises; He is gracious in all He does. Psalms 14:13

Never does He say, "oops, I forgot".
Never does His day end with his "To Do" list half done.
Never does He fail to keep His word.

So when His plans are to watch over me, hear my prayer, collect my tears in his bottle, intercede on my behalf, grant wisdom, discernment, and strength...He does!

The L
ord will work out His plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Psalms 138:8

Check!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

In his shoes

I wore my son's gym shoes today.
I don't even know when this happened but now we share a shoe size.

As I ran around in his shoes all day, I realized that soon he'll be in my shoes.

Adult, spouse, parent,
Keeper of money, mortgage, and vehicles
Faced with decisions with long reaching consequences...

Before he gets into my shoes what do I need to make sure he knows? What things does he need to understand as important before suddenly the door closes and he is gone?

Before I knew it his feet were the same size as mine.
Just as suddenly I suspect, he'll be all grown up.

It was a good reminder.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Puzzles

While I was preparing some stuff to be given away to a family with children younger than mine, I had a bag of puzzles and pieces that needed to be put together. I must say I was very glad that no one else was home as I was attempting to do these preschool puzzles... It would have been embarrassing to see how long it took me and it was only 40 pieces!

I am not a puzzle maker, solver, puzzler (is there a name they have?). A beautiful scene cut into 500 random pieces does not say "challenge" to me but something more akin to "NIGHTMARE"! And those 3-D puzzles...Where do you even start with those? At least on a regular puzzles I know that first you find the corners and straight edged pieces, but once it gets to the inside parts I'm completely lost when trying to analyze pieces of color and where this tiny piece could possibly fit in the picture from the box.

My life so often feels like a thousand random pieces.
Somehow all these things are to fit together to make up me and what God's plans are for my life but it's not like I have any understanding of how this will all fit together.

How is it that my unmet expectations, and this particular opportunity, and this relationship, and the struggle of another relationship fit together?

How do my abilities and foibles and strengths and weaknesses all work together?

How do the events of my past and the possibilities or lack of possibilities in my future coincide with everything else so that all the edges match and the pieces lock together and form something, well if not beautiful, something that resembles a whole life?

I don't have the mind to ponder it all, the patience to examine the characteristics of each piece, or the vision to see the possible big picture from the pieces scattered around me.

I take great encouragement from God's words which tell me...

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son...Romans 8:28,29

Notice all the things this verse doesn't say.
It doesn't say that every piece will be yellow and cheery and have smooth edges for well we know that some things are dark and their edges are sharp.
It doesn't say that some of the pieces will be fit together in the puzzle of our lives.

It says that God will cause all the pieces to fit together and it says that when He is done, arranging these pieces of my life, that His image will be more visible in my life.

I'm not sure exactly how that's going to look.

I don't have the puzzle box top.

I really do hate the vagueness and confusion and all the tiny pieces of puzzles.

But God is the one who is putting this puzzle all together.
I don't have to figure it out because that is His job.

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Philippians 1:6 Amplified Bible