The Important Reasons You need Friends of Both Genders

Many years ago, in a land not quite so far away, Jesus brought someone into my life. This began the very unlikeliest of unlikely friendships. This friendship spanned seven years when, again, according to the plan and purposes of Jesus, we were separated by distance and communication ceased.

contactphoto-img_20170322_201311Just why was this friendship so unlikely? Well, for starters I was a girl. The friend Jesus brought was, well, he wasn’t. This man, my first real friend, taught me so much about Jesus and friendships. The lessons weren’t learned all at once, in fact some of those lessons are still being learned now over 30 years later.

In case you happen to be wondering, the above is a more recent picture of my first friend. You see Jesus, again in His grace and by His plan, reunited us a few years ago.  He is still teaching me about Jesus, grace, and friendships. He has taught me what it means to be a real friend. He taught me that a real friend loves and love comes in many forms and sometimes includes hard things like correction. That looks like a friend saying, “Girl! You’re being an idiot and you need to knock it off!” Through it all they stick by you. They walk life’s hard path with you, they celebrate you, they correct you, but through it all they love you.

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A few months after my friend and I somewhat parted ways, Jesus brought another man into my life as a friend. We were in college, both of us had and off beat sense of humor, and dearly loved to laugh. We also loved Jesus. A few years after this Jesus again, according to His plan and purpose sent us in different directions. For a time.

We had a sweet time of reconnection yesterday. We spent some time standing in a cemetery in a rainstorm until we were freezing and soaked to the skin. He met my family and I got to meet his youngest daughter. We both walked away from that reconnection tickled and full of Joy.

A year ago I attended a week long retreat. I knew that the retreat attendees would be divided into two groups. One group would go with the man leading the retreat and the other group would go with his wife. I prayed for weeks leading up to the retreat to be put into the “girl” group. I wasn’t. I was put with the boys. To say we connected on a deep level would qualify as an understatement. None of us sought it out. These men, in less than a week, became my friends and I am so very privileged to call them my brothers.

The thing about friends is while you can pick them, more often then not the friendship chooses you and comes from the most unexpected places and people. This friend and I did not search out a friendship but Jesus gave us one.

Friendships with men add something to our lives. We add something to their lives as well. We gain a different perspective, a diverse insight.

Jesus, Himself, had many women friends. Some of His closest friends were women, Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene just to name a few. His first words after His resurrection were to a woman.

Today we seem to think it’s adorable for a little girl and a little boy to be close, even best, friends. This friendship can continue into and through high school, but then it has to end. Why? Why is it not okay for men and women to be friends?  Is it because in the words of Billy Crystal, “the sex thing always gets in the way”?

To that I will stand and cry FOUL at the top of my lungs. It’s not because I’m some naive woman who doesn’t understand. The men in my life, from my husband to my closest men friends, add so much richness to my life. I can not imagine not having these men walking through life with me.

All friendships are a special grace gift from Jesus. Male or female He sends them according to His will, by His design. To reject a friend because they are the wrong gender is to reject the gift of Jesus.

 

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The Friend Your Heart Really Needs

20170716_175943I had a nightmare when I was 5 and I still remember it; I still picture it vividly in my head. My friend lived in the trailer house next door to me; one night I dreamed a monster took her and carried her off to the horizon. In my dream I gathered everyone in my family and we all watched this thing take my friend away.

It’s been a long time since I had that dream. There are still times when I’m driving at night and I’ll think, “It was just like this in my dream.” And I’ll live it all all over again.

In a few short months, my friend was taken away, but not by a monster but by her family when they moved across the state.

I’ve spent many years wondering about friends and friendship. What is a friend? What make a friend a friend? There are a million different answers to those questions. If you asked ten different people you’d likely get ten different answers. I’d be the first to admit I have had a skewed view of friendship.

I’ve been reading the book of Ruth for the past few months. That is a book with a well-known story. The love story of Boaz and Ruth. He was the kinsman-redeemer. The man in the white hat who rode the white horse. All of this is true. It is the story of the redemption of Ruth and Naomi. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story of loss and blessing. Of love lost and love found.

But it’s also a story about friendship. Specifically the friendship of Naomi and Ruth. Unlikely friends.

Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me. (Ruth 1:16)

These words are so often used in weddings. But they aren’t spoken to a spouse but to a friend. But an interesting friend. Naomi was attempting to push Ruth away, to abandon her. She is pushing Ruth away, “Don’t come near me. Don’t come with me. I don’t want you.” But Ruth kept pushing in, walking closer. Until Naomi gave up and gave in. She welcomed her on the journey back to the land of Israel, back to the land of blessing.

We need friends like Ruth. Friends who push in close and closer when we’re bitter and reject them. When we want people to just leave us alone, we need those friends who stay by our side.

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To too many people this is a friendship, “This is how you are and I don’t like it about you. So until you change to suit me, I will not be friends with you. I know you, your heart and motives, your attitudes more than you. I am right. You are wrong. Change your behavior to suit me and my needs. I’m only saying this because I love you and I want what is best for you. If I didn’t love you I’d let you continue to be stupid.”

That isn’t a friendship. It’s a dictatorship. It’s also not love. Yes, corrects and so do friends. Friends get to point out wrong or hurtful behavior, they get to point out sin. But it is always done to make you a better person and it’s not at all about our own comfort and feelings. Friends hear and discuss and believe each other. They unite together against the world and not with the world against their friend.

  • Friends respect boundaries.
  • Friends cling to one another.
  • Friends provide for one another.
  • Friends protect one another.
  • Friends share with one another.
  • Friends pay attention to one another.
  • Friends desire the best for us and from us.

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Not everyone who starts a journey with you finishes the journey with you. Sometimes we have to let those we love walk away and sometimes we have to be the ones to tell them to walk away.

Not every person we meet has to be our friend and we don’t have to be everyone’s friend. Being a friend is a privilege and a gift. We get to be choosy about who gets the gift from us and from whom we receive the gift. Not every gift is meant for us and not every gift is meant for us to keep forever.

When I look back on the friendships I’ve been blessed to have over the course of  my life one consistently rises above the rest. This person has been in my life for decades and that feat alone elevates them to best friend status. This person consistently speaks truth, both hard and easy truth. This person encourages me, pushes me to be better, to love Jesus more, to surrender to His life living in me. This friend isn’t afraid to get all up in my face and business when I’ve screwed up, but neither are they afraid to get all up in my face and heart when I’ve done something right. This is the friend who gets in my business, accepts my flesh-response of a flash of anger with words like, “You need to go pray about this.” Then accepts my apology and we move on. Then weeks later will receive a text like this from me, “Hey do you remember that time you said this and I got angry? Well Jesus just showed me that I had taken all of your kindness and friendship and I’d angrily thrown it back in your face. I am so sorry! Please know it will never happen again.” We were good before, but now we’re great.

This is the kind of friend our hearts need. And the kind of friend we need to be. We can only be this kind of friend when we rest secure in our love affair with Jesus. He alone knows the gifts we need to keep and the gifts we need to walk away from. It might be a cliche, but honestly the only true friends are those who have their individual hearts anchored deeply in Jesus and live out His life.

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That is where we find the friend our heart needs. In Him. In His life. In Him.

How To Find 3 Things Your heart Desperately Needs

Do not be anxious for your life ...I dropped my youngest daughter off at the dance studio and as I was driving home my mind was wandering as minds often do. It flitted from topic to topic until it settled on the upcoming graduation from high school and college of my oldest daughter.

I would say her graduation from both high school and college is a perk of homeschooling, but it’s not that at all. In my area of the world, our local high school has partnered with our junior college and offers many dual-enrollment classes. In our eyes it just makes sense to take advantage of this option.

Intrinsically I already know it will be a hard time for me. I’ve shed a few tears already and it is becoming less and less easy to just shove the whole idea to the back of my mind. Hello! It’s coming. It’s coming soon.

Mentally I was asking friends to please, oh please, come to the reception because I need you. I need you to keep me sane. I need you to allow me to lose my mind in anger or tears and not try to fix it and not take it personally. I need you!

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And Jesus spoke to my soul, “Who do you really need?” My soul answered very quickly with, “Only You, Jesus.” He has been teaching me over the past several weeks and months just Who really meets my needs and how He does it. To say His voice on this has revolutionized my thinking would win the understatement of the year award.

For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall put drink, nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? Matthew 6:25

We tend to focus on the physical needs and obsess and stress about how to meet those needs. They seem more real than the other –  heart needs. We think by meeting the physical needs our internal heart needs will be met as well. But the physical will never meet the spiritual.

We just can not expect a new pair of shoes to meet our heart need for affirmation. It won’t happen. Even if they’re really cute shoes.

All the shine of a thousand spotlights;
All the stars we steal from the night sky;
Will never be enough, never be enough.
Towers of gold are still too little;
These hands could hold the world; but 
It’ll never be enough, never be enough
For me

(Never Enough by Mike Portnoy)

The physical will never be enough to meet the deepest heart need we have.  It will seem to for a short time but that feeling fades and we’re left feeling empty, maybe even more empty than we did before. So we work and worry when Jesus says, “it’ll never be enough, so just stop. Look to Me and I will meet the greatest need of your longing heart. In Me you will find all the treasures and I will tenderly care for you like a mother to a child, like a hen gathers her chicks.”

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All too often, we delude ourselves by thinking that cute pair of shoes will meet our deepest heart need. When a friend rejects us, we must have that pair of shoes. When someone criticizes us, we must have a cup of coffee and a new mug. But those don’t satisfy our soul.

While we can’t meet our spiritual needs with the physical, each of our physical needs (food, clothing, and shelter) does have a spiritual counterpart.

Food:

  • I am the Bread of Life. (John 6:35, 41 & 51)
  • Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4)
  • O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blesses is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8)

Clothing

  • Put on the full armor of God. (Ephesians 6: 11-17)
  • For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
  • I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness. As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)

Shelter

  • …How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37)
  • Be to me a Rock of Habitation to which I may continually come, You have given commandment to save me, for You are my Rock and my Fortress. (Psalm 71:3)
  • The eternal God is a dwelling place. And underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, “Destroy”. (Deuteronomy 33:27)
  • He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

He meets our every need. Spiritual and physical. And He meets them in ways we can’t always begin to imagine. He meets them and fills them, He fulfills them with Himself. His life meets our heart needs and in Him our hearts find the love, acceptance and affirmation they long for most.

So the next time you think you need someone, remember you only need one Someone and He is so ready to meet your heart needs with His life. He satisfies the longing, needy heart.

 

5-Love Languages, Jesus, You and the Love Your Heart Needs

A number of years ago Gary Chapman wrote a book all about love. In this book he said each person alive had at least one way they both show and express love, he referred to that as their love language. Since love speaks to each of us individually it made sense. It made a lot of sense to a lot of people.

As per my usual zany ways, I wasn’t really gung-ho to read the book. First of all, it wasn’t a novel and I was sure all non-fiction books were boring. And second of all, everyone else was reading it and oOoOoOoOoOhing and aAaAaAaAaAhing it to death. I’m too much of a non-conformist to readily want to read anything the whole world is raving about.

It took me a number of years to read it, in fact I only read it when we were out of town at a marriage retreat and a friend of ours shared that it had revolutionized his marriage. “We must get this book, Mr. Fullcup!” I exclaimed.

He agreed and so we did.

We read it out-loud together and tried to guess which languages each other spoke (him: Acts of Service, me: gifts and time). We took it on ourselves to meet those deep love needs and keep each others love-tanks full.

Yeah. That lasted about 3 days and then we were back to squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle, being late, and in general not doing anything to speak love to each other. We weren’t mean we just stopped focusing on this one area and lived life. We stopped asking if love tanks were full and what could be done to fill them.

We knew each of us was trying to meet the needs and so would say, “Yep! I’m good!” all the while choking on the sawdust in the bottom of the bucket.  Now we don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t talk about it. We just choose, for whatever reason, not to think about it.

Jesus has recently been directing my thoughts back to the whole idea of Love languages. (If you’re not familiar with them, or would like a refresher, they are: Acts of Service, Touch, Gifts, Time, and Words of Affirmation.) And not in the way you might expect. Or want. Or be crazy about. Because as is my normal, it’s bound to make waves.

Love Languages –  at first glance is a great book. But a deeper inspection reveals that it isn’t a Biblical book. The 5-Love Languages is a book that tells us we all have God-given ways we feel love and acceptance from others, and that we can only love from a full tank. So it is my responsibility to meet your love need in your love language and to teach you to meet mine in my language.  It is your responsibility to soak up the love and meet my need for love from your full tank. (That I filled. All by my own big girl self.)

But only – it isn’t. When I do this, I am doing nothing more than using you to meet my needs, which makes you my god, because whoever or whatever I look to to meet my needs becomes my god, and that, my dearest reader, is nothing more than idolatry.

Jesus is the onliest only One I (and you) should be looking to for those needs. Man simply was not designed to meet them.

Yes, man does love, but not of their own ability. Both the love and the ability to love comes from Jesus. (Oh I’m going to get mail about that comment. But hear me out, in 1 John we read in a couple of places that God IS love. He personifies love and without Him there is no love. Lust, yes. Love, no.)

We are commanded to love one another, but not to meet their needs. Jesus meets them. Human love to and from us is just the frosting on the cupcake of life. Freely and lavishly given from a heart that is fully loved and free. The loved heart –  the one who knows it is loved by Jesus (that need it met) can freely and without strings love another and it just happens. We can’t help it. Jesus loves because He IS Love personified.

We each are hardwired by God to need love, it is what drives us and drives us to Him. He meets each of these heart needs with Himself. What greater act of service is there than the cross? What greater gift than grace? Or the death of His Own Son? What could be better than walking on earth for 33 years with us? What could be better than the time He spends with each of us each time we call on His name?  What greater words could He say to affirm us than, “I have called you friends”?  What could possibly be better than having the God who created everything and hung the stars in place, speaks to and touches your heart in a million different ways?

He is so intimate with each of us. Meeting our every need. Meeting our greatest need with Himself.

 

That Sweet Spot

Yesterday our pastor opened up the service for people to share how they have found sweetness of life in and with Jesus. As those around me shared their thoughts, I cast about in my mind for one. What would I say was the sweetness I have found because of Jesus?

I was in a near panic when nothing really came to mind that I deemed worth sharing. Everything sound like a trite, pat answer. It sounded like I knew all the Christian-ese to make me look superior to everyone else.

But not only that. I’ve been attacked on social media and in my own personal life on planet earth. I’ve been walking a bit wounded and angry. Mostly wounded but the wounds come out in anger. I did not want to open myself up to anymore hurt, anymore angry feelings. I didn’t want to give anyone a chance to tell me how wrong I am about everything.

So I kept quiet. But I also kept praying. Because I really wanted to know and I really wanted to hear it straight from the lips of Jesus. I needed to know like I need coffee in the morning and like I need sleep at night. I needed to know He really loved me and we had a sweetness of relationship.

Because some relationships–dear relationships—relationships I love and need like air—-are still in difficulty. They are still broken. There is a still a very painful, misunderstood silence to them. The sweetness has for a time seemed to go out of those relationships, there is just an almost bitter sweetness to them. Sweet because of what they were and bitter because of wondering if we’ll ever get back to that.

There is one particular relationship that is broken, not beyond repair but still broken. This relationship was, no IS, so very dear to me. In this relationship I found a sweet place of acceptance.

“Hey! We fight like we’re brother and sister – awesome!”
“Why is that awesome?”
“Because it means we feel comfortable enough with each other to be real and argue.”
“I’m sorry I fought with you.”
“And me you.” 

That is also one of my sweet places of life with Jesus, or rather the sweetness of having His life living in and through me. Finally my heart finds a home, it finds the acceptance and place of belonging it has always looked for and eternally needed. I am fully heard, completely seen, always accepted, and so lavishly loved.

It means I have a family. It means I belong to someone. It means I don’t have to look to myself to meet my own needs. It means I don’t have to be in control. It means I’m not at fault for every sin since Eve ate the fruit in the garden. It is that I no longer have to feel condemnation because I can’t and don’t do it all.

The sweetness is this abandoned, abused little girl gets to belong to someone forever. It is knowing fully that even if everyone left me I would still have Jesus and He is enough, even for that.

That luscious sweet spot that says my needs are met fully by someone else and I don’t have to work and manipulate to get them met on my own and in my own strength.

It means I have a whole new life. The old is so completely gone. It means everything is made new. Old attitudes? They’re made new. Old thought patterns and heart attitudes? They don’t affect me anymore. They are dead and I’m, I’m more alive than ever.

The sweetness is I am free. I am free from; death, sin’s consequence, sin, sin’s power, the grave. But I am also free to live! To love. To have joy, peace, kindness.

Life is oh so much sweeter with Jesus. 

Psalm 143

This morning Jesus lead me to read Psalm 143 and He spoke so powerfully to my soul. There are so many, many times I keep praying about something and believe God isn’t acting on my behalf because I can’t see Him. I can’t see or feel any thing changing.

In short, it’s still hard. It’s still not what I want and life isn’t going my way.

Oh, that’s not my conscious thought. But it is often my attitude. Too often I treat God as a genie in a bottle, here to do my bidding. “I’ve spoken and God, You’d better hop to!” Maybe it’s just me.

(An aside here: there are times we are definitely called to pray for something for a long time. That is NOT what I’m talking about here.)

When I feel God isn’t working on my behalf because I can’t see Him or evidence of Him, I feel crushed by the enemy and dead. But I am to remind myself of His faithfulness–even recounting it out-loud to myself.

Remember! When you feel forgotten.

Remember! When you feel unheard.

Remember! When you feel unseen.

Remember! His faithfulness. Recount it. Out loud.

That same God is still God and He still acts. He still works. He still delivers. Cling to Him–get out of the tomb the enemy tries to put you in.

The Living One lives in you and lives for you.  Your enemy is defeated, he is the one who is dead and lives in the grave. Don’t allow him to pull you down to where he is. You are alive to dwell in heavenly places and that is where you are! Don’t allow anyone to convince you otherwise.

Jesus left the tomb forever so you would never have to enter it.

Gilmore Girls, Coffee, Needs And Jesus

I am a Gilmore Girls junkie. It’s like my crack. If I’m not watching it, I’m thinking about it. And quoting it. I’ve tried to pigeon-hole everyone I know into one of the characters. And some people just don’t fit. That is most distressing.

My oldest child is definitely a Rory. So much Rory in her life it’s scaring me a little. But then I scare her as well because I am all things Lorelai. (Very sad to say my younger child has no Gilmore Girls counterpart and neither does Mr. FullCup. Most distressing.)

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I love the episode when Luke and Lorelai are at odds again and she can’t go to the diner to get her coffee fix, so she goes to Weston’s, walks up to the counter and says, “I need coffeecoffeecoffeecoffee!” She chats with the other customers while they are getting her coffeecoffeecoffeecoffee.  When the waitress finally comes back with Lorelai’s coffee she hands off a carrier with four cups of coffee in it. Lorelai is slightly taken aback and says she only needed one cup.

“But you said, ‘I need coffeecoffeecoffeecoffee.”

I feel a need to interject here in case you’re not up to speed on all-things Gilmore Girls, Luke would have known exactly what Lorelai was saying when she ordered coffeecoffeecoffeecoffee. Exactly.

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I completely understand Lorelai’s need for coffee. I get that because I need it too. Sometimes I think it’s my greatest need and if I don’t get some I’ll…well…I’ll just die. I need it and I need it now. Right this second now.

I never said I would die without coffee. I said other people would die.

Lately Jesus has been speaking so loudly to my soul about needs, specifically mine and yours. Now, you’re going to need to have an open mind because what He has been teaching me is, if nothing else, extremely radical. It goes completely against what we have been taught from infancy to believe.

We all know Jesus meets our needs. We all know Philippians 4:19,

And my God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

We know that and we quote it. We slap that truth on any need we don’t want to meet. When we feel the squeeze of someone we deem “too needy”, we’re flippant with “Jesus will meet your needs. You need to only look to Him.” We’re speaking the truth when we say that. Absolutely the truth. There is nothing more true than that. Unless it’s “Jesus Christ died to save sinners; of who I am chief.”

We always have an idea of how Jesus can best meet our needs. We also always think we know more than Jesus what we really need and exactly what has to happen for our need to be met. We often give lip service to Jesus meeting our needs but regularly we’re frantically working behind the scenes to be sure He meets them to our specifications. Then we’re all about praising Him because “He met my need!”

Who do we think we’re kidding?

We also have a huge tendency to look to Jesus to meet our needs, but we know just how He will. Picture a triangle. God is at the top, we’re on the lower left and God’s supply is on the lower right. We look to Jesus to meet the needs, but we know He’s just going to pick one thing out of His vast supply and meet the need.

But He doesn’t work that way. Yes, He supplies our needs. He is the Meeter of Needs. He alone meets our needs. With Himself. He is the supply. Not just the supplier. He meets our needs with Himself.

When I look to you to meet my heart needs, I am making you my god. When I look to me to meet your heart needs I am making me your god. (The longer I walk with Jesus the more I am convinced that all sin is idolatry. It is all us thinking we know more than God.)

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Our needs are like the Law. The law was given to lead us to Christ (as we read in Romans). It was pointed us to Him. The law showed our lack, it proved how we couldn’t take care of ourselves no matter how hard we tried. It was simply impossible. We failed. But we keep on trying.

Our needs are also given to us to drive us to Christ. They point out the way to the only one who can completely meet our needs. Anything we choose to look to to meet our needs is an idol and will fail.

If I look to you to meet my needs you will for a time. But then you’ll get tired of it, or move, or die, or just stop meeting my needs. Then I’m forced to look elsewhere to get my needs met. So I continually chase after one idol after another. When Jesus stands there ready to meet my needs.

When I humbly confess my idol-making ways, repent of how many other places I’ve gone to, and how many other people I’ve looked to to meet my needs, He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse.

Oh the freedom for me and for you when we choose to look, not to one another to meet our needs, but to look and really see Jesus as the One who meets our needs. You are freed from my expectations of you, I’m freed from expectations I place on you (and you place on me). From that free place we get to be normal. No expectations that can’t be met. No chains.

Freedom. In Him. With Him. And because of Him.