Five Minute Friday: Friend

There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. 

That was the first thing that popped into my head when I read the prompt-around 4 this morning. 

Have you ever had a friend like that? No, don’t go all biblical on me and just spout out “Jesus”. Yes, He is THE friend. And, no, don’t shout out “my spouse” -they are both exempt from this definition of friend. {because my husband has been by my side longer than anyone else on this planet)

I’m talking about a flesh and blood, walking and talking beside you, looking at you while you are talking friend that sticks closer than a brother. 

I have-once. It was for a season. I didn’t realize it at the time, and it took me me a long while to come to grips with that fact. 

Some of you have had life long friends since kindergarten, third grade or even 7th grade (like my daughter and her best friend-they are both married mothers now). I was not afforded that luxury. I went to 14 different schools between kinder and graduation from high school. I only have a friendship with 2  people I’ve known as far back as high school – I went to 3 different high schools – in three different towns. Kinda hard to keep up and keep in touch when you move a lot. Not to mention the lack of internet, cell phones, cheap communication via phone in general, and the fact that some people just lose touch because they don’t like to write. I’m talking ancient history here to most of you…

If you ever are blessed with that “friend who sticks closer” – both of you- please make sure it’s not because you are feeding off each other’s support in any way, but because you enjoy their company and realize- both of you- that it may truly be only for a season and live your friendship well.

The Whisper

There is a battle raging over us – all around us. You can call it terrorism, evil, sadness, anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, murder, jealousy, unforgiveness, betrayal, poison-whatever.  It doesn’t matter what we call it. Ultimately it is suffering. Even the earth itself is suffering as evidenced by earthquakes, violent storms, tsunamis, tornadoes, huråçricanes, cyclones, gale force winds, freak snow storms- all “natural” phenomena; with violence at their core.

We can, in our “natural” selves stand defiant, bloody, yet unbowed. We can shout to the world our confidence in spite of our dismay. But we are here today and gone tomorrow. Some would argue to the contrary and point to the many ways man has progressed in the world and the lasting mark he has made for the good of mankind over the centuries and that the violence is an abberation of the norm.

However, I know demonic activity when I see it. 

You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear. James 2:19

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” Ephesians 6:12

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

This week I have seen bombs kill and maim people all over the world from east to west. I have seen earthquakes and the dead they left behind. I’ve seen explosions level whole sections of cities at home and abroad.I’ve seen houses gone haywire from fires and floods leaving devastating marks on the people who live in them. I’ve seen schemes of murder carried out, children abducted, people starving, and families killed- all on the evening news.

In my circle of existence I’ve seen jealousy, envy, distrust, extreme behavior in children, parents accosted verbally in front of other parents and children, children out of control and out of touch with reality, young people making decisions no one ever expected of them, spouses at each other’s throats and I’ve seen fear in all these things.

Nature has also been busy in my neck of the woods. Storms, high winds, mature trees ripped out of the ground, branches broken off like toothpicks fell willy-nilly in streets and alleys, on fences, on other trees and on houses. There have been sudden shifts in temperature. This week we had a record for the highest low temperature on that day in April since we started keeping records.

I see these things and I am full of sorrow for the suffering; but I knew it would come. I see the results of battles fought unseen; but I know the outcome.

 “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.”  John 16:33

I am not being trite or simplistic. The Creator, the High King of Heaven, He told us these things would happen.

“Remember, I have told you ahead of time.” Matthew 24:25

We have had clear warning of all these things.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” Matthew 24:6-7

We must arm ourselves with the protective gear He gives and use the one weapon that is successful against the unseen foe.  There will be a fight.

“For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:13-17

 

We are in a war. No one arms himself unless he expects a fight.

 

He told us how we are to behave toward the enemy we see.

But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:44-45

Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another. Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21

He told us how we are to behave toward the unseen enemy.

With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints. Romans 6: 18

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering. 1Peter 5:8-9

And finally-listen for His voice. We have to pay attention to all these things in the world that are happening. God is not in them. But He is here- and He speaks to us as He spoke to Elijah when he ran away from danger:

 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. Look, the Lord is ready to pass by.” A very powerful wind went before the Lord, digging into the mountain and causing landslides, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the windstorm there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his robe and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. All of a sudden a voice asked him, “Why are you here, Elijah?” 1Kings 19:11-13

We can not run away. He speaks to us in a whisper-not in all those violent things around us. We must listen. The battles will come. We know He will win. 

Shall we not fight like we know it? Arm yourselves, we’ve battles to fight!

Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!” Deuteronomy 31:6

Five Minute Friday: Jump

JUMP is the prompt for FMF today. The second I read it all I could think of was the Pointer Sisters song… dating myself again!

Jump-a risky word. We jump into something without reading the “read this first” instructions. When we do that we have to accept the possible consequences and rewards that accompany that action. 

When I was younger that was a much less risky proposition, now- there is that pause, the holding of the breath, the brief what-if thought that races through my head and jumps in first. 

I do think I’d rather jump than not, though. Don’t you?  

If we never take a risk, never jump, never feel that cool water rushing in over our heads then what good is the word? If you would like you can join me when the time is right and the sun has warmed us all to that over-heated point and jump in the pool with me!

He gives Good Gifts and I do believe that the pool is on my list of His Good Gifts to me. What is your pool in your life? Where do you jump?

 

Five Minute Friday: After

After.

After the rain.

After the drought.

After everything else.

After I fall down again.

After I get myself back up-again.

After I fall on my face before the Throne.

After the joy returns.

 

All of these imply that there was something “before”.

 

Before the rains came.

Before the drought left.

Before everything else.

Before I fell again.

Before I got myself back up- again.

Before I fell on my face before the Throne.

Before the joy is found.

 

Before, I was relying on myself to keep me upright, from falling, from failing, from sorrow, from grief, from despair, from destruction.

Sad place to be in, eh?

Then the Something in between came. God came. To me. He washed me. He cleansed me inside out. He picked me up and put me on His path. He brought me out of the place of destruction and placed me on the high plain of joy. He spoke and speaks to me constantly.

Now, in the After, I am whole. I am filled with His Holy Spirit. I can give. I can grieve with hope. And I can see the far country ahead- the place where I will finally belong. No longer a stranger and alien who sees only from a distance. But the whole of the promise of God will be delivered to me in that far country, in that city where the streets are gold and the angels are praising Him continually and I shall spend eternity with my voice lifted up in concert with the universe:

 Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come.

  

Her Name was Ruby

Mentor: a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. 

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus2:3-5

I am the older woman in that verse now; but when I was young I needed that “older woman” in my life. The one whose task it was to be the older woman in my life just could not be that for me. But God provided.

I would like to relate the very great privilege I had at a very crucial time in my life to know a beautiful soul. A lady God placed in my life. A Godly woman if ever there was one. Not perfect. But then, none of us is.

She and her husband spent their lives as missionaries to the areas of our country where there were no churches, no pastors, only small communities that needed to hear the Word. Through the course of their lives they parented 7 children. The youngest two were my age and a year younger than me. Their life together lasted 70 years until her death. I met her when they had retired for the first time. She was about the age I am now. He became a Bible teacher at our local college.

Our community of churches had placed a small but very functional student building across from the campus parking lot.  It was a place to hang out between classes, talk with friends, play games, sing, fellowship and eat lunch once a week when the churches took turns providing food for us students.  The Bible classes for credit were taught in this building (separation of church and state) in the classroom designed for this very purpose. I took both the Old and New Testament courses as electives.

The starving know where to go to be fed.

This sweet woman was the secretary for the building. She answered the phone that hardly ever rang, managed the building calendar and worked along side her husband.  Sometimes she was the only person in the building most of the day. It was a safe place for me to be and I went there often. We struck up a friendship across her desk. I watched her create notecards and other little craft pieces that she made and sold as a hobby. I watched her create quilt pictures of her life. Later these would be sold for hundreds, sometime thousands of dollars and shown in art museums. As she made the pictures she would tell me the stories that inspired the pictures. Her childhood on the farm, she and her sisters all sleeping in one bed, the Fourth of July day the watermelons were ripe, the night her baby brother was born, making feather beds and pillows, tending the garden, hanging out the wash, going to church when the circuit preacher was in town, her mama canning for the winter, hayrides and her cowboy daddy.

It was a rich and welcome diversion; this friendship that developed over scraps and thread. We talked about everything and anything. We even had a lively discussion one day on whether there were people on other worlds- she thought so, because how could we be so bold as to think so small of our God. He is God after all and can do anything.

We talked about love, life, living and dying and how God is there in the dark moments of life as well as the moments of rejoicing in new love. We talked about obedience and sadness of not understanding why things were the way they were at home. We talked about families, and children, the distant possibility of one day… and how they make and break your heart. We talked about remaining faithful to our church family –when it seemed dull and boring, lackluster food at that table- she urged us to stick with it- that God would bless and He did.

We talked about wildflowers and petrified wood. She was mad crazy about them. I sometimes helped her pick the flowers, press them in phone books, wait for them to dry and then I’d watch as she would place them just so on a background of velvet- a dried flower bouquet – framed then, to hang on a wall or set out on the table. The bits of petrified wood were gathered, washed, and made into beautiful little ornamentals with dried flowers, pecan shells, clay animals and quotes.  Oh my, just thinking about that now. How I wish she were still here to help me along. 

She told story after story about life growing up in Central Texas, teaching school, falling in love with a fellow teacher, getting married, moving about as a missionary’s wife, raising her children and their accomplishments, her pride in being Cherokee Indian on her mother’s side; a fact that she attributed to her beautiful hair. Her hair was black as a crow’s feather even then. Her secret: wash her hair and rinse in vinegar water to get the shampoo completely out, rinse with clear water and then rinse again with a tea concoction she made to keep it dark and shiny.  

I remember when she got her final place setting of sterling flatware. Finally, after all these years of living in rented homes and parsonages they owned their own home for the first time. She asked me to come over for tea and cake and to see her sterling- Francis I was the pattern and she was as pleased as if she’d had another baby over completing that set of eating utensils.

She knew how to get me to talk when I was troubled. She kept my confidence and gave me advice in a round about way that I could accept. True food for thought. We discussed scripture and the patriarchs and prophets, the lessons to be learned from their mistakes and deliberate disobedience to God. When Christmas time was near we would talk about ornaments and decorations and traditions and carols and the deep, deep meaning of God come to man. When my daughter got married, she wrote her a letter about love, life, God and His answers to life, the universe and everything.

She became the mother I would never have and she took me in under her wing and gave me the security I didn’t have anywhere else. She and her husband supported us when we married. They gave advice when asked and gave their friendship to both of us unbidden. Her friendship was the water of life to me and still upholds me to this day. She had vision where I had none. Far-sighted. Far-seeing and deep-knowing of me and who I was and was to become.

To put it simply: she had faith in me.

God strategically placed her in my life at exactly the right moment to give me the words He wanted me to hear and hide in my heart. She was His willing servant and diligently took on her role as friend and counselor to me when He asked her.

Her name was Ruby and she was indeed a jewel.

And now I come to an ending of sorts to ask you:

Is there someone God has brought into your life to mentor?

Give freely and don’t be afraid to recall those times when you were young- she wants to hear it. She wants to know that she’s not the only one with those thoughts and feelings. She needs the wisdom of your experience and your digging in the word for understanding. She needs to know that others make mistakes, blunder, stumble and fall and get back up as wives, mothers, sisters, friends and daughters.

Or Has God brought that “older woman” into your life to mentor you?

Take notes-lots of notes. Speak freely and listen to what she’s learned along the way. Your path may be the easier for it.  And you may just be invited to cake and tea on her best china with her sterling she’s bought piece by piece over the years.

That One Word

That. ONE. Word.

You know the one, that word I chose for myself for this year. Yes, that’s it over on the right staring you in the face as you read this.  When I first became aware of the “One Word” for the year it seemed so much more practical than a whole list of resolutions that most of us write down on January 1 and promptly forget by February 1. 

Here’s what I’ve discovered about this one word:

  • The very nature of only one word makes it much more intense and soul-searching than a list- ho-hum
  • There’s a sense of accountability that resides in one word that holds much more weight than a list
  • And, for me, by the definition of my one word there is increased responsibility over, say- the word “rest” for example (I’m good at rest. Perseverance? Not so much.)

 

    I’ve lived with this word for 4 months now. I’ve persevered through illness and allergies and a surgical procedure and allergy testing and new meds and two courses of steroids. I can breathe better and am on immunotherapy for the kazillion allergies I have.

However, the one side effect that I get as an afterthought from the steroids- a good-bye kiss if you will- is hair loss, it’s not as bad as it has been in the past, but it’s still leaving my head by the 100s every time I shampoo, comb, brush and dry my hair which doesn’t leave much time for it not to fall out. God gave me fast growing hair and has numbered them all so I’m not going to grieve over the departure of some of them. 

As for the surgical procedure, I was awake, only partially numbed and trust me if I hadn’t trusted the doc, and my Lord to get me through it I would not have sat in that chair at all. But I did and my sinuses feel much better now, thank you very much. In this situation pain=gain.

I totally and completely failed in the perseverance of the 40 days of Water for Blood: Water Mission. I started out gangbusters and managed 2 weeks with no problems, then the allergies and illness set in again and I simply had to have hot tea for my throat. Or so I thought. I confessed to my daughter and she said I could have had hot water with lemon and honey – well, duh. Not going to confess to her again. Anyway it went downhill from there and I managed to be an almost- there were days where I had only water- complete failure in that endeavor. Now I’ve had to eat my words I wrote in the first blog about the 40 days of water… sigh.

So, now I press on looking forward to the next 8 months of what this dear little word will bring. PERSEVERE. Will I be able to persevere long enough to get the front hall painted? Will my plants survive the summer? Will I be able to maintain a steady diet of scripture once BSF is over for the summer?

Stay tuned, for future developments on the persevere front… (imagine sheepish smile here) 

Still learning what this verse means to me this year:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36