Category Archives: A Friend A Day

A Friend A Day #10 — Sweet as Honey

honey

This is one of those days.

A day when I wake up feeling bleak.  When I feel discouraged because the moods came back on me yesterday.

That’s when it’s good to remember this story I read about David in II Samuel 23:

Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted.  And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David.  But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him.

I’ve been blogging about David’s faith and boldness.  But this story is about a time when David got tired, and he didn’t have the energy to fight anymore.

Even David hit the wall at times.

And when that happened, God reached down and made a way for victory to still be achieved.

Today, since I can’t rely on my own strength and initiative, I will have to rely on God, to make my day work out so that victory is still achieved.

And the same thing is true of the people in my life.  I can be a positive force in their lives to some extent.  But there’s a wall.  I can’t get them where they need to go.

What I CAN do is bring them through prayer into God’s presence, His beautiful powerful radiance, where EVERYTHING is possible.

God is so good.  His presence is so sweet.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  Ps 119:103

And it’s always available to me. 

Yes, I have the moods.  But I am so thankful that this week I also had sparks of energy and motivation.  I blogged, “Why not assume action?”

And I took action. 

I invited Alan and Yesenia over to dinner on the spur of the moment and we ate stir fry and talked about Mars colonization and our ideas to make the world a better place, and had a great visit.  

I took my computer to the coffee shop to do some of my work from there.  I saw three women there visiting and having coffee, who were still in their workout clothes.  I asked them where they worked out, and we had a good conversation!  I made some new friends!

I mentioned to Ken that there was a classical guitar concert we could go to, and so we went.  Ken brought along one of the young campus students from Brazil, who plays the guitar.  It was his birthday, so I made him some brownies.  It was nice to get out and enjoy the music, and the company.  We hoped to make some friends among the Auburn Guitar Society, but it was crowded and it didn’t happen. 

The only thing we were able to do was have a nice chat with the freshman girl sitting next to us, who was there because of her music appreciation class.  She told us how she is from Macon, and coming to Auburn is her dream come true.  She wants to get a degree in speech pathology.  All of the guitar music in the concert sounded the same to her.  So before she left, we invited her to church.  She appreciated the invite and asked about the church. 

The rest is in God’s hands.

I’m taking action as I can, but whether I do a lot or hit a wall, it is still God who will bring victory.

Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  Prov. 24:14

Proverbs says the same thing in chapter 23: 17-18 — “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.  There is surely a future hope for you,  and your hope will not be cut off.”

My hope will not be cut off.  If I am WISE , I know God, and value the right things.  And in knowing God, I know that there is something better coming, the reward for those who earnestly seek Him.

It is just in focusing on the wrong things that I lose hope.

When you sit down with a ruler . . .  Do not crave his delicacies,  for that food is deceptive. Prov 23: 1, 3

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.  Prov. 23:4

God is the source of goodness itself.  He has the treasure upon treasure.

But who is wise?  Who can see that?

I was reading Luke 14.  It has great illustrations of focusing on God, and not valuing the wrong things.  Jesus encourages his disciples to take the most humble seat at a wedding banquet, For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

And I’ve read it so many times, but I read it again — “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Who will see that God is so much more important than anything else?

In Luke 14, most did not.

Jesus told the story:  “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses.”

I’m inviting people to the banquet, and few seem to see what I am offering.

I am offering HOPE.

I am offering the God who will swoop in and rescue us when we hit the wall.

And by ourselves, we all hit this wall, over and over again.

That is why we need the sweet presence and goodness of God.

He will give us comfort and inspiration.

He will set us on the path to true victory.

So let me do what is counter intuitive.  Let me go out and just do what I can, even though it doesn’t feel effective.  Let me hit the walls and get tired, and feel like I am failing.  Let me only invite the girl sitting next to me.

God will succor me and build His kingdom.

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.  Luke 14:13

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A Friend A Day #9 — Believing in the Possibilities

sailboat 2

At house church this week we talked about the faith of the centurion in Luke 7.  I think what set the centurion apart was that he believed in possibilities, that good things could happen.  His heart hadn’t grown cynical and jaded.

(Jesus) was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. . . .  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  . . .   When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”

I think of the things that keep us from having faith and believing in possibilities.

Doubt is toxic to faith.  We read James 1:6-7 — But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Instead of doubting, we should realize that God gives generously to all, without finding fault.  A quick word study — generous here means “simply, sincerely, graciously, bountifully.”  Finding fault means “without reproaching, reviling, upbraiding.”

It’s encouraging to see that God wants to give to us bountifully, without being nitpicky and saying, “I won’t give to you because you do such and such.”  Yes, we need to have faith.  But God isn’t interested in withholding because of our mistakes and shortcomings.

Fear is toxic to faith.  It holds us back.  We don’t even step out.  We don’t even put something out there that God can work with.  We are afraid of failure, afraid God won’t care enough to answer, so we don’t believe in the possibilities.

And we need to believe in the possibilities.  I love how Mark Batterson put it in “The Circle Maker.  He said, “You can live with holy anticipation.”

I want to live in holy anticipation of how I will see God work through each day.

Yesterday we saw God work.

I took Marge to a medical appointment, and we shared with the nurse, Maggie.  Maggie told us how she is caring for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.  She told us how just had surgery on her neck, and now has to go to physical therapy.

We told Maggie about church, and how it was like family.  She seemed interested, but a lot of people do.

But then while Marge was with the doctor, I was dozing in my chair, and Maggie came and said, “I’m sorry to wake you up, but can you tell me where your church is located?”  How many people take the initiative to come back and find out more?  That was so cool.  We’ll be praying for Maggie.

Holy anticipation opens the door to possibilities.

Doubt and fear shut the door.

In closing, I want to say something about completely relying on God.  It comes to me now more than ever that God’s way is the only way things will work out in each and every situation.

I’m not praying enough.  I have to pray about each situation, because on my own, just leaving things up to whatever, things may not go the right way.  But if I pray, God is watching over and guiding the situation.

I’m like a sailboat and God is the wind and the current.

I need to pray and then trust that God is taking me in the direction that is GOOD, give myself over to Him completely, with joy.

Totally relying on God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” Prov. 3:5

And totally living in eager holy anticipation of the adventure.

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.  Ps 5:3

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A Friend A Day #8 — Stumbling upon Treasure

atlas girl2

I’ve been reading “Atlas Girl:  Finding Home in the Last Place I thought to Look” by Emily T. Wierenga.  It’s one of my favorite discoveries lately.  I love this book about a woman who loses and finds her faith.

And this is one of my favorite passages from the book —

“But what I needed was love, to wrap me up in its arms and tell me how beautiful I was and to make me laugh. . . .There are those nights when your dad reads an extra story or sings one more song. . . There are fresh homemade carrot cakes baked for your birthday and home-sewn dressed out of red velvet. . . But when you’re young, you see the gaps more than you do the glimpses.  You see the hole more than the donut.”

I’ve been blogging so much about being thankful more and subsequently seeing God’s love more.   But the reality is that it’s sometimes not enough.   Sometimes my insecurity is like a huge chasm.  Sometimes my emotions strike up and whirl out of control inside of me like a sudden storm. And then all I can see is the gaps, not the glimpses.

So a good goal is to make the glimpses more frequent.   A good goal is to make the glimpses bigger.

And then sometimes God Himself stitches the glimpses together and I see a pattern that’s so right, so overarching, so magnificent, that I am awed to the depth of my soul and I am at peace again, knowing that everything is okay.

Church is great for that.  We sang, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being praise His name,”  and I remembered my study on that very psalm (Ps 103) this week and how it exemplifies God’s compassion.  I wanted even more to praise the Lord with all my soul.

The head of a service organization got up and expressed her deep gratitude for our group’s workday to help them on MLK Day.  I remembered how the day almost didn’t happen, and then how so many of us were there having a great time helping out, and I felt like everything was coming together just as it should be.

One of the campus girls shared a written word at communion and I was in tears at how beautiful it was, seeing how much her faith meant to her, knowing I had a small part in where she was.

Last Friday I made a new friend.  One of the women in my choral group invited me to drop by her house some time.  So I set up a time and went over.

It was wonderful.  She showed me her quilting room, where she puts together beautiful stitched projects and helps underprivileged women in the community to do the same.

I saw her indoor aviary.  It was so amazing — larger than a china cabinet, with all kinds of nests and colorful birds hopping around.

IMG_5227 IMG_5231

She made me a smoothie with homemade kefir she kept in a mason jar on the kitchen counter.  It was great.

IMG_5222

The time was an adventure.  A treasure in a week of stumbling around trying to find my way.

It reminds me of part of one of my favorite poems my mom wrote:

“We have stumbled over trunks of treasure

In the darkness, and have laughed

Down the velvety corridors of night.”  (Marguerite Tillinghast Roberts)

We travel down the velvety corridors of night, through the wailing winds of  insecurity, the pain of feeling unloved, where the gaps are more than the glimpses, and the real challenge, the hardest thing of all, is to TRUST that we are loved, to know that we will stumble upon treasure, to know that He is the God who makes beauty out of ashes, who  just at the right time pulls back the fabric of the universe and allows us to see the myriad connections.

That is why we keep going on, keep holding on, keep reaching out, keep praying to have the heart of Jesus.

To provide for them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.  And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.  Isa 61:3-4

 

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A Friend A Day #7 — Really Caring

Jonah cares more about the vine than the people.

Jonah cares more about the vine than the people.

I am at the stage of this challenge of sharing with a friend a day where I don’t just want to change my behavior, I want to change the heart behind the behavior.

It could be relatively easy to be carried along in the momentum of the new year and open my mouth more often for a few weeks.  But then life will happen.  I’ll get busy.  I’ll get distracted.  And my good intentions will go by the wayside.

I have to truly change from the inside out.

Our assignment at church this week, as we study out repentance, is to figure out, “What warning would the rich man of Luke 16 issue to your family/household?”

The story that’s referred to here is the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man lives a life of wealth and comfort, while Lazarus is poor and hungry. After death, the rich man goes to a place of punishment, while Lazarus is comforted.  The rich man wants to go back and warn his family so the same fate will not happen to them.

I couldn’t think of what warning the rich man would give to me.  My first thought was that we need to care for the poor more.  That certainly convicted my heart right off.

But now it hits me that the real sin of the rich man was that he didn’t care.  He was all caught up in his life, and he didn’t even see the needs that were around him.

I, too, am all caught up in my life. I’m even caught up in doing things for God, so much so that I don’t have room in my heart to notice or care about the people all around me who are starved spiritually.

What did Jesus see?

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matt 9:36

People are harassed and helpless.  As other translations word it, they’re “fainting on the ground,” “distressed,” “cast aside,” and “scattered.”  They might look like they have it all together, but they feel isolated, unloved, lost, discouraged and hopeless.  They’re beset by troubles on every side.

I am preparing to start an emotional healing support group, with the premise that many people have unresolved inner pain.  The irony is that I’m promoting this support group, without fully seeing the reality that this pain IS THERE.  It’s rife.  It’s everywhere.  It’s crippling people’s lives.

I need to care more.

I love this passage from Jonah, in which the prophet is outed for being more concerned about the loss of the vine that shaded him than the souls of thousands of miserable people:

Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. “Should I not have compassion on the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left–and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11

I have more in common with Jonah than I think. Do I REALLY have compassion for others, that they don’t know their right hand from their left, that they’re floundering around in life with faulty compasses?

It’s so easy to think that status quo is okay.  In reading “REPENTANCE a Cosmic Shift of Mind and Heart” by Ed Anton, he reminds us of verses that show that complacency is a sin that the prophets railed against:

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion. . . You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches . . . You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Amos 6

 God wants me to grieve over others.  He wants me to SEE.  He wants my heart to be moved.

So I have still been sharing.  I had a great experience on Tuesday.  The bubbly server at a restaurant my choral group friends and I go to every week asked how my weekend was.  I shared about the two baptisms we had.  She got really excited and wanted to know more about our church.  She wants to come visit!  It was a conversation I stumbled upon,  I wasn’t even looking to share.  I just spoke about what was bubbling up out of me – the joy of what God is doing.

I talked on the phone yesterday with a woman yesterday whose number a sister had given me.  This woman has gotten herself into a horrible mess.  She is despondent.  It’s easy to see she needs help.

How much will my life be about these people?  It will depend on how much I see the need to help, and that it is up to ME.  Here is another convicting verse from a prophet:

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.  Jer. 8:11

 I need to be serious about this. People are wounded. There IS NO PEACE! No peace for me to get caught up in my life. No peace for others in their pain and self- made muddle.

When I really get this, when I live it, change will happen from the inside out.

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A Friend a Day #6 – Trust and Joy

Our MLK service project -- pushing through and finding joy!

Our MLK service project — pushing through and finding joy!

I am still working on making a friend a day.

Yesterday I had coffee with a neighbor.  It was wonderful to get with someone my age, who has grown kids, and just be friends.  We talked about our lives, shared our struggles.  In keeping with my goal to not shrink back, I was real with her, telling her how I am trying to grow spiritually.  Then I talked about the spiritual healing group I would like to try to start.  She was interested!

This spiritual healing group has elicited more interest than all the invitations to church combined.  I got the idea after reading Spiritual Maturity: God’s Will for Emotional Health and Healing” by Cresenda Jones.  She recommended having a group to help individuals work through emotional hurts of the past that still have an effect on their daily lives.

Last week, instead of inviting the check out clerk at Publix to church, I invited her to be a part of this group.  The clerk was a placid middle aged African American woman who looked like she’d experienced a lot in life .  For the first time, I saw genuine interest in someone’s eyes, instead of shutters going up.  I felt like I connected, and had an honest relaxed (albeit short!) conversation with someone.  And the young woman bagging groceries listened intently as well, regarding me with clear light eyes, so I made sure to include her in the conversation.  It was a breakthrough!

My hairstylist was the same way.  I have been trying to build a friendship with her for five years.  She always seems friendly, but from a distance.  When I told her about the spiritual healing group yesterday as I was getting my hair cut, she told me to text her with more information.  She was unguarded, sincere in her interest.

It wasn’t all great like that.  I invited the clerk at Kroger, a tall young man who was friendly and conversational but never responded to my invitation to church as we talked.   I bypassed opportunities.

I actually have had some struggles lately.  Sometimes I have had zero motivation to do anything.  I’ve pushed through, but it’s been discouraging because I didn’t feel like myself.  I was so tempted to feel like I was failing.

But I think God allows us to go through hard times sometimes because it increases our compassion for others.  Just as Jesus had to become human so he could relate to what we are going through, we need to experience difficulties so we can sympathize with the weaknesses of others.

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Heb. 2:17

And I love what Ann Voscamp said in “One Thousand Gifts” about going through trials: “all new life comes out of the dark places. . . Isn’t this the crux of the gospel?  The good news is that all those living in the land of the shadow of death have been birthed into new life.”

I have to trust when I am in a dark place.  The beauty of God is there in my barren moments, in my failures. His hand is still upon the worst of my times.  And when all my efforts seem like so much dust, His fingers are in the dust of my efforts.  I picture myself reaching and clasping those strong stable fingers.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I go up to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in hell, you are there.  If I climb upward on the rays of the morning sun or land on the most distant shore of the sea where the sun sets, even there your hand would guide me and your right hand would hold on to me.  Ps 139:7-10

Here are some scriptures that have encouraged me lately —

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  Eph 1:17 

This is my goal for the new year — that everyone would KNOW God better.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”  Romans 14:17.

As I work on sharing my faith more, I realize what I really need to work on is trust and joy.  If I have these, the sharing will come.

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A Friend A Day #5 — The Highest Value

Love this funny illustration of the woman who lost her coin.

Love this funny illustration of the woman who lost her coin.

People are God’s priority.  They have the HIGHEST value to Him.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coin and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?”  Luke 15:8

Looking for the lost coin.

Looking for the lost coin.

These parables show how each person is so important to God that He would go after and search carefully for them, RELENTLESSLY, until the person is “found.”

Each person is so important, that when they are returned to a relationship with Him, there is jubilant celebration, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.”

Finding the coin!

Finding the coin!

What if I started regarding people as this important?

I am sticking to my friend a day challenge.  It hasn’t been impressive, but each day I’ve made myself get out of the house and go somewhere to invite someone.  I talked with the bank teller on Monday as I made the church deposit.  He goes to church with his sister who’s in high school.

I needed a new headlamp for my car so I went to Auto Zone. The man there was hale and hearty, moving energetically as we looked at my car and the offerings on the shelf, keeping a dialog going about which headlamps he put in his wife’s car.  I invited him to church and he told me where he attends.  I still told him how our church is like family, and we really try to put the Bible into action in our lives.  He may never come, but he listened with interest and took the invitation.

Last night Ken and I listened to some of an audio book by financial guru Tony Robbins.  He talked so much about how to be financially secure, and achieve your financial dreams.  He advocated that people put so much effort into this.  He went on and on, recommending all kinds of strategies

He said some good things and gave us some ideas we will implement,  but I thought, “What if we put this much effort into going after people, instead of going after wealth?”

I read in Luke 16:15, “What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” 

God doesn’t care about my new outfit, how I fix up my house, or my retirement strategy.   He cares about people.  In the story of the rich and Lazarus, Lazarus went to Hades because he valued his rich clothes and luxury more than people.  The shrewd manager discussed in Luke 16 was commended for using his financial power to build good relationships.

I have to see people as super important as well.  Each person I meet is my new best thing!  Each one has great value, and I want to learn to recognize that more.

Robbins recommended a multi-prong approach to creating wealth.

I have a multi-prong approach too.  Have coffee with neighbors.  Make time to have get togethers.  Be willing to broach the subjects I’m scared to bring up. Text and stay in touch with people.  Care about what is going on in their lives.  Follow up on women I meet.   Pray A LOT, with thanksgiving.

Sometimes, too, I just need to unclench the knot of trepidation in my heart that keeps me stiff and blank-minded as I interact with others.  I need to relax and open myself more instead.

But here is the thing.  All of these things can be effective, but the real thing I need is God.  I have to focus very clearly on the knowledge that it is God who WILL MAKE A WAY for people to know him.  He and only He can build the church.  Each step must be orchestrated by Him.

I can have FULL CONFIDENCE that we will break through the barrier, the place where we are stuck, and get to the place of our dreams.

My part must be in learning to delight in people as much as He does.

For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.  II Chron 20:12

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No Scarcity!!

Sharon's baptism

Sharon’s baptism

As I am learning to be more thankful, daily writing down the gifts God is giving me, I am undergoing a huge paradigm shift.  Whereas before I always saw myself in a place of scarcity, I now see that I am actually standing in a place of abundance.

I used to feel like I was surrounded by things that were going wrong.  I would pray about all these things, feeling a great neediness, a great lack, like I was standing on a barren plain, shouting into the wind, begging for a little something to change.  And the prayer would be answered, but it was never enough, because the neediness around me was so great.

Now as I thank God and identify all the things He is giving, all the ways He is working, I see myself instead standing in a fruitful place, a soul pleasing garden.  I’ve done this day after day for so long that it’s becoming my reality.  I see that God is good, and He is giving to us all the time.

Is this what God has been trying to get man to see through the ages?

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”  Gen 15:1

I love this verse.  God is telling Abram that He is WITH him, and as long as He is with him, there will be no lack.  In fact, God will protect Abram, take care of him, and give him great blessings.

God said it wasn’t just a reward he was providing for Abram, it was an exceedingly great reward.  And although part of this reward would be that Abram would have numerous descendents, and that all nations would be blessed through him, the most exceedingly great part of the reward was that God would be with him.  No matter what he did, in having God, he would have abundance at his fingertips.

This theme is carried through all of the stories of the Bible.  Surely in the story of Moses and the journey  of the Israelites to the Promised Land, the lesson they learned was that there was always an abundance, even when there seemed to be scarcity.  They thought there was no food, and God provided manna.  They thought they had no water, and God made it spring up from a rock.  They thought they couldn’t defeat the people of the land, and God (once they learned to trust Him) gave them the victory.

And then look at what God said to Joshua: ‘No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Joshua 1:5

See how God was with the Hebrew kings,  “And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  II Kings 6:17

Could David have said it any better?  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”   Ps 23:5,6

There are so many ways Jesus tried to get people to see this.  I’ll list only two:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matt 7:11

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  Matt 28:20

This weekend Ken and I were determined to keep trying to share our faith.  We felt like we missed opportunities.  We felt like we didn’t open our mouths.  But we did go out to Walmart specifically to try and meet people.  It turned out that we only talked to a couple of the employees who were helping us, and invited them to church.

It would have been easy to be discouraged, but I see so much abundance in the weekend.  There were three people I followed up with who wanted to come to church.  One of them made it to a sister congregation, and had a great time!  We counted the cost with a young professional single mom, and she got baptized yesterday!  We crashed the singles supper and there was such an excitement and energy.  We went to lunch, and it was the first time the nonChristian husband of one of our sisters came out and socialized!

I could go on and on.  I will continue to share my faith.  I pray I can find more effective ways to do so.  But it is much better to do so feeling that I am sharing from a place of abundance, than just shouting in the wind.

God is working.  God is blessing.  Even when things seem bleak, we are enveloped and sustained by a solid force for good.  There’s always “much more” to draw on.  And when we know this, we get stronger all the time.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.  Ps 84:5-7

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32

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A Friend A Day #3 — Sharing Wholeheartedly

I have had some GREAT times sharing the last couple of days.  And I have had some efforts that bombed.

One huge victory was that I had the courage to finally bring up faith to a woman in my writing group whom I’ve known for several years.  I’ve always felt this wall that I put up — a wall of fear of trying to talk to her about why she believed what she believed.

But at our writing group, it turned out that it was just me and her, and at some point, I took a deep breath and just said the words, “I would like to ask you, and you don’t have to answer, but how is it you have lived in the South all this time and don’t know much about the Bible?”

She was happy to talk about this, and we had the best talk!  I didn’t find an open door to change her mind, but I was able to share things about myself, and she told me where she is coming from.  It was a great victory, just to be able to talk about these things, and not have me always wishing I could say something, but never able to do so.

On the low side, I invited one woman to church at Dillards.  I wasn’t going to say anything.  But then I thought, “This is the kind of person I’m trying to make friends with — someone my age.”

So I asked her, and her face immediately shut down.  She gave me an almost condescending smile and told me she had a church.  I tried to say something else, just to share why I was doing this.  My mind went blank.  I was having a hot flash.  I made some rambling stuttering comment.  She just smiled at me tolerantly, waiting for me to go away.  Ugh.

We had a super house church last night.  Mike talked about giving your whole heart to God.  We made resolutions to try to give our whole hearts to God in three areas for 2015.  One of my areas is sharing my faith.

As I’ve been going over Romans, listening to Doug Jacoby, one verse stuck out —

a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.  Rom 2:29

Circumcision of the heart.  That means cutting off anything that is not for God.

I started reading some other verses about circumcision of the hearts:

In Jeremiah 9:25 I read that a time was coming “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh.”– Jer 9:25

God doesn’t want us just to go through the motions.

I LOVE this passage in Deuteronomy where Moses tells the Israelites, after they have created the golden calf, to circumcise their hearts:

Go,” the Lord said to me, “and lead the people on their way, so that they may enter and possess the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”  And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul . . .

Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome . . .  Deut 10:11, 12, 16, 17

And I love these prophesies —

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh  Ez 11:19

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  Jer 31:33-34

We live in a time now when these prophesies have been fulfilled and we CAN love God with our whole heart.  He has given us the Spirit to help this be so.  He has crucified our sinful nature.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Gal 5:24

It is a huge battle for me to share wholeheartedly.  I want to just invite someone here and there and feel good that I’ve done it.  I have such a large barrier of fear that I have to cross.

But here is something I am finding.  When I do this, God starts opening doors all around me.  An old friend contacted me and gave me the phone number of someone who wants to come to church.  I ran into someone I know at the grocery store at just the right time to ask them to help a friend who is applying for a job where she works.

Repentance truly does bring times of refreshment.

 

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A Friend a Day #2 — The Target

arrow_on_target

This past weekend felt like a bust, so when Monday came, I was revved up to get out there and try to meet people.

I started at the dry cleaners.  I will say that if I didn’t have a challenge going on, I probably wouldn’t talk much to the person who stands there and gives me my clothes.  But this time I started chatting with the young woman as we conducted business, exchanging comments about the weather.  I mentioned that I had never seen her before, and she said she often works at one of their other locations.  I asked her which location she liked better, and so on.

The good part was, when I invited her to church, she said she was looking for a church in the area!  Now I want to find more things that need dry cleaning so we can work on our friendship!

So I could have been done for the day with sharing, but I wanted more.  Later in the day I went to Publix for milk and eggs.  This was harder.  As I wandered the aisles, I kept finding things I wanted to buy.  I found a nice little plant for only $2.99 that would go perfectly in the monogrammed glass container someone gave me for Christmas.  “Oh, and I need almond butter,” I told myself, going to that aisle and sighing over the poor selection.

Then I shook myself out of my shopping reverie and tried to start conversations.  Everyone was on their cell phones as they pushed their carts.  Finally there was a sweet looking older woman in the cleaning section.  “Oh, I love this sponge thingie,” I said to her as she looked at a dishwashing wand.  “Me too,” she said, and we talked for a moment before she moved on.  “How much are those bags?” I asked another person in the clearance section.  We discussed how we bought the green shopping bags, and then always forgot and left them in the car.  But I couldn’t think of what else to say, and didn’t have the courage to bring up church, so I moved on.

After awhile, I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I went to check out.  But even my efforts to share with the clerk were foiled.  The manager came over and bagged my groceries and handed them to me.  I choked.

I was glad that I had tried.  I was also glad that I had spread good cheer, in a sense.  The sweet older woman smiled at me a couple of times as we passed one another in the aisles.

Then in the evening I got with my friend Carol for our discipling time.  Usually we meet at my house, but we decided to go out and have coffee.  We had a great time visiting with the short haired barrista wearing a ball cap.  She told us how she used to manage a mice restaurant in town, but they closed, and she actually made pretty good money working full time at the coffee shop.  She went with us to the jars of loose teas, and we smelled them, and talked about what our favorite ones were.

We gave her an invitation to church.  “Oh, someone else gave me the very same invitation,”  She told us.  “I remember him telling me I made him the best mocha.”

I laughed.  “That would be my husband,” I said.  “He loves mochas.”

It was encouraging.  I don’t know if the barrista will come, but she was interested.  And Carol and I enjoyed the opportunity to share together.

You know, in my last blog, I mentioned how I want to be sharper.  It later occurred to me that in order to be more focused, I have to have something to focus towards.  Sure, I’m going to feel aimless, unless I am aiming at something!

I need to articulate what specifically my objectives are for in the new year.  And I can come up with all kinds of goals, but what is God’s objective for the coming year?  It came to me that it’s simple — God wants people to know Him, I mean really KNOW Him.

That’s my objective too.  And it helps just to define that.  I know more what direction to take.

Mike did a super sermon on Sunday about giving our best to God, not our scraps.  It’s not up yet, but check our web site in the future for it.  The text was Malachi 3:10 —

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

This reminded me of going to Europe and seeing the churches.  They were incredible.

cathedral

Such time and artistic talent went into them.  I felt like they reflected what people thought of God — that they should creates something astoundingly beautiful.  They didn’t just slap together a building in a few days.  They gave their best.  They painstakingly constructed a homage to who God is.

Our lives should be the same way.  If we just give bits and pieces to God, we’re not showing the world how amazing and holy He is. If we live in an excellent way, we declare that God is excellent.

And the more we know God, the more we see how excellent He is.

To know God is to exalt Him, and magnify Him, to want to bow down before him an abject humility, to want to pour ourselves out for Him.  The more we know Him the more we consecrate our lives.

Ken and I have have been listening to Doug Jacoby’s new lessons on Romans.    They are so great!  In them Doug talks about how in Romans 1:19 it says that anyone can know of God: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

And then it says in Romans 1:18 that there are many who suppress the truth.

Let us not suppress the truth, but find ways of speaking it, so that we may increase vital knowledge of God.  For everyone can recognize that there is a God, but few really know Him.  Let us pray to this end.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  Eph 1:17

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.  Jer 9:23-24

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A Friend A Day 2015 — A Sharpened Arrow

sharpened arrow

. . .  he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.  Is 49:2

. . . if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Jer.  15:19

Yesterday, I started on my “friend a day” challenge again.  I want so much to share the goodness I have.  The only way to do that is to meet more people.

I believe that God is continually blessing us.  And I believe that one way God gives good things is through each one of us as we give to others.  I need to be the instrument that God can use for bestowing blessings on the world.

So even though it would have been easy to stay at the house yesterday — it was cold, grey and spitting rain all day — I determined I would go out and run a couple of errands.

First of all, I decided that I could not do this on my own.  Yes, I could gut it out by my own strength, but I knew that wouldn’t produce any results.  So I prayed that whatever happened, God would be with me, and focused on that.

My first stop was Target.  I got a large purple plastic tub that was on sale for $5.99 to store Christmas lights in, and some shiny wrapping paper that was 70% off.

Wait!  I was getting distracted.  I reminded myself to stay focused.  I went shopping for people.  I saw a woman with a bleached mop of yellow of hair  trying to find party supplies with her daughter.  “We’ll have to go to Walmart” she said, frustrated, as she looked at the selection of invitations and printed plates.

“Be sure you go to the Walmart that has a good selection of party supplies,” I told her.  “The one in Auburn doesn’t have much to choose from.”

She thanked me and went on her way.  I didn’t share my faith, but I get get my creaky evangelism wheel turning a bit.  I had started a conversation, and I had been helpful to someone.

At Ross, I found a young friendly woman looking at dog beds.  We started talking about our dogs.  She and her boyfriend had just gotten a bulldog mix puppy, and it was sleeping on her boyfriend’s coat.  She couldn’t let that happen, thus her perusal of the canine cushions.  I invited her to church, and she said she had a church, but mine might be a good one to visit in the future.  I gave her an invitation.

Then I talked to the checkout clerk, a slender African American girl, who warmed up and glowed as we started a conversation.  She was very happy to take an invitation to church.

So as I think about how this went, I was happy to get out and try to make something happen.  But I also have some areas I want to work on —

  1.  Care more about people as I talk to them — for instance, I could have asked more about the young woman’s dog, how old it was, was it a good dog, etc.
  2.  Look for people I would want to be my friend.  The young girls are good, and they need to know the gospel.  But I think I shy away from starting conversations with the women more my age.
  3. I would like for there to be more actual faith sharing going on, not just asking someone to church. I would like to have more of a conversation .  What do you like about church?  What are you looking for in a church?  This is what I like about my church.  And so on.

In my life lately, I’ve been dull, amorphous.  I need to be sharper, more focused on specifics.  Although I want to trust and let it be up to God, I have to be intentional as well.  I need to pray for wisdom on what to focus on.  I need to let myself be sharpened by God into an instrument He can use to do His good AND speak worthy words.

Through (Jesus Christ our Lord) we have received God’s kindness and the privilege of being apostles who bring people from every nation to the obedience that is associated with faith. This is for the honor of his name.   Romans 1:5

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