Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Is your friendship about you?

How important are the friends in your life? Sometimes I forget how awesome my friends are. I’m so blessed to have amazing people in my life, and I’m so overwhelmed at their kindness and their encouragement, especially in the dark times of my life.

As many of you know, I tend to be somewhat independent (stop rolling your eyes). I don’t like depending on other people, and I don’t like asking for help. But there are times when I need it. And in those times, I have an arsenal of amazing people who step up to surround me with prayer and words that have to come straight from God.

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Romans 12:10.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

I thought of this verse today when I thought about friendship. So much of friendship in our culture is about what others can do for us, but what I’ve learned over the years is that friendship–the ones that last–should be about what you can do for your friend.

Have you thought about that? Have you ever asked the friends in your life what you can do for them? Or is your friendship all about you?

What does it mean to show genuine affection to someone? Well, to me, that means you treat someone else kindly out of pure motivation. You do kind things for others because it’s the right thing to do, because you truly want to do it. It’s not a front. It’s not for show. It’s genuine. It’s real.

Show me a friendship with genuine affection, and I’ll show you friends for life.

But genuine affection is a concept, and concepts are great, but they aren’t good for much until you put them into practice. And that’s where the second part of the verse comes in.

Take delight in honoring each other.

Okay. That sounds complicated and religious. Well, it’s not. What does it mean to honor someone? Honoring someone is simply putting that person before yourself. It means showing preference to someone else.

Practically speaking, it’s giving your friend the bigger slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner.

Another translation says to outdo each other in kindness. And another translation says, “practice playing second fiddle.”

Do you need the attention in the friendship? Do you need the be the one who’s at the center all the time? Honestly, ask yourself, because if the answer is yes, I’m sorry to be blunt, but you’re missing the point of friendship.

God made friends so we wouldn’t have to stand alone, so we could be part of a team, so we could be a part of something bigger than we are. There’s a song on the radio right now with a lyric that always makes me smile: “God put a million million doors in the world for His love to walk through/One of those doors is you.”

And that is so, so true.

If you have friends, take the time to find out what they need. Ask them how you can help them. Get involved in their lives for more than just what you need. Practice playing second fiddle. Skip the attention you think you need. You don’t need it. Shower them with the attention. And something amazing will happen. Your friendship will get stronger. Your friend will grow, and so will you.

I have amazing friends who have poured themselves into my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. What about about you?

Moon rising over Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

No excuses

Has God ever told you to do something specific? No, not in an audible voice, but still in an undeniable, unshakable, inescapable desire to accomplish something. It starts out as a spur-of-the-moment idea, one of those concepts that you should be able to easily brush aside as nonsense, but it doesn’t brush away. It’s like a sand burr in your brain, and it keeps poking and poking until you can’t ignore it anymore. Or pressure on your heart.

At least, that’s how God talks to me outside of Scripture. Maybe I’m nuts, but that has been my experience. And I wish I were a “good” enough Christian to tell you that every time I realize it’s God talking to me I jump right up and do exactly like He’s commanding.

Right. Most of the time, I duck my head down, stick my fingers in my ears, and hum a song to myself in hopes that He’ll leave me alone and ask someone more qualified to take care of it. And it’s not that I don’t think He equips people for tasks. For me, most of the time, the issue is time itself. I don’t have much to offer. But something happened yesterday that made me remember exactly Who is in charge of time.

Moon rising over Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Moon rising over Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Joshua 10:12-14.

On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. Is this event not recorded in The Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the Lord answered such a prayer. Surely the Lord fought for Israel that day!

So much of the Old Testament can be confusing because of cultural references, and–let’s not beat around the bush here–the Old Testament records a lot of major supernatural things happening that we just don’t see anymore. True, the New Testament records miracles too but not like the first 39 books of the Bible. And today’s passage is just one small mention of one major thing.

According to this passage, the sun and the moon stopped moving until Israel defeated their enemies.

What the heck? That’s not something you hear about every day. That’s not something you hear about every thousand years. I mean, shoot, we get all excited for lunar eclipses. What would happen if the sun and moon both just stopped moving in the sky? It would make the Mayan apocalypse of 2012 look like a bad science fiction movie…. wait….

What am I getting at here?

Okay. Confession time. God told me to do something recently, and my response to Him was, “Are you freakin’ crazy? That’s nuts!” But God’s not crazy, and when He wants me to do something, He doesn’t stop leaning on me until I get it through my thick skull that, yes, He is talking to me. So I said yes, but I reminded Him how busy I was. I reminded Him how much work I had to do and how little time I had to do it in. If He didn’t help me out, it wasn’t going to work.

So what happened? To keep this long story short, the day after I stopped fighting, I got more accomplished than I have in ages. And I got it done everywhere, at work, at home, in my personal to do list. Everywhere.

Seriously?

I don’t know why God doesn’t just knock me over the head with a two-by-four some days. He has so much more patience with me than I deserve.

Here’s the thing, Christians (and I’m so talking to myself right now). If God has told you to do something, He isn’t going to leave the whole weight of it on your shoulders. Yes, many times, we have to take the initiative, but God doesn’t expect us to carry out His plans all on our own strength. After all, they’re not our plans; they’re His. So why would He give us something to do and then leave it entirely on us?

I have no excuse for refusing to do what God has asked me to do. All my supposed obstacles became opportunities.

So what’s stopping you? Are you scared? Ask Him for courage; He helped a teenager slay a warrior giant. Are you broke? Ask Him for resources; He can take five loaves and fishes and feed 10,000 people. Or are you like me and you’re too busy? Remember, you’re talking to the God who can stop the moon and sun in the sky whenever He chooses.

No excuses, Christ-followers. Think about it. Let’s stop handing Him a bunch of lines and just do what He asks. I think we might be surprised at what He does in our lives.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Live fearless in the face of bad news

This isn’t what I planned to post today. I had a completely different thought in mind, but after the events of yesterday, I don’t think I could post anything else. How often do you wake up and expect that the day is going to be normal? You go to work or school or you stay home and do household chores. Whatever is normal for you. And then life T-bones you. It hits you so hard you can’t stop spinning. And the bad news keeps coming.

That was my Monday. I can’t go into detail. It’s all still awfully fresh. But I needed a strong reminder today to help me face the day with confident hope, and I hope if anyone else reads this, they find it too.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 112:7-8.

They do not fear bad news;
    they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
They are confident and fearless
    and can face their foes triumphantly.

I’ve posted on this before. Probably more than once, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt it as strongly as I feel it right now. Our world is full of bad news. You can’t turn on the television or the radio or even read a newspaper or a Tweet without realizing how incredibly screwed up our world is. And as much as I wish Christ-followers could be immune, we’re not. We’re floundering in the midst of it with everyone else.

But do we have to flounder? Does the bad news we get have to shake us to the core of who we are?

No. As much as I don’t feel it today, I still believe that bad news doesn’t have to scare us. The news we don’t want to hear doesn’t have to destroy our lives or our families or our futures.

This Psalm is referencing people who revere or worship the Lord. That’s the they in the Psalm. Notice it doesn’t say that people who fear the Lord won’t ever get bad news. No, we all get bad news, no matter what we believe. But those of us who know God through Christ don’t have to see bad news as an end, because we know God has it under control.

It doesn’t mean we don’t mourn. It doesn’t mean we don’t cry. It doesn’t mean we don’t ache inside for the people who are hurting and the families that are facing such enormous heartache. There’s a time for that. And a time to grieve is good and healthy.

Just realize that you don’t have to be afraid of it. We can all trust that God is going to take care of it all, and we can face the challenges in our lives with confidence, fearlessly. Because the worst news we get on Earth can’t even touch the best news we’ve already gotten, and that is hope through Christ. No matter what we face here, no matter the heartache and the sadness and the pain, this world isn’t our final destination. And the day is coming soon when we’ll get to go home, and we won’t have to hear bad news ever again.

But until then, don’t fear it. God’s bigger and stronger, and even if life doesn’t turn out the way you hope, God won’t leave you to walk it alone.

Typo the kitten looking mischievous at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Guard your heart and watch the cats

Does anyone else think our culture suffers from extreme ADD, just in general? Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not poking fun at ADD. It’s certainly a real condition and it has a huge effect on people who have it. But if you had to describe our American culture, I really think ADD would be high on the list of descriptors. We can’t focus on anything for more than a moment. The issues that should be a big deal are only around briefly, and even the issues that aren’t a big deal rise to popularity and then fade like the tail of a shooting star.

We’re all so busy, and I’m talking about myself here, though I’m pretty sure everyone feels the same way. We have so much going on that we have to focus on more than one thing or we’ll never get to the bottom of our to-do list. And pretty soon, we form the habit of focusing on several things at once, so when we get the chance to slow down, we’re used to being busy and we can’t function in silence anymore.

Have you ever thought that all the things we give our attention to are just distractions? Have you ever considered that all the things taking up your time are really just taking time away from the things in life that really matter?

Typo the kitten looking mischievous at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Typo the kitten looking mischievous at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 4:23.

Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.

This past weekend I had some of my closest friends out to my house for a baking adventure. We had planned for more people to be able to come but sickness and general life issues sort of got in the way, which is fine because we’ll just reschedule. But two of the ladies who came out actually spent the night. I was so excited. And we had such an awesome time. There’s nothing like getting to spend a few uninterrupted days with people you can just be yourself with.

Well, when they pulled up and started unloading their car, it was around 7:00 p.m. Now that means it’s pitch black dark out here. I have a yard light, but it doesn’t do much to illuminate with any sort of detail. So my friends got all their stuff in the house, and we all tucked ourselves in for a fun evening of sister time.

The thought occurred to me (briefly) that when they were carrying stuff inside, they should have been tripping over cats. I have four cats now, which I’ve posted about on my writing blog like the crazy cat lady I’m trying not to be, and they are fierce when they want attention. But they were nowhere in sight that evening. But it was windy and cold, so I figured they had taken shelter in the barn or the culver or some other place they inhabit.

We chatted until all hours of the evening. We slept. We woke and had breakfast and baked and frosted cookies, and it was just marvelous….until they got their stuff together to go. They opened their car door and not one, not two, not even three–all four cats jumped out of the car. All four cats had spent the night in the vehicle, doing all the lovely things that barn cats do in their spare time. Needless to say, I was mortified.

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The mess was easily cleaned, but I was rather put out with my feline tenants.

And as I got to thinking about the devotional today, I couldn’t get away from this crazy story. How often do we take our attention off of something that matters to deal with something that isn’t so important? I do it a lot. There are many things in my life that I should focus on, but I’m too busy doing other things that I think are important, even though they really aren’t. It’s like taking your eyes off the cats when your car door is open. You’re just asking for them to jump inside and make a mess of things.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive to idiom because of my friendship with non-English speakers, but when I see a phrase like guard your heart, my first thought is: what does that actually mean? I checked my other translations (Amplified and Message) and both of them pretty much say the same thing. Guard your heart. Guard your heart. So to me, it means exactly what it says.

Be careful what you invest your life in. Pay attention to what you give your focus to. Don’t just jump into something because it feels right. Don’t just commit to an action because everyone else is doing it or because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t. Think. Consider the consequences. Don’t open your heart for the first person or cause you encounter, because they may lead you down a path that doesn’t matter. And before long you’ll be so invested in distractions that you won’t know how to think or feel anymore, and you’ll think that God has abandoned you.

Guard your heart. The course of your life depends on your investments, and if you’re so busy investing in distractions, you’re going to miss the trouble in your path. And it’s not that trouble will destroy you. Shoot, it may be easy to clean up. But either way you look at it, it’s a hassle, and it’s something you might have avoided if you would have just kept your eyes on what matters.

A peaceful spot at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Work at living in peace

Drama confuses me. No, not stage drama. Life drama. Life drama is an incredible waste of time, emotional resources, and opportunity. I don’t care for it, and I have a hard time feeling compassion for people who thrive in it.

You know those people in your life. You know who they are. They’re the ones who can make mountains out of mole hills. They’re the ones who are only content if their life is in a crisis of some kind or another. Having those people in my life makes me appreciate the understated friends I have. Those understated friends are the ones who can be in crisis but you wouldn’t know it. They’re the ones who are experiencing all sorts of difficulty in their lives, but they don’t focus on it.

A peaceful spot at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

A peaceful spot at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Hebrews 12:14.

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

Which camp do you fall into? It’s okay to admit it if you tend toward the drama queen side of the coin. In some cases, being dramatic about stuff is helpful. Those personalities can be valuable in many circumstances because they tend to get stuff done. They tend to prod others into action. They tend to be ferocious doers.

I’m not dramatic. I’m dry. And sarcastic. And I have this awful tendency … when people nag me about something, I usually go out of my way to avoid doing it. It’s not a very Christ-like response, and I’ll admit it. I’m a work in progress. But nothing gets under my skin like nagging. But part of my non-dramatic reactions to things is a disadvantage because I tend to minimize situations that probably need to be maximized.

So both personalities need each other, the dramatics to spur the non-dramatics into action and the non-dramatics to keep the dramatics planted on the ground instead of whirling around like crazy people. It’s absolutely possible to work together, but it takes effort on both sides.

Working together is harder than it sounds. If you’ve ever been part of a team, you understand what I mean, but no one person is sufficient on his or her own. We all need each other.

Mainly, we just need to be patient with each other. We need to take a moment, take a step back, and remind ourselves what the point is. The vast majority of the time whatever is causing the drama isn’t personal. It’s just different personalities clashing, different points of view crashing into each other, different ways of communicating muddying the waters.

If you’re a dramatic person, recognize it and embrace it. Your intense emotions are a gift, but understand that not everyone around you feels with the same intensity you do. So ease up!

If you’re a non-dramatic person, do the same thing. Realize that your penchant toward the more logical side of life is also a gift. It’s just not as loud. So lighten up!

God made each of us with our own personalities and our own hang ups and our own special gifts. Don’t discount someone just because they burst with emotion over every tiny little thing. And don’t shun someone because they barely react at all either.

Try to see the best in each other. Try to learn from each other. They’re in your life for a reason, and even if you think you escape having a relationship with them, God will bring another one just like them into your life to take their place. He’ll keep doing it until you learn the lesson you need to learn.

So don’t be stubborn. Trust me, you may think you’re the most stubborn person on the planet, but God can match you any day.