Category Archives: Friends
Here’s a conundrum. My passions are writing and relationships. (Combining these, I love to write about relationships.) What’s the challenge? I can easily get too busy writing, researching markets and avenues of publication, and submitting work, to have time for the relationships about which I’m trying to write. Travel too far down this road and I run out of material because I’m walking it alone.
I look at is this way:
If I’m no longer spending time in the relationship pool, I have nothing to wring out of my towel to drip onto the page.
Too much time in the relationship pool and I drown any opportunities to write.
As I dive into the world of writing, I pray God helps me keep afloat. It’s a tough balance. Make time for the relationships supplying the material, but make time to write the material. Spend lots of time alone with a laptop sharing greater insight into being with others. (Did I just achieve juxtaposition? Or perhaps something ironic. Maybe Alanis could clarify. Don’t you think?)
At any rate, (currently a low one, since no one is paying me for this post) I hope to learn to juggle this well. I suppose anyone with a fervent hobby or demanding job faces similar struggles. I simply find this one particularly paradoxical.
Fortunately, I believe God has equipped me for this by shaping me into an introverted extrovert – or it may be extroverted introvert – I can’t quite decide. I can be quiet, reflective, reserved, and self-entertaining, but that is not enough forever. I also have a strong desire for social interaction, a drive toward community, and a passion for people that will not allow me to isolate for long. I suppose it’s a good mix. I never really thought about it until just now that this is one way God has shaped and equipped me to be a writer.
What about you? Have you ever sensed a dichotomy in your life? Have you struggled to find a balance? I bet there are a great many things you have learned or can learn through this toil. Have you thought about how God has shaped you? How he might be using this aspect of your personality or life to accomplish certain things? Possibly in ways that on the surface don’t make sense at all?
I believe there is truth in the saying:
I also believe we are all created uniquely, with specific gifts and talents, and even weaknesses, to be used in ways we often can’t currently comprehend.
So, how has God equipped you?
The low-tech status of my less-than-smart flip phone did not stop God from texting me this week.
Typed by the faithful fingers of a friend, it was sent directly from God’s hand. That is the only way to explain its impact. It was a direct and precise answer to prayer, with absolute perfect timing, and satisfied my thirsty soul. That is God at work.
Let me give you the details.
That morning was rough. I had been struggling with discouragement for a couple weeks. (More on that in another post to come. Just know for now that I had been down, realized that it was partly due to the eternal arctic winter we’re having in Chicagoland, and had reached out to some friends to ask for prayer about it.) As I went to bed the night before, my own prayer was: “God, I just need some encouragement, please. Send some encouragement my way.”
Already running a few minutes behind schedule, I felt anything but encouraged as I realized while heading out the door it was snowing – again. That meant yet another long scary stressful drive to my office 17 miles away. Maybe this does not sound far to you. Trust me, it is. It involves crossing a river over which there aren’t nearly enough bridges, a plethora of traffic lights, and multiple train tracks. In perfect conditions, it’s 35 minutes. I don’t like to be in the car even that long just to get to work. On a normal day, it’s usually 45 minutes. Although becoming all too common, that day was not normal. I knew I’d be in the car for a while. I knew I’d once again be nervous (let’s be honest) terrified about driving on snow and ice, scared to be moving, then frustrated when I hit traffic and stopped moving.
Combined with my already bleak state of mind, this 142nd storm of the never-ending winter was stealing any remaining joy from my day.
Grudgingly, I began my commute. A couple blocks into my drive, the radio DJ told me there was an asteroid headed toward earth. It would be passing nearby, she stated. Before she added reassurance that it wouldn’t be hitting earth, I had time to think, “Fine, maybe it will hit and put us all out of our misery.”
You could say my heart was not the healthiest it has ever been.
Forty-five minutes later, I had covered roughly eight miles, and was sitting still.
Filled with frustration and discouragement, I reached for my phone to text someone at work to let them know I would get there eventually. I planned to begin the text with “Have I mentioned I hate snow?”
But, when I opened my phone, I saw there were new texts. I had not heard my phone chime. Curious, I read them.
As gratitude and an amazing sense of God’s love for me filled my heart, tears filled my eyes.
I realize you will read the next few sentences and not be impacted as I was. They will seem like fairly simple words. But, they were the exact words I needed in that moment.
“Good morning, Kerry! Praying for u. Don’t let the devil steal ur joy bc it’s snowing out.”
“Praying God gives u the needed grace to keep ur eyes on Jesus today-not the snow or clouds or cold.”
It truly was like God sent me the text himself. It reached my soul.
Have you ever received a soul gift? This is my personal term for perfect presents. You receive a gift, and it’s like the giver saw right into your very soul, reached deep into your heart, plucked something out, and handed it to you. You wonder how they chose something so meaningful, something you may not have even thought to ask for yourself if making a wish list. I usually only think of the term in relation to gifts that come in boxes and bags. Now I know even a text can be a soul gift.
I was touched in so many ways. A friend cared enough to think of me, knew me well enough to realize what effect the morning conditions would have on me and know I would need some encouragement, said just the right thing to encourage me in Christ, and was praying for me. It also drove home the fact that God loves me so much, down to the details of putting that friend in my life and working through her to encourage me, just as I had prayed for!
The next 45 min were better than the first. (Yes, the total commute time was 1.5 hours.) I put on my Vertical Church worship CD and listened, sang, praised, and focused on God the rest of the way to work. I thanked God for reaching out to me through a friend. I thanked him for an answer to prayer. I praised the Lord for loving me.
I arrived at work with a better attitude than I had when I left home. I enjoyed the work I was doing that day. I was renewed with hope, encouragement, and joy in God’s love.
Why did I share this with you?
1. To give God glory by sharing what He’s done for me.
2. To remind you that God loves us so much.
3. To communicate the truth God continues to teach me this winter:
If my joy is based on the weather, I’m looking to the wrong Son.
4. To encourage you not to minimize the small things God prompts us to do. What may seem insignificant to you at the time may have an immense impact you never even realize. Let God use you to share His love with others in whatever way is needed in that moment. Your next effort could be someone’s soul gift. It might just be a text.
Some friends of mine recently travelled to Pittsburgh, PA. This was not a fun jaunt to visit the sites. They were bringing their seven-year-old son to see the best in the nation for the specialized surgery he needed.
To fast forward a bit, God did amazing things to work out so many details, provide for his health, see him through recovery, and get them all safely back home to Chicagoland. Praise the Lord!
But, let’s back up a bit, to the days they were out east, visiting doctors and preparing for the surgery. From what I saw and heard, their faith was sustaining them. They seemed to be doing well. Strange, then, it was, that I was struggling. My heart was so heavy for their situation. Being so far from home, away from normal comforts, away from many friends and family members, all sounded so tough to me. Add to that the uncertainty of exactly what the procedure would entail and the possible risks involved.
It just sounded like so much. I wanted to be able to be there with them, to pray with them (even though I was praying for them already,) to give a hug if they needed one, to remind them in person they are loved and not alone even though they were so far from home. I felt such a burden for them. God used this to continually bring me to Him in prayer.
At one point, while praying for them, I again had thoughts of wishing I could do more and of concern that they were far from where I or others near home could easily help. It was then that God reminded me, that, though they were far from my hands, He had them in His. I wasn’t there with them, but He was. “I’ve got them.” was the phrase that was impressed upon my heart and mind. It was ok.
Reassurance, relief, gratitude, hope, and peace flooded my soul. Humility worked its way in, too, as I was reminded I can do nothing, compared to God. Who cares if I’m not with them, or where I want to be in any other situation, if God is there?
It was so good to remember this truth. Whatever any of my friends face, He has them. Whatever my family members are going through, even if I can’t be with them, God is. Whatever situations in my life that I try to get under control, it’s all in God’s hands.
“I’ve got them.”
I have found myself missing fictional characters. Show cancellations, off-season times, or even a busy few days when I haven’t had a chance to watch something I am currently into – have actually made me miss the people on a show. This is just crazy. They. Are. Not. Real. I do not really know them. I do not have a relationship with them. And, yet, there it is. I miss them all the same. For cancelled shows, I miss the times we had together. For current ones, I ache for more times together. For deceased characters, I mourn. This is ridiculous, right?
Incredibly, I’m not alone on this. I have spoken to others who have similar experiences. Are we all crazy? More importantly, do we miss the real people in our lives as we spend our time with the imaginary ones instead? Probably not. There is something strangely comforting about our TV friends – to feel you know these “people” – how they feel, how they will react – that you see their inner thoughts and emotions – that you have a connection with them – you feel safe with them.
Not always with reality. Ever feel like you know your favorite TV characters better than you know your friends? There may be some plot twists, but you can usually predict a TV-friend’s behavior based on their previous character development. Not those real people in our lives. You think you know them, then realize you don’t. They are simply unpredictable. Suddenly what you thought was an episode of Friends is an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It makes you yearn for a good rerun.
I had someone ask me once if our real-life relationships shouldn’t be more like those on TV. Thirtysomething was used as the example. It seems the characters can say whatever they want to each other and still remain friends. Relationships remain intact because they care about each other. Unfortunately, no script ensures we all make up and continue in a loving manner within the hour. Each character can choose how the story progresses. There are no guarantees that what we say will be received how we want, or that forgiveness will be given. No director is forcing those things to happen. Our big blow-up may not be resolved by the end of sweeps week.
Still, I guess that’s what makes the shows appealing. We see on the screen what we wish would happen in our own lives. We see people who are more appealing than the ones around us. We can fall in love, burn with hatred, weep, or laugh uncontrollably, with no risk of how that person will respond to us.
The problem is…what? Oh yeah. It’s. Not. Real.
Real life involves risk. Real people can hurt us back. (But real friends can also love us back.) Real relationships are less convenient than watching a prerecorded show at your leisure. Real dramas aren’t always neatly resolved. Heck, some of our plot lines may end up as convoluted as a Lost finale. Who knows?
So, where does that leave us? Are our imaginary bonds unhealthy? Do they hurt our real ones by making them less appealing? Do we live too much on our Fantasy Islands? I’m not sure. Maybe we should ask Frasier?
I’ve started working on what will, God willing, turn into a book on biblical friendship. Perhaps this strange TV relationship topic will find its way onto those pages where God can help me sort it out more through His truth. Meanwhile, I guess we should try not to neglect real relationships in pursuit of a place..where everybody knows your name.
Saturday night: It was one of those movies with an impossible soundtrack. Dialogue is at a near whisper and action scenes threaten to burst eardrums, making it impossible to find a comfortable volume. Not wanting to miss any of the Oscar-caliber acting scenes of 2010: Moby Dick, we opted for cranking it up.
Our friends, who appreciate a bad movie as much as we do, were enjoying the whale-chasing with us. Partway through, I was suddenly asked to pause the movie. As I pushed the button, the immediate silence that would have followed was shattered by an ear-piercing “Mom-eeeeee!” from our guest room, where our friends’ children had been put to bed before the movie. Mom quickly ran up to check on them. I sat, amazed at Dad, whose ears had picked up on the cry to which I was oblivious amidst the fray coming through the surround sound.
It turns out, we had Ahab and friends pumping through the speakers a bit loud for our friends’ daughter, who was frightened by the blubbery growls. (Little did she know that it was the B-level special effects and acting that should have been giving her nightmares.)
A little while later, after fears were calmed and concerns addressed, we resumed our movie at fewer decibels. The incident was soon forgotten.
Sunday Morning: Church service. Our pastor preached on Jeremiah 33:3 – Call to me and I will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
As he spoke about how we are to call out to God, my thoughts (and, I later discovered, my husband’s) immediately went back to the night before. I wish I could put a sound bite here of that cry that was echoing in my mind so clearly. Those little lungs had been calling out with such urgency, intensity, determination, and faith.
Urgency – she needed help, now.
Intensity – you could hear the sheer emotion in her voice.
Determination – she was not going to give up until she was heard over the noise around us.
Faith – she knew her cries would be answerd if she called.
You could tell by the yell that she was just going to continue to ramp up the urgency, intensity, and determination until her parent was by her side.
She called out. She was calling with everything in her. Her Father heard her.
Are my cries like this?
When I call out to my Father, do I call out with everything I have?
Are my prayers filled with the same qualities as the cries of a child?
I pray they will be from this moment on.
Some friends are movie friends. Some friends are gaming friends. Some friends are hiking friends. Others are biking friends. I know whom to call depending on what I am in the mood to do.
I know there are certain ways I can connect with certain people. Discussing a book with one person can make me feel very close to them, sharing common ideas and reflections. Another, we may never come close to reading the same material, but we share a love for the same game and can spend hours bonding over the board.
Are these factors any different in our relationship with God? There are many ways God speaks to us and connects with us. Some methods are much more effective with certain people. So, if we know a way we easily connect with God, do we determine to do it?
Recently, I was cleaning the house, and, as is usual for me, listening to my ipod while I cleaned. I had a choice of playlists. “Cleaning,” which is a mix of mostly upbeat, secular songs I can bop around to while I dust, or “Christian,” which is a collection of worship songs and contemporary Christian music. I was heading toward a bad mood at the time, starting to fill with annoyance, frustration, and general irritability. I thought I would probably be better off listening to the Christian playlist. For me, music is one of the easiest ways to draw closer to God. (The other one being nature.) But, I was a bit tired of the songs I have on that playlist, and wanted something “livelier,” so I went with “Cleaning.” An hour or so later, in a much worse mood, I reached for the ipod and actually thought the words “Fine, God, I’ll switch it!” Praise Him for His patience with my attitude. Can you guess which way my mood went after a few songs that brought my focus back on Christ?
Why was I reluctant to do what I knew I should do in order to connect more with the Lord? Would I hesitate to watch a shared favorite flick with a movie-watching friend? Would I not jump at the chance to scrapbook with my crafty friends?
If we know our love language with God – the way we most easily draw near to Him – we shouldn’t neglect it.
So, what happens if the only way I can connect with someone is to go sledding, and it’s the middle of summer? If I want to maintain that relationship, I have to find other ways to relate. It may not be as easy for me, or seem as fun, or feel as natural, but it is worth the effort for the closeness it sustains. The results may also be surprising. I may find that some new activity causes me to grow in a way I did not expect. Or, the relationship may jump to a new level simply because the environment has changed, causing new sides of our personalities to emerge. For example, line-dancing with gaming friends can bring a whole new dimension to the friendship.
Again, the same goes for our vertical relationship. If I am somewhere that I can’t listen to music, or it’s the dead of winter and I can’t get outside, do I simply not spend time with God? This is when I need to put other disciplines into practice. Yes, listening to a sermon may take more effort than singing a worship song, but it can have an amazing impact. Serving others in a new way can be extremely stretching, but also full of opportunities for growth. Who knows where God will take us if we are willing to put in the effort. We may soar on wings like eagles with our reading Friend.
I see myself, standing in the middle of the battlefield. Dark forces coming in from all sides. Am I wearing my helmet of salvation? Do I have the belt of truth about my waist? Am I protected by the breastplate of righteousness? Are my feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace? Is my shield of faith up in front of me, ready to extinguish all the fiery darts of the enemy? Is my hand gripping the sword of the Spirit? Am I ready for battle?
Then I see that I am not standing there alone. My brothers and sisters in Christ are in battle with me. We are standing in a line, poised for the fight. As an army, I hope we are all ready. I hope we can help each other up when we get knocked down. I hope those whose armor is weakened will be helped by the stronger.
I come to realize I can’t aid my fellow soldiers with most of these items – they can only protect me. But, with my sword, I can help those on my left and on my right, as the enemy tries to sneak up behind them. I can wield the sword and help protect, help them fight. I can stay alert. I can pray for them as we battle. And they can do the same for me.
I then see myself, standing in a canyon – dry, cracked dirt and jagged rocks all around, steep brown earthen walls on all sides. I am standing there, in full armor, with my shield up on front of me. It feels so small as I am desperately trying to keep behind it, arrows flying at me from above and around me.
I cry out to God that I need help in this battle. And it’s then that His enormous arm reaches in from behind me, gripping a massive shield, taller than the cliffs around me. He slams it down in front of me, the pointed bottom crushing into the ground, secure, and I am fully protected as I lean into it, resting there in the shadow of His shield.
It is with these images in mind that I grow grateful. Grateful for the armor God has provided. Grateful for the others in battle with me. Grateful that He sometimes steps in and wipes out the enemy. Grateful that at other times He doesn’t – that He sustains, shelters, even as we are still on the battlefield – that He uses the struggle to strengthen us, increase our faith, and teach us – as individuals – as an army. Grateful for the privilege of being one of His soldiers.
And so, with these images in mind, with grateful hearts, we battle on.
You meet someone new. In just a few seconds, it’s determined. Click or Zoink. You just know.
You will never be close. There’s not necessarily any negativity present. Certainly no hatred. You just didn’t click, and never will. You can be civil, even friendly. You can hang out, get along, be around each other and have fun. But, there will not be that closeness, that feeling of familiarity, of total rightness, between you. It will just never happen, no matter how long you know each other or how much time you put into the relationship. That special bond will never form. Just ain’t gonna happen. Zoink.
There’s something there. A familiarity, a kinship, a bond. It may be weak at first. It may take a long time to develop. But it’s there, however faint or strong, immediately. You feel you’ve met a kindred spirit, someone you can be yourself around, someone whom you can understand and will understand you. It is this bond that is necessary to develop a life-long friendship, a closeness that does not come with others. Somehow, the hearts, the personalities, the minds, just fit. It just happens. Click.