Friday, March 28, 2014

Friendship Part 2- Keepin' It Real

I recently read a story about a woman who was in charge of a Sunday school program at a small, rural church. She had been in the position for several years and under her direction, the Sunday school had grown a great deal. This woman drove a big truck and piled as many kids in it as she could every Sunday morning. One Sunday evening her truck was parked in the parking lot of the church and one of the church deacons walked past the truck and smelled something really off. He stopped at her truck and began to look around thinking something might be leaking. What he saw in the bed of the truck shocked him! Empty beer cans, and lots of them! He couldn’t believe what he saw there and went immediately to the pastor and said she must be removed from her position as she was obviously an alcoholic. When in fact she had been collecting cans for the Sunday school fund raiser. She had asked the local bar owners if they would be willing to save their cans so they could turn them in for money.

So far we have been talking about judging women in a negative way.

But what about the women who we judge to "have it all together"? Women who look like they have it all together, but are falling apart on the inside? Often, those women believe that if people really knew who they were, they would not be liked or accepted. There are many women who are hiding behind the I’ve Got It All Together mask at all times.

What is the IGIAT mask? The mask we hide behind so that we do not have to reveal anything about ourselves. Don’t get me wrong—it is okay to walk in a positive light and with a positive attitude. God wants us there. I’m talking about being afraid to let people in, to let them know that we need prayer, have issues with our children or our marriage jobs, etc.
Hiding behind this mask is harmful to us, but it is also very harmful to others. When other women see us and assume that all is perfect, they may feel inferior.
Women need women!
You may have heard the saying "Friends for a season, friends for a reason, friends for a lifetime". Over the past year, I have been contemplating the meaning of this statement. If you are like me, you’d like to keep all of your friends as friends….forever. But that isn’t the life cycle of friendship.

Some friends are here for a season…when our children are toddlers, in grade school, in college or when we become empty nesters. Some friends are here for a reason…to encourage, support, listen, or to help us through the tough times. Some friends are here for a lifetime.If we are very, very lucky we will have friends who are friendships that span our lifetime. Those are the women who are like family. They stand by us through all of life’s twists and turns, and we do the same for them. We may lose touch with them for a time, but then we simply pick up where we left off in our relationship.

The lifecycle of friendship begins because we have common interests and goals. Over time, it deepens and we find ourselves confiding our dreams, disappointments, and challenges. Sharing fun times and making memories is a part of this stage.
Friendships end for all kinds of reasons. A friendship can end abruptly if there is a major disagreement or argument. I find the more common reason is they simply fizzle out. This can be because life takes us in different directions, or more often, a friendship ends because we don’t nurture it.

So what does it mean to nurture a friendship? It means that we reach out and make an effort to stay connected. Social media is great, but Facebook isn’t enough to keep a friendship strong! Making time for the other person is what will solidify your relationship. Sharing a cup of coffee, going to lunch, or exercising together are just a few ways to connect. Get creative! What will work for both of you in your current season of life?

By placing an importance on your friendships, and putting out the effort to keep them alive, you may find more friends for a lifetime than you ever imagined. God does not want us to go through this life without friends as John 15:12-15 states: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."
We all need friends and these women from my example may be longing for a loyal, non-judgmental woman friend who will be there for them. A woman they can share their challenges and victories with. A woman who will pray for them.

Ladies …we need each other!
Someone asked Jesus, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus answered that the law and the prophets hang on two commandments: loving God and loving your neighbor.
What does relationship look like in 2014?
Let’s talk about social media and communication. I am all for the internet! God called me to base my ministry through the internet. I teach 3 times per week on the internet, I counsel on the internet, I proclaim my faith on the internet and I make friends through the internet.

BUT, we were meant for more than just virtual friendships. Technology is great, and necessary, but electronic communication is a poor substitute for true face-to-face relationships. Although technology can make our lives more convenient, counterfeit connections are one-dimensional. We can have "friends" on Facebook, email pen pals, chat room buddies, and text messaging conversations—but none of it is real communication. The words are there, but the deeper meaning and intimacy are lost. It really is just an exchange of information.

Jesus was all about connecting with real people. I recently read this:

What if Jesus would have "Facebooked" the Woman at the Well? She'd have checked her email and found: "Woman at the Well: Jesus has written on your wall." Her wall might say, "Heard you were at the well today. If you ask me, I will give you living water." It kind of loses its meaning. When we read the story in John 4, it was clear that a big part of Jesus' impact was the fact that he was sitting in public talking to: (1) a woman, and (2) a Samaritan. He was risking being seen with her, and he was taking time from his busy life to sit and talk with her. Jesus' life was about people—up close and personal—genuine connection, not counterfeit connection. Technology is a great thing, but overusing it can rob us of real relationships!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Friendship Part 1--Judging Others

Hello Readers --
Thanks for your patience as we made our changes and adjustments in this blog.
I want to share you with some insight on women friendships that the Lord has given me recently. This series will be divided into several articles that can be used for a devotional time, small group or personal ministry.
Let's begin with a story....
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.

'That laundry is not very clean', she said. 'She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap'

Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.

About one month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: 'Look, she has learned
how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?'

The husband said, 'I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.'

What does this story tell us? It tells us that what we see when we look at other women is influenced by the cleanliness of our own window!
I have a few questions for you today.

Have you ever felt judged by other women? Have you ever felt that if someone could just spend some time in your shoes, they would not be so quick to judge you? Have you ever jumped to a conclusion about another woman without knowing the facts of her story? I dare say that we all have done or thought these things.

Every woman has a story; a story that involves challenges and victories, pain and joy, and fear and peace. But what if we were able to spend some time in her shoes? Would what see, think or feel about her change?  
Women know when they are being judged and being judged can be hurtful. Most of us are going to avoid situations like that, aren’t we?

Let's read the story of the Samaritan Woman found in John 4.

6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Water was precious and it was often scarce. It was a responsibility of village women to collect the water for each day. Because the evening temperatures were cooler, most women made the trip to the well in the evening.

I think we can assume that the well was a gathering place for the women of the village. They most likely caught up on the news and exchanged information with each other. 

But notice that in verse 6 it says it was the "sixth hour". It was noon-the hottest part of the day. The woman of Samaria may very well been avoiding the village women. Their stares and whispers, or their "shunning" of her, may have been too much for her to take. She chose the parched heat of noon over running into the village women.

Have you ever avoided situations that would put you in contact with a group of women? Can be scary right? And sometimes we avoid it because we believe that they may judge us.

We do not know all that has taken place in the life of the divorced mom who must leave her kids with a sitter so she can work 2 jobs to put food on the table. We might look at her as someone who is more interested in her career than her family. But, perhaps she was involved in an abusive relationship or was deserted by her husband, left alone to take care of her children without help.

Or what about the young mom who is on government assistance and going to college? Are we tempted to make a snap judgment about her? That she is using the system or taking advantage? What if you spent some time in her shoes? We don’t really know until we do.

Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to reveal to you any woman you may have judged without knowing her real story.