The Gift of Companionship

 

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It’s a sad commentary that despite the many ways we have to connect and communicate with others so many people still feel isolated and alone. Some are in that place after wounds or efforts that didn’t bring fruit and even though they feel isolated and alone, they now choose to be alone rather than risk more hurt and disappointment.

 

Others are in a season of loneliness as a result of a change in their life or location. Sometimes a move, change in job, change in church, change in health, or a death brings about a loss of companionship.

 

alone-angry-anxiety-236151Others still miscue on discovering companionship. It doesn’t happen in sound bite moments. It doesn’t happen in 280 character tweets or snapshot moments on Instagram or Facebook.

 

Companionship comes from a span of time spent with intentionality with another person where your conversation moves beyond the current topics of the day to risk unveiling your heart.

 

It can happen over long walks, time spent lingering over coffee or tea, unhurried moments on a front porch, or intimate moments around an open fire. It rarely happens unless we pause. It’s doomed to fail if we are only looking for what we can get.

 

It happens best when we are committed to another person’s highest good. It IMG_0674happens best when we do not set aside who we are at our core to simply please the other person.

 

We see it happening as Jesus walks with his disciples from one place to another. Sometimes Jesus is teaching a crowd, but sometimes it is only time spent intimately with a few or all of the disciples. Sometimes Jesus is feeding thousands and other times He is breaking bread with only them or washing their feet. They experienced Him in varied contexts and despite their failings, they were his closest companions on earth along with his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

 

Over time the disciples came to see the same truth and share it. Perhaps that is the secret to the deeper friendship of companionship.

 

It brings to mind Amos 3:3 (NKJV):

 

“Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?”

 

IMG_0121In spite of times and seasons where the Lord may pull us away from all that distracts us to be with Him alone, most often our lives are richer and healthier when we develop companions to walk with us. A companion can challenge us when we falter or drift away from truth and the highest good he or she believes for us. A companion will listen well, but not hesitate to speak what is needed.

 

Companions are easier to develop when we first have companionship with the One who will never leave or forsake us. Over and over again God reminds us through the Bible that He will not leave our side if we walk with Him. He is there when others cannot be for whatever reason. And if He is not there first, we are not as likely to know companionship.

 

How can we be committed to the highest good for another person if we do not have love?beach-bond-chair-160767 The Lord can demonstrate best what love is when we (like the disciples) spend time with Him in many contexts so that we come to share the same truth − His.

 

To know companionship is a gift of grace, grace received and grace offered.

 

“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” 
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

 

In the epilogue in the beautifully written book, Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan, she writes a reminder to us about grace that applies well to our intentionality about companionship:

 

“Grace does not tell us how long we have in our life, or what comes next − that’s why grace is only given in the moment.”

 

Grace moments woven together one upon another opens the door to companionship.

 

“When we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.”

Henri Nouwen

 

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Photo by joyce huis on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

When The Wind Blows

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March calendars tell us spring is on the way in the northern hemisphere, but it seems that winter does not give up its hold easily. The month brings with it nearly every type of weather. High pressure and low-pressure systems race along the undulating jet stream bringing rain, snow, and powerful winds. Occasional glimpses of the sun and a warmer day disappear before we can find our spring jackets.

 

fallen-tree-5224The weather channel stories have highlighted mudslides, tornadoes, record floods, and snowfalls so far this month of March. Even those who have avoided these events have been exposed to winds uprooting trees and shaking free dead branches and limbs to litter the landscape.

 

Weather can be like that – ever changing.

 

Life is like that as well. Things come at us from any and all directions. Sometimes only one thing, but often more than one bombards us at a time. Perhaps the Lord allows us to be shaken as well to get rid of what is no longer life giving and nourishing, reminding us of what is essential.

 

During a recent storm with winds in excess of 60 MPH, some trees were uprooted with huge root systems pulled out of the ground while others stood in the midst of the onslaught. For those left standing, the wind pruned out the weakest and dead limbs and branches.

 

Science tells us that most healthy trees can weather brief periods of high wind along PICT0261with heavy rain from thunderstorms. But if the ground is saturated from too much rain, the root system can lose its grip. A grip can also be lost if a healthy tree is top heavy.

 

We don’t see the wind. Christina Georgina Rossetti wrote a poem in a children’s anthology of poems that captures that truth:

 

“Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.”

 

What happens to us when the winds of life begin to blow?

 

Much of what might determine that depends on how deep and broad the roots of our faith and relationships grow. Are they well nourished and healthy?

 

Health comes from consistent nourishment of all the nutrients needed. It doesn’t come from snacking with an occasional good meal tossed in for good measure. It comes from a commitment and discipline to develop and grow our faith and relationships.

 

michael-bryant-605807-unsplashWe cannot get healthy and develop a strong root system when we notice a storm approaching. It happens long before the storm appears on the horizon. It happens on ordinary days in all kinds of weather as we dig deep into the truth of who the Lord is, what He calls us to be, and Who the foundation of our life i

 

In a novel I have read recently, one sentence caught my attention:

 

“You can take the wind as God sends it.”

 

The author used these words to describe one of the characters whose father died and whose mother was able to show little interest after she remarried. Numerous hardships including a failed marriage, death of child, death of a spouse, and more left her standing, but with a hardened and cold heart. There was no faith despite an acknowledgement she was able to take the wind as it came to her. Her reliance on herself had made her brittle so that wind would one day topple her.

 

When the winds and storms of life assault us, may we heed Paul’s words in Colossians:

 

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

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Get Ready for the Maybe

 

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Gwen Bristow’s 1970 novel, Calico Palace, has immersed me in the early days of California and the gold rush era. The novel is not new to me. We have had it on our bookshelves since not long after it was first published, but I enjoy diversity in my reading. I nearly always have a novel going at the same time I am reading something a bit meatier.

 

I pulled this one off the shelf recalling we kept it because my husband and I had both read it and I thought I might want to read it again some day. I knew it would take me a few pages to get settled into the story that wends its way through nearly 600 pages.

 

During the timeline of the book, San Francisco was a tawdry little town filled with men looking for a future on the other side of “the States” without any awareness gold was about to be discovered. Before long men who were eager to get rich were filling up the town on their way to creeks and hills where they hoped to find gold.

 

astro-awesome-blue-1307986The town (if you want to call it that) grew up around those arriving initially by ship after a perilous journey around the Horn of South America or by traveling across the Isthmus of Panama in frightful conditions. No one was interested in creating a town, but there was a need to get supplies and information to get started on their adventures.

 

The “buildings” were largely thrown together out of cloth, sticks, and whatever could be found. There was little question it was primitive and conditions didn’t improve as men filled up the place. There was no governing body so garbage was thrown wherever one would please and rats were in abundance. Fresh food was in short supply and heavy rain would turn the area into a sea of mud. Some grew tired of the search for gold.

 

But people kept coming and buildings got thrown together in days where men slept on the floor in places no bigger than a closet and took their leisure in gambling houses that sprouted up. The conditions were ripe for any number of disasters and one of the biggest was fire.

 

ashes-bonfire-burn-1374625Men gave little concern to ashes from cigars despite the flimsy construction of the buildings and other men looked at fire as a means of opportunity to get rich through looting if their own dreams of gold had faded.

 

Fires tore through the town repeatedly before a fire brigade developed and over and over again those trying to live or do business in the town lost everything.

 

One piece of advice offered by a main character in the story after multiple fires was this: “…the way to live is, get ready for the maybe. Then forget it.”

 

The statement left me puzzling and wondering how one gets ready for the maybe, the uncertain something that might happen, but I realized most all of us do that in one way or another.

 

accident-automobile-automotive-1230677When we buy insurance to cover our homes or cars, we’re preparing for the maybe. Depending on our mindset, some of us do it in other purchases and how we live our lives.

 

The word “prepare” in Hebrew connotes things like readiness, foundation, and equipment, to get ready beforehand. Though we may try to prepare for some eventualities, how well do we prepare for the “maybe” and what we need spiritually? 

 

How often do we prepare for the unknown of what each day may bring so we will stand in the midst of difficulty?  Do we consider preparation for the “maybe” of the Lord’s return or do we only manage to look to the moment?

 

Paul writes a powerful admonition about being prepared to the church at Ephesus that we would do well to take for ourselves.

 

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

Ephesians 6:13-18 (MSG)

 

That’s good stuff, but the key is to pause at the first two words. The admonition assumes we recognize that we must be doing this before a threat comes or we need the tools Paul writes about. We prepare when the weather is perfect, we are healthy, and there is no hint of any kind of threat to our safety.

 

There’s the rub. When all is well with us, it can be easy to forget we need to prepare for the maybe. But prepare and get ready we must and it cannot wait till we are in the midst of a hard challenge, a disaster, a dashed hope, or the sound of a trumpet.

 

Jesus reminds us of that clearly in Matthew 25 in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. You may recall the story of five who were prepared with fresh oil in their lamps and five who had allowed their oil to run out and not taken any more to be ready. The peril of the foolish virgins is clear:

“In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bridegroom’s here! Go out and greet him!’

 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’

Matthew 25: 6-8 (MSG)

 

One thing is sure: uncertainty is the norm. We will face it many times in our lives. We cannot know or fully prepare for the unknown, but we can prepare for what will sustain us when it happens.

 

In the novel, Kendra reminds us from her own early experience with a wise grandmother:

“When I would run in, all upset about something that might happen next week, she used to say to me, ‘Little girl, the way to live is get ready for the maybe. Then forget it.”

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The Epidemic of Offense

 

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Recent years seem to have resulted in a growing epidemic of offense. No matter who you are or what you think or believe someone seems to take offense. It often doesn’t matter how you say it, the tone you use, or the choice of words, a person is tempted to take it personally and come blazing back before even clarifying what you are trying to convey.

 

Sadly, I think we have failed to recognize how deception is running rampant and what the source of the rise of the offense is.

 

Do we not recognize the enemy in our midst?

 

Who else is so clever to set us up so that we see ourselves as victims of someone else’s beliefs, values, opinions, or positions? It results in us attacking each other and guess who wins?

 

Our tendency to blame others keeps the fire going and escalating while Satan gleefully stands back watching the scenes play out one after another. He uses anything and everything as props for the drama that unfolds.

 

John Bevere makes the issue plain in his book, The Bait of Satan:accusation-anger-angry-984950

 

“When we blame others and defend our own position, we are blind. We struggle to remove the speck out of our brother’s eye while there is a log in ours. “

 

Reading this might tempt us to start pointing out others who are doing that in our personal, church, or political life, but that shows the snare. We miss that we are no less guilty.

 

One of the consequences of this growing problem has been the division and walls it has created between so many of us about more than a few things. We unfriend and unfollow people on social media and start opening our lives to only those who agree with us.

 

We make assumptions and develop expectations that run through the filter of our own perceptions.

 

What a web the enemy has woven and how skillfully he has used it.

 

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He has divided families, friends, churches, cultures, and nations for starters and he won’t be satisfied until we destroy everything and everyone we once held dear.

 

Strongholds have developed that set up the patterns of how we process information, communicate, and respond.

 

“…the soil of an offended heart is barren, poisoned by bitterness.” (John Bevere)

 

One of the tools of the enemy evident even back in the Garden of Eden was to get a person isolated. We are more easily seduced, swayed, and defeated when we are isolated. And if he succeeds in erecting more and more walls, few of us will not succumb. To only trust our own counsel is foolishness and deception.

 

God created us to live in the context of relationship – first with Him and then with one another. Of course Satan would want to take the legs out from under us in this arena.alone-angry-anxiety-236151

 

I have heard it said that it seems like everything that can be shaken is being shaken. The enemy may be doing the shaking, but God has a purpose.

 

John Bevere’s wife notes in his book “there are five purposes for shaking an object:

  1. To bring it closer to its foundation
  2. To remove what is dead
  3. To harvest what is ripe
  4. To awaken
  5. To unify or mix together so it can no longer be separated”

 

What hope that gives if we correct our perception and do not fall prey to fear because of the shaking.

 

That does not mean we are to compromise.

 

Jesus never compromised the truth in order to keep others from being offended, but He also was not pulled in by being offended. He was crystal clear in his knowledge of who He was, where his trust lay, and what foundation of truth resided within Him.

 

That reality…is it ours?

 

It brings to mind the refrain in the hymn, “I Know Whom I Believed”, written by Daniel Whittle in 1883:

“But I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

 

No one of us can turn back the tide by ourselves, but one thing each of us can consider IMG_1232doing: we can resist Satan by not becoming offended.

 

It isn’t about abdicating the truth, His truth. It is about having our hearts, minds, and spirits planted in that truth based on the witness of the Holy Spirit as we read the Bible in context (not pulling out certain verses or passages to support our own position).

 

“Jesus offended some people by obeying His Father, but He never caused an offense in order to assert His own rights.” (John Bevere)

 

If we have been confused, perhaps it is time for us to confuse the enemy.

 

God has a story about that in 2 Chronicles 20. Things were looking pretty grim for King Jehoshaphat.

 

The armies of the Ammonites and the Moabites were about to overrun Israel and Judah; but as they began singing, the Lord confused the enemy camp and these two enemies began attacking and destroying one another.

 

The armies of the Lord defeated the enemy in the midst of his people.

 

Aslan is on the move.  

 

Will we join Him?

 

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What Lens Are You Using?

 

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My husband and I rarely do anything the same way despite having very similar values and more than fifty years of marriage behind us. And in this season of retirement it can be easy to bump into those differences a bit more often – especially when we are both in the kitchen.

 

For most of our married life the kitchen has primarily been my domain even though he has always offered to help when we were both at home. Since he retired a few years before I did, he started using “my” kitchen in the ways he thought were the best. That was generally okay as I was tired when I got home and I just rearranged things “the right way.”

 

I had no idea he was as certain his way was right until we were both in the kitchen trying to accomplish something at the same time (even when we were trying to help each other do so).pntx9586

 

I am sure a few of you are smiling about now…

 

When I am cooking I tend to cleanup as I go, but in a multiple step recipe it doesn’t happen after every little step. If he is helping me with a recipe, however, that is exactly what he believes is needed. How we put silverware in the dish drainer is never the same either. He puts the silverware up one way and I do the opposite.

 

Yes, we know these are preferences, but somehow each of us is persuaded that we have the better idea.

 

The exception is when we make a salad together. We each have a cutting board and a separate part of the counter and it all works like clockwork. (And we make some amazing salads!)

 

eyeglasses-eyesight-glass-items-1627639Have you noticed how often the lens through which we do things causes us to believe that our way is the right way.

 

I think that issue has been around since the beginning of time, but it seems to have reached a monumental point in the current age. We live in a time where each of us is totally and unequivocally convinced what we are doing is the right way, in the right time, for the right reason. No discussion about it.

 

The result?

 

In every area of our lives discord and division can be the common thread. We do what we believe is right and we believe it so strongly that we don’t listen to any new information nor accept any authority higher than ourselves.

 

Challenging authority used to be commonly associated with toddlers and teens, but there is no season or age limit to this now. If we do not agree with the boss, the leader, the pastor, or whoever is in authority in any area, we refuse to participate or consider how to function.

 

It sounds very much like what life was like at the end of the book of Judges in the Old Testament. The very last sentence reads: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” 

 

The earlier part of that verse says “there was no king in Israel.” What it doesn’t say, but what was true was that God was their king and they were rejecting Him by rejecting any authority He had set over them. At that time judges were the authority God had put in place.

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The fact that everyone did as he or she wished presents a sad commentary on the spiritual condition of the nation in those days. There was discord within the tribes and among all the tribes. Sound familiar?

 

The Holman Concise Bible Commentary gives an insightful explanation about why God places authority over mankind: “Human sinfulness necessitates governments to enforce morality.”

 

Authority has been an issue ever since Lucifer chose to rebel against God’s authority and took a third of the angels of heaven with him to war on those whom God chose and elected to be his own.

 

More than once the Bible tells us a story where people were told to submit to authority binoculars-blur-close-up-373335when it did not make sense to those who were to submit. It seems evident that lawlessness and doing what is right in our own eyes is not consistent with God’s plan.

 

I can think of many situations where submitting to authority seems to be foolishness, but Pauls’ words to the Romans in Romans 13:1 brings me up short:

 

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (NKJV)

 

What is happening in our community, body, or nation may not make sense or seem right to us, but our trust is not to be in fallible men and women. Even a casual review of history tells me that is not wisdom because every one of us is flawed.

 

What sobers me as well is whether or not these same fallible men and women are more so because we have all forgotten our responsibility before God that Timothy clearly lays out in 1 Timothy 2:1-3:

 

“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.” (MSG)

 

When we consider what isn’t right in our own eyes, perhaps we must first look at how God’s eyes see us and consider our own deportment.

 

He sees perfectly.

 

We never do.

 

Perhaps I cannot totally avoid my complaining, but it should never exceed how often God calls me to pray for those about whom I complain.

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