YA bonus – Freedom in friendship without fear

Have you ever had a friendship you wish you could get back?

Sometimes friendships are for a season, and that’s ok. Sometimes friendships go the long haul and see us through the hardest sorrows and the most special days. Then there are friendships that slip out of your hands. There, and then missing. You might notice the void right away, or it may take years until you suddenly realize – “I let go of something that I should have held on tight to with all my strength.”

When I was in elementary school I had a very best friend. We performed musicals in her living room with homemade costumes and everything. We stayed up too late talking and laughing. We played Jeopardy and the Oregon Trail on this tiny computer screen that was like a square box and had a green cursor. I loved her. She loved me. I was a part of her family and she was a part of mine.

Then, we began to grow up. Suddenly, boys and studies and new friendships seemed so much more important and glamorous…to me. I’m the one who gave up on a friendship. I watched it fade to black and acted callous, like it didn’t matter. But it did.

There are few people in this life who love you just for who you are. People you’ve shared every fear with and they love you more for it. I traded trust for what looked good at the moment. And trust is where real freedom resides in a relationship.

This week, we aim for more freedom in our friendships as we look at Galatians 2:4-7 to understand the difference between false and real brothers, and holding on to what really matters.

Discerning friendship is rarely easy, but God’s Word gives us guidance, Christ’s love offers constant forgiveness, and trust begins and ends with a real and active, living God in our lives.

Dropping the yoke of fake friendship, freedom in trust and being real…

Question of the Week:

Is this friendship offering freedom or fear? Am I offering freedom or fear in friendship?

Did you download this week’s Dear 52 Chasing Freedom card yet? It’s free! 😉 Click on the link to find it and connect in friendship today.

Looking to the New Year: Embracing a week of nothingness

That magical week between Christmas and New Years is always one of my favorite times of the whole year.

First, it’s filled with rest.

The busy Advent season rolls into Christmas morning. We enjoy a small and casual church service filled with jolly “Merry Christmas!”-es and “Joy to the World” sung at the top of everyone’s voice, whether they can sing or not. It’s a joyful noise kind of unabashed worship that is rare and wonderful. There’s coffee and Ohio-style coffee cake in long sugary strips. Then we come home. And we sit. We open presents. Sometimes friends and family visit or we visit them. There aren’t any rules or rushing. It’s a week with something we wish most of life held just a little more often…no expectations.

Second, it’s filled with togetherness.

People come and gather around our table or we gather round theirs. There’s munching and new lego sets that require help. There’s iceskating and games and too many baked goods. There’s a book and the last of the Christmas movies that never got watched. There’s wine and snuggles, fluffy blankets, and car trips. Sometimes, there’s nothingness and it feels like a slice of grace and restoration from the Savior Himself.

Third, it’s filled with what’s to come.

It’s that quiet time of contemplation that exists before planning. It’s not hard core we-must-get-stuff-done planning, but it’s that place before it. That time and space where we know we are going to plan some stuff, new stuff needs to happen, life needs to move forward, but nothing needs to be done yet. We get to just think about things without the pressure to act. We get to hope and dream about what’s to come. A little voice says action is coming and it’s coming soon. It feels fresh and filled with energy, but is not pressing. It’s the nudge of New Year’s, not the shove from a life left undone.

I pray you get to enjoy this special week. The space in-between. Jesus lived a span of 33 years between His birth in that stable and His death and resurrection on Easter Morn. The space in-between is purposeful and worthy of a breathe of thanksgiving. Let fill this time of not yet with more and more of Him. Always more of Him.

*To help you fill this New Year with a little more of Him, from today thru Jan. 2 you can get the Kindle version of Think of These: A Study of Philippians 4:8 for just $1.99! See the link below to grab the deal!

Think on These on Amazon
Also- plan to join us for our Spring Online Study of James, Good Gifts, starting March 6th! This study has study posts each week AND an optional weekly video segment. Sign up will begin in early February. Follow on your own or gather together a group from your church, your neighborhood, or online from anywhere!

Making Advent a place of rest…

I have a little secret. I love winter. While people all around me are grumbling about the cold and the snow and the winds, I smile and nod, but deep down I know the truth- what would life we like without winter?
I love to look out the window and watch the snow come down. I like to add an extra pair of socks and trudge around my yard in the wee hours of morning with my husband and a pair of cross-country skis. I like to sit in my car while it defrosts all the snow and ice, because I’m from St. Louis and even after 10 years in Northern Ohio, I still don’t own a snow scrapper. I like to wrap my hands around a warm mug. But most of all what I love about winter is the rest of it all.
See, I love excitement. I love to go and do and I love to take life at a breakneck. Ministry is even like this for me, and honestly, I think ministry by its nature feels like this for most of us. It doesn’t stop. There is always more to be done, people to care for, programs to plan for, people who need to know the truth of Jesus. And who will tell them?
And we want it to be exciting; we want it to be exuberant and happening. But every day can’t be spring. Every day can’t be new stuff and greater things to come. Every day can’t be fall, with its harvest of new souls and it’s bounty of production. Every day can’t be summer. Every day can’t be VBS and summer camp and youth bonfires. But when nothing is “happening” in ministry we feel the big f’s come on – failure, frustration, and friction. We end up much like Narnia with a ministry that feels like “always winter, and never Christmas.” We feel burnt and spent, but rest alludes us.
So, where is God in our winter? In Matthew 11:28-29, we hear the much loved passage, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.God in heaven, maker of the stars, knows I need rest for my soul…but do I know it? Do you know it? Does your husband know it?
How can we encourage rest for ourselves, and our husbands? We see them scurry to and fro, we see them struggle and work hard. There are evening meetings to be attended and children to put to bed, members who are ill, and homeless who need a warm coat. There are deaths and baptisms, and divorces and Children’s Christmas Programs. Where is the rest in this season that God has given us?
Note that Jesus invites us into rest, but it is a learned process.  “Take my yoke…and learn from me.” Rest is a practice developed. Create rest times in your home schedule. Make the meal table a place of rest and date night a welcome invitation to rest. Block a day out on your calendar for nothingness to happen. 
Rest yourself. When the snow comes down, refuse to shovel the driveway for 2 extra hours, to hold your mug of coffee in your hand and praise the Creator for His wonder instead.  

What if the phone rings, what if life happens? I don’t know. But you do. God whispers in our hearts with His Spirit when we need some rest. He tells us in our hearts and in our marriages. He offers usrest-oration in these moments, put into practice. Certainly His cross gives us all the rest we need, but in these verses, Jesus shows us that, like He always does, He offers us more. He offers us His cross, and His rest, daily.

I pray for you in this winter season, that you find His rest again… and in it, ministry restoration, family restoration, and Newness of Life for all the seasons to come.