Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Pathway to Peace

I woke up the other morning with a few random words spinning in my head.   They seemed random, but they're actually quite connected.

Funnily enough, they all started with P, and a few more came to me throughout the course of the day.
So why all these random words?   Well, I've been asking the Lord for a while now a question that is not easily answered, and perhaps these seemingly random words are a pathway to those answers, like stepping stones, if you will.

So, here's the question, or series of questions really, and it's rather long-winded:
How do you move forward in a difficult relationship, when you can't actually safely or easily engage with the other person to resolve the issues?   

I've been praying about one relationship in particular, but others come to mind.   All of us have people that we struggle to get along with, whether they be siblings, parents, children, friends, colleagues, people at church, customers, acquaintances, neighbours, perhaps even your spouse.    Sometimes it's open conflict; in other relationships, it's just a quiet strain that is always there. 

Sometimes, honestly, it's easier to just stay away from them, isolate ourselves, withdraw emotionally, stay polite and pretend everything is fine.   Perhaps for safety we have to do some of that or perhaps it's just how we manage the conflict for ourselves, because they're unaware of it.   Perhaps we just need time to heal and get some perspective, but sometimes that develops into not knowing how to go back and start again.  How do we move forward from there? 

If we can't actually sit down and work through the issues with that person, and we're not even sure what the issues are, and we're not sure why we can't work them out or how to fix it, or if we even want to, but we're willing, BECAUSE WE LOVE GOD! -  how do we move forward?   These are the thoughts and questions that I have tossed around for many months now. 

I've been praying and reading and wondering about it all.   So, the Lord very kindly woke me up this week with these words and added a few as I pondered on them throughout the day.  Funnily enough, they all start with P and I've thought of a few others, but I'll try and stick to the plan, which is still unfolding. 

I figure the best place to start is with P plates, given that all these words start with P and most of us are still learning how to do relationships well, regardless of age or status.

I think it's probably fair to say that many of us don't naturally know how to resolve conflict in relationships, so we attack or withdraw - fight or flight, right?    If we didn't start life with healthy relationships, then it's not going to be easy to move forward in relationships when there is conflict, even if we are Christians.   And guess what, if you're in a relationship, at some point, there's going to be conflict!

So, I'm hoping as I dig into what the Word says about each of these words, I'll find a pathway through and out to the other side - to being at peace with myself and with God and with others. 

For now, I'll leave you with the words themselves and will come back to this post as soon as I can, with hopefully an insight or two on the first point.   I suspect this will take some time as I dig into each one, and I also suspect it will be quite painful, but here goes. 

I'll also leave you with the verse that jumps out at me just at the moment, and which is so relevant in the light of the struggle that we all have.  

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Romans 12:18

Monday, 22 July 2019


My girls have all loved to play dress ups over the years, especially when they're little.
One of the favourite objects in our dressing up boxes has been glasses.   For some reason, glasses of all shapes and colours just can't be parted with when it comes time to donate to charity and make room for bigger dress ups.   

I was praying in the early hours this morning, and the Lord showed me a picture of glasses,  of all shapes and sizes.   I remembered that I had a photo of one of the girls dressed up with glasses.  Turned out I had quite a few, more than is pictured here.  

Why do we love glasses so much?   Is it because they change and colour the way we see things around us?   Does it give us a place to hide?   Does it give us a fresh and interesting perspective on ordinary things?   Does it give us a new way of looking at ourselves?   I suspect it's all that and more.

The Lord reminded me this morning that we often look at and receive messages through the glasses that we put on as children and adolescents, though not for dressing up purposes. 

The things that happen to us when we're young, and our responses to them, impact our lives from that point on.  I'm reminded that when we're young and vulnerable and impressionable, we often form images and ideas based on the messages received from the 'big people' in our lives.  

Obviously, the big people are our parents, but also others like siblings and other relatives, friends, teachers, pastors, employers, etc. 

Those images and ideas that are formed then become our 'truth', our way of measuring everything that comes after it, our reference points, our way of seeing things.   We often live life with our peculiar glasses on, unable to see life as it was meant to be seen, unable to receive different messages and truths now, because we're still wearing the same glasses, still using the same filters, still believing the same things - about ourselves, about others, about God.    Have our glasses actually damaged, and not helped, our vision?  

Yesterday, I listened to a rather powerful sermon, interjected by a couple of powerful and challenging prayers, which we were encouraged to speak out, that really reminded me that we often believe lies, for a very long time, and live out of those lies that we've believed, often unknowingly.    Those lies, those beliefs and the associated pain and anger and dysfunction, can keep us in a place of immaturity, a place of stagnancy, of slowly dying, instead of growing in relationship with Him and others.  

So, my challenge to you, and to myself is this:

Are you wearing glasses that affect how you see things and how you receive messages?   Can you give God those glasses, those filters, even if you can't see them or recognise how cracked they are?   Can you let it go and ask His truth to shine into those dark places of the past that poison the now?  It's a big ask and it's scary.    But God will pick up the pieces and strengthen you to move forward, if you'll let Him.   

I really believe it's time to let go - of the lies, the pain, the unforgiveness - and the glasses!!

I'll leave you with a verse that has challenged us and changed us this week.  

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.   2 Chronicles 16:9

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Journey Along the River Nile

How would you like to take a boat journey down the Nile River to the Mediterranean Sea?   

Not your ideal holiday?   Perhaps your preference would be cruising down the Rhine, looking at magnificent European castles.  Or sailing around the islands of the Pacific.  Or biking your way through the lanes of Britain.   

I imagine there aren't many who would choose a boat trip down the Nile River if they had to choose just one international holiday.  

Well, that's what my 10yo Miss said to me the other day, when I posed this question as part of her writing assignment on the pictured library book.   It's part of our present studies on the continent of Africa.   The book is very well presented, for those of you interested in Africa, or homeschooling.  I really enjoyed it and she would have too, if it wasn't a 'forced' writing exercise.  

She really struggled to come up with the required four lines of a written answer of what she would like to see and do as she sailed down the Nile River to its mouth.  In fact, she pouted and growled for hours.   She'd read the book, answered lots of questions about what there is to see and do, including all the dangers, but she just is NOT interested in going there, thank you very much!   

It got me thinking that perhaps we're like that with God.   Has God chosen a journey for you that is very different to what you wanted, what you imagined your life to look like right now?    Are you sailing down the Nile with all its dangers, when you'd much rather be on a gondolier in Venice or sitting on a beach somewhere or just cruising through an easy life?    Have you hit the rapids in your journey or maybe you're just plain fed up with the lack of progress in making it to the end of this forced exercise.  You didn't choose it and you don't like it, thank you very much!!  

But God is a loving parent, because He knows what we need, and that we don't want it, and won't want it, given the choice.    He knows that one day we'll look back and be so very grateful for all that we learnt on this treacherous journey, the one we thought would never end, the one that made us stronger and kinder and more thankful, the one that showed us who we are and who He really is for us and in us.    

I, for one, would LOVE to go to Africa and yes, to see the Nile, but to be a part of what God is doing there.   I'd love to meet the people, see the sights, see Africa's magnificent animals in something other than a zoo, see the needs and somehow to meet just one of those needs.    But for now, my journey is a different one.  But perhaps the journey I'm on now will make me stronger and kinder and more thankful, so that when I do get to Africa at last, I will be able to minister Him to those I see.   

Romans 8:28   And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Are We There Yet?

I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from Me there is no saviour.
I have revealed and saved and proclaimed –
I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. 
Isa 43:11-12

‘Are we there yet?   Are we there yet?’ 

If you’re a parent, you’ll have heard this question just a few times.   As a toddler, Miss Abi, who is now 6, would utter these words within the first half hour of an all-day journey.   It makes you cringe, because you know you won’t hear it just once during that long journey.

From a toddler’s point of view, it’s a valid question.  They have no control over the journey, the destination, the time taken or even their own comforts.   That’s all down to you, and it’s hard to wait and trust and believe that the parent has it covered, especially if you are, by nature, a leader, and not a follower. 

Are you on a journey that you can’t control?   Do you find yourself asking ‘When, God, when?’, ‘How, God, how?’, ‘Why, God, why?’, and ‘Are we there yet?’.  Do you find yourself wanting to get out of the vehicle or at least be the driver?   Like toddlers, we can be pretty impatient and unbelieving when we can’t see or control the destination, the time frame, how or when we travel, or even how comfortable we are on the journey. 

And when find ourselves on a long, tedious journey full of unknowns and many causes for discomfort, how do we keep moving forward, how do we rest in our seats?

When I look forward at this new year, with its new numbers and possibilities, there are so many unknowns.   We head into this new year tired in many ways from last year’s struggle.  I can so relate to the Israelites in the desert, surviving on manna, walking miles each day, wondering, complaining, questioning.   What were they looking forward to, or were they even looking forward?    

Are we looking forward, or just trying to survive, just putting one foot in front of the other?   To look forward and not cringe when I hear my own ‘Are we there yet?’ questions screaming at me, I need to look back. 

I need to look back at the year that was, and remember the God who spoke those thoughts at the top of this page.   We have indeed been witnesses to Him revealing and saving and proclaiming and just being God in our turmoil.  

This last difficult, tedious, long year has been full of God’s grace – His faithfulness, His goodness, His mercy, His attention to detail, His encouragement, His promises and His lessons.  

God sent the Israelites on a journey to a place He had prepared for them, a purpose He had designed for them, with promises in hand, and power to fulfil them.    It wasn’t a quick or an easy journey, made even more difficult by their lack of knowledge of Him or trust in Him.   But He showed them.  

He showed them Who He was and what He could do.  He showed them even before they left Egypt that He was God above all gods and He called them into a growing relationship with Him.   He continued to show Himself to them, even in ways they did not appreciate. 
So how are we going on our journey?   Are we pretty comfortable because everything is cruisy at the moment?   Or are we still in the midst of a problem we can’t fix and constantly fighting with frustration at our lack of control, fighting doubts about God’s control and compassion, and enduring pain from the struggle?   

And what destination are we aiming for?   Is what we’re aiming for the same as what God wants for us?    

Sometimes, we can be on a journey to our preferred destination, but we find out that our journey is interrupted, that our destination, the place we are aiming for, is not necessarily what God wants, that there’s more, a higher calling, a better place, and a much more roundabout way of getting there.   Darn!   This was not the plan.

Then, we discover that it’s not about the destination but about the journey itself.   It’s about learning Who He is for us on the journey.   And it’s in the difficult journeys that we do indeed discover Him. 

This year, we’ve learnt some lessons in what God’s blessing looks like, and we’re learning that God is sovereign, much like the parent who gets to decide where, when and how the journey goes.   Submitting to that sovereignty, however, is a whole other matter, and one we wrestle with again and again. 

Are we there yet?   Apparently not, but we’ve covered a lot of ground.   And when we can’t see the way forward, when we can only see the trips and tumbles and pain from the journey so far, we need to hang onto the promises below.   

As we step into the new year, we need to remind ourselves that the same God who brought the ark to rest on a mountain, who split the Red Sea, who pulled down the impenetrable walls of Jericho and who ripped the temple curtain in two, that very same God has got this and is on our journey.  

‘This is what the Lord says— He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’  Isa 43:16-19

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Roses and Rafting

Roses and rafting don’t exactly go together, eh?   No, I guess they don’t, but for us, this year, they most certainly do.   Let me tell you why.  

Just recently, the Lord gave me an analogy of us being on a raft, going on a journey, in very unfamiliar territory (the waves!) to an unknown destination with an unknown time frame.    Are you feeling comfortable with that?   No, we’re not either, but God has comforted us in it and made this temporary dwelling place and this journey reasonably comfortable, when we stop to appreciate it.  

So, a raft is a fairly temporary thing, right?   It’s not meant to be a permanent dwelling or a long-term place to be, nor a particularly stable way to get from here to there.   Rafts tend to be employed when there aren’t other, more conventional methods of transport.  A raft needs to stay fairly level to be able to keep moving, or your journey is going to go belly up.   And the steering isn’t always great on them, either.    I keep reminding myself, all of us really,  that the ark didn’t have a steering wheel either and I don’t think Noah had an end date or location or working plan B for his God-ordained adventure.   

So, here we are in a temporary dwelling, away from home for over 9 months now, so that Anna can recuperate from a life-threatening illness.     We don’t know how long we’ll be here or how this whole thing will play out, and no matter how much we press the Lord for definitive answers, He is only giving us enough information or direction to move towards healing, enough to make us come back for more. 

Why?   Partly because we simply can’t take in all the information we need in one hit.  Like a wave, it can be overwhelming to know everything at once and we can over-correct, which isn’t a great idea in a raft.   He also knows we will run ahead in our attempts to control the direction of the raft, and probably tip ourselves overboard in the process.   We’ve come close to that a few times.   So, our current journey is one of leaning in and listening, of tweaking, balancing and re-balancing, riding the sometimes tumultuous waves and then coming back to some kind of peace, and sometimes just plain old staying afloat in the doldrums, when nothing appears to be moving us forward.   

In the midst of trying to find out exactly what is wrong, physically, and why, and where to go from here, there are many other things God is interested in doing in all our lives.   While I can’t elaborate on all of that, can I just say that God isn’t wasting the exercise on any of us.   There is so much going on in the lives of everyone in our family, and God hasn’t wasted any of the difficulties we have faced and still do face, using them instead to refine us, to give us new perspective and new understanding on old problems and patterns, some of which we’ve seen, some we haven’t.    The problems are spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, genetic and just plain sin, all nicely mixed up together.   And because they’re all inter-connected, it’s a tough job to untangle the mess and put things right.    Us being human, we just can’t see all that’s not right, let alone put it right, so if we want it to be right, we have to leave it to the One who knows exactly what to do and when and how, which means being out of control.  

Much like being on a raft, really.  It means having to trust when we can’t see how it’s going to change.  It means putting one foot in front of the other when we’re exhausted and frustrated and scared.   Sometimes it simply means to stay on the darn raft and hang on and try to be nice to each other on the journey!! 

It means trusting that there is a destination, a good one, and that God knows that destination as well as He has known all our previous destinations and seasons and challenges.   It means trusting that what He’s doing now is leading us to that ‘promised land’, and preparing us for that, all the while allowing us to enjoy the current journey, as much as we are able and willing to do that.  

All of this leads me to wonder how much the pilgrims enjoyed their journey to the shores of America, with all its challenges, while grieving all they left behind, not knowing what, or who, lay before them or when.  

So, where do the roses fit into it?    They are a part of the beauty of this raft God has us on.   This house fits us well, though not perfect and ‘not a palace’, as the real estate agent so eloquently described it.   It’s in a quiet street in a quiet town, just up the road from the swimming pool, Kids’ Club, the library, a lovely little cafĂ© and an IGA.   It’s only 15 minutes to extended family, medical appointments and larger shops and supplies.   There is a place for both cars to be sheltered from storms, of which there have been many lately.   It has two living rooms, so plenty of space for everyone.   The girls have room to move in their bedroom, room to play, and room for what they actually need, which has been enlightening for them.   The Lord provided us with a very reasonable, almost-new trampoline within minutes of us asking for it which has made the house so much quieter!  The girls have been able to do gymnastics since July and made some young friends.   We have a dishwasher (never thought I would be so thankful for that contraption!).    God has led us to so many ‘just right’ pieces of furniture and equipment that we need not just to survive, but to thrive, on our raft, our temporary dwelling.    The wood heater kept the house very warm in the winter which was an important part of Anna’s early recovery, with no extra heating necessary.   The bird life here is amazing and there is little trouble in the neighbourhood.  

And the roses?   The roses, during the winter, were a reminder of new life coming and reminded us how important pruning is.  And now, in the spring, they are in full bloom, and reminders of the beauty and growth God has planned for each of us, in due season.   Each rose bush has a different coloured bloom, but each one is amazing.   We don’t cut them and bring them inside because we’d all be sneezing, but we appreciate how much they beautify our little raft, our place to float and trust that God’s got this, now and for the rest of this journey with all its unknowns. 

So, if you’re in transition, or on a journey you didn’t choose, remember, He makes everything beautiful, right, and appropriate in its time.   

 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.   Ecclesiastes 3:11

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Happy Birthday, Liz


About 26 years ago, we lived in Brewarrina, a small town in north-western NSW, and I was pregnant with our first child. 

Brewarrina was a very small town, so we often went to Dubbo, about 5 hours' drive away, for shopping and medical check ups. 

On this particular trip to Dubbo, I was about 34.5 weeks pregnant and we were having a check up because my local doctor had thought I was a bit small for that gestation, so he wanted some checks done in a larger centre. 

So, after a couple of days of shopping, we marched into the ultrasound room, hoping to get the checks done and dusted, so we could start on our 5hr journey back to Brewarrina.    I wasn't feeling great, seeing stars and had a bit of a headache, but put it down to too much heat and shopping.   We were sick of the big smoke and the heat and ready to head north.   Little did we realise what a little smoke Dubbo was compared to Sydney. 

The ultrasound specialist began her checks and got very quiet.  She called in another technician and they both look worried.   Someone checked my blood pressure and asked a few questions.  Then they panicked!  

They gave us a pretty bleak scenario.  This child possibly had an external bladder and/or kidneys and was growth retarded and they weren't sure why.  My blood pressure was through the roof and I was being sent to Sydney immediately on a plane for specialist treatment.

'Um, excuse me, we're actually going home.  It's all good, you're all over-reacting and we just want to get home before it gets too late and we have to drive into the sun.' 

No, we weren't going home and it finally sank in how serious this could be.   So, I stayed put while hubby dashed off to let our Christian friends at St Faiths House of Prayer know to start praying!   Thankfully, there was a prayer retreat happening at the time, so there were plenty of pray-ers. No mobile phones back then to send text messages, no Facebook for quick coverage, just leg work. 

In the meantime, the medical staff started the process of organising a plane for me to go to Sydney, and let Dave know that he'd have to drive down.     I wasn't allowed out of bed and was told I had this condition and that condition, most of which I'd never heard of.  We then decided to freak the parents out, giving them enough information to worry and not enough to put their minds at rest, because we honestly didn't know ourselves what was going on.   It was a difficult time for them, because it was very difficult to get in touch with us and find out what was going on.  No mobile phones and this was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. 

So, on the plane, I'm lying on my back, thinking that I was going in the wrong direction and where was my hubby and what on earth was going to happen to this baby.    I remember looking out the plane window, seeing some clouds and lots of blue, and feeling pretty helpless, and I began thinking of some lines from a song I'd sung in church many times - 'God who made the earth, the air, the sky, the sea, Who gave the light its birth, careth for me.'  It sure was a big sky and I needed an even bigger God to fix this problem.   I felt quite calm after that and the attending nurse was glad of it, because anxiety wasn't helping my elevated blood pressure.  

We got to Sydney and I was taken by ambulance to King George V Women's Hospital, part of Royal Prince Alfred, and eventually sent off to intensive care, where I was parked next to a lady with gestational diabetes who was in a bit of strife.   Because it was only a few days before Christmas and something like midnight when I arrived in the ward, they were scrambling to find specialists.   A young female doctor came in, an intern from memory, and her first words were pretty chilling and not at all comforting - 'If this was the 1950s, you'd both be dead!'   'Um, thanks.  Your bedside manner could use some work', I thought to myself.  

So, here I am in Sydney, in intensive care, with a chatty and very sick lady next to me, wondering what on earth is going to happen next.   It's past midnight, I should be asleep, at home, about 800km away, with my hubby, but I'm not.  Hubby had had to get the car out of the garage where it was being serviced, try and convince the bank to give us a cash advance on our mastercard at short notice, and then drive to Sydney late in the day, not knowing where on earth he was supposed to go.   On the way through the Blue Mountains, he followed a truck with a large boat on it.   He suddenly felt an urgency to pull up, and did, and had he not done so, he would have been hit by the boat because it came loose from the truck.   When he finally got to the edge of the city, he rang NRMA, and someone kindly escorted him to Newtown and showed him how to get to where he needed to be.  I think he arrived at something like 2am, only to find me wide awake! 

The next day, they gave me endless drugs to get my blood pressure down, told me I had something called pre-eclampsia and oedema and that my baby would undoubtedly be born with life-threatening issues, based on the ultrasound information.   They did another ultrasound and decided that something must be wrong with the ultrasound machine back at Dubbo, because the baby was now bigger than the technician back there had measured her to be.     The original measurement showed that she was about 9 weeks behind in her growth, and this one showed her to be only about 7 weeks behind.   We put that down to prayer! 

They then put a central line into my heart, to control the blood pressure.  That was a whole lot of fun and the bruises were amazing.   

I also got my first taste of a catheter and endless canulas!   They did another ultrasound and found it gave yet another size reading, a bit bigger again.  More prayer from the fervent pray-ers!   After another 36 hours of drugs and endless conversations about conditions we had never heard of, it was decided that they needed to do an emergency caesarean because the continued elevation in my blood pressure could kill one or both of us.    I remember them saying they had given me enough drugs to knock out a football team and nothing was improving. 

So, Elizabeth Sarah was born by emergency caesarean in the early evening of  22nd December, 1991, about six weeks early.  She weighed in at one and a half bags of sugar (so dubbed by our friend Suzy), which translates to about 1.5kg or 3lb 6oz.  She came out looking like a frog - skinny legs and arms and a big belly.   She had a tinge of red hair and looked a lot like her Dad!  (No, he doesn't look like a frog!).   She had a large bubble on her belly button, which they had mistaken for incorrect placement of her bladder and kidneys, but it was all good.   It was a sac of amniotic fluid that soon went down.  

She went into a humidicrib and I wasn't allowed to be with her for about the first 36 hours because she was so tiny and I was still so sick.   Dave spent his time going between the two of us.  

At just four days old, she started to breastfeed, though we continued tube-feeding her as well.   I spent my spare time mastering the art of walking with swollen legs, a large, painful scar and many bruises.   You don't realise how hard it is to walk up and down steps until every part of you is in pain. 

Liz made good progress and at just 12 days old, she became the youngest and smallest baby ever released from the NICU, and we started heading back to Dubbo with our little 'doll'.  We couldn't find any clothes small enough (premmie clothes were virtually non-existent back then) so we went to a toy shop and bought some dolls' clothes.  Thankfully it was summer and we didn't need a lot once we got home to the Brewarrina heat.   We still have the one premmie jumpsuit we were able to buy, which is equivalent to a 0000, and even that was too big for her.   

Lizzy's Grandma made cotton nappies the size of men's hankies and a few little dresses, but mostly she lived in a few small cotton tops and nappies.  Lizzy's great-grandmother, Nan Gardner, knitted her a few bonnets and used an orange to guage the right size for them and got busy knitting some clothes for the cooler months.  She died when Liz was just a few months old, grateful to have seen and held her first great-grandchild.   

I'm thankful, looking back, that Liz was our first baby because we didn't realise just how tiny she was.   Many others did and often marvelled at her.    She took about 18 months to catch up to 'normal' size and you wouldn't know now that she was a premmie.  

We've had quite a few medical emergencies since then and the lessons learned in this first big test we have never forgotten.  The biggest lesson learnt and still being learnt is that when you're out of your depth and you really can't do anything, you have to trust God because He is bigger than all of it and He can do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. 

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory...............  Ephesians 3:20

This is the hymn I learnt and sang many times as a child, the first verse of which I remembered and sang again and again during that time. 
1 God who made the earth,
the air, the sky, the sea,
who gave the light its birth,
careth for me.
2 God who made the grass,
the flow'r, the fruit, the tree,
the day and night to pass,
careth for me.
3 God who made the sun,
The moon, the stars, is he
who, when life's clouds come on,
careth for me.
4 God who sent his Son
to die on Calvary,
he if I lean on him,
will care for me.
Author:  Sarah Betts Rhodes (1870)

So, Happy 26th Birthday, Liz!  It's lovely to see you with your own little people now, knowing that you've survived a few of your own medical dramas and found God faithful in the midst of them all.   It's lovely to see you following hard after Him, and growing in the God who made the earth, the air, the sky, the sea and who careth for you.  

Friday, 17 March 2017

What's In a Name?

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.    John 15:13-15

Jesus called us 'friends'.  I wonder what that really means?

He talked about servants and masters, students and teachers, fathers and sons and daughters, but in the end, He called us, and calls us, His friends. 

Why?  I'm not sure and I haven't taken the time to study the original meaning of what He said.  
I have often wondered. 

It's something that started a few years ago when I was struggling with some relationships that just weren't 'working'.  I had put a lot of effort into these 'friendships' and nothing was improving.  It seemed pretty one-sided to me and there was confusion on both ends. 

I was incredibly frustrated - and hurt.

But God.     But God stepped in and showed me something about friendship and why these relationships weren't working for me, or for them, really.   

You see, a friend is your equal, someone you need in your life, and someone who needs you.   You share stuff and you minister to each other, as friends, not because one is superior, but because you take turns holding each other up - physically, in prayer, practically.

Ministry, well that's another thing entirely.   You see, the people I wanted to be friends with saw me as a ministry.  They felt sorry for me, they saw a need in  my life and they tried to meet it in their various giftedness.  But they didn't see me as a friend, as their equal, as someone they needed.   Sure, the word 'friend' was used, but it wasn't what it was.   They were my brothers and sisters in the church, but we weren't friends because they didn't need me, couldn't possibly see how they could.   It wasn't a two-way thing.   And I felt I wasn't good enough - perhaps that's not how they saw it.  And now, looking back, I can see that isn't and wasn't true, even if they thought so.   

But friend, that's different.   Very different - and  I have a few precious ones.  They don't look down and I'm not their newest ministry project or the way they get their value.  My friends struggle and groan and cry and I help support and pray and listen.  And they do the same for me when it's my turn.    They don't look down on me and I don't look down on them.  We're all doing the journey and we need friends - just friends.    

But just like a stay-at-home Mum is not just a Mum, but so much more, neither is a friend just a friend.  The blessing of having a friend who is just that - a friend - is truly something to savour. 

STOP - Linking up at Five Minute Friday, where we write for 5 minutes on a prompt word.  Today's prompt is 'friend'. 

One of the biggest lessons in this came when God rebuked me sharply about my relationship with someone I was trying to minister to.  I was ministering to her out of the same attitude that was causing me pain and offence when it was coming to me from others.  And those others were doing that very thing to her as well.   Well, God pulled me up big time, and I had to go and apologise.  But well before the apology, God changed my perspective and my attitude and the relationship with this amazing person - and to a lesser degree, with her hubby.  

I could see her, someone not much older than my oldest daughter, as inferior, as not knowing much, as having nothing to offer me, as someone who 'needed' my superior wisdom and 'grace' and correction.    That was the pervading attitude at the time from us older women in the church.   But, when God stepped in and showed me that I could and should relate to this person as an equal, and when I chose to do that, I was blessed to find that there was a great deal on offer in this new relationship.  I was blessed by her, not just the other way around.  She had, and still has, so much to offer and she was and is such a gracious, empathetic, giving person, that I am truly blessed to have her on my rather short friend list.    She has been my late-night 'rantee' many times, my sounding board, my prayer warrior and an all round great listener.    We don't see each other much in real life, but we 'chat' online often. 

I find myself very grateful for that rebuke because I would have missed out on a great deal and done a great deal of damage in the process. 

This is my friend, the friend I nearly missed out on, because I was so busy trying to 'minister' to her.

"...but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."    Prov 18:24