Sunday, January 27, 2019

Mirror Mirror on the Wall- Who is Fairest of Them All?

"We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12

How do we teach kids to value themselves but not think they are superior to others?   This is a question that several of my friends have asked me in the past several weeks.   It is a tough balance.  They want their kids to know that they are wonderfully made.  And every person is precious and unique.  Created with a purpose to do great things. But so many kids can't see all these good things. These kids are struggling with body image issues- hair color, weight, skin tone, height and athletic ability.  They also struggle with comparing their bodies  to others and feeling inferior. They don't feel as pretty or as athletic as their friends.  They feel judged by their insufficiency because they judge themselves.  They envy what others have and even question God's love and their parents love because they don't love themselves.   

I understand the questions in my friends' kids' hearts- because I was that insecure kid.  I knew that God loved me- but I felt like he loved other people more. Though I was blessed - I didn't see the blessing.  Other people had better hair, better families, and were more coordinated. 

I resented how God made me so I became bitter toward God  and I rejected Him. Ironically, my feelings of inferiority transformed into pride.  What is pride? Here's a quick definition- pride elevates our opinion and our will over God's opinion and His will. In my pride, I rejected what the Creator of the Universe had designed. I looked in the mirror and said, "I am not good enough." 

Rejecting God's design never leads to happiness. "Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Proverbs 11:2 If pride is elevating my opinion and my will over God, then humility is elevating God's opinion and God's will over my own.  When I chose humility - to elevate God's opinion of myself and others- my life fell into place. Jesus told his followers ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ in Mark 12:31. Loving myself and others was second only to loving God. I knew that God wasn't finished with me and that His plan was eternal. I had peace and contentment- though outwardly I was the same. 

As I was talking with a friend about this struggle to see my value, I shared with her this analogy. Imagine that that God started with the same lump of gold and created every person with equal value, then He molded each of us into beautiful earrings, necklaces, and rings.  Each creation was beautiful and equally valuable but dramatically different.  A simple gold ring that compares itself to a necklace will always feel inferior. But a ring that realizes it is a wedding ring - created for a special purpose - is confident not in its own abilities but in the Creator who designed it. 

Each of us have been designed for a specific purpose. It is not wise to compare ourselves to others. It is hurtful to God and to ourselves when we put down God's design.  Here's how Paul explains it, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12 

As moms, we can't teach our kids if we haven't learned the lesson.  We need to stop comparing ourselves with others or our internal ideal.  God's not finished with us - He is still molding and making us for his glory- even our imperfections can be used to bless others.  As moms we need to remind our kids who are struggling that God created every person with intrinsic value - not one person is more valuable than another- but everyone is unique and special.  They don't have to compare themselves with their friends, celebrities or their internal idols. God is not finished with them because He has an eternal plan for their lives.
Here's a great verse for us and for our kids to memorize:"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10, NLT 
Dear Jesus- Thank you for making me unique and special.  Thank you for creating me with a purpose.  Please forgive me my pride and for comparing myself to others. I am sorry for doubting your plan for my life and rejecting your design.  Please help me love myself and love others.  Please help me show your love and acceptance to my kids and friends. Amen

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Going to Disney World and Other Wonderous Adventures

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-25

What is the best age to visit Disney World?  I think seven is a great age-  My grandson is five and so I think he is getting close to that age where a kid can walk the entire park, can appreciate the rides and remember the trip but not be too old for wonder. His mom and I were talking about her first trip to Disney World when she was 8 years old. The funny thing is she didn't remember that trip at all; as we were talking about a good age to visit, she insisted her first trip was when she was 10.  Fortunately, I was into scrapbooking back then so I was able to pull out a scrapbook with pictures of the cutest 8 year old in front of Cinderella's castle, her picture on the Safari ride and our whole family on the Dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom.  After seeing proof of our family trip, she agreed that she had been to Disney at 8 and 10.
              So if kids can't really remember going when they are young... why even take them? This leads to a story my friend told me about her friend that shocked me completely.  So my friend's friend goes to Florida every year on a week long vacation.  When her kids were little they would drive to Disney World and pause and take a picture of the front entrance.  Another year, they might drive by Epcot or Sea World and stop at the entrance and take a picture. They never actually went in the parks!  But when people asked the kids what they did on vacation in Florida, the kids would happily say, "We went to Disney World." These little kids didn't know better. They thought the entrance signs were all there was to see at the Wonderful World of Disney. When they got home they could happily look at pictures of themselves in front of the Magic Kingdom Monorail or Epcot sign, confident they had been to Disney World. 
               Imagine, when the kids get older, would they want to go back to Disney? They think they've been there and they have the picture to prove it.  They really wouldn't care about going.  No big deal.  But anyone who has been inside the gates of Walt Disney World will tell you there is no comparing what the entrance is like to what is inside the gates.  Yeah - the monorail outside the gates is nice but Space Mountain and the Test Track are so exciting. The free boat ride from the parking lot is fun but the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride is an adventure.
               As my friend was telling me about this mom's choice to "take her kids to Disney World,” I couldn't help but see spiritual similarities.  Often we take our kids to church and we show up on Sunday, but we never enter into community. Our connection with God and the church starts and stops at the entrance. We have a "check the box" mentality. Our lives aren't transformed and our kids don't see the point of a relationship with God.
            Imagine if those kids grew up and "took" their kids to Disney World, the next generation would think that taking a picture outside the gates was enough. Unless one of the kids pipes up and says, "Mom, there's more. I see people going in the gates. I want to go in too" the cycle of ignorance would continue. As Christians we should want to know God more, we should experience more of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we shouldn't be content with a surface understanding of God's Word.  Without a desire for more, we can continue in a cycle of spiritual ignorance; maybe because we haven't been taught the truth or because we have hardened our hearts to God and ignored it. 
         "Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  
          But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV
        We can all be ignorant of God's best. We can continue in the patterns and habits we learned from our parents and from the culture around us. Just like those kids thought they had been to Disney, but had never been; there are many people who are ignorant of the life-changing impact a relationship with Christ should have in every part of our lives. 
           As we put on a new self in Christ, we should experience transformation in our hearts that scriptures call the “fruit of the spirit.” "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-25
          If our lives haven't been transformed, if we don’t have peace, joy or forbearance (aka patience), it is possible we know about Christ but we don't know Christ. Many people know about Jesus; when he was born, when he died, and where he grew up, however they do not know him personally. Knowing Jesus makes a difference in every part of your life. You have peace with God. 
          If you want to know Jesus personally, the first step is to pray and ask to know him. Prayer is simply talking to God.Your prayer should be your own, from your own heart. If you're not in the habit of praying, though, you may need an example, you can start with something like this:
         “Dear Jesus, I want to know you, not just know about you. I realize that I have made many selfish choices. I am impure and not perfect. I want to turn from my sins. You are holy and perfect. Please forgive me for my sinfulness. I believe that you died in my place to pay the penalty for my sin and rose again for my salvation. I invite you to come into my heart and life as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for taking away my sin and making me whole. Please give me your Holy Spirit so that I can experience peace and joy. Thank you for loving me and adopting me into your family. I ask this according to your will in your holy name. Amen.”

          As you are making plans for the New Year, I want to challenge you to seek out more of Christ.  Be like the little child who says, "There's more."  Some things that you can ask for include asking God for more understanding of His Word, asking  to experience the Holy Spirit in every day life, seeking to get deeper this year.  Go beyond the entrance and really experience all that God has for you this year. 
         Let me know how you have asked for more- I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Pinterest Paranoia

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” Jeremiah 9:23-24

You might not realize this about me but I am afraid of Pinterest.  I didn’t realized till someone innocently asked me, “Why don’t you look it up on Pinterest?”  Feelings of shame and inferiority; that I would never measure up to "Pinterest Perfection" and that my puny efforts to be creative would be wasted, grabbed hold of me. I am a stay at home mom and my kids are in school, how do these Pinterest people have the time to be creative and then post how to do it?  I start to question what I am doing with my life.  
           Pinterest isn't bad; it inspires, teaches and provides a fun creative outlet. My friend Dawn shared her Pinterest worthy Thanksgiving table  for the picture above. Why should a website filled with recipes, teacher handouts, house plans, table decorations and hair styles fill me with fear?  I know I am not alone, I have friends who avoid social media because they don’t want to be consumed by comparison of what other people have, they are embarrassed by their less than perfect lives and are afraid they don’t measure up. 
         I realize my fear isn't actually about Pinterest and it goes back long before I even had a computer.  It is the same fear that led me to worry about what clothes I wore to middle school, if they were the right brand or style. I was ashamed of our family car, a 1971 Dodge station wagon, google it, you might understand. Though my sisters and I went through a bottle of hair spray a week, my flat hair never measured up in the big hair 80's. Christmas time in middle school was even harder.  Kids would come back from Christmas break with new clothes and shoes and technology, my presents never good enough.
Why would any of us feel ashamed of the clothes we wear, how we look, the car we drive, our parents or where we go on vacation? This is a distortion of shame. We are supposed to feel ashamed of things like adultery or murder, lying or stealing. Think about it. Our society condones actions that devalue God’s Word and glorifies adultery and sex outside of marriage, promotes marches to support abortion and encourages ways to lie and cheat. Gossip becomes entertainment. Infidelity becomes satisfaction. Satan uses bait and switch tactics so that we focus on the wrong things and never realize what we are missing. By getting us to focus on temporal things that we don't have, clothes, hair, perfect kids and Pinterest worthy decorations - envy and inferiority keeps us from focusing on God's eternal gifts. Our lack of gratefulness for what we have and our focus on others lets covetousness and greed creep into our hearts- we want what someone else has.
The antidote to greed is gratefulness and love. "If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:30-31
When we love someone we want the best for them. "Do everything in love." 1 Corinthians 16:14   We don't resent what they have or feel we need to compare. Compassion, generosity and beauty flow out of love. "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8 
We should celebrate our friend's creative talent, not because she can set a table that rivals Martha Stewart, but because she is using her God given gifts to make this world a more beautiful place. "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."1 Peter 4:10
We should rejoice with friends who receive the present we longed for because it doubles their joy and more joy makes the world a kinder place. "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15
We should give to others who have little because it helps us appreciate what God has given us. "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38
We should comfort those who are lonely and mourning because we will all be comforted, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4
I realized my problem isn't Pinterest, Facebook or any other social media site, my problem is my heart. I allowed greed and envy to take my focus from all that God has given me. My friends who are blessed with the gift of creativity are to be celebrated. I don't have to compete with them just like they aren't competing with me on blogs written. God made us all different. We are blessed because we get to enjoy each other's gifts and giftedness. We can celebrate with friends that go on amazing vacations or have the perfect wardrobe knowing that every good gift comes down from our Heavenly Father. He loves us completely and knows what is best for us. If we lose our focus on eternal priorities, we will start to covet and become ungrateful. If we are living in a place of ungratefulness, we choosing to despise God's gifts just like when a teenager is ungrateful for their birthday present. God's blessings are not limited, His love and resources have no end. Rather than focusing on what you don't have, stop and thank God for all that He has blessed you, your kids, friends, husband, and your neighbors with.

Dear God- You are the creator and giver of every good gift. You are the source of breath and life. Your resources are without end- you create from nothing. You have all knowledge and wisdom. Thank you for blessing this world with your grace and spirit. Thank you for blessing me with breath and life. Thank you for food and clothes, thank you for the people you have brought into my life- friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, clerks, postal workers, healers and teachers. Thank you for the gifts and resources you have given them- knowledge, money, time, wisdom, love, encouragement, ability, creativity, dependability. Thank you that you fit us all together like a puzzle- each piece shaped differently yet integral to your whole picture. Please help me not compare my part and design with others but be grateful for your plan and perspective. I am sorry for not trusting your timing and design, I am sorry for not being grateful for all you have blessed me with, I am sorry for letting greed and envy sneak into my heart, Please forgive me and fill me with gratitude, love, patience and understanding. Amen

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Chosen to Love

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6 )

My husband and I went to a beautiful Fall wedding in the mountains, we were outside and surrounded by the beauty of nature, awed by the beauty of the bride and touched by the groom’s deep love. Weddings are synonymous with love. Two people who love each other deeply and have chosen each other above all others invite their friends and family to celebrate their love in a celebration of marriage.  

Love is the central force behind the commands throughout the Bible. God loved his people simply because He chose them. God’s love for His people is often compared to a husband’s love for his bride. It is all encompassing, life-changing love. Deuteronomy 7:7-8 explains why God chose his people, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you …”(Italics mine)  Deuteronomy may appear to be a book about rules and commands but at its heart is captures God’s amazing love for people and His desire to be loved by them. 

As part of this covenant between God and his people, Israel was expected to love God and obey His commandments out of love. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6 )

Let’s take a minute to dig into what “Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength” really means.  The word translated “heart” in this verse is also translated “courage, desire, intelligence, purpose, understanding and thought.” Soul can also be translated, “body, desire, feelings, greed, human being, passion, person, thirst and life.” The Hebrew word translated “strength” is an adverb; it refers to doing things strongly and mightily.  

God wants a powerful life-changing relationship.  He wants us to love him with “courage, desire, intelligence, purpose, understanding and thought” and with all of our “body, desire, feelings, greed, being, passion, person, thirst and life” and we are to do it strongly and mightily.  This is not a weak passive relationship but determined and powerful. 

How can we love God using our intelligence… our courage… our understanding… our body… our feelings and desires… our passion… our life and our whole person?  As we live this out with every breath and thought, every action and feeling, our lives will be transformed in relationship with the one who chose us, deeply loves us that is beyond our human ability to love.

Jesus quoted this verse when he was asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:29-30  The most important thing that we can do is to love God, it reciprocates the amazing love that God has already given us, it brings us into relationship with Him, it fulfills our purpose and allows us to know how precious, beautiful and loved we are to our Creator and True Love. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

This Little Light of Mine

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
I have been living in darkness, not all the time, but only when it came to getting anything out of my closet. My closet light was an old fluorescent fixture that was crotchety about doing its job. Though we had replaced the light bulb and ballast, it barely worked. On rare occasions, I would flip the light switch and after a brief moment my closet would be illuminated. But these times were rare and often too late.  The light would turn on just as I was done picking out my clothes for the day or hanging up laundry. Other times it would wait till 3:00 am to turn on waking me out of a sound sleep. I learned to accommodate my light's idiosyncrasies by turning on the hall light and grabbing the closest thing. The bottom of my closet became a landmine.  Why bother to put things away if you can't see it?  Living in darkness wasn't the end of the world for me, I made due and tolerated the lack of light, as we so often tolerate inconveniences.  

Then my husband's closet light went out.  It was dramatic. No warning or flicker.  His closet was suddenly dark. He hadn't been living with sporadic light, one day on and one day off until it stopped working entirely like I had. He wasn't willing to tolerate the lack of light. So off to the home improvement store we went to buy a new light fixture.   A couple of hours later he had installed two beautiful LED track lights.  Our closets were now lit up like a high end retail store.  

I was soon inspired to clean and organize my closet, buy new felt hangers for my shirts, and put away all the things that had been thrown on the floor.  My closet is filled with clothes I really love; my wedding dress, favorite sweaters and fun dresses, but I had forgotten about most of them in my grab and go mentality. Organizing my closet was like going on a free shopping spree- I found all these great things that I had completely forgotten about. 

My closet isn't perfect now but it is so much better. I would have been embarrassed to have you to walk into my closet before. Since it was so dark, you wouldn't have really seen anything but you might have stumbled over the shoes and bags.  

When we shine a light on something- its flaws and its beauty can be clearly seen.  Light illuminates and highlights the truth of a situation.  The sunrise shows the spectacular beauty of the sea and sky, the spotlight shows the versatility of an actor, the microscope light shows the intricacy of a cell. Light can also show places of compromise, chaos and decay. Here's how Jesus explained this in John 3:20-21 "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God."

Seeing the chaos in my closet after my husband turned on the light was humbling. It required work to get back to be organized and useful. I could have been mad at my husband for replacing the light- it made a lot of work and showed my flaws. But that would have been foolish.  The light made my closet and all my clothes more useful- you can't use something if don't know it is there.  

We all get comfortable with places of compromise- dark places - what we read, what we watch on tv or the movies, what we drink or eat, what we say like gossip and judging- that we would be embarrassed to have anyone see.  These are the places that we need to invite Christ.  He is the Light of the World - in him there is no darkness.  

As the weeks have passed with my new closet light, I have realized something funny- I forget to turn the light on.  I'll blindly grab clothes or stuff clean laundry in it just like when I didn't have a light. I got so used to living in darkness, I'll forget to use the light.  This can happen spiritually as well.  Here's what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5: 8- 13, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.

Just because we have a light in our closet doesn't mean we turn it on and just because we have the light of Christ in us doesn't mean we are living as lights.  Ask God to shine a light in your life to expose places of chaos and compromise, places where goodness, righteousness and truth are not evident.  Cleaning it up will take work and can be humbling but the long term benefits are more useful and beautiful than a designer closet.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Life of Privilege

"You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things." Matthew 25:23 

I was raised as a child of privilege.  Though our family would have been considered poor, my mom didn't focus on what we didn't have but made sure we appreciated what we had.  When I didn't want to make my bed, my mom told me it was a privilege to have a bed and that with the privilege of having a bed comes responsibility.  I was taught to take care of books because using the library was a privilege. As the oldest of four girls, my mom taught me that having sisters was a privilege because not all people have little sisters. She really wanted a sister but she only had two older brothers. Because I had the privilege of being a big sister, I also had the responsibility to take care of them, love them, help them and teach them what I knew.

Long before I could read, my mom taught me about the privilege of praying and having our own copy of the Bible.  She told me about kids in Communist Russia whose parents were jailed because they believed in God.  I remember being five years old, I knew that I had the privilege of freedom of religion and I prayed every night for kids all over the world who didn't.  Even at that young age, I wanted to tell people about Jesus. It was my privilege and my responsibility.

When I was 7 or 8 my mom allowed me to cross the big street by our house with another lesson on privilege and responsibility.  She explained that crossing the street by myself was a privilege that my little sisters weren't allowed to do.  It was dangerous and I needed to be careful.  It was my responsibility to handle this privilege carefully.  I needed to tell my mom when I was going to cross the street.  I needed to always look both ways.  I couldn't play in the street and my little sisters weren't allowed to cross with me. Getting older, I learned that baking was a privilege, If I wanted to make cookies, it was my responsibility to clean up.  When I got my driving license, it came with the knowledge that it was a privilege to be able to drive and have a car. My responsibility was to follow the law and pay for my car, gas, and insurance.

Every part of my life was filled with privilege and responsibility- they were two sides of the same coin.   My mom taught me that I had been entrusted with much. We didn't have as much as other people but that was okay because our job was to be faithful with what we had.

At a very young age my mom taught me a story she called the parable of the talents. In the story, a rich man entrusts three employees with his wealth. He gave one man a large sum of money, the second man he gave twice as much and the third man he gave five times as much money as the first guy. By the time the boss came back, the man who received five times as much money as the first man doubled his money and had ten times as much! The guy who had twice as much also doubled his money by the time the boss returned. To both of these employees the boss proclaimed, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" The guy who had been given the initial sum of money decided to literally bury the gold in the ground. This did not make the master happy, "You wicked lazy servant should have put my money on deposit with the bankers so that I would receive it back with interest."

My mom explained to me that we were all given different abilities, talents, money and experiences. God gives us what we can handle with His help and not every one can handle five times as much responsibility. Our job is to use whatever we have in a responsible way just like the employees were responsible for their boss' money. Our mission is to be faithful with what we have- if the guy who had been given the first sum of money had simply doubled it like the other employees, over time he would have had as much as the guy who was given twice as much.

There are always going to be people who have more; we aren't responsible for their resources and we shouldn't compare. Rather than focusing on what we don't have, it is time to realize the privilege of all that we have been entrusted with.  Take a moment to look around at all of your responsibilities- kids, finances, health, house maintenance, cleaning, laundry, job, friends, school, car, etc.. and thank God for the privilege of each of these gifts.  

Those of us who have been entrusted with much have the responsibility of being faithful with what we have; part of that responsibility includes teaching our children about privilege and responsibility.  How do have you taught your kids about privilege and the responsibility that goes along with it? 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Best Friends Forever

Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

I have been recently thinking about the privilege of being a friend.  As Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times." Over the past month, several friends reached out to me to celebrate my birthday by treating me to a pedicure, taking me to lunch, sending me fun presents and calling me to let me know how much they appreciated me. I see each friend as a gift from God.  As I think about my friends I can see God's beauty and creativity and love in their uniqueness.  They fill my heart with gratitude and bless me in so many ways.  

I felt special and loved.  I needed it because in the midst of all the fun, my celebration this year was bittersweet as I remembered the joy of my birthday celebrations with my friend who passed away last year, knowing that we won't be celebrating together again till I am in heaven.

The privilege of having friends also means walking beside them in the hard times and sometimes even carrying them. We can't do life on our own.  We are commanded to Love God and love others because God knew what we needed to have the best life.

As King Solomon wrote about friendship in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 
Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

Loving others is a gift even when it is hard. A friend recently texted me and asked me for a favor- my response was "It would be my privilege."  I meant it with every beat of my heart but it wasn't easy.  You see my friend asked me to pray during the celebration of life for her amazing 29 year old son who had died two days before in an accident.  He was just a couple of months away from marrying his beloved.  My friend had picked out the rehearsal dinner venue and was so excited about the next stages of his life, welcoming his new bride into the family and dreaming of grand kids that looked like him.  In an instant her dreams of planning a wedding were replaced with planning a memorial. It was devastating and heart breaking.

In the midst of overwhelming grief and loss, I saw the amazing sacrifice of so many friends.  Several friends had traveled from far and wide to just be with her. Just as these friends walked with her to her son's basketball games and overnight trips, they dropped everything to walk beside her on this hard journey. His friends came to remember him and celebrate his amazing life.  They surrounded each other with grace and love. They celebrated the privilege and gift of knowing and loving him.

Friendship is a wonderful gift from God that allows us to carry out our mission of loving others.  It isn't easy but it is an amazing privilege to celebrate with those who we love and who love us.  

Take a minute to reach out to your friends this week. Celebrate them.  Rejoice that they are wonderfully made.  If you have a friend that is going through a hard time, let them know that you are there for them.  True friends do not run away from hard times but run closer to help carry each other's burdens. 

Let me know how friends have helped you in hard times, carried you when you were weak and celebrated with you.