Guarding Relationships

 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8 (NLT)

I had a conversation today that was long overdue. As we talked, this scripture came to mind.

Relationships have always been precious. Family, friends, acquaintances, church family, whoever is in your life and is a part of your life, these people are precious. They may be people who you talk with and share intimate details with, or they can be casual conversation type people, either make you who you are.

The enemy of our souls does roam around, looking to destroy and devour relationships. The love of family, the harmony of friendship, these things are in satan’s sight-line. If a family can be destroyed, he is at the ready.

I am not giving glory to him. He deserves no glory at all. But as homes are protected from wild animals, wild individuals, we need to protect and be aware of the damage that can be done in relationships. We must guard relationships.

This week I, once more, had to deal with someone from long ago. There were accusations made and things dredged up from thirty years ago. I allowed myself to become angry and let them know of my anger, but fortunately, I did not unleash my anger. I simply said, I am angry right now.

Everyone can get angry. It is what you do when you are angry that counts. Praise God, I was able to distance myself a bit. But, the the words I read and the accusations hurled in my direction affected me. I am better, but, confess there is still hurt about them. Questions have become my conversation with our Lord. Am I what I was accused of? Am I full of attitude? Am I completely wrong?

I have struggled with this old relationship for years. Every few years it resurrects and I hope that this time it will be different. So far, it is like an old 33 album with a scratch on it. It stops at a point and just repeats and repeats, not moving forward.

It is times like these that make me realize how precious our true relationships are, like the conversation I had today. The devil would like to divide, distance and destroy families and friends. We cannot allow that to happen. Relationships are a gift from God. The people He places in our lives are there to support and encourage us, not bring us down.

It is our blessed calling to love one another, just as Christ loves us. We are called to care for our family and friends. We are called to encourage and lift up our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

I am thankful for this past week, filled with a dichotomy. The remains of a one time friendship built on a weak foundation, and the true friendship, that has withstood the test of time. Guard those precious relationships in your life. We need one another for support, guidance and love.

“Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep rustlers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” John 10:6-10 (MSG)

Pizza and a pick-me-up

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing”. First Thessalonians 5:11 New living translation

Dale left around 11:30 today. He had an appointment with a friend for lunch. I was settling in for some time on my own. Shortly after Dale left the doorbell rang. I actually thought he had forgotten something and had returned to get whatever he had forgotten.

I went to the door and was surprised to see a couple from the church. They were holding a pizza bag like a delivery man. I was so surprised and immediately was lifted up in my spirit with happiness.

To say I was blessed is an understatement really. It was a surprise like a surprise package. We were able to sit and visit for a while and it cheered my day up immensely.

A good father will bring his children surprises and presents to cheer them up. He will do this even when the person is feeling okay. Our heavenly Father brought me this surprise package today. This couple brightened my day more than they realize. The pizza was good but the friendship is much better.

I was reminded that little things mean so much to people. We often think that we have to make a grand gesture in order to make a presence in someone’s life. I know I am guilty of this. It’s the little things that matter. We read that often and we hear that often. It’s truth. A kind word, a smile a gentle hug. These things can make someone’s day, month or even their year. I need to be reminded to take the time to do some little things for people because those are the times that other people need the most.

Thank you to Robin and Phil you made my day. I will remember this as a gentle hug from our Lord just you being obedient and bringing me a supreme pizza.

Grateful

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.” — Helen Keller

We lived in San Diego for twenty eight years. I have a circle of dear friends there that make my world bright and safe. I made most of those friends in my late twenties and thirties. They came into my life and took root in my heart. They have challenged me and honestly, they are responsible for the person I grew into. They are my heart.

I also have a group of friends that are my military friends. Although all of us are now way past that time of life, having been out of the Navy longer then we were in. This group was family when families were not close for any of us. We all shared experiences that were unique to each duty station we were assigned. We recognized the need to establish friendships and become family. Otherwise we would have been alone and in need of companionship and support. These friends wrote letters, no internet in those days. These friends prayed for each other, and longed for hugs in situations where we knew they would recognize.

In 2009 Dale and I moved to South Carolina. We drove across the country with a trailer and our dog and each other. Excited for a new adventure, we knew this was most likely our last great adventure. The closer we drove to Charleston the more I fretted about making friends. I was in my late 50’s and I didn’t know if I remembered how to make friends.

I once wrote about the girl scout song, ‘make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.’ I mentioned that the friends from the military and San Diego fell into the gold section. I also realized that the friends I made in Charleston would one day fall into gold status, which they are now firmly fastened.

Seven years ago we moved to the upstate of South Carolina. Once more I wondered if I would have any friends. I should have learned my lesson by this time. Daily I am grateful for friends. I now realize that I no longer have friends in the silver category. Friends are a precious gift from God. A person who will talk with you, share with you, pray with you and be still beside you is such a blessing from our Creator. Friends are golden. Their worth is more precious than gold.

Thank you to my friends. You make my life complete and whole. You give me laughter in times of tears, you encourage me to move when I am sitting in the dirt, stuck in mud. You kick my behind when I am being stupid. You reflect Jesus to me in love, grace and exhortation. I am grateful.

Promises

Tuesday morning I had a procedure done. I had asked for prayer beforehand. I woke early on Tuesday and checked my phone. There on my phone was a very sweet, encouraging message from a dear friend. As I read it, I thanked the Lord for that friend. Her encouragement was well timed.

Throughout the day I received several notes from friends. I was so very touched by their thoughtfulness, care, concern and encouragement. I hesitated asking anyone for prayer, as I didn’t want to bother people. Dale encouraged me and I knew that the effective prayer of a righteous person benefits much.

As I won’t have the results for the procedure for a few days, I have clung to the words my friends have given me. They have made me smile and comforted me.

I want to share a few of these words here as I know they will touch your heart also. Isaiah 54:17a “No weapon formed against you shall prosper,” (NKJV)

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (NKJV)

Psalm 73:23, “Nevertheless I am continually with Thee…Thou has taken hold of my right hand,” (The Passion)

When you ask a friend to pray you know they will. They will storm the gates of Heaven in your behalf. I cherish these prayers from friends. They bolster my faith, they reinforce peace within. They remind me how truly blessed I am in having these gifts from God.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says,”Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (NLT) This week, I had so many come along side me, and hold me up. I am humbled by the gentle acts of love these prayers have been.

Rose of Sharon

Joy of my desire, all consuming fire; Lord of glory, Rose of Sharon, rare and sweet. You are now my peace, Comforter and friend, wonderful, so beautiful, You are to me. I worship You in spirit and in truth.
Lord, I worship You in spirit and in truth.
There will never be a friend as dear to me, as You. Lyrics by Randy Rothwell

When this song was popular to sing in church services, I was, at that time, going through some difficult times. Many of my friends had left me. I felt alone and isolated.

Singing this one week in church, the words implanted themselves into my heart. I thought of my companions and began to learn what a friend is. A true friend is by your side in difficult times, they do not scatter to the winds. I found this verse and knew I was not alone. Psalm 55:12-14 in the NASB says “For it is not an enemy who taunts me, Then I could endure it; Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, Then I could hide myself from him.  But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my confidant;  We who had sweet fellowship together, Walked in the house of God among the commotion.”

We have a true friend in our Lord. Oftentimes we look upon Jesus as our Savior, our Deliverer, our Healer, as the One we worship. He is all of that, but He is our friend. He is by our side all the time. He knows us intimately. He knows our likes and dislikes. He knows what makes us laugh. That is a definition of a true friend. One who does not fail us or disappoint us.

What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer! Joseph M. Scriven 1855

How blessed I have been since emerging from that season that the Lord has blessed me with gifts of true friendship. He truly is the great God!

Pam’s Spaghetti

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

We attended a group while in Japan. We were the Friday Night Fellowship and we met in the chapel of the base hospital. We were all young and enthusiastic about our love of Jesus. Yes, we were a bunch of Jesus freaks, after all, it was the 70’s. It seemed that everyone was freakish about something in the mid 70’s.

Our little fellowship tried once a month to meet in homes and we shared a community meal. We all took turns doing this. Those of us who didn’t live in government quarters squeezed everyone into the small Japanese apartments.

One Saturday we went to the home of friends. It was a small apartment and somehow about 20 of us fit into the place with spillover onto their little patio. Pam made spaghetti. Her sauce smelled wonderful and being young adults, we all arrived starving.

I remember making my way to the kitchen to see if I could help. What greeted me was a very frustrated Pam. Her blonde hair starting to curl because of the steam coming off the pans of boiling spaghetti. Her eyes told the story of her frustration. I went to her and looked into the pan of scalding water. There in the center of the pan was a big ball of spaghetti. No strands, just one big ball. The other pan held the same. Our eyes met and I half-believing said, “We can fix this”. Ahh! youth and inexperience.

We grabbed forks and for the next few minutes we separated the strands of pasta. Of course, the pans were much too small for the amount of pasta that was put in. That was one of the lessons learned that afternoon. But eventually we got enough strands to feed the crowd. Pam and I each had the remaining ball of pasta to cut our way through as we ate.

No one was the wiser of what our kitchen drama had been. They ate and were filled and happy. Lesson two of that day was, if no one is aware of the drama, they don’t think about it.

I confess that I have never made spaghetti since without thinking of that day. I don’t think I have had a ‘ball’ of spaghetti, but I have had strands stick together. I often ask the Lord what the parable of the ball was. What was the analogy?

I have had several thoughts about that ball of food. We can hold tightly to one another, keeping a hedge of protection around us. We can join forces to be a stronghold where we are a force to be reckoned with. We sometimes intertwine ourselves with others and we miss what the Lord has for us. We need a support system to keep us propped up.

There are several lessons we could learn from a ball of spaghetti. When I remember it, I think of the laughter from this woman. I think of the times we spent together, in Japan and in San Diego. We encouraged one another, we taught one another, we prayed for each other. We were bound like that ball of soaking pasta.

Ecclesiastes 4:12, “ A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (NLT)