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Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Several of my friends are learning about asking for help.  And when such dear friends are learning something, so am I.  They pose challenging questions, and as I meditate on my experience, my personality, I see where I also need to grow.  I’m on the watch, as are they, for opportunities to humble myself and ask for what I need. 

 

I practice gratitude, like a tight fist on the last rope holding me from slipping from trust.  I choose to see the ways that God provides and blesses.  I struggle to understand how grace is abundant and need still stands, inviting God, inviting His people, to invest.  I have been gifted many friends, time to hold children, nearness of God as I read Scripture, job to earn money, good food, moments to pray with God’s Church. 

 

But I am thirsty, needy.  I feel this restlessness for days.  When I take time finally to examine, I find that being with people is not enough.  That though giving is a blessing, sometimes receiving is all I can do; sometimes I am on my knees too weak to even hold myself up.  I need attention.  I need a hug, given to me.  I need some other to be strong.  And though God is the supplier of all, and though even without nourishment I would still have life eternal because of Jesus, there are some things that I need in this life that are not God.  I need food and water and air.  I need people to speak truth specifically relevant to the problems I face and the doubts that assail.  I need to be heard.  I need to not just be known, like the perfect God knows His children, but discovered, like a daughter, like a friend.  Discovered and not rejected.  Vulnerable and embraced and even delighted in. 

 

I ask my brother, confidante, “How do you ask for [attention]?  And then someone says ‘yes’ and what – stares at you awkwardly?”  So how do I confess my need?  What exactly do I expect from whomever I ask?  And when it is my turn, how do I meet needs that are this profound, this tender?   

 

 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

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I knew how when I was nine.  I couldn’t whistle; I’d just learned to blow bubbles with my gum; I was well on my way to writing in cursive.  And I knew how to make plans with friends.  Maybe I picked it up from my older-and-wiser-at-age-ten friend, Esther.  After church we would make arrangements to spend the afternoon together.  We agreed on the idea.  We figured out whose house would host and whose car would carry.  Parental permissions gained, we would join up for a splendid afternoon, and maybe even a sleepover! 

 

Maybe it is because I learned when I was only in the third grade, that I assumed everyone knew how to plan a get-together with a friend.  (This is not to be confused with giving an invitation, which is rather more independent and usually requires more notice or more familiarity.) But after years of experience, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe people need to be taught these things, and maybe many people around me have never learned.

 

So here it is.  A how-to (a composition skill acquired about the same time of life) on making plans.  

 

There are generally two ways that people can agree that an appointment must be made: either an authority tells them to spend time together or the people themselves express a desire for the company.  The first step is to reach agreement on this point.  After that it is necessary to establish a few of the essentials: the purpose of the meeting and who all is to be involved.

 

Sometimes the purpose of the meeting determines the location and limits the times.  If I am attending a concert, the time and place are set.  If we’re meeting for Chick-fil-a, we’ll have to meet there, and at a time when the restaurant is open.  Take this information into the next step.

 

Take initiative and tell your friend which of the times and days (inside of limitations if applicable) you are available.  I find it is less of a hassle to give a list of possible dates and times, so that my friends don’t feel like they’re rejecting me if they can’t make the first time I suggest.  They get to select from my list which time is best for them.

 

For most occasions, there will be some overlap of availability.  The procedure should be fairly simple: one person lists availability and the other person selects one.  It is not necessary for the second person to respond with a list of times that might work for them; it is their turn to make the decision.  The exception to this rule is if there are more people whose schedules are being coordinated.  In those situations, usually everyone supplies their schedules and one person (usually the instigator of communication) tries to find one good time for everyone.

 

One more exception is when schedules conflict.  Here is where things get tricky, depending on how busy you and your friends are.  If your friend does not have any overlapping availability, they can proceed in a few ways.  Either they can cancel altogether, or they can appeal your list of dates – suggesting an alternative time you hadn’t mentioned.  At this point hopefully they have already evaluated whether their schedule is flexible.  So they may also offer to change something in their schedule, but say that they prefer to see if something else will work with you.  You decide which things on your calendar might be moved, and respond to your friend’s alternative.

 

If a meeting location hasn’t been predetermined, now is the time to do that.  You might want to include your suggestions with the initial communication.  Again, it is usually the job of the second friend to make the decision.  With close friends, it is acceptable for the second friend to admit that they prefer some place not listed, and then to get the first friend’s consent or to discuss together the reasons, pros, and cons of the various options.  If a discussion needs to happen, you may want to do this in person or talking on the phone.  Otherwise, it usually works well to write schedules if you are not in the same place when you’re planning.

 

Wrap up with a few details.  Will one of you be picking up the other one?  Where?  What time?  Should you bring anything (money, for example) or dress in a particular way?

 

An oft-overlooked important detail is to make a plan in case something changes at the last minute.  Usually this can be done with a simple statement: “We can call each other if anything comes up.  Do you have my number?” It is popular now to text as well.  Email, Facebook, and the Postal Service are less useful for improvisations.  Another option is to tell each other at the point of making plans, what you will do if you don’t do what you have agreed on: for example, in case of rain, meet at the gazebo instead of the park bench.

 

I don’t think it is usually required, but if the plans are made much in advance, sometimes it is nice to arrange a confirmation call or text.

 

Do you have any special tips, or good things to keep in mind when making plans?

 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

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Where do you go to church?

It’s a normal question, and I’m not offended by it.  But in the year since I stopped going to conventional church, I have yet to figure out an easy answer to this question.  I see the horror in friends’ eyes when I tell them I don’t go.  We’ve all known people who walked away from fellowship with believers, or who become apostate to the faith.  There is pity and skepticism if I tell friends I’m still looking.  And when I explain what I’m doing as a matter of practice without going into the reasons, it sounds apologetic.  I’m not sorry for my choices.  I believe in them.

So why do I not go to a church?

Five years ago I led a Bible study on the spiritual gifts.  We looked at what the gifts are, examples of people using them, how they build up the church, and how other believers should respond to them.  In that study I, at least, became convinced that not only was my church broken – but the whole model for “church” that I was familiar with neglected the body-participation and Spirit-ual power and guidance described in the New Testament.

For four years I studied ecclesiology – what the Bible says about the gatherings of believers.  After I’d worked out an idea, mostly based on 1 Corinthians 11-14, of what a church meeting should be like, I discovered some websites about house churches.  My favorite website was New Testament Reformation Fellowship.  On their site are articles about the exact points and questions raised by my study.  The men who contribute to NTRF are from several countries and about ten congregations.  There are people really practicing church like you read about in Acts and the epistles.

But though I was gaining conviction on these things, God was not releasing me from the church I had attended since I was 15.  Church is about God and people, God’s purposes in people.  I am not (even now) released from loving those people or even from fellowshipping with them as I have occasion.  My church was broken, more than its model and more than a church has to be broken (consisting of redeemed sinners).  Many people attending that church were trying to stay to help, to heal, to influence towards the holy and faith-ful.

Finally in 2009 conflict came to a head at my church.  I prayed hard.  God taught me a lot about love.  The result for the church was essentially a split.  For me, I was released from my commitment to that body and that authority.  My family also left that church.  We were then faced with the question of what to do next.  As a family and independently we visited several area churches, without finding any to belong to.

A group that had met for fellowship and Bible study before they left the church continued to meet and my parents joined, contemplating a church plant.  They met in a house and held Sunday meetings.  Members of that group began to explore models for church that appealed to them.  Family-integrated ideas and house church ideas were blended with more traditional ministry models.

Some wanted to expand out of the house.  Others wanted to stay small.  Some wanted to support a full time pastor and others sought bi-vocational leadership.  There were different ideas about the purpose of church: discipleship, evangelism, worship, fellowship?  Which one is the primary goal?  Instead of seeking as a group what the Bible teaches about church, the families mostly went separate ways according to their preferences.

My family had heard about house churches from me for years.  They decided that they believed in house churches, and also in some associated concepts like co-leadership and family integration.  For my part, I am unwilling to join an institution I don’t believe in; I think it would cause problems for them and for me.  I would still like to find a church that follows the 1 Corinthians pattern for church meetings.  Though my parents still meet with some families from our old church, in a house church format, I am concerned that there is still division about the meaning of church and that their practices are somewhat arbitrary and not Bible-based.  I attend a few meetings a month with my family.

Close friends from Awana – and friends of those friends – had developed in 2008 and 2009 a prayer meeting and Bible study.  It was informal, meeting every week or two to share what God had been doing in our lives, the things we were burdened for or convicted about, and Scriptures God had laid on our hearts to share or that had spoken to us during the week.  We spent about an hour each meeting in Spirit-directed prayer, each praying as led.  Our fellowship before and after was sweet, and we often gathered at other times to do ministry or to have parties or to encourage each other.  This was my support during the difficult church split.  And it continues to be God’s provision for a “church”, the closest meeting in my experience to what I’m looking for in a church.

On the side, I also visit a few friends’ churches on Sunday mornings, about 2 out of 4 Sundays.  I visit Sovereign Grace, Cornerstone Chapel, Agape Bible, and Summitview Community in Fort Collins.  Each of these churches has good, God-loving and Jesus-following people who believe in community and whose theology is orthodox and God-exalting.  When I visit them, I think of it as a sort of worship and Bible conference.  I’m also open to visiting other churches occasionally, especially to see people I don’t often get to see – but also to meet new people and see what God is doing in the lives of Christians all over Colorado.

I have a concern about this church practice I’ve adopted, and it is that I have no pastor.  There is no good example of walking in the Spirit whose gift is to shepherd other Christians, guiding and feeding them – none who knows me and my spiritual state whose authority I could submit to and whose leadership I could follow.  But I have been in many conventional churches whose men titled “pastor” do not fit that description, and so I know that there is no easy way to find one.  A pastor, like so many other things, is a gift from God.  And I’m asking God for one still.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’m the kind of girl who spends hours talking to a friend.  Then I go home and write a 5 page email.  Then I want my friend to write back.  So I can write back.  And so on, until we can spend hours together again.

I don’t need to be with people constantly; I appreciate a few hours to myself here and there.  But I want to see people every day.  And not just see them.  Not just eat dinner across the table from them or watch TV with them.  I want to have an interesting conversation with them.  To laugh with them.  To plan with them.

That’s the kind of girl I am.  I am also usually the last to leave a party – unless I’m on my way to another one.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Friends are great.  I love it when I look across the room, make eye contact, and we each know what the other is thinking.  It’s great to be known so well that a friend can finish my sentences.  When my emotions are in turmoil and I can’t figure out who I am, my friends know who I am deep down, and can remind me.  People can be hard to understand.  Figuring them out, getting on solid ground from which to communicate, can be a challenge, one I usually look forward to.  I don’t want a friend who is just like me.  What redundancy to duplicate my thoughts into another person’s brain, to hear them repeated back to me!  There is only one whose thoughts I would think after Him.  Others, though I may agree with them, though I want to find commonality and fellowship in the truth, bless me by being different.  They challenge me with being unlike me.

I do rejoice in agreement.  It can be lonely to feel that I am the only person who lives a certain way or who believes something, the only fan of my favorite movie.  I need someone to share these things with.  There is peace and comfort in knowing that I am understood.  Agreement affirms me.

On the other hand, disagreement is one of my favorite things.  My brain is stimulated by a good conflict.  I understand the world better through discussing it with someone who holds an opposing view.  And there is so much clarity in being able to identify the root point or points of disagreement.  Definition comes partly through describing what something is not.

Both agreement and disagreement can be taken to extremes.  I know, because I do.  Sometimes I love to argue so much that I will almost pick a fight.  For the sake of having something to say, I’ll focus on where I differ with the others in the conversation.  I draw a line and take sides.  No matter how much common ground we share, I will persist in skirting any similarities so that I can exaggerate the conflict to make a point (or to find a point).

When I do understand and do agree, I tend to go overboard.  Speaking a thought that I know will get an “amen” in the minds of my friends is my way of letting them know that, at least on that point, we are the same.  I have paid enough attention to what they believe, and have continued the thought in my own mind, reaching the heights of conclusions from the same foundation.  But I get afraid to speak a completely independent thought, lest I find disagreement where I was reveling in union.

There is safety in saying a simple, “We are the same,” or, “We are different.”  But friendship is not about same or different.  People are complex.  I agree with my friends to a point, and then our ideas part ways.  Even when we do agree, sometimes our personalities express our views so they sound different.  And union is not erased because sometimes we disagree.  Perfect accord should only be found around complete understanding of truth.  Being human, that isn’t really possible.  But it is our goal.

It is possible that by speaking, that I and my friends could be growing nearer the truth.  Even if, on previous days, a friend had held a different view, my boldness to declare a position in opposition (or in ignorance) of their belief may influence them to change.  Or when I venture to say something with which my friends may or may not concur, I might be exposing an area in which I needed correction.

I should not be so timid nor so arrogant as to assume that I am merely classifying my acquaintances and myself.  One reason is that a person defies labels.  He is not defined by his creeds, however essential they are to forming his character, perspective, and choices.  Certainly, I should be concerned that I find friends with honorable character, godly perspective, and good choices.  The reason for this is that they will be affecting my character, along with my creeds.  And, in turn, I will be influencing theirs.

I am tempted, when I find my friends holding ideas that I believe are false, to sigh and put them in a cabinet where I keep all my acquaintance who believe such.  They are no longer friends, then, in positions of respect and trust.  And I suppose I am fearing that my friends will put me in such a cabinet, for their part.  But not only do people defy labels; they also change their minds.

Is this not what it means, to love instead of to judge?  To judge a person is to see them as a firm set of beliefs.  Are their convictions true or false, good or evil?  If too much falsity and too much wickedness, depart from me; I know what you are!  But this is not love.  Love sees people as relational.  Growing.  Alive.  Changing.  Men and women communicate with each other.  They learn.  What is the point of judging someone for an opinion they may not hold tomorrow?

Certainly, discern their character.  Apply wisdom to whether they would most benefit from a word of correction or an acquaintance for encouragement.  It is sometimes better to listen than to speak that word of agreement or of controversy.  Where do they need to grow?  How are they influencing me?

Jesus and Paul, in the New Testament, and Solomon in the Old, give guidelines for extreme cases.  Those persisting, without regret, in sin should be confronted, even disciplined, for their own good and for my good, too.  We should not walk in the ways with scoffers.

But to travel with companions is good, for if one falls, the others are not to run away, but to help him up again!  James addresses this, as well, in the very end of his book, when he encourages his audience to convert the sinner who errs from the truth.  In fact, throughout the book of James he advises sincere love and peace, rather than judgment (for it is laws we are judging, not people).  Do not show favoritism, but rather value everyone’s role in community.

So whether I speak or am silent, I do not want it to be because I am afraid of being classified and shelved.  Nor do I want it to be because I need more information to appropriately label others.  My friendship needs to be centered on my friends and I becoming more like Christ, conformed to the truth.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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There is a routine I have in those free times when I turn on my computer. It is usually accompanied by supper or a bowl of Extreme Moosetracks chocolate ice cream.

The first thing I do is pull up my Outlook Express and get it started downloading my emails. Then I open a window of Facebook (more recently via Google Chrome) and log in. While that is loading, I open two more tabs and send them to Blogger and WordPress.

Facebook is a between times activity. When a separate page is loading, or between tasks, I go scroll through my friends’ status updates, commenting on a few of them. I check to see who is listed as “online” at the moment, but hardly ever start chats with them. If a friend wants to chat with me, however, I’m usually up for it.

My Blogger Dashboard has my blog reader listed on it, so I begin scrolling through recently updated blogs for any that look interesting. I always click on the first post from A Holy Experience. That beautiful site plays the most peaceful music in the background, a soothing atmospheric playlist that can repeat for hours without growing old. It is also one of the blogs on which I will read every post until I am caught up. The other blog for which I do that is my brother’s, Silence Spoken. We’re like best friends, so I know most of what he says, though his poetry is a removed perspective, a picturesque turn of words to express the big ideas in his head and heart. Usually I will go through and open all the eye-catching blog titles in their own new tabs, so that I can read them later.

My email takes a while to download, but by this time they should be viewable. I start by deleting the emails I don’t want: updates from Amazon.com, Avon, weather forecasts from the week prior, Human Events ads and articles that I get because they are kind enough to email me Ann Coulter’s articles each week. Then I start at the earliest unread email and begin reading. Most are little Facebook notifications: someone commented on my wall. Another person added a comment to a wall-post or status on which I had commented. Friend requests and acceptances. Every month or so I collect all these into a separate file for archived Facebook notifications. The best things to read are emails sent just to me by a real live friend. Life ponderings, prayers and prayer requests, encouragement, or invitations to get together, these are my computer priority, and almost always earn a reply.

Blogger and WordPress will tell me if I have comments to approve for my blogs. I’ll read those, post them, and reply to them. On Blogger I will check out their profiles and their blogs if they have any. Then I stick in my USB thumb drive to upload the blogs I’ve written during my breaks at work. You can observe for yourself how frequently this happens. Finally I check WordPress for my blog stats, to see which posts are the most popular and if there are any surges of traffic. My most popular articles are about auto warranty telemarketers, chivalry and romanticism, making grilled cheese sandwiches Sometimes I’ll get a hit on a post I forgot I wrote, and I go see what the post was about.

Next I open an additional Internet Explorer or Google Chrome window. I use that to do my projects. Maybe I’m going to search for some information. See if a book I heard about is at my library. Renew library items. Shop. Check my Etsy.com shop, Mi-Re-Do.com website, Googleads, or ebay. I like to download “Let My People Think” at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Maybe I’ll be researching for my blog or my business.

IMDB is the best website for information on movies and actors – unless you want to buy a movie, and then Amazon is the place. When I post book reviews, I post them to Amazon.com as well. To see a decent review of a recent mainstream movie, Plugged In is pretty good. They do have spoilers, and I don’t always agree with their assessments or interpretations, but they have accurate objectionable content evaluation. For Bible Study, I use Blue Letter Bible, which has multiple versions, an online Strong’s concordance that can cross-reference the Greek words and root words too. Del.icio.us is on my toolbar so that I can quickly bookmark any awesome but singular articles I find and want to remember. (WordPress’s widget allows you to see my recent tags on Del.icio.us.)

If I am bored or lonely, I will frequently refresh Facebook and go searching for more than status updates on my friends, looking through their new photo albums especially. The best are babies and weddings, followed very closely by scenic pictures of far-off lands. When inspired, I update my own status. It usually has to do with what I did that day, will do tomorrow, or have been thinking. For some reason movies make frequent appearances.

When it seems my favorite blogs have been insufficiently updated, when I am craving a good intellectual read or a warm, encouraging girlfriend read, I’ll go to blogs that have lots of links and start exploring. Carolyn McCulley often has good links. WordPress has a tag surfer feature to find like-topic blogs. Or I can search places like Ligonier Ministries or Boundless for interesting articles. When I find a blog I may want to follow, I do follow it, pasting its URL into my Blog Reader on Blogger. It’s an eclectic list, as you can see if you look on my Profile.

Before I turn off my computer, I refresh Facebook one more time and check for any new emails. Then I minimize any windows I want to keep open, close the rest, and put my little laptop into hibernation.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I read a story last week: Return of the Guardian King.  Fourth and final of a vividly epic fantasy series written by a woman who knows my world, my type, and my God.  Her name is Karen Hancock, and her stories have invaded my imagination permanently.

It is a book about temptation, I told a friend.  Resisting in the slow way, wearied by the persistence, common days, small things.  And massive temptations: to betray all you have believed in, to denounce the promises of God for the power of ruling kingdoms, to trade love in the good God and His simple gifts to the extravagant suit of the alluring devil.  But the large and the small are the same. 

The characters are strong against deception and temptation when they have been faithful in the daily denying of self.  To live for others, in kindness and patience, prepares each person against bitterness and despair.  Immersion in the truth and promises of God is comfort and hope.  Even if their prayer is a single cry for help from God, bad things trun to good when people talk to their God. 

The story isn’t about what is happening on the outside as much as it is about whether the characters are trusting God, whether they know with all their might that He loves them and that His plans for them are good.  When they are rebelling against him, they are miserable.  So are those around them.  So am I. 

Kiriath is in the hands of the jealous and vengeful brother Gillard, possessed by a demon rhu’ema.  Already they treat and ally with the archenemy, Belthe’adi, Abramm had warned them of.  Abramm is known to be dead.  But Abramm is also walking the mountains, chafing under the waiting in a snowed-in monastery.  Maddie is back at her childhood home, a palatial life she never embraced, and her newest royal duty is to marry some rich aristocrat who can offer troops to defend the last stand of her homeland.  But her dreams linked with her beloved’s are back, and something tugs hope alive in her that maybe Abramm survived after all. 

Shapeshifters, dragons, and the critical people who are supposed to be his friends plague Abramm on his Odyssey-like journey back to his wife and sons.  Trap and Carissa mirror Abramm’s struggle with pride and longing but in a quiet domestic setting.  Detours take the exiled king and longed-for husband to places of faith and doubt he never would have imagined – and sometimes wishes he had never asked for. 

Every character learns the power of friends: locking them against temptation, praying for their dearest concerns, teaching and challenging with the truth, dividing the attacks of dragons, delivering messages, watching with unbiased eyes, guarding against betrayal.  Again Abramm learns that it is not his strength that conquers, and that God has not gifted him with leadership and military prowess to fight God’s battles for Him.  He is but a vessel. 

Maddie meets a charming man who is attractive in all the ways Abramm never was.  Tirus wants her, wants to help her.  He understands her and shows her off, showers her with gifts and protects her from scorn.  How long can she wait for her husband whom even her dearest friends still believe is dead?  Will she believe the light-born visions and promises from God, or the technological, repeatable sight from the stone sent to her by her suitor?  Will she change her mind about regal living and the purpose of marriage?  The things that stood in Maddie’s way when she wanted to marry Abramm, and the undeniable need they had for each other – will she forget those? 

When things go from bad to worse, whose job is it to protect the ones they love?  At what cost will they buy safety and love?  Will the armies of the Moon, and the powers of the air – dragons winging terror across the skies – will they succeed in doing their worst, in taking everything from those faithful to God?  Or will they be utterly defeated?  If they cannot be defeated, what is the point in fighting and sacrificing? 

And when God’s people fail, bitterly weak, The Return of the Guardian King resounds with display of God’s mercy.  God knew we were weak when He chose us.  He knew we would fail when He sent His Son to suffer for those sins.  And a single prayer, sometimes the end of God’s longsuffering chase, brings grace empowering His servants to do the right thing.  He cannot deny Himself.  His promises will be true, however faithless we are. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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