last supperAfter the men had gathered for their last supper together, Jesus made a shocking statement to his followers.  In the light of who he was–mighty God, the Messiah, the Christ and Savior of the world–Jesus’s announcement is a total departure from the relationship mankind had previously experienced with God.  He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  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 and 15).

building friendshipAs we contemplate and meditate on this astonishing declaration, our hearts must swell with joy and acceptance of our new exalted position of Friends of God.  This friendship must change us, however.  We come to understand the depth of the riches of God and the depth of his love for all people, releasing us to love in a new way.  Friendship has become a holy endeavor, initiated by God and perfected in His love and sacrifice.

With that in mind, as we approach people, there are some caution signs attached to friendship.  Here are nine Don’t’s of developing a committed friendship.

1.  Don’t wait for others to reach out to you.  Our lives must be an extension of God’s heart that is always ready to receive the broken-hearted, the lovely and the ugly alike.

2.  Don’t share just facts with your friends.  Share feelings.  Let people know YOUR joys and sorrows.  Your hurts and misgivings.

rejected friendship shirt3.  Don’t expect everyone to like you.  I learned that people either love me or hate me.  There is no in-between.  This became a valuable lesson in maturity.  I’m no longer hurt by folks who don’t know me but who reject me.  It’s a fact of  my life.  And harshly speaking, it is a fact of your life.  Not everyone wants to be friends with us.

4.  Don’t expect your friend’s friend to be your friend.

5.  Don’t be quick to voice your own opinions.  Some–perhaps many–things are best left unsaid.

6.  Don’t harbor unforgiveness or bitterness over offenses.  Peel away the hurt of a careless remark.  Stomp until dead the pains of neglect that come into every friendship.

7.  Don’t share negative information about others.

8.  Don’t expect a friend to be your source for love, significance or security.  Only God can give you that.

9.  Don’t let a friend take the place of the Lord.

In dealing with persons who are mentally challenged, it is vital to understand that they often do not have the cognitive ability to understand the fine nuances of friendship.  This means that certain boundaries may be necessary for you to set.  In the opposite direction, you may experience that their responses to  your friendship overtures may be overlooked.  Friendship with a person with special needs is a great privilege and joy.  Their friendships are worth taking the time and energy to develop.

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I was blessed yesterday to sit with two friends who pour their lives into the lives of others.  One of these women has ministered to me in countless ways in the course of 20+ years.  We lingered at the table refilling our iced tea glasses long after the lunch dishes had been cleared.  We had stopped to take time to share prayers and the concerns of our lives.  Sitting there,  I recounted the many women whose lives have been turned and blessed by one of women who has held important positions of  leadership in our community.

Her talents are many.  She is a great cook, a fabulous hostess.  She understands how to lead.  She teaches, prays and encourages.  But it is in the area of discipleship that she excels.  Without fanfare or trumpets blasting, she comes along side younger women in the Lord and she holds them up, sharing the strength God has given to her.

Many times I hear from other people, “Nancy is more of a mother to me than my own mother.”  Or, “Nancy is the true friend I never had.”

So often we want our ministries to be soaring rhetoric that touches the hearts of millions.  We desire to be able to minister in music reaching out to the masses with our CD’s and iTunes downloads.  We forget how deeply personal Christianity is.  It is a ministry of touch and conversation.  It is one heart overlapping another bleeding heart with concern and love bringing the healing touch of a holy Lord who truly cares.

In the past months, I been reading and rereading the Pauline letters.  They are vividly personal love letters from Paul to his friends.  It is only because the Holy Spirit preserved these letters that we can look into the heart of this great apostle.  We forget that the book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were written by Luke to one man.  The books of the New Testament written by Peter and John are letters, either to congregations or individuals.

Their intention was not to bless the world with a faceless voice or unknown stroke of a pen.  They were writing to help strengthen friends.  Man to man.  Woman to woman.  Today, we reach out over the lunch table grabbing a hand for prayer.  We slow our pace at bit to be able to walk along side a hurting and wounded soul, allowing God’s strength to minister healing. Christianity is a deeply personal relationship with God.  However, we cannot ever overlook that Christ left us as a Church–a fellowship of believers.

We all stumble through life with that deep abiding need for a father, a mother, a friend.  People who come to Special Gathering usually leave changed.  It isn’t the vibrant conversation or the deeply spiritual banter.  It is Joey who comes without speech and takes our hand and shouts with his eyes and touch, “I love you.  I take you as my friend.”  It is Patty with her mindless chatter and suffocating hugs that whispers to our hearts, “You are accepted and loved here.”

As my friends and I stood by the door, wanting to share “one last thing,” I was struck by the deeply personal nature of God’s love.  Jesus came to heal and minister, delight and correct.  He is our personal saviour.  Hallelujah!

Because almost everyone is much too busy to check their computer for new updates on this blog,  I’ve not been too concerned about having trouble with my computer.  Over the months it has been doing some pretty interesting things.  However, I learned to NOT turn it off and it seemed to operate slowly but with the grace of an old sted my grandpa owned named Prince.

My computer Prince was dying.  When I could not longer trick it into starting, I called my good friend, Sam.  He dropped all his commitments and came to help me and Prince.  We had a wonderful time with his family over a supper of pasta.  Then he worked for hours.  His diagnosis for Prince was that I would lose it in a couple of days unless major surgery was done.  We (he) replaced the hard drive and the ram.  Now it’s running like a charm and the renovation only cost me $150.   I have 1 tarabyte of memory and 1 gb of ram. 

Can we ever replace good friends and family?  As we run around getting gifts and groceries for the perfect dinner and Christmas day, keep remembering the Sams who give up their time and bring their families to share and repair.  Thank you to all the folks who sacrifice to help me and my family.  We are blessed.