smile of friendship Since there are three levels of friendship–causal, close and committed–it should be our goal to move as many friendships as humanly possible from a causal to a committed friendship. There is means that there are at least 10 things that each of us can and should do in nurturing a friendship grow.

  1. building friendship1.  Recognize you need friends.  It’s the first step that leads to better and more secure friendships.
  2. Look for others in need of a friend.  This may mean reaching out to people whom you might otherwise pass over.
  3. Ask God to bring a faithful friend into your life.
  4. Be approachable by smiling at others.  At times, I’ve been to that I look stern when I’m not aware of my expression.  This means to me that I must be more aware and adjust my facial expression.
  5. Speak to others by name.  Learn names and say the name often.
  6. friendshipListen attentively to others.  Look at the face of the speaker and keep your eyes on the face of the person speaking.
  7. Give genuine compliments and encouragement.  Ge caught noticing the good things in a person.
  8. Ask open-ended question.  Is your daughter feeling better?  How is the job?
  9. Help others verbalize their feelings.  You don’t seem quite yourself today, are you feeling all right?
  10. Look for the kernel of truth in your friends’ criticism.

I’ve learned a great deal about friendship living within the mentally challenged community.  In general, these are people who give of themselves without reserve to people they preceive as an authority figure.  With the slightest encouragement, you become their friend for life.  Yet, shifting on the other foot, they find interacting with their peer may be more difficult.  Within Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, we endeavor to help our members establish valued and long-lasting friendship with their peers.

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crumpled paperEach day begins with prayer and either household errands or blogging.  As much as I enjoy writing, the daily household demands of living often interfere with what I feel God has called me to do.  The author of thousands of magazine articles and more than 40 books, Jamie Buckingham often said,  “Writers write.  That’s why they are writers.  Publishing may or may not happen.”

Shelly is a writer.  Many Sundays she sticks a poem or article into my hands and says confidently.  “I knew that you would want to read this.  It’s the best work I’ve ever done.”  After I hug her, she walks away satisfied that someone else appreciates her writing efforts.

the writerEric has a different writing style.  He takes a Scripture and then applies it to his life.  I must ply his works from him one finger at a time.  They are neatly handwritten in pencil.  I always receive a nugget from his scriptural commentary that I’d not seen before reading his manuscript.

Even though Shelly and Eric are intellectually disabled, they have dedicated themselves to sharing from what God puts in their hearts.  Shelly’s poetry has been published and republished.  She has been asked to speak at a high school English Composition Class.  There is much to learn from her poetry.

Eric’s works are equally provocative.  However, he is less likely to share his works with others.  His personality is more private and reserved.

On the other hand, Jeremy wants to write and talks about it often.  Yet, he never seems to be able to put onto paper the many ideas that swim through his fertile mind.  Jeremy is by far the most able of the three to put into a readable form his thoughts and idea; but Jeremy lets the tasks of the day get in his way.

There are four things I see which hinder Jeremy that Shelly and Eric do allow to work against their writing.

1.  As I said before, Jeremy is a busy person.  He flits from one thing to another.  While he says that he really wants to write, he never seems to find the time.  Therefore, it never gets done.

2.  He wants someone to work with him.  He wants a class.  Shelley and Eric simply write.  They don’t need a teacher or tutor to inspire them to put pin to paper.  They are writers and writers write.

3.  Jeremy wants his works to be as close to perfect as possible.  Perfection works against the writer, as it does in almost every area of life.  No matter how many times I go over a piece, I can never seem to find all the mistakes until I hit the PUBLISH button.

4.   There is passion in Jeremy but not for writing.  He desires to teach and he is willing to prepare to make it happen.  A writers passion much be writing, first and forever.

Jamie BuckinghamAs Buckingham said, “Writers write.”  We can’t help it.  It is born and bred into our DNA.  Sharing the Gospel of Jesus is perhaps the main reason the Lord has given many Christians a passion for writing.  Each time, I get an article, teaching or poetry from Eric or Shelley, I’m impressed with the value of the written word which shares God’s love for us or our love for God.

praying on her kneesPrayer is an eternal mystery that haunts even the most devote warrior in God’s kingdom.  For Frances, prayer was her bread and drink.  She spent her days and nights in supplication to the Lord.  I earnestly believe that it was the prayers of Frances that turned our nation back to the Lord in a great way in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Of course there were many others who also prayed and sought God but I experienced first-hand the result of Frances’ ministry.  I sat under her teaching and walked hand in hand with her during her times of struggle.  I also saw her confidence in prayer.  I rejoiced in what God was accomplishing through the hours spend listening, speaking, loving and even wrestling with a holy God.

tent meetingsWhile TV pundents often proclaim that everyone was stoned during those decades, there was an underground movement that consisted of late teens and young adults whose hearts pled for God to change them and our nation.  My husband and I were part that movement–the Jesus Movement.  We led a vibrant and holy group of teenagers whose sole ambition was to find a deep relationship with Jesus.  They gathered under tents and in churches.  They fasted and held all night prayer meetings.

While the focus beamed on the teens and the other young men and women who led this army of teenagers, it was the matrons and masters of prayer–such as Frances–who had plowed the ground, planted the seed and rejoiced in the harvest.  Their battle was hard-fought.  They struggled and wrestled with the enemy of our souls on their knees, weeping, laughing and facing that dreaded enemy with grace, courage and valor. The power of the Holy Spirit never failed them.  The Father’s love always embraced them and assured them that his great destiny would save even the most horrible reprobate.

These prayer warriors didn’t possess the advantages of social media, blogs or the Internet but their prayers had world-wide and lasting effects.  Somehow, Christian leaders from around the world heard about Frances and came to her humble home for prayer.  They delighted in staying in the home of Frances and her husband. eating her food, laughing and enjoying fellowship long into the night.  But they came for prayer–recognizing her vital connection to God that brought success in ministry.

joanFew of us have been given the grace Frances possessed in determined, steadfast prayer.  Yet, all of us can seek God with the grace God has given to us.  Frances died stubbornly, without fanfare.  She resisted death even after her strength and vigor had been long spent.  I asked her oldest daughter, “Why does she struggle, resisting death so strongly?”  She believed that Frances clung to a desire to be on earth when the Lord returned.

Was this woman of God perfect?  No! Was she a warrior who helped to change the world for Christ?  Yes!

Congressman PoseyIt was a happy day when I mentioned to a person who works at Congressman Posey’s office about my AT&T phone problem.  “Oh, no,” the Congressman’s helpful office manager, Pam Gillespie, said.  “It is a federal law that you must be able to transfer your number to your new carrier. They are breaking FCC rules.”

For over a month, I’d been fighting with a slew of AT&T representatives to get my home/ministry phone connected from a different carrier.  The result was that AT&T had somehow lost my phone number; and they were reporting to me that there was no way to retrieve it from the new carrier who had acquired it.  While this didn’t seem reasonable to me, because the phone number would not be given to someone else for at least two months, I could not get anyone at AT&T interested enough to eliminate the problem.

Mrs. Gillespie advised me to notify the Congressman’s office and fill out and sign a privacy form.  She assured me that if there were a Congressional Inquiry started regarding my situation that my month-long ordeal would be resolved to my satisfaction.  Mrs. Gillespie was correct.  Even though it was the day before Thanksgiving, I received calls from my former carrier and AT&T within an hour of the carriers’ receiving the inquiry information.

By the end of the week, I had my phone with my old phone number.  While my ordeal seemed complicated and overwhelming to me, a report to the Federal Communications Commission from Congressman Posey’s office quickly untangled the knots from the problem.

I want to personally thank Congressman Bill Posey and his fine staff for solving this perplexing situation.  Phone service seems to be a complicated problem for many people and there are many complaints regarding AT&T service.  However, if you are facing this hassle, call your congressional representative.  I did and I was thrilled with the results. In addition, I found that every AT&T rep that I spoke with (and I chatted with about 100 of them) were all friendly and sincerely wanted to help me.  Almost every time I yelled at them, I was almost sorry that it did it.

For years, one of our Bible teachers at Special Gathering reviewed the same Bible verse with his class every week.  “I will pray morning, noon and night.”  As the first five years rolled around, I became a bit disturbed.  Doesn’t he know any other verses? I asked myself.  Then I came to welcome the value of what he was teaching his class.  The learning abilities of his class were limited.  He drilled them each week.  While some of the members could quote the verse easily, others struggled week after week, year after year.

Slowly, as the years melted into seven, eight years, I came to see that my understanding of the verse was deepening.  Almost every week, I would sit in his class.  I found that this simple Biblical declaration became dear to me.

“I will pray morning, noon and night,” I would mutter to myself as I climbed into my car for lunch.  At odd times, I realized that my spirit mind was telling my sub-conscious mind, I will pray morning, noon and night.  It became a call to prayer for me that became a welcomed reminder and spurred my mind to think about prayer more often.

My mother took a selling job when I was a pre-teen.  In her training, she was taught an important principle that she shared withher daughters, “Repetition brings out thought.”  For those of us who value our quick minds, we sometimes discount the value and purpose of repetition.

However, men and women who make a daily practice of memorizing scriptures, repeat even the familiar ones several times a day.  They carry their scriptures packets for review during their down times.  Not only are they learning the Word and hiding God’s message in their hearts, they are bringing out new thoughts about what God has to say to them.

Recently, I visited a neighboring Special Gathering program to practice our Christmas music.  It seemed like a good idea. However, it appears that I really messed up.  After the practice, I heard that I “put down” this great choir.  I was shocked because I was so completely impressed with them that I thought they were the best choir of the four with which I’ve worked.

In my attempts to compliment this choir, I assume I mixed up the names and somehow the result was that the choir felt insulted.  That was the last thing I wanted to do.  Fortunately, the choir members told someone; and I was able to straighten out the misunderstanding.

Communication is perhaps the most tricky thing that we do as Christians.  Often, when we are trying to show compassion, we are accused of being harsh or judgmental.  Our great intentions can be viewed as meddling or interference.

I wish I could give some great pointers that would direct you to a better way of communication; but, as my recent experience shows, I’m still a novice in this area.

I am encouraged, however, when I read the scriptures.  Two great Titans of the faith, Paul and Peter, became meshed in the lack of communication webbed tangle.  Paul rebuked Peter who sat with the Jews at a meal when Gentiles were also partaking at the meal.  This was seen as an insult to the Gentiles.  It was a pretty stupid move on the part of Peter and probably deserved rebuke.

Peter, on the other hand, wrote that Paul’s teachings were so complicated that, at times, even he could not understand what Paul was try to say.  This gives me encouragement, because I often find my eyes glazing over while reading Paul’s letters.  Even though, I’ve read them hundred’s of times, I’m still perplexed by what Paul actually meant by certain sentences and paragraphs.

There are a couple of things I have learned when communication turns sour and you are the offending party.

  1. Try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.  Don’t let things linger.
  2. Don’t let our natural inclination to avoid confrontation interfer with the need to find common ground.
  3. Apologize.  Even if you are absolutely sure that the other person has misunderstood, you are partially at fault because your communication fell apart at some point.
  4. Be honest.
  5. Try to find common ground by assuring the person you did not intend to offend them.
  6. Find something that you admire about the other person; and let them know how much you respect them in this area.
  7. Be humble.  Allow yourself to take the blame.  In the scheme of eternity, this incident will probably not bleep on God’s Richter Scale.
  8. Don’t cower.  Even if you are the offending party, stand straight and expect respect by you actions.  It will not help your relationship to become a whipping boy for the offended party. While this may sound contratictory, humility does not mean that you become someone’s door mat.  In fact, it should have the opposite effect.
  9. Don’t expect men and women to react the same way.  Men will be brief and polite but their attitudes may seem dismissive.  Women will either want to rehearse the offense again; or they will want to rehearse your apology as a way of affirming you.
  10. I believe that face-to-face communication is often the best.  I learned many years ago that I am almost never offended when I am facing another person.  It is the rehearsal of the event or the process of routine thinking that magnifies the event into an insult.  Psychologists tell us that this is true with most people.

Will these steps erase all offenses?  No. But they may go a long way in helping you to mend important fences in your life.

 

One of my greatest fears is that I won’t know when to leave, stop and quit.  When my husband retired 11 years ago, I had told him that I didn’t intend to “retire.”  Yet, on the other hand, I also don’t want to hang around after my time is up.  No matter whether it’s ministry or a treasured friendship or a time to stop any other activity, knowing when to step way is vital to the growth of a person and an organization, especially the church.

Of course, I remember Corrie Ten Boon’s greatest evangelistic meetings and world-wide travel didn’t begin until after she was 65 years old.  There is the reality of Winston Churchill who didn’t become Prime Minister of England until he was 66.  He became prime minister again at the age of 77 and served until he was 81.  But what about the person who has outlived his days of freshness and everyone knows he should walk away but he wants to continue to be the final authority, the boss.

In facing the years ahead, there are things I can do to prepare for the time the Lord nudges me away so that others can move forward.

  1. I can be determined to walk in humility.  Of course, this isn’t easy for anyone,  However, stepping back is especially for a person who sees herself as a “leader.”  For me, the easiest position I can take is being the one who oversees the action.
  2. Understand that the main job of a leader is to cast the vision for an organization.  When the ability to cast a vision is gone, it could be  time to step down from leadership.  The greatest clue is when you want to do things the way we’ve always done them.  Change becomes abhorrent.
  3. I can continue to learn how to be a better helper.  While I know that the spiritual gift God has placed on me is administration, I, also, realize that sometimes people who are the leaders needs other eyes and ears to help shape and implement their vision.
  4. I must keep in mind that God is able to cover all the parts when the need arises.  Most of the time when I’ve left one position, I find that it’s a lot like taking my hand out of a bucket of water.  The water remains and so does the bucket.

When it happens to us, change is almost never seen as a good thing.  We all like the status quo.  Yet, as a Christian, we know that God is never a static God.  Everything is in constant flux, regarding God’s world and the Church.

Part of the godly way is knowing when we are part of the Lord’s plan for change and walking into that change.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

–Corrie ten Boom