No If, And, or But

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“I love you, but…”

Has anyone said that to you?

For me, instead of owning the love, I camp on the words that follow that statement because it seems the person’s love (or approval) is contingent on something I do or don’t do.

When I raised kids, I probably said the same thing. “I love you, but . . . you need to clean your room, do your homework, behave.”

I assumed God spoke that way to me. “I love you, but . . .”

But, what? What do I need to do? As a performance-driven, people pleaser, I turned myself inside out to find the answer.

Do I need to earn my salvation?

No, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Do I need to earn God’s love?

No, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Maybe I need to be a better Christian so I don’t lose God’s love.

And the Loving God who calls me “Beloved” assures me, “Nothing can separate you from my love” (Romans 8:35-39).

You see, I spent years learning God’s Word, but I had to believe God.

Imagine my relief and the mind-blowing joy to know that I know—God loves. There is no if, and, or but!

Hold onto this truth no matter what your feelings or circumstances suggest otherwise. Even in this…coming new year!

When a Friendship Shifts

It’s my pleasure to welcome my new-found friend and fellow writer, Joy Williams, as my guest blogger. Her passion is sharing the life-changing truths about the grace of God in Christ.  Joy’s words bless me because she always points me to Christ. Welcome Joy even in this……..

I’m hopeful when a friendship begins. I’m grateful when a friendship grows. But I’m hurt and perplexed when a friendship shifts.

During a recent conversation with a friend, awkwardness hung over every word. Our once familiar space felt foreign to me.

It was evident our friendship was changing. We’ve been friends for years, but now phone calls are fewer. Texts are shorter. Sharing has become shallow.

If you’ve ever had a friendship shift, you know the symptoms: Disruption followed by silence or distance followed by absence.

Sometimes it’s by mutual understanding; when the busyness of life competes with our priorities. Other times, it’s a natural progression; for example, when a friend moves away or moves into a new phase of life. But it can also happen as a painful reaction to something that was done or said.

Regardless of what’s causing my friendship shift, I miss my friend. I miss the way we used to laugh at the same thing and hurt over similar things. The pace of our lives changes, new needs constantly surface and new priorities often appear. Yet, I believe…

A true friend loves regardless of the situation,
and a real brother exists to share the tough times. – Proverb 17:17 Voice

How can friends remain true in every circumstance?

I believe tough times provide the biggest opportunity. However, if much of our time is spent second guessing and fault finding, the toughest thing to share could be an honest conversation about how we really feel.

When friendships fail to adapt to what’s new, it’s hard to hold onto what was.

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I want to rally around the Proverbs 17:17 cry. But I don’t want to rally alone. However, John 15:12-13 reminds us friendship requires selflessness and even sacrifice. Jesus was willing to lay down His life for His friends. Now, I find it hard just to pick up the phone to call her.

Help me to do better Jesus.

Help me show her You, Jesus. You show love to the failing and compassion to the weak.

You show love and compassion to me.

Some friendships are for a reason. Some are for a season and some are for a lifetime. It’s a familiar saying, but it’s not always easy to know the reasons behind a season in a friendship.

However, I do know where to take my hurting heart. I’m taking it straight to Jesus.
He helps me sort through my emotions. He forgives my faults. He offers His counsel for my regrets. Until…

I have the words to express His heart.

The heart to hold His compassion.

His peace for this friendship’s path.

If you’re feeling a friendship shift too, here’s some good news: People fail each other; but Jesus never will. He knows how to mend what’s broken in and around us. I’m praying for friendships to heal and to become powerful places to share hope for the heart and joy to the soul.

Joy A. Williams is a writer, speaker and the author of Friendship MAPS: A Journey through Maturity, Aspirations, Perspectives and Struggles. Through her weekly blog, she encourages sincere or side-tracked truth seekers with “hope for the heart and joy to the soul” at joyAwilliams.com. You can also connect with Joy on Twitter @joytothesoul or on Facebook fb.me/joytothesoul.

 

 

What are Friends For?

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My friend sniffs, pausing in the middle of her story to get a tissue from her purse.

I wait beside her in the coffee shop.

Mute. Helpless.

Watching huge tears travel down her cheeks like raindrops rolling down a window pane.

She wipes her trail of tears, and I wonder…

Isn’t there a Bible verse about collecting tears in a bottle?

I swallow the knot in my throat. Blink back my own tears.

What can I say to encourage her?

  • Offer to pray with her?
  • Quote a Bible verse?
  • Assure her everything will be alright.

When honestly, I don’t know how things will turn out.

I touch her arm, but hold my tongue. Fearful of being like Job’s friends. Full of platitudes.

Can she feel my empathy? My longing to make things better?

Perhaps it’s enough I’m here to listen.

My friend eventually changes the subject. Mood lightens. Similar to shifting gears on a bicycle after you’ve pedaled on rough terrain and the landscape flattens out.

We hug; agree to pray for one another. Then go our separate ways.

Nothing changed. Nothing solved.

But just the act of sharing—the good, bad, and ugly—lifts our burdens. If only for the moment.

Spirits strengthened. Eyes fixed again on Jesus. We advance into the night….

Trusting a Sovereign God.

Thankful we’re not alone, even if our friends haven’t walked in our shoes or can fully comprehend the pain.

Consider the Virgin Mary who conceived a son and then went in a hurry to visit Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary, she “cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).

Surely those words were exactly what Mary needed to hear.

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Mary didn’t have to grieve alone.

Years later, when Jesus was dying on a cross, He saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby.

“He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’

Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’

From that hour the disciple took her into his own household (John 19:26, 27).

Mary didn’t have to grieve alone.

Mary Magdalene among others was also there beside her.

Isn’t that what friends are for?

Loving the people God places in our lives.

Especially for such a time as this…..

Feeling Salty?

Wearing frayed clothes, an old man with a scraggly beard approached the eclectic restaurant patio where I sat with my two grown sons. Shaded from the summer sun, we were the only customers out there on a Sunday afternoon.

My body stiffened. He’s going to ask for money.

The man shuffled past us, opened the screen door, and went inside. He returned with a coffee mug and sat down at the table next to us.

My body relaxed, but my mind remained on guard. He stared at us with red-rimmed, glassy eyes. Sometimes he mumbled beneath his breath.

I went inside and asked the young waitress if the man had ordered food.

“No, he only has three dollars.”

“Would you mind asking him if he’d like to order a meal? You can put it on my tab. I’d ask him, but I don’t want to embarrass or offend him.”

She smiled. “That’s nice of you.”

I wasn’t trying to be nice. I’m reluctant to share my story. Don’t want someone to think I’m patting myself on the back. Not the case.

I was being obedient.

How could I attend church that morning—hear God’s Word—and NOT reach out to someone in need? Someone within arm’s reach who had an empty belly; hunger in his soul.

The waitress brought a menu to the man and whispered in his ear.

He mumbled, “Missing teeth.”

She helped him choose something edible. Then brought him a plate of soft rolls to eat while he waited for his meal.

He guzzled his coffee; devoured the rolls.Then he took his mug inside and left the restaurant without glancing in our direction.

Within seconds, the waitress brought our food. Her right arm had a sleeve tattoo. “I offered to put his food in a to-go box, but he didn’t want to wait. So I canceled the order.”

“Perhaps the bread filled him up,” I said. “Or maybe I should have approached him myself so he didn’t feel awkward.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. You tried.”

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Yes, I tried to do the right thing—be salt and light. To the man, and young woman too.

I wondered if either of them knew Jesus—the Bread of Life. The One who feeds our souls. 

If not, had they heard the gospel? How did they perceive Christians?

Oh, Lord, don’t let my salt lose its flavor. (Luke 14:34)

And yet, while my sons and I were eating, the topic of same-sex marriage came up. Immediately, my neck hairs bristled as I thought about “those people.”

Until the Spirit hit me with a two by four:

You have no trouble showing compassion to an indigent person whom you know nothing about. What if a gay couple sat near you? 

Would you still choose to be salt and light? 

If not, why not?

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“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13,14)