Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Stuffed Bread----------The Savior Complex

What do people eat for holidays? Ham. Potatoes, mashed. Corn or another veggie. Rolls. At least in my experience. And, maybe I'm just weird, but I love all those thing smushed up together on my plate. So this recipe is a holiday meal, pre-mixed together. Also easily made largely from leftovers.Yum. Preheat your oven to 400.

-Dough (pizza, turnover, dinner roll dough, you pick) OR french bread with a bunch of its core removed.
-Mashed potatoes or smashed potatoes. Creamy and good. But stiff. So leftovers are perfect.
-Ham, chopped into bits.
-Creamed corn. Or another veggie of your choosing.
-Cheese. Colby Jack is great.

Cooking Instructions:
1. Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface OR remove most of the fluffy white insides of some french bread. 
2. In a bowl, whip together mashed potatoes, ham, and veggie. Add some garlic, salt, and pepper for a good flavor. A little butter never hurts either.
3. Spoon mixed ingredients onto dough and wrap dough around, forming a ball OR stuff mixed ingredients into bread.
4. Bake in the oven on a greased cooking tray for about 15 minutes. Top with cheese. Bake another 5 minutes.


Thoughts on the Savior Complex

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 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 15:12-15

How many times I've heard this verse misused (and misused it myself!) It's so common to hone in on the laying down one's life part and to catapult into thoughts and discussions of who you would gladly die for. But that isn't the point here. 

Consider the phrase "lay down my life" in another context.

"Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!" -John 13:36-38

That Peter denied Jesus is not what killed Christ. Nor was admitting he knew Jesus necessarily going result in peter getting killed. Laying down one's life has little to do with dying and much more to do with a willingness to sacrifice things of the self for the sake of others. 

Including pride. Sometimes it is truly laying down your life to not step in as a hero or a savior because you know that if you did so, it would honestly be for your own ego. Any other benefit for any other person would be the side dish.

Yet in so many ways, we make ourselves up as savior figures. Mini-Jesus'. Surely the intentions are good in many instances. 

I don't want to hurt her.
If I walk away, there will be no one left to witness to him.
It can't be loving to disappoint or offend so much.
Without pushing church on her, she'll walk away from it all.
He just needs to see that my love in unconditional, whatever the cost.
Too much hardship in her life- I just need to be nice no matter how mean she is. Kill her with kindness!
But, he needs me.

And it goes on and on. Sacrificing because we love others. Laying down our lives because we want them to live more wholly....

Stepping into shoes we cannot fill, or, more accurately, a cross that has already been the death of a Savior and already witness His rising again. 

Dying for someone doesn't save them, not truly. Giving up everything in one's life to try to be right in front of others, even for others' sakes, cannot save anyone. Being overly loving or extremely strict will save nobody.

The church cannot save. I cannot save. You cannot save.

Only Jesus Christ can save. 

We tread on dangerous ground when we develop a savior's complex. Satan lurks there, eager to bind us in our pride. To trample us when we don't measure up as we want to. To push us when we see "progress" and believe that we're succeeding.

In the wise words of my husband, "never try to do for God what is God's alone to do."

When He calls on you to be willing, to lay yourself down and the life of your's you so cling to, and to do so because He is at work in someone's life, obey. But never look for ways to be a martyr. Never pounce on the opportunity to be a savior-sort. The Lord can save without you. And when He calls on you, consider it pure joy and prepare to suffer. That's sacrificial love. 

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." -Acts 20:24

Monday, December 2, 2013

Easy Apple Ham----------The Edge of Christmas

Hooray for breakfast for dinner! Especially when it is this easy. I recommend pairing this apple ham with pancakes for a big smile! For the ham, you just need a skillet and a cutting board.

-1 Peeled and Sliced Apple (the sweeter the better)
-1 Slice of Cooked Ham
-Cooking Spray or Butter
-Maple Syrup (the real stuff is best)
-Brown Sugar

Cooking Instructions:
1. Spray a skillet lightly with oil or melt a little butter in the skillet over low heat.
2. Cut the ham slice in half and place in skillet, keeping the heat low.
3. Flip the ham when the oil starts to sizzle.
4. When both sides of the ham have warmed, place the ham on a plate off the stove.
5. Pour about 1/8 cup of syrup into the skillet, just enough to make a puddle in the pan the size of a cracked egg.
6. Sprinkle in a little brown sugar and cinnamon, mixing with the syrup.
7. Drop the apple slices in, stirring with the syrup.
8. Flip the apples in the syrup after about two minutes.
9. Wait another two minutes, and scrunch all the apples up on the side of the skillet. Drop the ham back in and cover with the apples and syrup.
10. When the ham and apples are nice and warm and syrupy, you're good!


Thoughts on the Edge of Christmas

I've noticed in the last couple of years that a vast number of churches and Christian groups advocate for people to use the specific phrase "Merry Christmas." There is this big to-do about making sure that Christians defend and exemplify their faith and the "reason for the season."

And, I'm not saying that the word "Christmas" should be put aside...I'm asking more about whether or not Christians (myself included) actually recognize and proclaim what the celebration is all about.

Now you might expect the sentimental list of ways that we tend to misconstrue the meaning of Christmas. Our culture, even in the Church, has certainly been caught up in a trend of self-service and materialism.

And, I'm not saying that steering clear of consumerism or greed is at all wrong...but that issue isn't what concerns me either.

My point, I think, is that Christ is so rarely the center of Christmas. Little Baby Jesus might be the figurehead of the holiday, right up there with Santa, the "spirit of family," or "stars and bells and remembering what matters most..." but Christ is not so much remembered.

On Christmas Eve, hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise do not attend church come for one service. They come for the carols. And they come for Aunt Carol who reminds them it's tradition. Some come for that reminder that God likes people and gave us his wee little son as a nice gift. There are, I think, even some that come because the rest of the year they struggle with the idea of God, but on Christmas, they want that experience of considering that something besides "us" exists and is good.

I do not think many people come to Christmas concerts, plays, events, and services to hear that Christ became man, remained fully God, lived perfectly, took on all of humanity's sins, died, rose again, and offered to each and every person salvation and a relationship with the Almighty God through submission to His great grace.

Yet isn't that what we all need to hear? Isn't that good (but difficult and convicting) news exactly what we are told to share?

The Jesus born into a manager was not simply made in the image of man. He was man. He was THE man. The last Adam. And yet He was God. THE God. The creator of all things. The King of kings.

And we make a day designated for commemorating Christ about one brief moment. About a few short sentiments. Twisted around several popular concepts and stories.

"Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." -2 Corinthians 4:1-6

To make Christmas all about Jesus, the baby, to the exclusion of the whole truth of Christ, is to render Christmas meaningless. God sending His son as a baby and calling Him a King does not save us. Even if it makes us feel good.

Ultimately, that is what Christmas, minus the Gospel and amplify the Nativity, is. Another fuzzy. Another feel-good. Another thing for our glory and not for God's.

Because when Christ is just a little baby God who reminds us that there is something beyond us and that family is nice and generosity feels good, Christ is just another object. One more object for us to want to call our own. And one more object and sentiment for us to sell.

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." -Galatians 1: 6-10

Whether we're trying to please other people or ourselves, we must remember who Christ is, who He was born to be, and how God revealed Himself through the process.

Also, see 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:13. A wonderful truth. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Simple Goulash------The Heart Position

This is so simple and still yummy. You can definitely spruce it up and make it fancier, but this basic version is great...and fast! If you have the ingredients leftover, you can even make this almost entirely out them.

-1lb Ground Beef
-2 Cups Pasta
-1 Cup Pasta Sauce
-Shredded Cheese
-Onion Powder
-Garlic Powder
-Italian Seasoning

Cooking Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a small casserole dish.
2. Cook the ground beef in a skillet, seasoning with the dry spices listed and any others you want.
3. Boil the pasta until it is just about cooked.
4. Heat the sauce over low in a skillet until slightly bubbly, stirring and seasoning to taste.
    Reheat leftover sauce, ground beef, and pasta.
5. In the casserole dish, combine the pasta, sauce, and meat. Stir in cheese.
6. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese over top.
7. Bake for 15 minutes. 


The Heart Position

I love this term. I have no idea where it came from or who coined it, but it so frequently grips me and challenges me.

The Bible mentions the heart -a ton. It is mentioned all throughout the Old and New Testament, and we are given many commands concerning out hearts.

Commandments like

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it"
-Proverbs 4:23.

Or “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."  -Matthew 22:37.

Jesus frequently says to those He interacts with "take heart!"

And yet it isn’t my heart that I consider, or that I am cautious with.

In prayer, it is usually my words I am concerned with. Or how praying works. Or what God hears. Or who I am forgetting to think of. Or whether I really mean what I’m praying. Or if I’m even praying the right thing.

These things have nothing to with the position of my heart.

In gratitude, I think about my desires. I think about which of my desires are being met. Maybe about my needs and what I’ve been provided with. The things that have made me happy. Even the things that I struggle with but recognize I should be grateful for. I look around me at others and think about how much I have been blessed with.

These things, again, have nothing to do with the position of my heart.

In my daily activities, I am so often conscious of whether or not I’m “doing” the “right thing.” Decisions are weighed on how they will make me look –especially how they will make me look as a Christian. Sometimes I think about how my actions will affect others. Or if they stand up for truth. Often I wonder if my actions are truly justified.

Yet these things have nothing to do with the position of my heart.

And I could go on and on about other things in the same line. For a really long time. My senior seminar paper in college was all about intentions and whether or not they ultimately matter.

That is what the heart is, after all –intentions. The “Kardia” in Greek, which is a word frequently translated in English Bibles as “the heart,” is not a vital physical organ. It is the inner self, the will, the intention at the center of a person.

The heart is our “volitional desire” (according to Strong’s Concordance and HELPS-Word Studies.)

And our intentions matter. A lot. In an extreme example: if you kill someone because you feel like it, most people will condemn you. However, if you kill someone because it is the only way to stop them from murdering your child…people tend to be a little more understanding. It’s the “because.”

But, out intentions aren’t always a trump card either. If Billy cut off Mary’s ponytail because he meant well, assuming its length annoyed her too, he is still in trouble. “Meaning well” isn’t sufficient if the actions are wrong.

So then…spiritually, am I “off the hook” because I mean well by being concerned about doing the right thing? Or because at least I bother to pray and to be grateful? What if I do all those things, imperfectly, because my intention is to be a good Christian?

Still on the hook. Hanging there. Dangling. I’ve missed the point.

My heart positions matters only in relation to the Lord. And it is always in relation to the Lord.
Prayer is not for me. Thanks giving is not for me. Right actions are not for my sake. None of my life should occur with my heart in any position –humble, earnest, eager- except for submitted to my master, Jesus Christ the Lord. And that’s because of who He is. Not who I am.

How much easier it is to proclaim that than it is in my heart to actually go before the Lord and kneel, forgetting all else and holding nothing back.

Yet, simply,

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” –Romans 10:9-13.

May we, with our whole hearts, remember the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. May we trust in the Lord as it is said in Psalm 28. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas-------Being In His Presence

The Food Stuffs:

These enchiladas aren't very spicy, but they have a little bit of kick. You'll need to preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Have a casserole dish on hand, a plate to heat tortillas on, and a skillet for the sauce (assuming your chicken is already cooked). 

-2 Chicken breasts, fully cooked and chopped into nuggets or shredded. 
-1 Can Tomato sauce
-1 Can Diced tomatoes
-1 Green bell pepper
-1 Jalapeno or Chile (choose your own heat!)
-Taco Sauce (again with the heat)
-A pinch of sugar
-Chili Powder
-12 Corn Tortillas

Cooking Instructions:
1. Heat tomato sauce in a skillet on low. Finely chop peppers meanwhile.
2. Add only about a tablespoon of taco sauce to the skillet, stirring it in.
3. When the sauces have combined, add the peppers and diced tomatoes.
4. Simmer for about ten minutes. Add spices to taste. If the sauce is too thick, gradually add water, stirring, until desired thickness is achieved.
5. Season cooked chicken with salt and pepper.
6. Heat tortillas in the microwave or stove to soften them.
7. Grease your casserole dish.
8. Lay a tortilla in the dish and then add chicken and sauce.
9. Roll the tortilla and repeat step 8 until all of the tortillas are filled and rolled in the dish. Arrange as the tortillas best fit.
10. Pour remaining sauce over the filled tortillas.
11. Sprinkle with cheese to your taste. 

12. Bake at 350 for about ten minutes.


Thoughts on Being In His Presence

Some things sound so simple and silly when you recognize what they are really about. Like when you sort of avoid spending time alone in the Lord's presence. Just you and Him. And it seems like there must be some complex reason why.

You love spending time in fellowship. Prayer happens. Still reading His word. Talking about Him. It's not like He has gone just can't feel Him there.

...The reason must be that something is blocking you. Someone is stopping you. If you love the Lord, why would you avoid Him? Especially if you've been seeking to know His will. Waiting on Him. Thanking Him...

And then, you determine that you're just going to do it. You're just going to pray and ask Him to stop whatever the issue is, and let you near. A step closer and BAM! Blinded. You realize it's you. The classic "it's not you, it's me."

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” -Ephesians 5:13

Yes, you have avoided being quite that close to the Lord. Because something happens when we recognize His intimate presence that isn't always pleasant. He exposes all darkness to light. It is uncomfortable to get close enough to the Lord that His light reveals even the tiniest crevasses of darkness in us. Some sins...sure. They are hard. But we can handle them. Expose away, Lord.

But those sins we hide even from ourselves? Christ will find them if we get close to Him. And He won't take turning a blind eye as a response.

“For the word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword; it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man's being: it examines the very thoughts and motives of a man's heart. No creature has any cover from the sight of God; everything lies naked and exposed before the eyes of him with whom we have to deal.” -Hebrews 12:13-14

To be in the Lord's presence causes us to recognize all that He is. His grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, purity,'s a little frightening. Christ is the Lord of the universe. And He calls us friends and offers Himself up for us. We don't even deserve it -we can't.

Sometimes I think, at least for me, it is easy to confront apparent sins. There are some wrongs that I accept about myself and have little trouble turning over to the Lord. Great, good, right? Except, sometimes I feel like when I confess those things, then I deserve the grace He shows me just a little bit. Almost as though we have a private, sweet little mutual agreement. I admit that I'm wrong on these particular things, and it's a little bit difficult, and He forgives me and then it's all right again. A nice little exchange.

Unfortunately (fortunately), we cannot, in anyway, deserve His grace. And salvation is no transaction. There is nothing that we have to offer that Christ lacks and is wanting for. Surely He desires our whole hearts, but we cannot hold them ransom. That is anything but submission to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

But it's hard to let Him peer into the hidden places of hearts, the nooks we don't even like to look in. It's harder still when His light overwhelms those secretive sins, and they begin to burn up inside of us.

Christ's grace and mercy extend to us even when we recognize that our own secretive sins have kept us from being entirely close to Him. In His presence, we are required to see who we truly are. And as we submit to the Lord, confessing, we are then to seek Him, to live as those whose sins are forgiven and covered by Christ.

How many verses there are about this! In Ephesians 5, In 2 Corinthians 4, 1 Thessalonians 5, Romans 13, and through many other books and chapters (including in the New Testament).

I love how concisely the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" says it though:

"When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine. (Stanza 5)

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. (Stanza 7)."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Autumn Soup------------Committing to Heart

The Food Stuffs:

This soup is thick and hearty, perfect for the chilly weather! Plan to work on this soup for about an hour before enjoying it. My measurements are loose, so tweak according to your taste. 

-2 Cans Chicken Stock
-3 Medium Potatoes, peeled and chopped
-3 Cups Pumpkin, cooked and mashed
-1/2 Cup Applesauce
-1 Squash, chopped
-1/2 Cup Carrots, chopped
-1/4 Cup Corn kernels
-1/8 Cup Sugar
-Fresh Spinach leaves
-Italian Seasoning
-Chili Powder

Cooking Instructions:
1. Warm chicken stock on stovetop on high.
2. When it begins to boil, add chopped potatoes.
3. Once the potatoes are cooked almost through, stir in pumpkin and applesauce. Reduce to medium heat.
3. Continue stirring over heat until well mixed. Add squash and carrots. 
4. After about ten minutes, stir in both corn and sugar.
5. Once the sugar is dissolved and the soup is an even texture, tear the fresh spinach leaves and stir them in as well.
6. Season to your taste, stirring all the while.
7. Reduce to low heat and allow to simmer for about ten minutes before serving. 


Thoughts on Committing to Heart

"My son, keep your father’s commandment,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,..."  -Proverbs 6:20-23

How quickly I forget the things that I should commit to heart. Words of encouragement, wisdom, or correction, spoken in truth. These are the first things I forget to remember when pushier and more aggressive thoughts come up. Whether it is fear or disappointment or worry, I so easily open myself up to what is not the Lord's. 

In the process, I loosen the binds of what He has provided to protect and to guide me in His way, for His glory. I tear the words from my heart and His instructions off my neck. 

A new guard is stationed by my heart. A new yoke placed around my neck. They are not His. 

Why do I do this? Why do I forget who my master is and submit instead to the one that comes as a thief, threatening me? 

I am so blessed to have people in my life that seek and speak the truth. Their words, given and used by the same Spirit active in Scripture, are treasure. They are light along this way of faith. My prayer is that I will remember, instead of the things that demand my attention, the gentle and unwavering words shared with me by those who follow the Lord. 

There are so many different things said. And done. And promoted. And disguised as good. It is hard to keep closer to the truth than such things. 

Yet, we are to bind such truths to and to guard these hearts: 

"Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." -2 Timothy 1:13-14

Because these hearts have been: 

"...written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." -2 Corinthians 3:3

I'm praying that the Lord will help me to tie more tightly the bindings He provides around my heart. And thanking Him for so many loving, truth-seeking people who have spoken and speak such treasures to me. It is hard to listen, it is hard to remember the things of the light when darkness creeps in on you. But thank the Lord for the work of the Spirit!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pumpkin Doodles-----------Fearing Friendship

The Food Stuffs:

***Note: This recipe is actually for two types of cookies (Pumpkin drops and Snickerdoodles) but the batters can easily be combined together to make Pumpkin Doodles.

Prep for both Batters:
Get a bunch of bowls ready! You're making two different batters here, and then combining them. Batch produces about 5 dozen cookies. Have the oven preset to 360 degrees. Use parchment paper on the baking sheets if possible.

Pumpkin Drops Recipe
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
-1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
-1 cup of heaping, cooked, mashed, pumpkin
-1 large egg

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cooking Instructions:
1. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. 
2. Beat the sugar and butter until well blended. 
3. Mix egg and vanilla extract into the sugar butter blend. 
4. Stir in the pumpkin thoroughly
5. Add the flour mixture into the wet blend slowly, mixing as you go. 
6. Mix together powdered sugar, milk, and butter to make a glaze to your liking. 

*You can bake these just as they and produce delicious pumpkin drops. Bake for about 12 minutes, allow to cool on tray for 2 minutes. Glaze after they are cool. 

*OR, pop the bowl into the refrigerator until your snickerdoodles are ready for combining.  

Snickerdoodles Recipe
-1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
-1 cup granulated sugar
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-2 large eggs
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons cream of tartar
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon salt

Cooking Instructions:
1. Cream the softened butter. 
2. Add the sugar and vanilla to the butter, beating thoroughly.
3. Mix in the eggs.
4. In another bowl, mix together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. 
5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet, stirring all the while. You may have to stir by hand because the batter is extremely thick. 
6. On the side, stir together granulated sugar and cinnamon for the topping. 

*Again, you can bake these just as they are. Roll them up, dip in the topping, and then bake for 12 minutes. Allow to cool on tray for two minutes before removing. 

Making the Pumpkin Doodles
Now, for the fun part! To make pumpkin doodles, add the snickerdoodle batter to the pumpkin batter. If you want the fun texture and look of combo-cookies, barely combine the batters so that you get a little bits of snickerdoodle in the softer and puffier pumpkin drops. For a more even texture, mix the batters thoroughly. Sprinkle the cookies with the cinnamon sugar mixture before baking. Bake for about 12 minutes, allowing the cookies to rest on the tray for two minutes before removing. Then, add the glaze and more cinnamon! Yum!

You can add chocolate chips to either batter or to the pumpkin doodles. Even better!!


Thoughts on Fearing Friendship

This is another thing that might just be me, but I don't think it is. 

It's that feeling you get after you have shared something special with a friend. Your friend has gone away. The phone call ended, the texts finished, or the both of you departed for your own lives. At that point, the fear creeps in...

Maybe I talked too much. That particular story I shared might have been a downer. What I said may have been too much of a burden for her to hear. Perhaps he was just being nice and really dislikes what I said. It's possible she doesn't actually enjoy spending time with me anyway. I might be an obligation to him. She must see me so differently since I said that. I didn't listen enough. He probably will feel that the friendship is unbalanced now that I've relied on him so much.

I imagine that anyone who has ever lost a friendship, ended a friendship, or watched any relationship ail, fall apart, disintegrate, or simply disappear can relate to such fears. And how much more difficult this seems when God gets involved!

Because we aren't alive to please other people.
Because we know that the Lord alone knows us wholly.
Because we see that no one can love us as unconditionally and perfectly as the Lord. 
Because we are more keenly aware of our sins and of who we truly are.
Because we recognize grace and yet sometimes fail to find it.
Because we sometimes dangerously project our human notions of relationships onto God.
Because we have been asked by the Lord to love others and we know just how hard that is. 
Because we sense that other people, including ourselves, are not always Christlike.
Because we struggle to be truly vulnerable with God, and how much worse with others.
Because we are told by Evil that people, even friends, have good reason to leave us. 

And there are many more reasons than these. 

Yet all of these things evidence fear. We are afraid because our eyes are not fixed on the Lord and His glory. Rather, we are transfixed by what our friends think and feel, how fallen humanity is and how impossibly unable we are to be all that we wish people could be. 
Or, we are obsessed with our own unsightly condition, forgetting that Christ is at work in us. We so strive to do all things right that we miss the truth of His presence, character, and actions in -yes!- even in our relationships.

We cannot look at the people and relationships and think to ourselves "I ought to see the Lord here"  or even, "I see the Lord here" simply because the person does something kind or remarkably honest. If we allow ourselves to think in this way, then what happens when our friends fail us, leave us, or disappoint us? Is there Lord still there in them? This risky line of thought allows us to confuse what God does and what people do, who God is and who people are.

When the Lord works through a friend, it is incredible. What a blessing to see evidence of His grace in a friend's forgiveness, or proof of His comfort in a friend's encouragement. Even being corrected by a friend can show us God's ongoing work of shaping. The Lord gives us friends and He uses friendships.

Being fearful in friendship of being rejected, abandoned, judged, criticized, or otherwise potentially damaged is normal. But it is normal because people fear such things as much as they fear the Lord. We have to remember, actively and intentionally, that people are in fact broken, imperfect, struggling people. But God is, in fact, working perfectly through people, and in people. Including ourselves and our friends. 

While having difficult conversations, sharing burdensome stories or prayer requests, or simply hanging out and feeling just a little insecure...we need to pray. We need to remember. We need to recognize the Lord and his worthiness and not fear ours and our friends inadequacies. Fearing such things turns our eyes from Christ and gives the power to people.

Accountability is good. Sharing is awesome. Carrying each others’ burdens is a blessing. Fearing our friends and relationships is wrong and displaces the Lord from our focus.  

His grace is sufficient when ours and our friends’ are not. 

"Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God." Philippians 1:3