How to Do the Hard and Holy Work of Faithful Friendship

“So who’s mentoring whom here?” my friend asked with a mischievous grin.
Good question!
When friends challenge one another with shared books, Scripture reading, and transparent prayer, everyone is sharpened and restored in a way that uniquely shows the love of God. Janice Peterson calls this “spiritual friendship,” and has reached back into her long memory for the purpose of sharing her friend Gertrude, the woman who poured lemonade and listened to Jan’s teen-age thoughts and dreams.

Being seen and valued by a friend who was “always present, always caring,” set Peterson on a course to be that person for others, to live given, and to love well. In Becoming Gertrude: How Our Friendships Shape Our Faith, Jan remembers lemonade on the porch and shares her deep conviction that friendships can be life-altering in all the best ways.

A spiritual friendship differs from mentoring in that no one takes the lead. There’s no resident expert or hierarchy at work. Instead, spiritual friendship is characterized by an unstructured giving and receiving, “appreciating the gifts individuals have to offer. It’s being willing to share when you need to share and learn when you need to learn. It’s caring for the well-being of the other person, and letting her care for you as well.” (xviii)

Ministering alongside her husband, author and pastor Eugene Peterson, Janice seized the life-enriching opportunities that her role as a pastor’s wife provided for investing in relationships. With rich insights lifted from Romans 12, she has distilled for her readers five elements that have infused her most formative relationships:

Caring

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” (Romans 12:1 MSG)

We become caring people with practice, strengthening our awareness of others like a muscle. The author witnessed this outward focus modeled in her long-ago friend Gertrude and has concluded that regardless of gifting and personality, anyone can choose to put others first and pay attention to the needs of others.

As she matured, Peterson found her own caring heart drawn to the larger world. She began to serve on the Fair Housing Committee in her area and to practice cooking and eating habits that demonstrated her concern for the challenge of world hunger.

To become more caring:

  • Pay attention to those who are doing it well and copy them.
  • Push down your pride and receive unselfish caring from others.
  • Take note of the needs of the people God has placed right in front of your eyes.

Acceptance

“Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” (Romans 12:2 MSG)

Peterson warns, “A spiritual friend is someone you enjoy being with, but you may not always find the friendship simple or straightforward.” (30) As a “classic extrovert,” Janice finds it easy to take others at face value, but connecting with those who are more challenging to love can take the special effort of seeking to see the world from their perspective. Ironically, the first step in accepting others may be the task of self-acceptance.

To become more accepting of others:

  • Connect with them by participating in the things that interest them.
  • Spend time connecting with God to learn His heart of acceptance for you and for others.

Service

“Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.” (Romans 12:11, 12 MSG)

Living her way into God’s calling upon her life, Janice Peterson swam upstream in the 1960’s when other women were leaving their homes in droves to seek employment. Called to be a pastor’s wife and a mother, she has served and loved in her own unique way, motivating others to do likewise by her example.

To serve well:

  • Be ready to spring into action, loving your community in concrete ways.
  • Serve courageously when God points out a need that you are able to meet.

Hospitality

Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. . . Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” (Romans 12:13, 16 MSG)

Hospitality puts into practice the caring, serving, and accepting that friendship requires. Taking time to rightly align her readers’ understanding of the term, Peterson defines hospitality through a biblical lens: “the welcoming reception and treatment of guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” (67) The welcome of hospitality is a bridge to wholeness as we generously receive others and let them know us, warts and all.

To become more hospitable:

  • Forget about “entertaining” guests and just enjoy them, feed them, and listen to them.
  • Start with your family and move in ever widening circles.

Encouragement

“Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” (Romans 12:14-16 MSG)

The church provides the perfect backdrop for mutual encouragement as believers motivate one another to acts of service, use of God-given gifts, and a continual focus on God and His faithfulness. Reorienting one another gently toward an others-orientation, we discover the truest and most healthy version of ourselves, and then offer that up as a gift to God. In the process, we also become a gift to others, a spiritual friend, putting on display the caring, accepting, serving, hospitable, encouraging heart of our relational God.

Many thanks to NavPress for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Thank you for the visit,

michele signature[1]


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Becoming Gertrude: How Our Friendships Shape Our Faith simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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The Bridge-Building Ministry of Encouragement

Debbie Kitterman’s class comprised a delightful balance of both brown and white faces, and when she overheard the symphony of Spanish and English conversations, her curiosity was piqued. At the first opportunity, she approached the pastor of the Hispanic congregation that was hosting her class.

“How come half of my class doesn’t speak Spanish?” she queried. “Do they attend your congregation?”

“No,” he replied. “During our joint staff meeting, I mentioned to the pastoral staff I was going to have you come teach my congregation on how to hear from God, so word got out.”

The desire to hear God’s Truth and to encourage others through His Word was strong enough to bridge the gap between two cultures, and if we were honest, this is a bridge upon which we all need to place the soles of our feet. Finding that Christians everywhere need a bit of help getting outside our comfort zones, Debbie Kitterman has shared her own journey along with the good news that God intends for us to build one another up as we speak words of Truth. In The Gift of Prophetic Encouragement: Hearing the Words of God for Others, we find Kitterman’s confidence and fervor flow from years of learning alongside biblical characters like little Samuel that the voice of God in our ears and in our hearts requires action on our part.

God the Holy Spirit is Living and Active

Debbie’s ministry trumpets the “freelance nature of the Holy Spirit.” The third Person of the Trinity is living and active, through His Word and in His people. Those who put Him in a box miss out on the full display of His power at work in ordinary people.  Furthermore, we are built for connection, for relationship with God and with each other. Living in harmony with the example of Jesus means embracing a lifestyle of encouragement. “Jesus had radical encounters with ordinary people every day. By listening to the Father’s voice and doing what the Father said, Jesus was able to release heaven into the situations and lives of those He encountered.” (21)

When we take the risk of sharing God’s truth with others for the purpose of encouraging them in their walk with God, that movement into obedience may have the domino effect of moving them into obedience as well. As we align our words and our actions with the plumb line of Scripture, we will find ourselves swept up into the bridge-building ministry of a God whose invitation is open and full of hope:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”  (Isaiah 43:18, 19)

Many thanks to Chosen Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Rejoicing in God’s Redemptive Work,

Michele Morin

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Gift of Prophetic Encouragement: Hearing the Words of God for Others simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Visiting Over the Garden Fence

Here on this country hill, I see my neighbors from a distance.  The stillness and solitude are a bonus, but there are times when I think it would be nice to look up from my weeding and see a friendly face over the garden fence, to compare notes on ripening tomatoes and Japanese beetles, and to share encouraging stories that come from living close to the ground.

Today, I’m leaning over the garden fence — in a virtual way — with my friend, Sarah Geringer.  She’s a writer and a blogger who is gathering a community of gardeners at her place this month, and she has asked me three questions about my life in the bean patch:

  1.  What is your favorite kind of gardening (flower, vegetable, container, etc.) and why?

  2. What spiritual lessons has God taught you through gardening?

  3. In this year’s gardening season, what challenges do you face and how do they correlate with your faith?

Capture

Grab your gardening gloves and hunker down with us over at Sarah’s place as we ponder a new season of seed planting and hope —  and as we marvel at the ordinary miracle of new life that happens when we’re Meeting God in the Garden.

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I’ve reviewed Sarah’s book, Newness of Life here at Living Our Days, and you’ll also want to check out her blog as she continues to interview other gardeners as part of her series.

May you find that you also meet God in the garden as you enjoy spring beauty and follow the path of joy back to a loving and all-wise Creator.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Musings — July 2016

July has been a month of gatherings, and nothing is more precious to me than the gift of my patient husband and our family.  To celebrate Independence Day we all trekked to our favorite State Park on Lake St. George for a daylong picnic and swim, and then off to the fireworks.  We’ve relished a Saturday at the ocean, an evening around the fire pit with s’mores and starlight, and a lovely opportunity to babysit the adorable grand boy.

You, readers, are a further source of inspiration, and many of you are fellow bloggers who regularly offer up your words, sometimes wondering if anyone is out there reading.  This month your messages of encouragement to me have shown up at just the right time — just like the ravens who served as messengers with God’s provision in the Old Testament (I Kings 17:4-6; Genesis 8:6,7).

Thank You to My Ravens

When your words land
Like downy feathers,
When they  nourish like bread and meat,
I find strength to make my way to the Brook,
To drink deeply,
To be refreshed where God has placed me.

So, dear Ravens, when you have been tossed out of your Ark,
Sent forth from your cherished place of safety
To take wing over some flooded and desolate place,

Fly.

Keep going to and fro over the waters,
And know this:

Although your mission may not be clear —
No fresh-growing olive leaf in sight for you to pluck
As evidence of your flight —
Someone waits for you.
Some God-loved but wingless soul,
Uncertain about life and food,
Body and clothes,
Some watching, Word-starved worrier
Will consider your carefree flight,
Will hear Spirit-wind in your timely fluttering,
Will cease her empty striving,
Will seek His kingdom and do the Word of the Lord —
Because you took flight.

Book Talk

I’m enjoying some reading this summer that will not be showing up on the blog, and there’s nothing like a book that happens to be an old friend.  This includes working my way slowly through Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water, a section at a time, sometimes re-reading, always encouraged.  I’m also discovering Amy Carmichael’s Edges of His Ways.  It has been a delightful thing to cut back to one book review per week on the blog!

Life at Home

I am two thirds of the way through my commitment to the summer job, and all is well.  It appears that everyone is surviving quite nicely without me standing constantly in the hypotenuse of the sink-stove-fridge-triangle.

 

Reading, writing, and studying time have been a bit hard to come by, so I resurrected a few older posts for the blog in the month of July.

Our big vegetable garden has been a steady presence in my life for the past couple of decades, and, of course, that has not changed. It’s nearly time for canning to begin.

The patient husband and I are persevering in our journey through the Bible out loud together, and this is a steady source of inspiration.

Living Our Days

The most-read post for July was a meditation on Psalm 142 and David’s Prayer from the Cave.   I am happy to report that the most-read book review was based on Marjorie Maddox’s beautiful collection of poetry entitled Yes. No. None of the Above.  

I’m not sure that I had a favorite post this month, but certainly the most challenging for me to write was my review of Makoto Fujimura’s Silence and Beauty.   Essentially, the task was to write a book review about a book . . . that had been written about another book (Shusako Endo’s Silence).

Coming up in the month of August, I’m delighted to be sharing a post via She Loves Magazine about my friend in Australia, Bev Murrill.  She has a teaching, counseling, and humanitarian ministry to women and children in Africa, and, although we have never met in person, I have been challenged by her heart of compassion.

I’d love to know what is challenging you this summer.   Are there people in your life who show you the love of Christ, who show up like ravens with messages of provision and encouragement?

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Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I’ll be linking this post with Leigh Kramer‘s great community of  month-end encouragement.  I hope you’ll join me there!

Also,  I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.