Musings — June 2017

Hand in tiny hand they meandered their way down the aisle, flower girl and ring bearer, each gripping a bouquet, searching the crowded pews for the faces of their grandmothers.  I can’t recall ever Captureseeing a more beautiful flower arrangement than the one with the dangling rose that I received from my grandson at his uncle’s wedding.  It is no small thing to survive a journey in the hand of a small boy.

June has been a month of family, a season of gathering together around both celebration and mourning.  We’ve spent moments cherishing memories, and we’ve invested  time in preparation for the future as another son finds his balance on the edge of the nest and makes solid plans for his launch into good days to come.

We have welcomed another daughter-in-love into our family chaos, and we also continue to grow in our love and appreciation for the woman who loves our oldest son and cares for our grandchildren.

Father’s Day Celebration at Pemaquid Point

On the Blog

I enjoyed the hospitality of two blogging friends in June.

Sue Donaldson flung the doors and the windows open wide and filled the room with stories about the blessing of faces around a table.  I shared the story of our family’s ongoing relationship with missionaries who have visited in our home and have enlarged our hearts and our view of the world.  You can read the whole story here, and, while you’re over at Sue’s place, be sure to check out the series because Every Table Tells a Story.

Then, one day I received an email asking if I would share a review of one of my family’s favorite movies.  Well, of course I would, but first — which movie?  There’s been a lot of popcorn consumed in this house!  Hop on over to Melanie Redd’s writing home to find out why Chitty Chitty Bang Bang won out (over Master of Disguise) and why you should consider watching it with your kids and grandkids.  Also, be on the lookout for upcoming installments in Melanie’s series of good family films for summer viewing.

We met around four books at Living Our Days this month.  Thank you for your good thoughts — the conversation has been lively and I invite you to join us if you haven’t already.

Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker addresses the longing we have for authentic friendship, and just might feel like a heart-to-heart talk with a trusted girlfriend.

Kay Warren wrote Sacred Privilege with ministry wives in mind, but if you’ve done time in a pew, you will find rich wisdom in her words for navigating life with the family of God.

I devoted two separate posts to Keeping Place by Jen Pollock Michel because it addressed the meaning of home both theologically (read “A Theology of Home” here) and practically (read “The Work of Home” here).  If you’ve ever read words from Scripture and longed for the permanence that is more than place, or if you’ve found yourself overwhelmed by the practical details of housekeeping (and wondered if it’s worth it), you’ll want to settle into this book for a good long re-setting read.

Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper was a challenging and rewarding reminder that, while we must approach our reading of Scripture with discernment and with all our diligent efforts as a student, we are mightily assisted by the Holy Spirit in our assimilation of truth and in the outworking of righteousness which comes about as a result of our having seen and savored Christ in His Word.

In the Garden

I am pleased to report that the entire garden has received its first thorough weeding . . . and now I’m starting all over again.  There is no “once and done” in this business of growing vegetables, which is an excellent metaphor for our process of spiritual formation.  I enjoyed the challenge of writing about this very thing at a new Facebook Group that I’m helping out with these days:  Seeking God Daily.  You can read my first contribution here, and you’re welcome to join the group for daily inspiration to pursue God through His Word.

Blessings and love to each one of you.  It’s a privilege to share words of encouragement and challenge here, to talk books, and to hear your thoughts in the comments.  Enjoy these fleeting days of summer (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere!).

My favorite Sunday morning women and I are finishing up Peter’s first letter to his “elect exiles,” and since we are included in his wise offerings, let’s come into this new season with a renewed determination that  “above all [we will] keep loving one another earnestly.”

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Join me over at Leigh Kramer’s place for What I’m Into where others will also be sharing their end-of-month recap posts.  Great recommendations for reading and listening and enjoying life abound!

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.

 

 

10 Questions that Foster Thriving Friendships

In our virtual world, we can swipe away friends as easily as we send leftover mashed potatoes into the kitchen trash.  We can polish our words and present ourselves as successful and popular, and even produce photos to back up our claim, but the longing of our hearts for true friendship — for genuine connection with another soul —  has to happen apart from Insta-glitter or the shallow disclosure of a tweet.

In Never Unfriended, Lisa-Jo Baker floats the notion that maybe our struggles with friendship happen because we are operating from wrong assumptions in our foundation.  We carry baggage from bad past experiences forward as if they were gospel, and we encumber relationships with unrealistic expectations.  We talk when we should listen, and we fret about our own small selves  when our eyes should be open wide to spot the needs of the other women in the room.

As community manager for (in)courage, Lisa-Jo is the girl in charge of relationships for that online gathering of hearts, but she doesn’t claim to have it all together yet.  We’re all friends-in-training together until we reach heaven.  In the meantime, we live our way into our best relational selves and seek to fulfill our God-breathed desire for community in ways that glorify Him and serve others.   Crashing into my own selfishness and self-protective strategies from the very first chapter of Never Unfriended, a list of ten questions bubbled their way into my thinking about friendship:

 1.  What would happen if I approached friendship from an active posture?

What if instead of asking, “Who will be my friend?” I asked “How can I be a friend?”  The words of Jesus come to mind:  “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. . .”

2.  What lies are fueling my fear of or reluctance toward friendship?

Whether it’s a past friendship gone sour or wrong thinking about my own self-worth and relevance, these lies poison friendship going forward and must be rooted out and replaced with the Truth.

3.  What’s the worst thing that can happen if I go first?

It turns out that we’re all still in middle school when it comes to being the new girl — or welcoming the new girl into our established group.  Radical friendship maintains an open circle for others on the outside.  A fierce commitment to community will fuel Brave and risk Awkward.  Lisa shares the example of volunteering to host a group in her home when she had just moved to a new state and a new church.  She took the risk and the result was a sweetly woven network of relationships.

When we keep score with the facets of friendship — Who texted last?  Who’s turn is it to host this time? — and then hold back to wait for “justice,” our world becomes small and stingy.  Lisa describes going first as “the cardinal rule of friendship.”

4.  Am I willing to be radically inconvenienced?

Caller i.d. has made it possible for me to screen out undesirable contact at will.  My busy homeschooling life gives me a ready-made excuse for “minding my own business.”  However, if I live within safe boundaries of efficiency and time management, I’ll miss out on “Velveteen friendship” that loves off my rough edges.  I’ll never become real.

Adrian Plass writes about incarnational relationships modeled on the example of Christ’s radical encounter with humanity:  “Shouting stern advice at people through a megaphone from a very great height never did do much good.”

And it never did make for close friendship, either.

5.   Do I use guilt to get my friendship needs met?

Particularly when distance is an issue, Lisa-Jo advocates for “Guilt-Free Friendship” in which there is no deadline for responding to emails and phone calls, in which each agrees to assume the best about motivations, and in which the tone is always generous and forgiving.

“Guilt-free friendship is the gift that women who are secure in their own sense of acceptance can give each other.”

6.  Is it a joyful thing to me when I see that my friends are flourishing?

God is delighted when His children strive for the well-being of others.  Taking a radical interest in the people around me, making time for their needs, and actively contributing to their success is clearly friendship in action.

7.  How much time have I wasted being “fine?”

Fine is a lie that we tell out of a dusty soul.
Fine is plexi-glass protection for our image of perfection.
Fine is a deal-breaker in the economy of true friendship.
Never Unfriended challenges readers to “step out from behind fine” and offer friendship instead.

8.  Am I ready to drop comparison and competition and embrace a co-op mentality?

Jealousy ruins the joy of the jealous, but it also stifles the celebration of its object.  Better to rejoice in the truth that “there’s enough work in the Kingdom for everyone,” and to lean into the calling God has placed on my own soul than to be continually glancing over my shoulder to monitor the blessings of others with a resentful eye.

9.  What if I’m not the center of the universe?

When I become caught up in the vortex of “I wonder what they’re thinking about me,” it’s helpful to be brought to the reality that it is unlikely that they are thinking about me  . . . at all.  This leaves me free to think about them, or to look around me, to notice the “people at my table” — to practice intentional self-forgetfulness in the interest of pursuing meaningful conversations that do not center around me.

10.  Would the universe crumble if I gave my friend the benefit of the doubt?

What would happen if I believed the best about her instead of holding to the assumption that is clouding my brain at this moment?  Lisa-Jo hazards a guess that (unless a relationship is so poisonous and bitter that we need to walk away) the outcome will be positive and surprising — although it may take time and patience.  The grace of hoping and believing may have redemptive outcomes that could not have come any other way.

Friendship is hard work, but the alternative is a small, safe, and deeply lonely world.  Furthermore, God uses the crucible of relationship to reveal to us the contents of our hearts, to refine us so that we know that we are “the real deal” all the way to the core.

You were friended, ultimately and irrevocably, by the God of universe, when He took on a body and joined us here in the neighborhood of humanity.  If the life of Christ pulses within your veins and you have heard his “go and do likewise” — the next move is yours.

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This book was provided by B&H Publishing Group in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If Never Unfriended sounds like content that your group needs for a deeper dive, you’ll be pleased to know that Lisa-Jo and (in)courage have released a Bible study curriculum to accompany the book.  Click here for more information about We Saved You a Seat.

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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.