16 Questions to Ask a Friend

The Bible teaches us that friendship is almost like lifeblood.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

When we have close friends around us, our burdens are lighter because they have our back. They support us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Sometimes we find it difficult to make friends because we’ve been hurt. But we can rely on some simple tips to make friends and stay somewhat safe. We start slowly. Even small talk can help. While some of us eschew it, finding out the ways that people relate in those initial conversations helps us to move on to more intimacy.

The graphic here has some fun questions to ask to get acquainted. Naturally, we don’t want to use it as a template as if we’re interviewing someone for the job of friend. But the questions can spark fun conversations with unexpected ventures into your own desires. When you ask questions like these, you find out how you and the other person “ticks.”

Not every person we come in contact with becomes a close friend. Some will remain simple acquaintances. That’s okay. A friend of mine referred to a few of the people at church as “Hello Friends.” She had the type of relationship with them that, while not intimate, was pleasant to have nonetheless.

A goal of mine this year is to make a new friend with at least three women at my church who have been only “Hello Friends.” They’re people I’d like to get to know better. Kathy and I are planning to have lunch next month so we can get better acquainted. She seems like a fun person, someone who can help me understand more about God, and help me when I have questions about faithfulness in marriage.

She may or may not become a close friend, but I have the feeling she’s the type of person, along with her husband, Larry, who would have my back if I needed that. Besides, I’d sort of like to know what kind of dinosaur she’d choose to be.

Friendships within the Body of Christ will be some of the ones we treasure most.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Have a fun time with a new acquaintance or a longtime friend. See what happens. While you’re at it, spur that person on, encouraging them like you would your children. Meet together often and don’t let your relationships drift.

You know what? God also enjoys the conversations with him that we set into our busy day. He’s the best Friend you could ever have. He always has your back.

Father, guide us to people who, like you, can teach us more about ourselves. Help us to understand the value of friendship. Holy Spirit, we welcome you as the link between us and God. We ask you to link us to the people God wants us to connect with in our walk here on Earth. Thank you for being everything you are and for being the best Friend we have. Amen.

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“Don’t Close Your Eyes”: A Review

“Don’t Close Your Eyes” by Bob Hostetler, Illustrated by Mark Chambers; copyright 2019; publisher Tommy Nelson; 20 pages; $9.99 US/$12.50 Canada

Bob Hostetler writes a “silly bedtime story” that is charming and sweet featuring baby animals with their moms and dads. Mark Chambers’ illustrations create the right atmosphere for a lovely bedtime story.

In a simple rhyming scheme, the story tells little ones that it’s time to go to bed. But the 20-page poem invites sleepy children to not close their eyes. Rabbits and foxes, owls and deer, and birds and bears have flown, buzzed around, and played all day. They’re ready for bed after a day of romping just like the child in Mommy’s lap.

If I had small children, I would hope they’d want me to read “this one” “again, Mom.” While the message repeated throughout is “Don’t close your eyes,” it’s meant to quiet a child until they can’t keep those little peepers open. Sounds to me like the perfect book to prepare a child for sleep after the bath and bedtime prayers.

The story’s short and easy to read. The binding is solid. The pages are constructed from cardboard and polyester foam so those chubby fingers can handle the book easily. Also a smart move as far as helping the book to last.

Parents might want to make the story interesting and give that little sleepy head something to do. There are mice on a few of the pages and bugs all over the place. An age-appropriate game might be to ask them to look for the bugs or the mice and count them as they “read along,” making sure of course that they “don’t close” their eyes.

So be sure they don’t pay too much attention to the droopy eyelids on those critters. You might just get a sleeping child who only needs a kiss and the light turned out.

Bob Hostetler is an award-winning author, pastor, speaker, and blogger. His 50 books include “The Red Letter Life,” “The Bone Box,” and a devotional, “The Bard and the Bible.” He lives in Ohio with his wife, the lovely Robin.

Mark Chambers is an award-winning illustrator of children’s picture books and youth fiction. His work includes “My Hamster is a Genius,” “Pirate Pete and His Smelly Feet,” and “Spider!” He currently lives in the U.K.

 

Prayer: An End in Itself

An excerpt from “I Think I am Happier Than I Think I Am,” by Reverend James O’Leary

“A few years ago, on a radio talk show, the host was talking about the subject of prayer and cloistered nuns who were dedicated to prayer. The host could only think of one reason to pray: to beg God to change His mind when He was about to send evil on the world.

The host thought for people who prayed, “Thy will be done,” this was a contradictory exercise. In one breath we pray, “Thy will be done,” and in the next, “Please don’t do this. Change your mind.” The radio commentator was using deadly logic. I cannot fault that. But his starting point was wrong. To presume that the only reason we pray is to get God to change his mind is nonsense.

The lives of cloistered nuns are not spent coaxing God to send “goodies” to us instead of pain. The nuns are not professional beggars. The primary reason for prayer is to commune with God. Just to be consciously with God is the reason for prayer. When we spend time with God, we fulfill and enrich ourselves. We become who we really are and who God wants us to be.

The radio host had a cheap idea of prayer and a cheap attitude. It strikes me that we Catholics sometimes talk about prayer in such a way as though we are trying to get something God does not really want to give us. This gives a wrong impression about prayer. We speak of prayers that “really work.” It sounds so utilitarian; like magic.

Prayer is simply spending time with God. What cloistered nuns do is spend a lifetime with God. Of course, we can ask God for favors. But if that is all prayer is for us, there’s something wrong. My suggestion: we pray for God’s will and the power to carry that out. We never ask God to change His mind. We don’t have to. God only wants what is best for us.”

 

 

 

7 Foodie Family Traditions Ideas

Families have traditions. Even when the family hasn’t officially named their practice a “tradition,” you can tell by watching them, that’s exactly what it is.

One of the most common traditions if you celebrate birthdays is to have a little “party” by serving cake, often with candles. You include as many people as possible because you want everyone to know the significance of the day. “I’m glad you were born” is what birthday celebrations boil down to. What a nice tradition.

My dad with his birthday cake that sports a Batman figure supplied by my eight-year-old son, Rich.

Here are some traditions revolving around meal time you might want to try. They’re ideas for celebrating the people you love, enjoying, as Foodies, a meal prepared with love.

Have Favorite Meal Day For instance, if a child has a birthday on the tenth of the month, on the 10th of every month, that child picks the main dish. You could also do this for wedding anniversaries where the wife picks on even months and hubby picks on the odd months.

All the men in the family cook and clean up on Mother’s Day.

Since restaurants are the busiest they are all year on Mother’s Day, stay at home and cook for Mom. If you don’t already know how, learn to cook one of those dishes (or a dessert) that was a favorite of everyone’s when you were growing up.  Make place cards for everyone using ideas you can get from Pinterest or any where you can find craft ideas on the internet. Going the extra mile is one way to tell Mom how much you appreciate her.

One night a month the evening meal is designated as Finger Food Night.

On the first and last days of school, Mom or Dad prepares a special meal. You know what your kids like best. Let them know you’re proud and that you appreciate their individual tastes in food.

Upside Down Day is something you can do on weekends when you’re home. Serve dinner for breakfast, breakfast at dinner time and “midnight snacks” for lunch.

Celebrate ethnicity One day in the month, try a new recipe reflecting the culture of another country or ethnic group. Before you eat dessert, discuss some things you know about the culture from which the food may have originated or trivia about the country or group you selected. It’s a great way to connect and get a little bit of education.

And speaking of connecting, it’s good for us to remember how traditions almost always help families and friends celebrate each other and the relationships we’re engaged in. It’s hard to deny that meal time is often the only way we connect when life keeps us busy.

At your house, what traditions do you already participate in? If you live alone with no family around you, how can you begin a tradition with a friend or a group of friends? Is there an event that occurs regularly around which you can build a tradition? Where I live, the Super Bowl is coming up. Lots of families and friends who enjoy football–rivalries not withstanding–use the even to “celebrate.”

Celebrate one another and Eat Hardy.

A 3-Word Prayer For Serenity

The graphic below shows a prayer, commonly referred to as the “Serenity Prayer,”* attributed to Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr and reportedly written in 1926. Niebuhr was a Lutheran pastor and theologian.

After knowing only the first four lines of the prayer, which I learned in 1984, it wasn’t long before I became acquainted with the entire thing. Even though at the time I hadn’t made a decision to follow Christ, the words made sense. Years after that, I was reciting the whole prayer from memory at a weekly small group.

Today, I believe the three most important words of this prayer aren’t, as some people choose to see them, acceptance, courage and wisdom. They are

“God, I surrender”

For me, surrendering to God creates a serenity and peace I can’t otherwise know.

SerenityPrayer with gull

*Usually Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is quoted using only the first four lines shown here.

Hoping and Coping With a Disability

We who have disabilities have certain limitations. We understand that and, with the passing of time, we accept them. But we also have abilities in addition to those limitations.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know I’m manic-depressive. Or, to use the more common name for it, I have bi-polar disorder. People who are bi-polar are limited in different ways; limited in as many ways as there are people with the diagnosis, I imagine. And so it is with anyone who lives with chronic illness or a disability.

I believe that, although people with chronic illnesses and disabilities have limitations, most of us aren’t constantly “suffering.” What we’re doing is learning how to manage it; we’re living our lives and sometimes even thriving. Sure, we struggle sometimes.  But we also have hope. We manage to put one foot in front of the other (so to speak) and do the necessary things to have a relatively good life.

Stress exacerbates any chronic illness, so we must avoid situations we’ve discovered we can’t handle as easily as someone without a disability. The symptoms we often have because of stress could be mental or emotional. They could manifest as physical symptoms.

Please don’t expect us to make important decisions when we’re sick. If we’re experiencing a flare-up or an episode of the illness, we may in fact, need your patience as we make simple decisions to just get through the day.

If it seems we’re being irritable, you’re right. Some disabilities are noted for having an irritability aspect. For me, this is one of the first symptoms I display when I begin a manic phase–even before I begin the ‘hyper’ activity. I think I can speak for many when I say this is another aspect of having a disability we wouldn’t suffer if we didn’t have to. Most of us have a great attitude toward life. We don’t complain all the time and we’re generally nice people. But if we’re in pain or not able to think our way out of a paper bag, we can get grumpy. Hey, everyone gets grumpy occasionally; people with disabilities are no different.

Some of the ultimate limitations are being bed-ridden; inability to communicate our needs effectively; a temporary inability to handle being in public or with groups; not being able to work; and the necessity for some sort of support equipment (i.e., wheelchairs, oxygen, inhalers). However, many disabilities are what we refer to as “invisible.” Please don’t assume someone isn’t struggling just because they don’t need equipment.

As far as our hope is concerned

For the most part, we rely on being educated about our specific disability. Knowledge is power and when we understand what’s going on in our bodies, we’re better equipped to respond to the symptoms. Then we go from being helpless to being able to manage, to a certain degree, what’s happening. We might not be able to rid ourselves of the physical (or mental) state, but we can usually control what we do. We can control our attitude toward our illness and the world around us.

Many of us practice some sort of faith. We rely on worship and prayer and are grateful when our friends and loved ones pray for us.

People with disabilities usually need to grieve their health. That process may be subtle and we may not even realize grieving is what we’re doing. Frankly, our irritability might be happening because we’re moving toward acceptance of our limitations. I mean, who wants to come out and say, “I simply can’t do some of the things I want to do”? But acceptance is one key to handling our problems.

I’ve learned that having a good day might mean leaving the house and moving my focus off myself.  I can get the proverbial shot in the arm by simply having a brief conversation with a neighbor or calling someone on the phone to chat. I write letters and notes to friends and family members. Engaging in hobbies or learning a new skill helps too.

People with disabilities have much to offer. We might not be able to work even part time jobs. But we can volunteer, we can engage in our communities as advocates for something we’re passionate about, and we can offer a compassionate ear to someone who’s struggling with an illness because we’ve been there ourselves.

Over the years, I’ve discovered what Helen Keller said is also true for me.

“I thank God for my handicaps for through them I have found myself, my work and my God.”

Seeing my illnesses as something I can learn about and learn from helps me to keep a positive outlook even during a flare-up. I know God is with me. Even during a psychic ‘crash,’ I know that when I pray, God hears me. I don’t look like I’ve got it together–and I don’t. But I trust that God is in control.

Today, I’m believing less in “self-help” and relying on “God-help.” Ironically, in my most vulnerable states, I realized God can make me strong. In our world many of us think we must declare our independence. We believe our dreams are a result of hard work and self-sufficiency. While there’s nothing wrong with hard work, I prefer to declare dependence. On God.

Having a disability doesn’t make me less human. It doesn’t mean my limitations define me. Having a disability doesn’t mean I can’t make contributions to society. I’m a person living my life with purpose because God has promised me that I can.

Author’s note: I don’t claim to know everything about every chronic illness. I know some illnesses make an individual totally unable to make decisions for themselves and caregivers are needed to help them navigate life. This post about the abilities and limitations of people with disabilities is not all-inclusive or meant to be medical advice. The comments herein are taken from observations of my friends’ conditions, conversations with those individuals, and my own experience with several chronic illnesses. For those interested in such things, many support groups exist addressing the needs of a variety of illnesses.

Now, For 2019 Foodie Fun

Yep, we still insist, some of us, in making new year resolutions.

Did you make resolutions to create a “better” you for the new calendar year? It’s almost a joke anymore to resolve to lose weight or eat less or reduce time spent on social media. But, go ahead; I believe in you.

Me? I try to keep my resolutions realistic. Like “I resolve to drink unbelievable amounts of coffee every day and to eat chocolate at least three times a week.” I’m realistic and cowardly about admitting I break promises to myself.

Me? I make a list of things I’d like to accomplish during the year, being quite specific and applying those goals to each area of my life. But I almost never make a goal about food. Except for that one about how much I spend on groceries. *sigh*

Me? I like to eat. I enjoy cooking and baking. I can be found puttering in the kitchen when I’m anxious. I can be found puttering in the kitchen at all hours of the night. Chances are, if you called and I didn’t answer the phone, I was busy in the kitchen.

Eating, cooking, and baking were probably family events for you during the past holiday season. I can’t think of any November/December holidays that don’t involve food. After all, cooking and eating bring us together for a great time of fellowship.

I hope your holidays, whichever ones you celebrate(d), were some of the best you’ve ever had. And I hope you bring joy to your little world through a good meal, a tasty snack, a chewy cookie, or a quenching drink.

Now it’s about time I went to the kitchen to bake those pumpkin bars I promised my friend.

Eat hardy!

Reasons Good King Wenceslas Stays Relevant: Media Monday

During this year’s Christmas season, social media seems to be crowded with the hashtag #NotAChristmasSong. People, come on…

I remember singing, as a tradition, so many of the songs they’re talking about. Singing them makes me happy and nostalgic. No matter what people think, I’ll continue to sing them. Perhaps for most people, it’s just a joke and they’re not really slamming these songs. They may be trying to make fun of the social media hashtal using their own hashtags. But, in my opinion, some of those folks are a little too serious about what is and isn’t a Christmas song.

A song I remember singing is “Good King Wenceslas.” In reality, it’s not a Christmas song, but a song mentioning the Feast of Stephen. That particular feast is to honor the first Christian martyr, the apostle Stephen. Celebrating that feast is also a way to remember that Christ offers eternal life. Stephen, after all, saw Christ standing at God’s right hand. That gives a whole new meaning to “it’s a wonderful life.”

The song is also a nice story about how a king looked after a poor and probably oppressed man. Now how much more can that be about Jesus?

In the lyrics to the song, the good king welcomes his page to follow in the footsteps he makes in the deep snow.

“Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread thou in them boldly”

How much more could that be about Jesus’ offer to us, “Follow me”?

The page obeys, knowing his King will guide him in safety and security. Even in hardships.

“In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted”

The word dinted means “with force or power.” How much more could that be about Jesus’ character?

Eventually, the story sends a message to everyone, no matter their worldly status, that blessing the poor brings a blessing. How much more could that be about God’s favor?

I invite you to click to see the musical score for Good King Wenceslas, which has all the verses of the song’s music and lyrics. Put yourself in the poor man’s place, receiving gifts from a King. Put yourself in the page’s place, following your Master. (If I was a betting sort of person, I’d wager you can’t read it without singing along.)

Oh, my King and Master, thank you for the position you give me as I follow you. I am lowly as a page, and not deserving of your grace, yet you’ve chosen me to stand with you. May I follow, every day, in your powerful steps and remember to provide justice to the poor and oppressed. Help me to remember how much you love us all. Amen

Seeking the Savior

Is Christmas still “the most wonderful time of the year”? Christmas, for those who celebrate it, is probably the time most filled with traditions.

We bake cookies, peanut brittle and fudge. We get crafty and make tree ornaments, stockings and wreaths. We decorate the tree with a new theme. Some of us even mail Christmas cards.

We might even call shopping a tradition. I know people who make a day of shopping one of their special times for family fellowship. Friends will meet to tramp the mall and have a “cup of good cheer.”

Do you remember the traditions of your childhood? Maybe childhood isn’t so long ago for you. For others of us childhood is decades ago. What do you remember as your favorite tradition?

My youth at Christmas time included some great expectations. We knew there would be a Christmas program at our church and the kids in our family who were old enough would have a part. There was even a tradition associated with the program. At the end, when we were all released, each child was given a small paper bag filled with candy and nuts. The contents were predictable—it was a tradition after all—but we squealed with delight all the same.

When I think of reciting a poem in front of our small congregation (almost without a hitch), my hands shaking, then receiving my treat later, I still get nostalgic. Our program, like that of most churches, revolved around a nativity scene and the story of Christ’s birth from the second chapter of Luke. We also included arrival of the Magi bringing gifts.

I didn’t need a song to tell me Christmas was the most wonderful time of the year. My family seemed to come together like at no other time. And we had our own traditions.

The Christmas tree was one of our favorites. I come from a large family and decorating must have seemed a little chaotic for my mom, but she let us go full force with the job. The only things we weren’t allowed to touch were the vintage (even then) glass ornaments. My older brother most enjoyed flinging icicles at the tree, which by no means would ever have been artificial. Not in those days.

We did other things to prepare for Christmas, but my absolute favorite tradition was driving around our small town looking at the variety of light displays families used to decorate their homes. Usually, the night of the Christmas program was our special night to make the journey.

In the days before tiny lights with built-in gadgets to make them twinkle (to recorded music, no less) and huge air-filled snowmen and Santas, people kept their decorating modest for the most part. Or at least tasteful. Even families who could afford to decorate with more lights, steered away from the “Christmas Vacation” style of decorating.

I guess we were old fashioned. Christmas meant more than showing off.

Since it was a small town, it didn’t take us long to drive around and see the lights. Short drive though it was, we regarded it as a real treat. Like I said, our family would come together like no other time. We children “oohed” and “aahed” as if we were at a fireworks display. Sometimes Dad would roll to a stop at a house if its decorations needed a little longer to take in.

The display I regarded as most special decorated the lawn in front of the church on main street. There, year after year, we’d roll to a stop to admire the nativity scene. Two small floodlights in the ground shone upward, making it easy to see Joseph, Mary and Jesus at night. We counted off each character, especially baby Jesus, whose story we’d just enacted.

For us, that stop on main street was like the magi looking for the holy family.

This year, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family again. A sister, my children and grandchildren. When my sister and I reach our hometown, we’ll drive down Lincoln Avenue and surely, I’ll be on the lookout for houses with pretty decorations. They indicate to me that people still enjoy that tradition.

But mostly, I’ll keep my eye out for the church and its classic nativity scene. As I’ve done for years, I’ll be seeking the Savior.