Living the Fruit of the Spirit: “Love”

 

Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to work hard at creating the fruit of the Holy Spirit? God gave us his Spirit so that we’ll be filled with fruit and exhibit that fruit by his grace. For that matter, isn’t it wonderful how often we see that God ‘gives’? As we follow Jesus and are obedient to Him, we naturally bear fruit just as a tree blossoms, then produces fruit. The tree doesn’t strive to create fruit; it does what it was created to do. When we become the new creation, likewise, the Spirit works in us.

“His divine grace has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

If by God’s grace we’re given these things, it’s a comfort to know he’s growing us up in Love. The fruit of the Spirit means just that: fruit produced in us that we don’t create ourselves. We can consider it a comfort and a relief that we aren’t required to work so hard at being loving, joyful, at peace, patient (and the rest). The Message translation for Galatians also uses this analogy.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” Galatians 5:22-25, The Message

That said, we have a responsibility to keep our eyes on Jesus and our hearts tuned to the Spirit. Even as God is creating fruit in us, we’re better equipped to live out and preach the Gospel when we remain ‘in him.’ A branch that’s come loose from the tree stops creating fruit.

“For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.” Galatians 5:14

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. John 15: 11-15

“Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it” 1 Peter 1:22

We love because he first loved us and they will know we are his disciples if we love one another.

Be a blessing to someone today.

(Unless otherwise noted, scripture references are from The Message)

 

Is God Angry?

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 103:8

One of the things that I really love about what King David is saying in this particular verse here is that it’s a when God is angry. He’s slow to anger, but he does indeed get angry. Personally, I’m reminded of times when the Holy Spirit’s conviction on my heart is exactly what I needed to recognize God’s righteous anger toward my sin.

But I think more often God is sad about what we’ve done or said. That was certainly the case when he saw man’s wickedness and decided to flood the earth, then start over with Noah’s family. “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth and his heart was filled with pain.” He was also grieved about King Saul turning away from him and by Saul’s disobedience.

God’s anger isn’t reserved solely for the Old Testament. He demonstrates righteous anger in several cases with Jesus. The money lenders in the temple, for example. They not only turned the court into a marketplace, their intrusion there made it impossible for the Gentiles to participate in worship. He also showed anger with the Pharisees in the temple one day. They wanted to find a reason to accuse Jesus because he intended to heal a man with a shriveled hand. “He looked around at them in anger.”

I think it takes something pretty important to make God angry and I think that’s why David says he’s slow to anger. But the Lord has every right to be angry when he sees some of the sinful ways we act out like we do. Old Testament or New, God is immutable in his character and if he could get angry millenniums ago, he can get angry now.

But his mercy! His grace! We’re comforted in knowing that even though the Lord can be angered, we’re never rejected. He welcomes us to rest in his inconceivable and constant grace.

Father, we trust in you. Show us your power and love in the ways you patiently handle our sins. Make us more aware of the things that grieve your heart and lead us in the way everlasting. Amen

 

Book Review: A Return to 25 Tales From Our Youth (Sort Of)

Fractured Fairy Tales told by A.J. Jacobs; Bantam Books; copyright 1997; 183 pages

More than once I’ve read something by A.J. Jacobs and got a good laugh. His narrated versions of the Fractured Fairy Tales from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends made me want to go to YouTube and watch those clever episodes I watched as a kid. Jacobs did a wonderful job translating them to print.

These “Tales” are silly take-offs of original fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, The Princess and the Pea, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rumpelstiltskin. We remember them with delight even though they were a little twisted. Or maybe because they were twisted. Jacobs adds a bit of description because we miss the visuals we’d have if watching the stories on TV. Honestly, it’s not a distraction; it adds to the stories. Artwork is mostly of the frustrated Fairy Godmother. (Weren’t her expressions great?)

The compelling thing about reading the fractured fairy tales is how you can almost hear those voices from the cartoons. The voice characterizations were, in my opinion, more fun—not to mention more varied and less annoying—than the voices used in modern cartoons for kids.

And because fairy tales were a big part of our lives when Rocky and Bullwinkle first made the scene, even we could see the absurdity of how twisted the plots became. I mean, who ever heard of a witch worth her salt who needed a little girl to teach her how to fly a broomstick? (Way to go, Gretel.) And what a surprise that the witch didn’t eat them but instead…wait, no spoilers.

Jay Ward’s satirical and subversive Fractured Fairy Tales came to us before the age of “politically correct.” They’re just as witty and clever as you remember them. And full of puns. Let’s not forget the puns.

I think on one of those nights I can’t sleep and figure I may as well be up, I’ll pull out my copy of Fractured Fairy Tales and treat myself to a bedtime story. A good laugh is every bit as good as a good toddy.

Fractured Fairy Tales is available from Better World Books and Amazon.

**psst! BWB provides book donations based on your purchases and supports education and literacy programs. Check it out. Buy from them.**

Be Silent or Keep Grumbling; Be Stiff-Necked or Get Moving

Faced with a big choice–or a small one, for that matter–my decisions are usually more complicated than “Just do it.” However, the Lord will be clear with a solution and the instructions are usually simple. Not easy to carry out, but simple to understand. Listen to his encouragement to the Israelites when he told them to cross the Red Sea on dry land.

  • “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” ESV
  • “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” NIV
  • “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” KJV
  • “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” NASB
  • “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” NLT

After a search for various translations of what Moses’s said to God’s people, I saw that the ones I found all say God will fight for me.

In the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, the people once again grumble, moan, and in effect blame Moses for the current predicament. When I’m up against a wall, as they were, I can easily begin to wonder—sometimes loudly—”What in the world is this all about? Weren’t things bad enough already? Now what?”

I will sometimes exaggerate situations, but things are rarely so bad that I have my back against a wall. I do well to examine my situation and always, no matter its severity, keep my mouth shut, be still, and wait for instructions by listening to God.

God had led the Israelites to the Red Sea for good reason; it was to give Pharaoh time to plan a strategy and to harden Pharaoh’s heart.

The Egyptians found them, but God knew they would. I mean, He’s God after all. He wanted His people to trust Him. It was a way for them to see Him. To watch Him do what He does best. To know Him even better. This is no less true for me.

On the other hand, when I find myself in difficult situations, whether with my back is to the wall or not, I believe God always expects me to do my part. (In scripture we’re often instructed with an “If…then.”) In the context of this story, the Israelites could have stood in their immobility continuing to rant about the situation or get their butts moving down that dry path through the sea. With a wall of water thundering on either side. Sometimes doing my part means moving through a situation that’s kind of scary.

One of the best things I ever heard about this aspect of using patience and trusting God is from a friend who used to say, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw the food into their nests.” Ultimately, my trying situation may go on for a while and my patience will continue to be tried. But God knows that too. I mean, He’s God after all.

Here are some of my favorite “If…then” verses.

“Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more.” Matthew 21:21

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:29

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13

“…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10 (reference to fasting)

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Joel 2:32.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“Heavenly Father, I know you’re fighting for me. I know I need to leave my hands off things and allow you to act according to your love for me. Help me to be patient and stay calm while you do what you do best. I also pray that you’ll show me the part I need to play so that, together, we will fulfill your purpose for me. Amen

 

A Shelter-in-Place Challenge For a Foodie

I was walking down the aisle where my grocery store displays the taco seasoning. There it was—a sign hanging next to the shelf tag where the taco seasoning would be. The sign was like many others posted throughout the store and apparently, taco seasoning was a high demand item.

This was my first trip to the store since my state’s executive order had been issued on March 24th. Taco seasoning wasn’t on my list (although toilet paper was because I was down to my last roll. That’s a story for another time). I needed something else in that aisle. I gotta tell you, that sign made me chuckle.

If you had quizzed me on what would be the highest demand items in the store, I would never have guessed taco seasoning. Taco seasoning? What? Is everyone now eating tacos instead of SpaghettiOs?

Anyway, this coronavirus pandemic creates all kinds of challenges. Especially for taco lovers, I guess.

Now, I like tacos as much as the next person, but being who I am, I don’t even buy taco seasoning anymore. It’s one of those things I mix up in my own kitchen from ingredients right in my pantry. If you’ve been reading my foodie blog posts at all, you know I cook/bake/create from scratch (and sometimes by-guess-and-by-golly). So, in case you want tacos and your store is out of pre-packaged seasoning, here’s a recipe for making your own.

Taco seasoning and pumpkin pie seasoning

Bonus? You’ll know exactly what’s in it. **

“Clean” Taco Seasoning Mix

  • 1/ 2 cup + 1 T. chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp.  ground pepper (not coarse)
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano

Mix up all the ingredients and store the stuff in a glass container. It keeps as long as any spice would when kept out of heat or moisture. For each one pound of meat you use, add 2 1/ 2 Tbsp. seasoning. This recipe makes a small batch of mild seasoning. If you like it spicier, you can add a little more chili powder or even red pepper flakes. Use it to make your tacos just like you would the store-bought kind.

While we’re at it making homemade mixes, here’s one for making cornbread mix. Its taste is identical to commercial cornbread mixes and it doesn’t have weird additives. **

“Clean” Cornbread Mix

  • 1 1/ 2 c. flour
  • 1/ 4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/ 2 c. cornmeal
  • 1 1/ 2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 3/ 4 tsp. baking soda

 Blend the ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Then, to make cornbread, mix the Clean Cornbread Mix with 1 1/ 2 cup milk, 1 1/ 2 cup vegetable oil, and 3 large eggs.

So when Taco Tuesday rolls around, you’ll have your own seasoning mix and all you need are your tortillas (or shells) plus all those fresh ingredients you like. And if you’re making chili, try your taco seasoning in that too. Just add it little by little until it comes out to your personal taste. Then make some cornbread because that always goes well with chili. Right?

Or you could have SpaghettiOs. Eat hearty!

** Small print. I check labels and this is what I found for two brand name prepackaged products you now have recipes for.

French’s® Taco Seasoning Mix. Spices and herbs, Salt, Corn starch, Dehydrated onion, Dehydrated garlic, Sugar, Citric acid, Paprika extractives, Silicon dioxide.

Jiffy® Cornbread Mix ingredients: Wheat flour, degerminated yellow corn meal, sugar, animal shortening (lard, hydrogenated lard, tocopherols preservative, BHT preservative, citric acid preservative). Contains less than 2% of each of the following: baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate, salt, wheat starch. Niacin, reduced iron, tricalcium phosphate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, silicon dioxide.

 

 

So, Just “Who is My Neighbor?

We live in a divided nation. I’m from the United States, and realize I also live in a world where various nations are at odds with each other. But one thing we should agree on is that even one critical illness or death from a world pandemic is a tragedy. Maybe not to us, but to someone.

The schoolteacher from a small town in France, the accountant for a big city law firm, the coach for your college’s football team, or the writer at Hallmark Greetings who created the message in that birthday card you sent to your friend. They all love the people close to them as much as we love the people close to us.

What if the death from COVID-19 is your family member; the person who sits in the next cubicle at work; your hair stylist or barber; your friend of 20 years; the person who always sits in the seat next to you at church; the barista at your favorite coffee shop. Deaths from this pandemic will be personal and a cause of grief to us. Deaths from this pandemic will also be personal to someone you’ll never meet.

So why even discuss ‘inflated numbers?’ Why criticize and alienate people using an argument you found on social media? (This one included.) Why fall into the trap of making it all about politics? A human being isn’t defined as a number, or explained away with an argument, or solely identified by a political party.

We’re defined by our humanity.

These are weird and challenging times for us. Even if we haven’t lost our jobs. Even if we got tested and the test was negative for the virus. Even if before all this madness we stayed home most of the time anyway. And they’re weird times whether we’re old or young, male or female, religious or not religious, employed or not employed, sick or well, prominent in our community or only counted because we took a census.

I have opinions and I’ve stupidly—and regrettably—expressed some of them. However, now it’s time for me to keep in mind a few things I believe are true: Patience is better than ‘tolerance.’ Silence is (sometimes) better than speaking. Being kind is better than being right.

With that in mind, I hope I can, as I always say, “be a blessing to someone today.”

Father in heaven, we thank you for your grace to us no matter how we see our current circumstances and how we respond. Help us to see that people all over the world are affected by the same things we go through. Remind us every day that you love them too. Most importantly, keep us safe and secure in the knowledge that you are in control. Amen.

Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life: a book review

Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Henri Nouwen; copyright 2013; Harper One; 256 pp. (audio 7 hr. 14 min.)

Nouwen wastes no time in his story before he defines his conception of discernment. To him, discernment is finding the spiritual answers that help us live our lives from day to day. Even more, he says–and this seems to be his purpose for writing–discernment is listening to the voice of God to find a purpose for our lives.

God speaks to us, he says, directing us as we discover what we’re passionate about. And once we’ve determined what we’re passionate about, God directs us to fulfill our purpose in His Kingdom. Vocation, however, is not the same as passion, according to Nouwen. Work can be anything we do to accomplish tasks. When we’re fulfilling our purpose, the work comes so easily and is so gratifying, we come away not even feeling like it was work. It becomes ministry at its best. Because it’s ministry at its best, it also means it’s service to others. And as we so often say, it’s “not about us.”

In fact, Nouwen makes the case that the attitude of humility helps us discern God’s meaning in things more correctly. Conversely, discerning God’s meaning brings humility.

Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest who spent nearly twenty years as a professor, also lived the Trappist life for a short time and worked with the poor in South America. But he discovered his purpose according to God’s will at L’arche Daybreak community in Ontario. Here, he worked with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

So, according to Nouwen, the idea is to listen. To God, to mentors, to those who’ve gone before us, and to the rhythms of our lives. Nouwen often quotes Thomas Merton, apparently a role model for him. It sounded like Nouwen felt kinship with Merton because their pilgrimages were similar. Both struggled with finding where they belonged if they were to serve God the way they hoped to. For me, hearing some of Merton’s ideas was a bonus because I enjoy his works as well.

Nouwen is considered among the mystics; at least I’d put him in that category. He talks a lot about his experiences in learning discernment, and for the most part, the stories are pertinent to the narrative.

Since I was reading an audio book, which he narrated himself, my mind would wander because he tends to ramble as he drops little gems of wisdom. But I want this to be a go-to book so I’m probably going to buy a copy. Then I’ll be able to mark it up and take notes in the margins. There’s meaty content and wisdom here I want to experience a second time.

Happy reading and be a blessing to someone today.

Being Mentally Ill During “Shelter in Place”

Q: How many people struggling with clinical depression does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. They’re in a dark night of the soul and oblivious to any other dark.

Forgive the ‘dark’ humor, but using humor, dark or light, is how some of us with a mental illness deal with trouble. Someone diagnosed with clinical depression will probably identify with that attempt at humor and nod. “Yep, that’s about right.”

People who know me even a little know I’m a goofball. People who know me well know I’m also mentally ill. Then there are the people who know me so well, they’ve sat with me in the emergency room as I wait to be admitted to The Ward. A locked ward.

I use humor to deal with my struggles, no matter what they are. It keeps me sane (so to speak). And even in the emergency room, I make cracks about why I’m there and what it will be like during my stay. A behavioral health unit is a lonely place to be even when the unit is at capacity. I never look forward to being there. I’m not there because I want to be, I’m there because I need to be.

Now here we all are, in varied states of lock down. I’m hearing myself as I talk to myself use humor to get through the coronavirus crisis.

Being cooped up is hard for us all. Having a mental illness, I can multiply that difficulty exponentially because depression, mania, generalized anxiety, paranoia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and other mental illnesses thrive on stress. I think we can all agree that being sheltered in place is stressful.

Years ago, I decided I could share the fact that I’m mentally ill with a chosen few people I knew wouldn’t judge me, try to change me, tell me why I was acting out, or any of the other “crazy” things people do and say to someone who has a mental illness. I made that decision for several reasons. Some of the remarks made or advice given offended me (which put me in a defensive mode). I felt shame. I was frustrated. I got sad. And when some of those people left me—I mean left me—in the wake of their ignorance, I felt isolated and betrayed.

I knew I couldn’t change those people and it would have to be me who did. So, I decided if anything could change, it was how I talked about mental illness, especially my own. Now I tell people and leave their reactions up to them. If the opportunity is there, I educate people as much as they seem willing to bear it. I don’t go around revealing my illness to the person in line behind me at the store. There should be a good reason to tell and a good reason not to tell.

I think this is a good time to tell: I’m manic-depressive, an illness that since the late eighties is called bipolar disorder. I use the old name because it describes the nature of the illness. I get manic and I get depressed. Sometimes simultaneously, but that’s another topic for another time. I also suffer with generalized anxiety and a mild level of OCD. When I’m very, very ill, I become paranoid, psychotic, and delusional. I know; it’s not pretty.

So, there’s my personal admission about my illnesses and you can do whatever you want with it. Here’s what’s happening in my world and might be happening for someone else who’s mentally ill.

I don’t minimize the way anyone is affected by being cooped up; it can crush your spirit. Isolation makes you sad, angry, frustrated, scared, and empty. We were created to be in community with each other. “It is not good for man to be alone,” is what God said when he created us. We’re social creatures.

Several months ago, after I’d been mood-cycling for a while (manic/depressed over and over), I hit bottom and the deep depression took over. I was like that for a couple weeks. Then mania came back, and euphoria became mixed in every single day, all day long. When I begin to feel the mood swings, I get to a point where I don’t go out in public. Sometimes I can’t even tell why I do it, but I hole up like an outlaw.

The ‘craziness’ got ramped up when I had to stay home for the sake of my (and your) health and the need to protect us from a deadly disease. Even if I don’t like going out much when I’m ill, I try to take care of myself by getting into the sunshine and practicing my social skills. This shelter-in-place thing changes that.

I miss going to church. I miss meeting weekly with my mentor. I serve at the Salvation Army soup kitchen and the population has dwindled there. I miss seeing “my people.” I can’t pay my bills to the apartment manager, pick up the recycling from the office, or just sit and chat with her. She’s become a friend and I miss her too. And you know what? My psychiatrist asks me about these activities when I see him because he knows they help me stay somewhat normal.

People who know me well know I’m a Christian and have strong faith in the God I believe in. People who know the facts know that we who have a mental illness and are also Christians aren’t necessarily ‘delivered’ from the symptoms completely. We do the best we can, then accept that it’s a chronic illness that happens to be a mental one. It’s in our brain, for crying out loud, and the most educated, smart, and compassionate experts admit the brain is the last frontier of the human body. Ironically, our brains haven’t completely figured out our brains. Go figure.

I’m trying to not be completely idle. But I can only rearrange the food in the pantry so many times and then it’s ridiculous. And right now, I need my pet more than ever. Scout the Rabbit isn’t technically an emotional support animal. He does, however, provide emotional support. (He’s putting in overtime right now, but don’t tell him. He’s not getting extra lettuce in his paycheck.) When I’m having super-crazy anxiety, holding him brings my heart rate down. Sometimes it makes me cry, but it’s a good kind of crying. He gives me someone to talk to. Out loud.

Right now, I think of my friends who are mentally ill and it breaks my heart knowing some of them are struggling like me. I believe we’re doing what we can, but some of us are having a hard time doing it in isolation. I’m by nature an introvert, but enough is enough. Having said that, I respect the shelter in place orders because I don’t like being sick. I may be mentally ill, but I’m not stupid. And, while I’m not afraid to die, I hope to have a few more years of life.

Anyone who has a chronic illness knows that stress exacerbates it and symptoms may flare up. I’m thinking of you guys too. Take your meds, get your rest, follow your doctor’s orders. I mean it.

If you don’t have a chronic illness, being restricted in your social life means you too must take care of yourself, especially your mental health. Just because you’re not mentally ill doesn’t mean you have to be stupid. (hahahahaha-more humor.)

I’ve said my piece now, so excuse me. I’m going out to the living room to work on my stand-up routine.

Be a blessing to someone today.

Humilitas: a book review

Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership by John Dickson; copyright 2011; Zondervan; 196 pages

Did I tell you about the time a local service group gave me a medal for my humility? Then someone saw me wearing it in public and I had to give it back. Just kidding. The author of Humilitas sort of makes the same statement, which is one we all know by now: Just about the time you think you have this humility thing nailed, you’ve shown that you probably don’t.

“The most influential and inspiring people are often marked by humility” is Dickson’s thesis for the book, and I believe he proved it well. The book digs into topics like the logic of humility; why the ancients didn’t like the idea of humility; how practicing humility lifts the people around us; why humility can generate abilities; and why humility is better than ‘tolerance.’ His research is nicely balanced with stories, some of them about his own encounters with people who he believes are humble. Dickson cites other literature, other topic experts, and well-known stories, but the research never makes the book unreadable. On the contrary; it’s readability is one of the reason it shines.

Several examples of great people who’ve demonstrated humility (and some who haven’t) give insight into how we respond to leaders as we examine their character. It becomes clear that we all know someone who isn’t necessarily in the public eye or in leadership who makes an excellent impression because of their humility. Those people may not even have great intelligence or great physical resources to draw on. It’s more of a heart issue than a head issue. The author includes a whole chapter, “Cruciform,” about Jesus of Nazareth and how He redefined greatness through humble living and service.

Consider Dickson’s definition for humility: The noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. People who give to others seemingly without even thinking about it usually have a positive impression on us. We may not even realize at the time we’re being impressed. But that’s the thing, Dickson is saying. Humble people aren’t trying to impress.

Steps to become (more) humble come at the end. They seem to make good sense. Becoming humble, as with any virtue, comes with practice. As we say, it’s a journey, not a destination. I was pleasantly surprised with Humilitas. That impression began when I read the author’s dedication to his mentors, “who know more about this subject than I do, but would never presume to write about it.”

This one will not only be a ‘repeater’ for me, but a reference book. I mean, after all, they took my medal away. I need all the help I can get.

Happy reading and be a blessing to someone today.

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 have talked about trying out a restaurant we’ve never been to so we can get better acquainted. She seems like a fun person, someone who can help me understand more about God. Or at least challenge my thinking.

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.

Maggie and I have become Movie Buddies and we usually like the same type of movie. She also is keen to watch the credits with me. Not many people are that patient to indulge me, but since we watched several of the Marvel superhero movies together, it always paid off.

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.