The Ultimate BFF

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

This week’s inspiration stems from a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with a friend.  We go back to 2005, when we were both working in the same department.  We met while trying to put up a hanging folder rack on a cubicle; between the years of degrees and previous work experience, you would think the both of us could have figured it out.  That rack gave us the blues, Fam, until we finally realized it was missing some key hardware pieces.

Engineers…gotta love us.

But from that, a friendship was born that is still going on and strong.  We’ve laughed together, cried together, ranted like Yosemite Sam and then some together.  He is my “brother from another mother”, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.  

God has gifted me with other friends, three who are like my brother and are part of my core, the “circle of four”.  Dating back to college in one case, work in another, and an online writing group for the third, these women and men are my go-to’s for prayer, advice, laughter, crying shoulders, and classic venting sessions.  I look at them and all the years we’ve known each other, and I’m reminded of the theme song from “The Golden Girls” (yes, I’m dating myself and I don’t care.  Y’all know that show was and still is hilarious.  I’m pretty sure some of you have a Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, or Rose in your crew, too):

Thank you for being a friend / traveled down the road and back again / Your heart is true / You’re a pal and a confidant /
And if you threw a party / Invited everyone you knew / You would see the biggest gift would be from me / And the card attached would say /
Thank you for being a friend‘”

I am forever grateful to the Lord for our paths crossing, and our backgrounds not being so different that true bonds of friendship — of kinship — couldn’t be formed.  And I can confidently say that we are lifetime friends; they couldn’t get rid of me even if they tried.  😉

When the bond of friendship is true and strong, there is no judgment or condemnation.  There is love at all times, like today’s verse says, a love that won’t enable us to do what we know is wrong and harmful.  Friends- especially the life-timers- don’t hype each other up to fail and fall.  They give us the proverbial (and maybe even literal) knock upside the head when we’re being total numb chucks about a situation, a person, or our own selves.  They don’t rejoice and tear us down when we ignore their advice and jump feet first into some good old foolishness.  They pull us back and give us the “business” (i.e., fusses like an old school grandmother with the classic “I told you so!”), but also helps us straighten what we’ve messed up.  Friends are always ready to fight our battles with us, to stand in the gap and agree that no weapon formed against us (or them) will prosper.

Lord, thank You for the gift that are friends.  I call them a gift because in this world, they are not promised, and should be treated as the treasures they are.  😊

Still, as much as they are a gifted treasure, we can’t forget there is one Friend we all have.  Whether it’s early in the morning or late in the midnight hour, He is always available; He neither slumbers nor sleeps.  He’s better than Dr. Frasier Crane from that old TV show, in that we can find no better listener.  He heals our bodies and mends our hearts like the surgeon of all surgeons.  He doesn’t judge, doesn’t talk about us behind our backs.  Rather, He is with the Father constantly interceding for us when the Accuser brings up every selfish and sinful thing we’ve done, said, or even thought.  He’s there each time, saying “My blood covered that.”

His presence is so comforting when we’re grieving, or feeling lonely, or exhausted.  He doesn’t allow us to think poorly of ourselves and sends us confirmation of who we are to Him and the Father through the Word, song, inspirational thought, and of course our friends.

He gives us joy in all situations (something that forever baffles the Enemy) and demonstrates His power and authority to work all things for our good.

As for fighting our battles for us, lookee here: nobody gets down like our Friend.  He can just speak and demons tremble, devils flee.  He tells us to “be still and know” that the Lord is God, and makes our enemies behave.  For example, think of that co-worker or supervisor who seemed set against you and Who you represent.  How many of us can testify to the Lord’s goodness of fixing that work situation and changing people’s hearts and minds when we called on Him?  Or what about the problem that seemed to pass from generation to generation- how many can testify to how He broke that curse and set people free?  Show of hands, please! 😊

He conquered death and the grave by sacrificing His life for us, so we all should know He can conquer anything.  Is there anything too hard for Him?

Of course, I’m talking about Jesus Christ, the One who knows and loves us anyway.  He’s traveled down the road with us and back again, never giving up on us.  He is our eternity Friend, who truly loves at all times, and our elder Brother who stands up for us to protect us.  He does more than we can ever think or imagine.

He is the ultimate BFF; now who can beat that?

Prayer: Lord, thank You for gifting us with friends.  Thank You even more for the ultimate Friend in Jesus Christ.  May we treat all of them as the treasures they are.  Amen.

Walking in the New, Part 3: Spirit

“You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  (Ephesians 4:22-24)

If the human soul is the seat of our will and mind, then the final part of this month’s series – the spirit – is the real person, the core of who we are.  Borrowing from a book I once read, it’s who we are when no one else is looking.  Remove the layers of relationships, education, finances, and careers, and the spirit is what’s left.  And just like our hearts and minds, if this ain’t right, we’re in for some bad storms on the sea of life.  Perhaps this is why David asked God to renew the right spirit within him after petitioning for a clean heart.

Of course, the question must be asked: “What does walking in the new spirit mean?”  A closer look at what makes up our human spirit may provide the answer.  See, the components of this key part of our existence include intellect, emotions, fears, passions, creativity, awareness, insight, understanding and judgment.  Walking in the new spirit means all of these are in alignment with God.  It means putting off the old emotions, fears, and passions that we chased into a spiritual ditch, and putting on a new desire to chase after God’s good and perfect will manifested in His entire creation.  It means shedding the limiting view of “What’s in it for me?”, and developing a panoramic, Kingdom-building perspective.  It means opening our entire selves to God’s limitless possibilities. 

The things or people that would trigger us into a Yosemite Sam fit, or a classic Daffy Duck meltdown get at most a shrug with an “Ok, but God’s still in control and will have the final say.” 

Yosemite Sam (Looney Tunes)
Daffy Duck (Looney Tunes)

The other things that would leave us perplexed become crystal clear, as now we are better able to discern what is in or out of the Lord’s will.  Our insight and understanding dramatically improve as we learn to pause, take a step back, and pray to respond in a God-led, Holy Spirit-filled manner.

By walking in the new spirit, it is as the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And who doesn’t like something new?

As with the heart and mind, all of this is a continuous process, and the possibility of challenges exists.  It requires us to work at it and be intentional as we do, even when it seems more than we can handle.  But –and thank God for this interjection—the Lord assures us through His Word and proven record that all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.  Any setback is only a set up for a comeback, and that’s some pretty good news to me.

So, let’s keep pressing, keep walking into this phase of our lives with a new spirit, mind, and heart to see all of the wonderful things that the Lord has in store for us.

Let’s keep walking in the new.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for this past month, for revealing Your will and way in our lives.  Please continue to lead and guide us in this new season to stay on course and keep You first in the process.  Also, Father, please be of a special comfort to the families of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, the other passengers, and the crew during their time of need.  Strengthen them, Lord, in the days to come.  Bless them directly and indirectly through family, friends, and others.  I ask this in Jesus’ perfect name.  Amen.

Friendly Reminder

“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord.” – Psalm 117:2

On the way to church yesterday morning, I stopped by Starbucks for my usual breakfast sandwich and chai tea latte.  Driving to the cashier window and whipping out the gift card I’d received for Christmas, my favorite employee appeared.  To protect her identity, let’s call her Mrs. Darla.  Silver hair, bright blue eyes, and warm smile, we chatted briefly about the fog, speedsters down the on ramp, and how I’d planned to avoid the highway altogether.  (Living in Texas has taught me that most of us don’t do well on the road when there’s a single drop of precipitation…no exaggeration, either.)

When food and drink were ready and she passed them to me, we exchanged a “Merry Christmas” and I drove away with a big smile on my face.  I didn’t smile because I had my favorite food from the bucks of stars, but because of the kindness Mrs. Darla exuded towards me.  This was a feeling needed after two weeks of navigating around the standard life stressors.  I told God, “Thank You for that, Lord.  This came right on time.”  

This was the first reminder.

I made it to church safely and worked in the media ministry per usual.  One of the songs ministered by the praise team was “Lord, You’ve Been Good.”  An old school Gospel tune, it filled my heart, or rather it refreshed it.  It brought to remembrance how the Lord had indeed been good to me in the past week, month, even year.  It brought to remembrance how the Lord is still being good to me.  Like the first sermon I gave in November 2015, I saw the Lord’s provision, protection, and prevention in several circumstances, and felt such gratitude.  I know I haven’t been the best me each day, which is why His loving me anyway is just so amazing.

This was the second reminder.

The third came a few hours after worship service wherein I spent time with my paternal aunt and grandmother who turned 103 this year.  Being in the presence, talking with them, laughing with them, making them laugh (because I’m a jokester through and through), watching the Cowboys try to play – there was no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Familial warmth and peace enveloped me…all three of us, really.  I even got a picture with my grandma, who smiled big and bright.  I think she likes selfies now.  😉

Three separate moments demonstrated God’s goodness so perfectly.  When my spirit needed lifting, He sent to Mrs. Darla.  When my heart needed renewing, He sent me to church.  And when my soul needed connection, He sent me to family.   And He did this because His love is great.  His faithfulness to keep thoughts and feelings fixed on what is good, pure, and honorable endures for all time.  He knew what I needed long before I could even think.

His love and faithfulness are great to all of us.  Think about that unexpected early Christmas gift, or that little boy in the store smiling and waving as you passed by, the verse of the day that spoke beautifully to your situation,  or the financial blessing that enabled you to pay bills with some left over.  All these good moments we experienced these past weeks have all been friendly reminders that the Lord is with us and He ain’t going anywhere.  We don’t have to be anxious about having enough, because He supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory.  We don’t have to fear being alone or lonely because He is with us to the end of the age.  We don’t have to worry about being unloved, because He’s already shown how great and unconditional His love is on a hill called Calvary.

I don’t know about you, but I’m okay with these reminders.  Keep ‘em coming, Lord.  Keep ‘em coming.

Prayer: Lord, Your timing and ways are impeccable.  Thank You for making Your presence known.  Please let others know and experience the same.  Amen.

New Levels, New Devils

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Three weeks ago this blog began with disruptions and reminders of how to handle them.  Two weeks ago there was progression from experiencing the disruptions to being free of them.  With the way this week has gone in the world and in our personal lives (mine in particular), living and striving away from the chicken coops of the past have introduced new levels, unfamiliar territory in heart, mind, and soul.  We’re standing in a large field of possibilities, of ideas we’d once brushed off as fanciful daydreams that could actually be real, opportunities to bless others and bring glory to God.  It’s exciting, isn’t it?  Who could imagine that the man who’d once been told he could never be anything finally sees how he can be so much more?  Or what about the woman who’d been crushed by countless disappointments and yet now sees the Lord opening a door to a blessed and prosperous beginning?

Who would have thought that a nerdy, geeky, little woman from Texas would be committed to creating an inspirational blog and follow through?

New levels, fam, that’s where we are. 

And true to form, our accuser, nemesis, enemy – that no good, low down rascal—is right there sending in new devils to trip us up.  It seems like everywhere we turn in our field, everywhere we look, something or someone comes up that knocks against the core of who we are in Christ.  Granted, it’s the Enemy’s job to contend against the children of God, the joint heirs with His Son.  But like me, don’t y’all think he does his “job” a little too good?  Don’t y’all wish he would do like our Nana’s and Paw-paws told us when we were young and rowdy, and just “get somewhere, sit down, and hush”?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m keeping it transparent, fam: the Enemy is working that very last nerve!

Thoughts and feelings that I never ever conceived coming from me have become a temptation with which I wrestle daily.  Attitudes of “I wish somebody would try me” have now become a thing.  The fight to bring it all under submission to the Holy Spirit feels like a 20-round heavyweight title fight, like I’m going against Mike Tyson in his prime, which means a guaranteed knockout for someone like me.  We’re talking round 1, 3 seconds…but I digress.

And yet even as I’m typing this entry and looking at the verse in a split screen, the Lord opens these tired, bifocaled eyes and says, “You know you defaulted to the natural again, right?  Why fight like this when My word is in front of you?  Is My word not a weapon of spiritual warfare?  I know you’ve got faith in Me, because you’ve seen Me work.  I promised you I would never let you fall.  Am I not a promise-keeper?  I know how much you can bear, too.  Am I not faithful to lift you above these temptations?  Am I not powerful to fight these battles for you?  At the sound of my name these devils will tremble and flee.  I’ve got this, because I’ve got you, to the very end.  So remind me, little lady, why are you trippin’?”

Like a little kid with hands clasped behind me and avoiding eye contact, here’s my timid, mumbled answer: “…I don’t know.”

It never fails to amaze how in the midst of a struggle moment, the Lord cuts a simple path of wisdom, insight, and deliverance at the right time that blows the mind.  His reminders are absolutely the best.  His precision makes the strife and worry disappear instantly and leaves us standing in our field once more, looking around with one hand on the hip and the other scratching our heads.

“Really, Lord?  Was that all it took?”

“My son, my daughter—yup, that was all it took.  Now get back to fulfilling the plans I have for you.”

“Yes, Lord.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for opening the eyes of our hearts when they need to be opened, to confound the Enemy and reconfirm our faith in You and the power of Your word.  Thank You in advance for the power and authority to conquer these new levels in our lives and the devils that think they will overcome us.  It is because of You and You alone that we are already victorious.  Bless Your holy name, Lord!  Amen.