Monday, December 28, 2009


"And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Tucked in this Old Testament prophecy are four throne names of the promised Messiah. Each reference consists of two elements; titles not like other normal OT names.

Where Counselor points to the Messiah as a king who determines and carries out a program of action, Wonderful Counselor portrays the coming Son of David as One who carries out a royal program that will cause all the world to marvel. In the name Mighty God, Jesus' divine power as a warrior is stressed. As Everlasting Father, He is revealed as an enduring, compassionate provider and protector. As Prince of Peace, the promised Savior's rule brings wholeness and well-being to individuals and to society.

What a magnificent promise! A Savior who is our warrior, provider, and protector; Who makes us whole through His triumph over sin and the devil. This promised victory is for all who believe in Jesus Christ.

But, what does this victory look like in our personal lives; especially where we are surrounded by pain, suffering, and anxiety for the future? Does triumph mean we can be free from the emotional pain that is so often part of us? Does it mean we can be free from the things that cause us fear and anxiety?

Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom stated in one of her writings that victory is taking "that step" in faith to face and move in the midst of the things that frighten us. Victory is not allowing the things that frighten us to immobilize us and keep us where we are. Instead, victory is believing that Christ has already broken the power these things have on us. It's moving ahead in the midst of them.

As we leave our Christmas celebrations behind and move into the New Year, my hope is that we hold on to the promise of Jesus' birth. The Son of God didn't come to establish a nostalgic, family-oriented, commercially successful holiday. The angel told Joseph, "She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

We can face and move within the situations that frighten us because when Jesus overcame the sins of this world, He included the fear and anxiety we have for a particular situation. Victory is knowing that Christ is right there with us in our anxiety and then moving us beyond the things that cause us to fear. Our situation may not change. But, knowing that Christ has already defeated the situation and that He is with us makes the difference.

As you live out each of your todays of 2010, I pray you experience victory in Jesus our Savior. Without Christ, we can do nothing. With Him, He does immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Blessings for a victorious new year, dear friend!
Faithfully Following

Monday, December 21, 2009

Another opening! Another show!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
Luke 2:8 (NIV)

With minimal fuss and minor commotion, 2009 played out the most recent scene in the story of the Schulte nomads.

Early in the year, my husband and I gathered our belongings, left Missouri, and headed to Pennsylvania. Our daughter stayed behind at the university she attends to continue her studies. We are thrilled to spend more time with our son as we now live just three hours from him.

Some 2,000 years ago, another real-life drama unfolded on the quiet hillsides of Judea. The fanfare and grandeur of that evening's event, however, caused a lot of excitement and to-do!

The region that surrounds Bethlehem is an area associated with shepherding since the earliest days of recorded history. Simple, pious shepherds live in the fields with a life weighed down by loneliness, danger, and poverty. They keep steadfast watch over their sheep throughout the long, cold night hours. With relentless courage, they guard and defend their flocks from wolves, foxes, and thieves common in the land.

Because of their proximity to the temple in Jerusalem, these Judean shepherds are very possibly responsible for delivering healthy, unblemished lambs to be offered on the altar of sacrifice for the atonement of sin. Ironically, their profession brands these men "ceremonially unclean"; and they, themselves, are excluded from the temple.

Perhaps the biggest irony of all, however, is that as these shepherds care for the very sheep intended for the daily temple sacrifice, unbeknownst to them the perfect, spotless Lamb of God lies in a manger a short distance away.

Abruptly, the stillness of the silent night shatters! In the air over the shepherds' heads as coming immediately from heaven, there suddenly appears an angel of the Lord with a Divine message. "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord," the messenger solemnly declares. Perfectly on cue, the thick, velvet curtain of the black sky draws open revealing the brightness of the Lord's "Shekinah" glory! A multitude of the heavenly host appears with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2)

Sure of what they see, certain of what they hear, the shepherds are not satisfied with spectator roles. They quickly get into the act and hurry off to find Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who is lying in the manger.

When they see the child, though, they see nothing in Him that should induce them to believe that He is the Christ the Lord. Yet, the circumstances are irrefutable. How mean soever they are, the shepherds believe the sign that the angel gave them. They are abundantly satisfied; and they spread the word concerning what was told them, both by the angels and by Joseph and Mary. This child is the Savior, the Christ the Lord! In Him there is peace on earth. In humility, the shepherds return to their work, glorifying and praising God for what they heard and what they saw.

I've heard it said that we are defined not by what happens to us, but by how we respond to what happens to us. With hearts bursting with joy, the shepherds' response was first to worship and, second, to tell what they had seen.

As I share these thoughts with you--2,000 years after the announcement of the Son of God was delivered to poor, forgotten shepherds--I pray each of us actively joins the celebration of the Lamb that continues today. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Merry Christmas, my friend, to you and yours.
Faithfully Following

Monday, December 14, 2009


But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear."
Isaiah 59:2 (NIV)

I did it again! I let something my husband said escalate, turning me into a selfish, "you hurt my feelings" nincompoop. It wasn't that he yelled, insulted, or called me horrible names. All the same, my ego took over and I got mad.

It was late afternoon when we decided to rearrange furniture--something most married folks probably shouldn't do in the first place. On his knees, my husband pushed a mammoth-sized television set, inch by inch, across the family room floor to a third location. I knew he was tired, not to mention had rug burns on his knees. With little compassion, I pressed, "It needs to go back more into the corner."

I can't recall his exact response, but his annoyed tone matched my frustrated attitude. In fitting kindergarten-ish, "I'm taking my ball and going home" style, I glared at him; and without a word, stomped out of the room.

The evening could have been pleasant for the two of us as our children were out with friends. But, I chose to grunt in response to his attempts at a conversation, slam pots and pans as I prepared dinner, and display the most disgruntled expression I could muster. Later, I sealed our evening's fate with what every decent marriage counselor cautions against--I went to bed angry.

It was the dead of night when I awoke to an unmistakable nudge. Hearing the familiar, steady snoring sound coming from the opposite side of the bed, I realized my husband hadn't poked me. No. It was my heart. I knew better than to ignore the prod and quietly slid my legs over the edge of the mattress, making my way to my "quiet place."

Sitting in the darkness of the early morning hours, a gentle voice in my heart probed, "Anything you'd like to share?" With a sigh I responded, "Yes, Lord. I'm so dumb. I let a ridiculous little comment get to me. I got angry. I became mean. But, you know what? I'm frustrated at how I keep making the same mistake. Quite frankly, I'm rather tired of confessing this sin."

Immediately, a disturbing silence seemed to engulf my entire being.

In that deafening sound of nothingness, my thoughts took me to the Old Testament accounts of Cain and of King David. Turning on a lamp, I reached for my Bible, flipped the pages to Genesis 4, and read, "And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him." Turning the pages further to 2 Samuel 11, I read King David's instructions, "Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die."

Both accounts record grievous, sinful acts. Both men suffer consequences from their actions. Yet, where David is ultimately restored in his relationship with God, Cain is banished. Why is David forgiven and Cain not?

The answer lies in their repentance. David confesses, "I have sinned against the LORD." Cain doesn't. In his pride, Cain is unwilling to admit his sin. What's more, in his rebellion against God, he is removed from God's presence.

As I sat in the quiet of the night, I relived three distressing events involving personal separation. Twenty heart-wrenching minutes when the whereabouts of our then four-year old son were unknown. The clanking sound of metal hitting metal as doors close and an ambulance drives away with our young daughter inside, who had fallen from a horse. My ears straining for the sound of an opening garage door as my uncharacteristically late husband is long overdue returning home from work.

Separation. As these episodes raced through my mind, they stirred up the pain I felt being separated from those I hold dear and the joy I experienced being reunited.

What dread an alienated Cain must have endured as he "went out from the LORD's presence." What amazing delight a restored David experienced as he wrote, "Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him." (Psalm 32)

Sin separates. Repentance reunites. As for me, I never want to be outside our loving God's presence. With humility, I immediately confessed to God my ugliness, mean-spirited attitude, and arrogant heart. In the morning, I also asked my husband for his forgiveness; who in turn, asked me to forgive him for his actions. What a wonderful restoration of relationships!

Dear friend, are you experiencing separation because of unconfessed sin? If so, our gracious, Heavenly Father loves you with an everlasting love. He longs for you to come into His warm embrace and delight in the joy of confession and forgiveness of sins. Won't you come today?

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Friday, December 11, 2009


A special welcome to each of you who found your way here through my Girlfriends in God devotion "Caution."

Sharon, Mary, and Gwen are wonderful friends; and I'm thrilled you stopped in Nomad Wife for a visit. Please drop by anytime.

Merry Christmas!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas wonderings

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
John 1:12 (NIV)

Like a pendulum swinging back and forth, my family's wanderings have taken me to and fro across the United States; Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, back to Missouri, and now, back to Pennsylvania. During this time of year, however, my wonderings transport me back to a time more than 2,000 years ago and to a fresh perspective into the events that forever altered the world.

In Windows on Christmas, Bill Crowder shares a view of wonder. He writes of the rather haunting Appalachia song "I Wonder as I Wander" and its attempt to express how difficult it is for our human hearts to understand what God chose to do, and why He chose to do it.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky, how Jesus, the Savior, did come for us to die. For poor ornery people like you and like I, I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

Wonder. I can't think of a better word to describe a miracle. Have you noticed, however, how wonder just isn't all that wonder-ful these days? From a plain white bread to Wonder undergarments to gadgets like a Wonder Weave Hairstyle Tool, somehow these things don't seem to fit the use of a word that means "surprise, astonishment, awe, amazement, admiration."

In the New Testament book of Luke, chapters 1 and 2, the gospel writer discloses a perspective of wonder. He strives to help us share in Mary's amazement at being chosen to give birth to the Christ-child, her sense of awe of her miraculous pregnancy, and an overwhelming love as she holds her child for the first time.

Can you imagine anything in Mary's young life that could have prepared her for all of this? From what we know, Mary was a normal first-century Jewish girl from an ordinary family living in an ordinary small town. Yet with wonder and obedience, she embraces the extraordinary implications of God's extraordinary plan.

Scripture doesn't record the words of Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, husband of Mary, and earthly father of Jesus. In fact, through a simple, quiet beauty of an obedient heart, Joseph works behind the scenes and almost appears invisible in the drama of Christ's birth. I wonder at how many times he stood at the crossroads of a choice between self-protection and obedience. Mary's pregnancy. Ending their betrothal. The journey to Bethlehem for a government census. Jesus' birth. Shepherds and magi bowing before a baby. The family's escape to Egypt from Herod's threats.

Facing choice after choice, Joseph's obedience teaches us that trust and obedience are inseparable. Without first trusting God, we will never surrender our choices and destinies to His purposes. If we don't obey God, we'll never see the great and humbling things He wishes to accomplish in and through our lives.

For Mary and Joseph there was wonder in these events. The wonder of who Christ is and why He came, however, are only the beginning. John 1:12 records God's promise that makes it possible for us to know Him, to find forgiveness for all our wrongdoings, to receive more than eternal life--the privilege and wonder of becoming part of His family!

Friend, I pray you discover the wonder of Christmas. May you see the marvelous reality that Christmas is not a season at all. It is a gift expressing the extent to which our loving God was willing to go to make us His own.

Merry Christmas!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, November 30, 2009

Take the "un" out of unsettled

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 (NIV)

The question I dread the most about moving is "Are you settled yet?"

Each time we move, I go through an identity crisis. With no point of reference, no credentials, and no history in a new place, it's as if I have to identify myself all over again. A totally unsettling experience!

My husband's new job provides him both a role and an automatic structure to become involved within a new community. School offered our children a built-in social network that helped them get established quickly; consequently, we timed our moves to occur either during the school year or immediately before classes began.

I don't have a specific way to connect; yet, I have a basic need to be accepted and loved in my new world. I'm afraid the nitty-gritty of settling pushes even an outgoing, Pollyanna, Myers Briggs ENFJ personality type like me out of my comfort zone.

Mary is an incredible young woman who willingly abandons what she knows to settle on something better, Someone greater. I treasure her story recorded in the Bible's New Testament.

The Master has been in her home before. He's not like other rabbis. He cautions about distractions of performance, good intentions, and the tyranny of the urgent. He offers unconditional love and welcomes alike the downtrodden and healthy, outcast and upright, sinner and saint to sit at His feet and learn from Him. He heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, and brings the dead to life. Goodness. Were Lazarus not reclining this very moment at the dinner table, it would be nearly impossible to believe the Master had raised her beloved brother from the tomb!

Yet, something is different about this visit. An urgency. A determination. A heightened degree of compassion fused with an intensity that seeps into every corner of the house. Perhaps intuitively, Mary senses the tragedy ahead.

Taking what is very likely her most valued, earthly possession, Mary can do no less than demonstrate her complete devotion to Jesus. She breaks open an entire flask of precious, perfumed oil; and in a lavish, extravagant gesture of affection, she anoints Jesus' head and feet with the costly treasure. Then, in complete abandonment, and at the risk of her reputation, she unbinds her headpiece and wipes His feet with her hair.

As the perfume fills the house with its powerful fragrance, not everyone understands. Some object silently. Others openly ridicule the extravagant display of devotion. "Leave her alone," Jesus says in the face of his disciples' disapproval. "She has done a beautiful thing for me." (Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:1-8)

Mary pours out her very life in love and sacrificial service. She settles once and for all the question of Christ's lordship. The sweet scent of that sacrifice still lingers today.

Like Mary, I, too, settled the question of Jesus' lordship. Leaving behind family, friends, job, and sense of belonging that help define me, I look to Jesus to soothe my emotions, strengthen my resolve, and confirm my identity. I am a:
child of God, forgiven, holy, and dearly loved
wife, in honor and love, committed to the marriage covenant I made with my husband
mother, charged with nurturing two children
steward, faithful and entrusted with the time and money God has given me
friend, sharing Jesus' love in the world that I serve

As a newcomer, I want to belong. With a renewed confidence, I focus on how to settle in and not bemoan that I have to do it. Besides, I've learned there are some distinct advantages to being new. Without old commitments, I have more control over my time, I find time to break old habits, and nobody has seen my wardrobe!

Friend, what is causing you to feel unsettled? In faith, will you pour out your heart at Jesus' feet? He knows your name. He loves you totally and unconditionally. I pray you will be strengthened and encouraged in your faith.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

PS 10 tips to help you settle in your new home
  • Meet your neighbors (write down their names), borrow an egg, deliver a plate of brownies
  • Find a church home
  • Become part of the community, learn the area's history, meet your mail carrier, register to vote
  • Volunteer at your child's school
  • Invite a neighbor for coffee/tea
  • Attend a Bible study group, join a book club, take an exercise class
  • Have a picnic in a local park
  • Join a newcomer's organization (attend more than one meeting)
  • Take a walk
  • Don't rush from appointment to appointment, spend time, visit with those you meet

Monday, November 23, 2009

A prayer for thanksgiving

"Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts."
Psalm 105:1-2

As we pause this Thanksgiving Day, will you join me remembering in songs of praise and words of thanksgiving the unconditional love and gracious bounty that our Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer of life, so richly gives us?

Now thank we all our God,
With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
In whom his world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms
Has blest us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.

(Source: Now Thank We All Our God, Lutheran Worship, Concordia Publishing House)

LORD, as I sit down to a Thanksgiving table, I want to thank You for Your goodness to me. Thank You for meeting my needs every day--for food and shelter and clothing. And for the many extras You provide that I so often take for granted.

Thank You for family and friends who make my life complete. Thank You that even when we are miles apart, we are bound by the cords of Your love.

And I thank You that I live in a country where I am free to worship You and to read Your Word.

Most of all, I thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You that He not only died for my sins, but that He is alive today and at Your side hearing my prayers and preparing a home for me in Heaven.

Thank You that I can face tomorrow with hope because Jesus is living for me.

O, Lord, how truly rich I am! Thank You for all You mean to me. Amen.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following


Monday, November 16, 2009


"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)

"I love my life. I love my house. I love my people."

Unfortunately, Wendy Ann's seemingly euphoric state was short-lived. As I turned the corner to enter our foyer, I unwittingly stepped on her tail. Justifiably agitated, she skedaddled. Taken by surprise, I screamed. A sweet moment of contentment rudely interrupted for both of us.

Wendy Ann joined our family the week we moved from North Carolina to Michigan. Eight-weeks old, a disproportionately large head, and an elongated set of whiskers, it's quite possible Wendy wasn't the brightest kitten in the litter. What she lacks between her black, pointy ears, however, she makes up for in entertainment.

The day we set out in tandem on our 800-mile drive north, my husband, our daughter, and Wendy Ann led the way in our SUV. I followed in a second vehicle with our son, dog, and a second cat. We weren't on the road an hour when my husband motioned that I should stop at an approaching exit.

"The cat's been crying since we left Charlotte. Meg is so worried about the cat that she began crying shortly after Wendy started. In a few minutes, I'm joining them!" my haggard-looking spouse lamented as he walked up to my vehicle.

Laugh! Better yet, laugh out loud!

According to modern-day stress management research:
  • Laughter reduces our level of stress hormones which results in a stronger immune system.
  • A good belly laugh exercises our diaphragm, contracts our abs, and works out our shoulders; all which leave our muscles more relaxed. Our heart even gets a good workout!
  • Laughter is a great distraction that takes the focus away from our anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions.
  • Humor provides a more lighthearted perspective and helps us view events as opportunities.
  • Laughter is contagious. Bringing more laughter into our lives helps others around us lighten up as well.
Solomon recorded similar insights almost 3,000 years ago in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. He wrote, "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." (Proverbs 15:13)

Did I mention the reason my husband tended a mournful kitten and weepy daughter was because I nursed our injured dog? The day before we left Charlotte, as the last boxes were loaded on our moving van, our cocker spaniel literally "blew out her knee." A quick trip to the animal hospital, we were told to restrict her activity and get her to a veterinarian in Michigan as soon as possible for knee surgery.

Allow me to translate "restrict activity." Throughout our 800-mile drive and for the next four weeks, I coaxed and carried 27 pounds of gentle disposition outdoors numerous times a day and monitored as our cocker "did her business."

Dear friend, good, bad, or indifferent, things happen. And, yes, we need to exercise thoughtfulness and sound judgment. Let's just not forget to throw in some laughter along the way. Wisdom, mixed with a hearty dose of cheerful spirit, goes a long way to improving our health. We're a lot more fun to be around; and in the long run, we're able to do more good.

As I finished this post, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. Turning toward the front door, I saw Wendy Ann once again resting on our foyer rug. Dreamy-eyed, she lay spread-out, on her back, her long tail extended, savoring her peaceful surroundings.

"Dumb cat," I thought with a chuckle.

Let's lighten up and live!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Friday, November 13, 2009


A special welcome to those of you who found your way here through my Girlfriends in God devotion "What Dwelling?".

Sharon, Mary, and Gwen are wonderful friends; and I'm thrilled you stopped in Nomad Wife for a visit.

Please drop by anytime.

Blessings, dear friend.

Faithfully Following

Monday, November 9, 2009

A disconnect in dependence

"Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

I just want you to respect me.

We sat in the hospital lounge that warm summer afternoon several years ago longing to help our father understand why he was hospitalized. Months earlier, his doctor gave him a very discouraging diagnosis--early stage of Alzheimer's. Because of his increasingly erratic behavior, we sought out additional medical help.

Exasperated with our conversation, he finally uttered, "I just want you to respect me."

Goodness. We thought we were. To better understand our dad's frustrations, we asked him to describe what respect looked like to him. His words hit our hearts like the gut-wrenching force of a heavyweight boxer's punch to an opponent's stomach. "I want to run the farm and drive the tractor," he replied.

My daddy was born on the farm that he worked his entire life. Restricting him from operating machinery or working in the field would be akin to John Wayne starring in an action-packed western movie, minus a horse. Unthinkable, at best.

We knew we couldn't honor our father's request, at least not as he described respect. He demonstrated he wasn't able to operate machinery safely. We simply couldn't connect our dad's definition with the reality of his situation.

I remembered this incident with my father as I read Mark 10:17-31. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. A rich, young man ran up to Jesus, fell on his knees, and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Attempting to help the young man recognize that his only hope was total reliance on God, Jesus stated a list of commandments. The man insisted he kept all of them since youth. Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said, "One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor...then follow me."

The young man's question presents a disconnect--what must I do to inherit eternal life? The question is illogical. It can't be answered because what is asked is an impossibility.

Substitute any item for "eternal life" in the question. What must I do to inherit my parents' estate? What must I do to inherit my grandmother's pearls? What must I do to inherit my partner's share of the business?

How would you answer such questions? Be a good daughter. Be a kind and generous granddaughter. Be wise, trustworthy. All good, even typical, answers.

The real issue with the man's question is that no one can do anything to inherit something. Inheritance is a matter of dependence upon someone else's action, not self-reliance. The original owner has to give something to us. We need a status bestowed upon us.

If our parents, grandmother, or partner don't ensure that our name is listed in their will, it doesn't matter if we're a daughter, a good grandchild, or a fair business partner. No matter how hard we try, to inherit something, we have to be the beneficiary of another's actions.

Jesus loves the young man. He speaks directly to what is holding the man back. To inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him to leave behind everything in which he finds security; and follow Jesus.

We who believe in Jesus and follow Him will have a great treasure in heaven. However, it doesn't come as a result of our effort. It's what Jesus chooses to give us and is a matter of reliance upon Him.

My daddy came home from the hospital, but he never drove a tractor again. Later, he lost his balance, fell, and landed on the kitchen floor breaking his leg. He died as a result of complications from surgery.

He was a hard-working farmer, a steadfast provider, and a faithful husband of 53 years to our mother. Called to be Jesus' child and believing Jesus' words and work, however, my father received his heavenly inheritance because he depended on Jesus Christ.

Friend, are you experiencing a disconnect in your life? Would you ask Jesus to help you connect with the reality of His truth? Your eternity depends on it.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

PS Are you having to leave behind an aging loved one as you move? You can find encouragement and support on Focus on the Family Life Challenges website.

Monday, November 2, 2009

90 / 10

"I am going there to prepare a place for you."
John 14:2 (NIV)

Pulling over to the side of the road, the driver of a loaded-down SUV rolled down the vehicle's window and inquired, "My family is moving to the town up ahead. What can you tell me about the people?"

"What were the folks like in the town you left?" replied the fellow who stood on the roadside.

"They were great! Kind, generous, and helpful," the motorist responded.

"Well, that's what you'll find up ahead," came the encouragement.

Packed to the hilt, the minivan stopped alongside the road and the driver asked, "My family is moving to the town up ahead. What can you tell me about the people?"

What were the folks like in the town you left? replied the fellow standing on the roadside.

"They were horrible. Selfish, self-centered, and thought only of themselves," the driver answered.

"Well, that's what you'll find up ahead," was the reply.

So, the decision has been made. You're moving. Moving is 90 percent attitude and 10 percent tactics. Granted, not all relocations are of our choosing. How we respond to the transition, however, is up to us.

Not surprising, God's Word offers us beautiful insight into moving. Let's look at the life of Jesus as He prepared to leave this earth and return to His Father in heaven.

Luke 9 tells us that Jesus set out with deliberate determination for Jerusalem. A time was fixed for His leaving. Setting His face like flint, He knew the time and He had a clear, certain foresight of the plan. Convinced He was not alone, He was certain He would not fail, become discouraged, nor be disgraced or ashamed. What confidence!

Concerned for those He was leaving behind and anticipating their future hardships, Jesus prepared His disciples for what was to come. He told His friends about His imminent betrayal; counseled them about His suffering, death, and resurrection; encouraged their troubled hearts; assured them He would send another Counselor, the Holy Spirit, in His place; and promised a future bearing much fruit. Praying for their protection, He left out nothing. What compassion!

Whether a move is planned or unplanned, expected or unexpected, wanted or unwanted, it can quickly become a truckload of anticipation and enthusiasm thrown together with a trailer full of disillusionment and disappointment at unmet expectations.

Take heart, my friend! No matter what journey you are on, no matter where your travels take you, you can make it. If you remain confident in Who is leading you and show compassion to those who journey alongside, it can be a real moving experience!

Below are basic strategies that have helped my family pack up our belongings and unpack them again in a different home. Also, check out After the Boxes are Unpacked, an excellent resource for those in the throes of moving.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

  • Be patient. Give lots of reassurance to those involved in your move.
  • Purchase a notepad, e.g., legal pad, spiral notebook.
  • Start lists, e.g., addresses that require updating (insurance, bank accounts), utility changes, school documentation needs.
  • Keep appointments with your current dentist, doctor, hair stylist, veterinarian, etc. This buys you time at your new location.
  • Set aside an emergency fund for unexpected financial needs. New construction, resale, or rental, no house is perfect.
  • Assemble a "survival box" (for the new location) that includes trash bags, toilet paper, black marker, masking tape, ibuprofen.

  • Mark boxes for transport, e.g., son's room, master bedroom, kitchen.
  • Provide a treat for those helping you move, e.g., donuts, pizza.
  • Don't get too upset over broken things. Something always breaks or gets damaged. Remember, they are just things.
  • Relax and go with the flow.

Push on
  • Expect a positive outcome.
  • Unpack one room at a time. Get out of boxes as soon as possible; but remember, Rome wasn't built in a day.
  • Ask questions.
  • Find a church home.
  • Meet the neighbors (write down their names), borrow an egg, bring them a batch of brownies.
  • Ask for referrals, e.g., nearest hospital, plumber, babysitters, car mechanic.
  • Go to the Chamber of Commerce for local information.
  • Make it feel like home, hang pictures (spackle is your friend).
  • Hold off large decorating projects. Experience your house. Walk around its rooms. Imagine the possibilities.
  • Remember those you left behind. Your leaving created a hole in their hearts, too. Think of them with a phone call, e-mail, or card.

Monday, October 26, 2009

From dumplings to descendants

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ...If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Recently my church hosted an annual fall festival that entailed baking 800 apple dumplings. New to the congregation, I decided to help with the two-day event as it created an opportunity for me to meet other members. (No, the above photo is not the baking committee.)

Assigned to measure out vegetable shortening for each batch of dumplings, I chatted with a young woman who stood across the kitchen counter from me. Our questions flowed in sync as we scooped out, measured, and placed individual portions of shortening on serving trays. Are you a student? Where do you attend school? Why did you move here? Where did you move from? One question resulted in an answer that led to another inquiry.

Our conversation became more animated when we discovered Trish's grandparents live in the community where I was raised. I made a note of their names; and that afternoon, I called my mother, who lives 875 miles away, to determine if she was familiar with this young woman's family. To my amazement, I learned not only is my mom acquainted with Trish's grandparents, but Trish and I are cousins. Trish's great-great-grandmother and my grandmother were sisters!

Genealogies have had a significant role in history since the beginning of time. The first family tree recorded in Genesis 5 begins, "This is the written account of Adam's line."

In the New Testament book of Matthew, the account of Christ's life begins with a genealogy 17 verses long. It is like a pedigree giving evidence that proves a title and making out a claim that confirms our Lord Jesus is, indeed, the son of David and the son of Abraham.

Matthew's aim in writing his gospel is to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. Proof of a man's lineage was required before a Jew would even consider a man's credentials for royalty, the priesthood, or even his place among the people of God. Consequently, it is imperative that Jesus' direct line to the throne of David, and His link with Old Testament prophecies concerning that line, be fully traced before beginning the account of His birth.

All Bible genealogies culminate in this final line of descent that ends with the birth of Jesus. Once Christ was born, the only family line needed is the one that has its direct source in Christ. Through faith in Him, every individual who becomes a "child of God" is an heir in His family, with all the attendant rights and privileges.

Where our earthly families are concerned, connections are valuable. Connections are one way we keep this big world smaller, simpler, and more intimate.

The following day when I arrived at church to finish our dumpling project, I hugged my newly-found cousin and showed her a never-before-seen picture of her ancestors. That day, the world became a bit more personal for Trish as she made a connection with her great-great-grandparents, as well as her great-great-great-grandpa.

"Cool," she said in a hushed tone as she cradled the photo in her hands and studied the faces of her ancestors.

I agree. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are Abraham's true, spiritual descendants. We are recipients of his promise. God is definitely "cool."

Friend, you never know who you'll meet. How are you connecting with God's family of believers to help make your world a little smaller, a bit more personal?

Blessings, dear friend.

Faithfully Following

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sweet triumph

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him."
2 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)

Tucked safely in my mother's womb, alongside my twin sister, I sat in a church pew months before I was ever born. I come from a long line of Christian heritage with ancestors who immigrated to America for religious freedom more than 170 years ago. Hhmm. Maybe my nomadic tendencies are genetic.

Growing up in a rural, Christian farming community, I loved playing Sunday School as child. A collection of fuzzy, button-eyed bears and sweet, vinyl-faced dolls sat attentively on an assortment of child-sized benches and chairs. In beautiful chorus, we sang Praise Him, Praise Him All Ye Little Children and I Am Jesus' Little Lamb. All eyes were fixed on me as I told action-packed accounts of a young boy who killed a giant, three men thrown into a fiery furnace, and a baby king born in a stable.

Sadly, somewhere between a child's delight singing Jesus Loves Me and a young adult's craving for independence, I lost my joy for Jesus.

Oh, I attended church sporadically. But I began focusing more on starting a professional career and fitting in amongst new friends. Soon the busyness of a new lifestyle created distractions from my fellowship with Jesus. Quite frankly, I bought into the idea I could live with one foot in the secular world while keeping the other in a Christian walk. A subtle compromise here. A change in behavior there. Gradually, my childhood affection for Jesus grew dull.

Thankfully, where I wandered away from God, in His mercy, He remained faithful to me.

Pastor Henry Blackaby writes in Experiencing God, "God takes the initiative to pursue a love relationship with you. This love relationship, however, is not a one-sided affair. He wants you to know Him and worship Him. Most of all He wants you to love Him."

Slowly but surely, I was drawn back to my faith. A girlfriend invited me to a mom's home Bible study group. A new acquaintance extended an invitation to a church women's retreat. I began a simple, daily devotional time. Like a patient waking from a long coma, I began to experience a hunger for God like I'd never known before. Nineteen years later, I am absolutely head over heels in love with Jesus!

Blackaby states, "God has been working in the world all along. He has been working out His purpose for our lives since before we were born. He is building our character in an orderly fashion with a divine purpose in mind."

In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that God has a specific role in our quest to follow Him. He guides us, shows us the way to go. But, how can we recognize God's leading?

When Israel crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, God told Joshua to take twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from where the priests stood and put them at the place where they stayed that night. These stones served as a memorial of the mighty act of God in behalf of His people (Joshua 4:2-7).

To understand how God is leading me, I find it helpful to identify my memorial stones or "spiritual makers." A spiritual marker identifies a time of transition, decision, or direction when I clearly know that God has guided me.

Ask God to reveal to you where He has been working in your life. Think about your heritage, your salvation experience, times you made significant decisions regarding your future. Start making a spiritual inventory list today. It doesn't have to be comprehensive. Add to it as you reflect and pray about God's activity in your life.

God is faithful. He leads us in triumphal procession. And, as we follow Him in faith, we become a sweet-smelling reminder, a fragrance of His grace, in the lives of those we touch.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stirring hearts

"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirti of God was hovering over the waters."
Genesis 1:2 (NIV)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Without form and void, it was shapeless and useless. Then, something happened. The Spirit of God moved.

The author of all being and fountain of life sprung into motion.
Where God the Father willed creation, God the Son spoke it through His Word, and God the Spirit gave it life through His breath.

Let's take a closer look at the Spirit "hovering over the waters." The Hebrew word rachaph used in Genesis means "shake, move, flutter, to hover."

The same word rachaph is used in Deuteronomy 32 when Moses reminded the children of Israel how God delivered them out of slavery in Egypt. "In a desert land he found him; in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions." (Deuteronomy 32:11)

Eagles are fascinating. Its egg is a little larger than a duck egg. When the babies are born, both parents take responsibility for their care. They bring food to the nest and feed the young small pieces of meat. Within 12 weeks an eaglet is practically full size; with a wingspan of 79 to 90 inches, it weighs 10 to 14 pounds. Yet, it is in the nest.

In preparation for flight, a process called fledging, young eagles lose their fluffy baby down and grow special feathers. A parent hovers over the nest and flaps its wings. As the fledgling stretches for its food, it mimics the parent. The subsequent wind made by the parent causes the baby to rise slightly above the nest as the young eagle also flaps its newly feathered wings.

Sometimes if an eaglet is fearful or doesn't show interest in taking its first flight, a parent withholds food, forcing it out of the nest. In her book An Eagle to the Sky (1970), wildlife author and ornithologist Frances Hammerstrom recorded an heroic eaglet's first flight.

The young eagle was now alone in the nest. Over and over again, a parent came with empty feet. The eaglet grew thinner. He pulled at meat scraps from old dried-up carcasses lying in the nest. Days passed. As he lost body fat, the eaglet became quicker in his movements and paddled ever more lightly when the wind blew, scarcely touching the nest edge; from time to time he was airborne for a moment or two.

Eagerly he called for food. Beating his wings and teetering on the edge of his nest, a parent flew past. Just out of reach she carried a delectable meal of a half-grown jack rabbit.

Hunger and the cold mountain nights had their effect on the young eaglet's body and disposition. A late frost hit the valley and a night wind ruffled his feathers and chilled his body. When the sunlight reached the nest edge, he sought its warmth,; and soon he was bounding in the wind, now light and firm-muscled.

A parent flew by, downwind, dangling a young marmot in its feet. The eaglet almost lost his balance in his eagerness for food. Then the parent swung by again, closer, upwind, and riding the updraft, as though daring the eaglet to fly. Lifted light by the wind, he was airborne, flying--or more gliding--for the first time in his life. He sailed across the valley to make a scrambling, almost tumbling landing on a bare knoll. As he turned to get his bearings, the parent dropped the young marmot nearby. Half running, half flying he pounced on it, mantled, and ate his fill.

Are you comfortable in your "nest"? Are you so content within your surroundings, your way of doing things, your way of thinking, your way of living that when God "stirs up the nest" you become upset, even angry? Curious, yet fearful, are you teetering on the edge of your comfort zone thinking you're too old, inexperienced, unskilled, or unintelligent to experience what lies beyond?

If we're really honest, it may be we simply don't want to grow. We're satisfied with how things are. But God wants us to fly--to become all He calls us to become. English missionary William Carey's most renowned principle of action was, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God."

When God stirs up our nest, He does so with good reason. What's more, when God hovers, He also breathes life.

Happy flying!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, October 5, 2009

Improving your serve

"Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
Galatians 6:10 (NIV)

Relationships would be so much easier if it just weren't for the people involved.

In one of the last episodes of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, Jesus told His disciples about His destiny: He will be betrayed, killed, and rise again from the dead (Mark 9:30-31).

Immediately after this revelation, the disciples followed Jesus down the road to Capernaum. But the journey was far from silent. The Twelve argued among themselves who is the greatest within their ranks. Disagreement traveled all the way to Capernaum. When they arrived at the house in which they stayed, Jesus asked the men what they discussed. They were silent.

Jesus knew His friends argued. He also knew what they argued about. And so, He began to teach them about greatness; or rather about humility. If you want to be great, He said, you must be last and a servant (Mark 9:30-37).

What motivates any argument? In James 3, the Apostle writes wherever there is bitter jealousy, covetousness, pride, or selfish ambition, there is turmoil. He also says God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Why? Is it because where pride is there is simply no room for God? Does He give grace to the one who is humble because that person recognizes their need for what He has to give?

James' words accurately describe what took place among the disciples. Unfortunately, the argument didn't belong among the followers of Jesus. Yet, even in His presence there was "disorder" and "vile practices." Jesus turned the disciples' argument upside down. They weren't talking about being last or about serving. But, Jesus said that's how a person becomes first.

Jesus is the greatest. He is the first. He met the criterion when He was delivered into the hands of men, killed, and rose from the dead. He is the servant of all.

Like me, do you quarrel with your spouse because you want something done your way? Do you pull rank to end a family argument? Concerned with your interests, do you ignore a co-worker's need? What about within your church. Do you close your ears to another's viewpoint and push a personal agenda? We're human; so it's probably safe to say we've each, "been there, done that."

Based on Jesus' teaching, James encourages, "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in meekness of wisdom...the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." (James 3:13, 17-18)

Are you intrigued by the notion of a servant heart? Does part of you hang back because you're afraid that being last could mean being taken advantage of?

Jesus accomplished the ultimate act of service. He gives us power to serve with wisdom that is humble, open to reason, fair, and forgiving. When we do, we produce "a harvest of righteousness" and peace.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, September 28, 2009

Act in triumph

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

The splintering sound of wood hitting the concrete pavement sent chills through my already overwrought nerves. Prickly sensations ran from the back of my neck clear down to my toes.

Our two-month stay in a temporary apartment was ending. Household goods, packed weeks earlier into 16 crate-style pods for warehouse storage, were finally being delivered.

Unfortunately, due to misinformation, lack of communication, or just poor planning, a scheduled one-day unload turned into a three-day event. Each day a team of men dropped off just enough items that we couldn't do anything with what they delivered. Refrigerator, but no pots, pans, or utensils to prepare meals. Bed frame, but no bedding or mattress on which to sleep. Television stand, but no television to watch. Computer, but no hardware to connect the system. By the third day I was edgy; my typical good-natured temperament was tenuous, at best.

I heard the racket and turned slowly to face the direction of the sound. There in the moving van's open doorway, surrounded by a mountain of boxes, stood the young man who was responsible for transporting our belongings. We locked eyes. Everyone around us stopped what they were doing. They watched and waited.

Instantly, my mind began to play a lively game of ping-pong. "Take every thought captive, Bon. Make it obedient to Christ!" volleyed back-and-forth with, "Remember Bon. Cheerfully refuse to be embittered by the stupidities of daily life."

We experience challenging situations every day. Some involve downright ridiculous circumstances. Whether we follow Paul's directive in 2 Corinthians or the more lighthearted expression, the notion is the same. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to think and equipped to act with gentleness (Hebrews 9:14).

I smiled at the distraught-looking man, nodded my head, and returned to what I'd been doing previously. The young man, encouraged by my reaction, continued unloading the truck. His team members followed suit. And, thanks to a local craftsman's talents, the dropped desktop hutch was restored to like-new condition.

What about you, friend. Are you pushed to end of your limits?

When we take action to capture our thoughts and deliberately choose to respond kindly, we start a trend that honors Christ. You are empowered to ACT. Cheers!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, September 21, 2009

Steady as it blows

"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NIV)

Hey, friend. Have you ever been blown into a proverbial "ditch"?

Recently I worked with gusto at my computer. My back faced the windows of my home office; my thoughts focused on the words that my fingers, in turn, intently pecked out on the keyboard. Consequently, I was completely unaware of an approaching thunderstorm.

I'd awoken earlier to an unexpectedly cool summer day. The bright, yellow sun shone brilliantly. It greeted the new day with a hearty, "Good morning, world!" Birds were perched on nearby tree branches that gently swayed in the cool breeze. They chirped a chorus that filled the air with a sweet melody. Puffy, white clouds dotted a crayon-blue sky; each puff moved lazily across the horizon. The crystal-clear atmosphere enhanced the minutest details of a lush, green countryside. It was an absolutely breathtaking morning.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a strong gust of air blasted through the open windows and scattered papers throughout the room. Black, thunderous storm clouds gathered rapidly overhead. Without pause, the dark sky broke wide open and released pent-up rains. Powerful winds blew huge drops of water sideways. They slammed against the side of the house.

The unexpected storm's power was apparent. It left behind in its wake broken tree branches. Debris, carried by rushing water, littered the roadways. A plastic kiddie pool lay in a ditch.

What a vivid illustration of unexpected, difficult circumstances in life.

Such is the account of Naomi told in the Old Testament book of Ruth. Naomi and her family leave their home in Bethlehem because there's famine in the land. They move to the country of Moab. In a downward swirl of events, Naomi loses her husband, her two sons, her home, her livelihood, and perhaps even her hope. After ten years in Moab, she returns to Bethlehem, desolate. (Ruth)

Thank goodness God has a heart for rescue. He displays His sovereign control and His providential plan to Naomi through the unshaken love of her daughter-in-law, Ruth, and the kindness of a close relative, Boaz. Through their selfless acts, Naomi moves from emptiness to fullness (Ruth 1:21; 4:13-17).

Pastor and author Joe Stowell states, "God is in the details. He is at work in every circumstance of our life, particularly in the situations over which we have no control. The interesting thing, however, is that His providence is often hidden. He is at work and we don't know it. Given the sovereign, providential, loyal love of God in our life, we may not see anything happening. But, we can count on it!"

Sometimes life's storms hit with such force, they all but knock us off our feet. Where do you turn when the bottom drops out of your life? Where do you go when you face the end of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, the death of a dream, financial problems, or consequences of a poor choice?

We need a helping hand. We need someone who understands.

Can't find anyone? Why not share Naomi's rescuer? In her journey from despair in Moab to happiness in Bethlehem, Naomi came to know Him as Faithful and Redeemer. We know Him today by another name: Jesus. He's still available to people who need help standing in the midst of an unexpected storm.

Blessings, my friend.
Faithfully Following

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Too lofty to know better

"For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul."
Proverbs 2:10 (NIV)

"Lady, you're growing one of the hardiest poison ivy plants I've ever seen in my life!" declared the lawncare technician.

Moving during our son's junior high school year created incentive to get settled into our new house as quickly as possible. I anticipated him leaving for college within the next year and didn't want to miss a second of time he was at home.

Besides, I thought I had this relocation thing down pat. I experienced three moves and developed a routine that included finding a church, meeting the neighbors, decorating the house, and attending to the lawn. With the speed of a tractor-trailer truck rolling down a highway, I was "executing against plan." Unfortunately, in my exuberance, I didn't consider I just might not know everything.

To create a welcoming first impression, I enthusiastically trimmed plant hedges, cleared debris, and arranged flower beds. I carefully tended one particular plant that was sure to bring smiles of appreciation from guests walking up the front walkway. Giving it just the right amount of water and weeding around its base, the plant grew into a mini-size bush. I felt almost giddy waiting for the foliage to bloom.

And bloom it did; right into the itchiest case of poison ivy rash!

How embarrassing. I was raised on a farm for goodness sake! I grew up picking my way through wild blackberry patches intermingled with the poisonous vine. My mother cautioned me to stay away from its creeping, ivy leaf. Consequently, the technician's toxicodendron radicans analysis hit my sense of pride quite deeply.

In Psalm 139 the psalmist praises the God of all creation acknowledging, "You hem me in--behind and before...Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." (Psalm 139:5-6) Understanding our intellectual limits, the writer of the New Testament book of James encourages if we lack wisdom, we should ask. God gives generously, without finding fault (James 1:5-7).

We don't have all the answers. In some instances, not knowing what we don't know puts us in danger. Or, like me, maybe you get into trouble because you don't ask the questions you should ask.

A visit to the doctor's office, an injection of Prednisone, and numerous applications of Calamine lotion later, the rash finally disappeared. I, however, learned a lesson in humility that has lasted, especially regarding "ask first."

How about you. Are you tending any weeds?

Blessings, my friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rules for the road

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-18 (NIV)

"You're bold walking with your back to traffic," observed the passerby.

Every dedicated walker knows the importance of practicing safety tips when walking on public roadways. Helping make one more visible, walkers should keep to the side of the road facing oncoming traffic, walk single file, wear bright color clothing, and so on.

These directives assume, of course, passing motorists are attentive as well, i.e., not exceeding posted speed limits, consoling upset children in the vehicle's backseat, sending text messages, or conducting cell phone conversations while changing the radio dial to a favorite station. I believe an emphatic "NOT" would be appropriate at this point. But, I digress.

My fellow walker's comment was valid as I was, indeed, not walking facing oncoming traffic. She was unaware, however, that having considered the narrow two-lane road ahead of me with minimal shoulder area and impending sharp turn creating a potential motorist blind spot, I had intentionally crossed over to the "wrong side" just a minute earlier.

Adhering to rules of safety when walking outdoors is wise. It helps keep everyone free of injury. More importantly, however, is applying wisdom for good living.

Introduction of the internet in the mid-1990s resulted in an explosion of available information and services, the likes of which we have never seen before. With a click of a computer mouse, we have access to content in virtually every aspect of modern human life; more data and material than we could ever read in ten lifetimes, must less one. One search alone of "good living" produced 1.7 million results, all suggesting ways for better living, being happier, or enjoying a successful life.

When it comes to offering truth and wisdom for living good, however, only one book continues to stand the test of time--the Bible. God chose devout men and inspired them to write His message to us; revealing His love through the accounts of real people, real places, and real times in history. Not merely a collection of principles for daily living, a textbook that answers every possible question we may have, or a resource that predicts every last detail about the future, the central and most important teaching in the Bible is the good news of God's gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Feeling bold? Let's turn our backs to the noise of our information-cluttered society. Everything God wants us to know about Himself is contained in His Word; and through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals truth and gives wisdom. Truly, God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. (Psalm 119:105).

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A friend indeed

"Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well."
3 John 1:2 (NIV)

What are characteristics of a true friend?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a friend is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard; a person who gives assistance, a supporter; someone who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile. describes friendship as a mutually cooperative and supportive behavior between two or more people. While rather obvious, it's important to note that friendship involves a connection between or among human beings.

Let's take a look at several accounts in God's Word and behaviors demonstrated between people considered friends.


Jonathan and David made for an unlikely friendship. The eldest son of Saul, the first king of Israel, Jonathan was heir to his father's throne. The shepherd boy, David, on the other hand, was the youngest of Jesse's eight sons and quite insignificant. In fact, when King Saul turned away from following the LORD God and God sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse's home to anoint the future king of Israel, David was all but forgotten until Samuel asks, "Are these all the sons you have?"

Coming to love David as himself, Jonathan presents David with his own royal robes and armor as an acceptance of David as his equal. (
1 Samuel 18)


Initially, people are quite often drawn together by a common interest, such as a hobby, work, or shared passion. While on his fourth missionary journey, the apostle Paul met a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla in Corinth. (
Acts 18) Tentmakers by trade, Paul stayed and worked with them; and sometime later, they accompanied Paul when he sailed to Syria. Later, Paul acknowledges his friends in his letter to the Romans stating, "Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, risked their lives for me." (Romans 16:3)

David and Jonathan's friendship endured even when it became clear that David was to replace Jonathan as successor to his father's throne. Realizing his father's intentions to kill David, Jonathan devised a plan to save his friend's life. With great sadness and reaffirming their friendship, Jonathan and David part ways declaring, "
Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD." (1 Samuel 20:42) Later, hearing of Jonathan's death, David honors his friend with the song of the bow. (2 Samulel 1:18)

Good friends urge, encourage, and hold one another accountable. Writing in his letter to the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Paul is adamant about thinking on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable--anything that is excellent or praiseworthy. In so doing, "the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9)

When the apostle Peter buckles under pressure from a group called the Judaizers, going against what he knows to be right concerning the gospel message, Paul opposes him. Holding Peter accountable, Paul reminds Peter of the truth he learned from Jesus. (Galatians 2)


King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is on a rampage. Angry and furious that his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers are unable to tell him what his distressing dream was
and interpret it, the king orders the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. Learning of the execution order, Daniel, a young man from Jerusalem taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar along with friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, calls on his friends to plead for mercy from God that they not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. God reveals the king's dream and the meaning to Daniel and everyone is saved. (Daniel 2)

In the New Testament book of James, the apostle urges we pray when in trouble or sick for the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (
James 5:16)


True friendship allows for no hidden agendas with friends sharing with one another genuine emotions, needs, and joys.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expresses gratitude for the concern and aid shown him writing that it's good for others to share in his troubles. With authentic, emotional appeal, Paul also pleads for his young companion Timothy to do his best to come quickly because another co-worker, Demas, has deserted him. (
2 Timothy 4:9-13) "Only Luke is with me," he writes. "Get Mark and bring him...when you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments."

Luke, Paul's travel companion, shares one particularly tender moment of transparency in
Acts 20. Preparing to leave Ephesus for Jerusalem, Paul encourages church leaders to continue in their work. He kneels down with all of them and prays. Realizing they will never see each other again and bidding farewell, they weep and embrace one another, finally tearing "ourselves away from them we put out to sea."


Today's technologically-oriented, internet-savvy, linkedin/twitter/facebook, social-media society can create a false impression that friendships can develop without experiencing face-to-face encounters. While I thoroughly enjoy aspects of the internet helping me stay in contact with friends, there is no substitution for personal, face-to-face time for a relationship to mature.

During His time on earth, Jesus dedicated three years teaching and mentoring a group of twelve men. Returning from a preaching experience, excited to share all they had done and taught, Jesus tells the twelve, "
Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31)

Friendship. A gift from God that's blessed in every part, born through love and loyalty, conceived within the heart. Celebrate the blessing of friendship with someone who has filled your life with its precious joys.

Blessings, my friend.

Faithfully Following