Warm Wednesday Words: Get social

community doing life together

How do you socially connect with those around you?   Beginning with the Trinity, and thereafter with Adam, then Eve, and on down through time, God designed and modeled social connections.  From invading Adam’s personal space when He breathed life into his nostrils to sharing friendship in the first garden with Adam and Eve, God showed Himself to be social and still does in your life, too.

God with Adam & Eve

While there are times when a silent retreat is needed and good, as in Jesus example of getting away to pray alone or with a few followers, most of His adult life was spent in connecting and engaging with individuals and crowds.  He had a mission both with the lost and with His followers.  Social pretense was and is a waste of time with Him since He can see right into heart motives.

prayer and solitudeAs Brandon Cox said in his book, “Rewired”,  ‘boundaries, in their proper place can be a good thing…What I am saying, however, is that keeping people away usually makes us feel safe, and not in a good way.  We live in the most connected yet disconnected age since the Garden of Eden..we are lonelier than ever, and our isolationist ways have left millions struggling through life…honesty and intimacy are far more difficult than silence…’

cold loneliness

While appropriate boundaries are occasionally needed, in our society walls are too conveniently erected and fortified, and silence magnified in our relationships.

walls instead of bridges

In our day and age, it is not the lack of connections that breeds loneliness and worse maladies.  It is the silence we allow in those connections.  Overcoming silence with friendly and encouraging words may very well be that “cup of cold water” that is needed today, both inside and outside the church.  “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (Matt. 10:42) And what better way to display to the world the love God has given, then to start within the church and go out.

speak life & truthTypical modern day lifestyles are often missing healthy margins and can be the death knell for maintaining social relationships, therefore it is becoming a trend to seek out receptive places to listen, speak and connect.   Socializing is sprawling into constantly changing networks; i.e.  facebook, twitter, blogging, linkedin, pinterest, instagram, google, tumblr and more.  Some are surface skimming social avenues, but many have the means to go deeper.  Churches who encourage and support small groups and small group atmospheres are onto the modern day needs of all ages within their membership.  The kinds of relationships that result are an attraction to a lonely world.  Online social groups, such as (in)courage  offer places where friendships can be made and enjoyed to whatever depth and extent you desire and even encourage real life meetups by sponsoring annual  simulcasts and other supports for such gatherings.   The example of those engaging in social networking and small group fellowships may just be the winning ticket to stamp out the societal ill of problem-breeding relational silence and loneliness.

social networkingPerhaps it is the modern day come back to front porch chats among neighbors back when the word “neighbors” meant something more personal.  What ways do you think socializing has changed, for better or worse,  in recent years?  What ways can you socially give “a cup of cold water” to someone?  What ways might you be denying one by your silence?

cup of cold water

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Warm Wednesday Words: Who Inspires You?

I love being inspired by others.  Here is the definition of “inspired” from the “thefreedictionary.com”:

v.tr.

1. To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.
2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion: hymns that inspire the congregation; an artist who was inspired by Impressionism.

3.

a. To stimulate to action; motivate: a sales force that was inspired by the prospect of a bonus.
b. To affect or touch: The falling leaves inspired her with sadness.
4. To draw forth; elicit or arouse: a teacher who inspired admiration and respect.
5. To be the cause or source of; bring about: an invention that inspired many imitations.
6. To draw in (air) by inhaling.

7. Archaic

a. To breathe on.
b. To breathe life into.

v.intr.

1. To stimulate energies, ideals, or reverence: a leader who inspires by example.
2. To inhale.

First, I am inspired by my God, who rescued me from sin and is always at work in my life and that of my family.   I am inspired from His inerrant Word and from the words of spiritual leaders and friends He has placed around me in the local church and elsewhere, including our pastor and some amazingly supportive women in the (in)courage online groups.   I also am inspired by the Lifeway Sunday School literature commentators and many great authors and bloggers including C.S. Lewis, Jack Graham, James MacDonald, Stormie O’Martian, Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp and Holley Gerth.

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I am inspired by my devoted and faithful husband who works with grit, determination and tenacity.  He does his best to walk in Godly wisdom and high principles in our family and marriage.   He is a behind the scenes kind of guy, whose influence is not lost on those who are discerning.  When I look back over the years, I am amazed at all the frightening stresses God has helped us through to land us in the place we are now, which is happy, indeed.  Though stresses still loom here and there, they don’t cripple us.  They are refining fires and maybe because of that, I can emphatically say we are best friends.

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I am inspired by my parents.  Besides loving their entire family as best they could (which was usually by giving and serving), they were the most hard working, giving and helpful couple I know.   They were often volunteering to drive someone to the hospital either an hour or two hours away, sharing from their garden, visiting people in the nursing home or in prison (my dad, who is no longer with us, did the latter), and involved in various church responsibilities.  At any family get together Mom is usually trying to do more than her share of work.

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I am inspired by a friend and mentor who lives out her faith in God and in others lives, including mine.  She is a bit further down the path I’m on, and a sweet blessing to me.  She sends scripture verses for me to ponder by email or texts, hands me books to read and has spent much time in prayer for me and my family.  She “speaks life” to me once every week or two, usually over a cup of coffee.   She does not hesitate to gently and humbly exhort, nor does she hesitate to pass on encouragement and compliments when she sees something good in me, whether I see it or not.  Since we are doing the same dated devotional journal, occasional texts have been know to begin, “look at day…”.mentoring, inspiringhttps://www.etsy.com/listing/77823945/teach-teacher-art-print-school-gift

I am inspired by many prayer partners, both online and in real life.  One, in particular, meets with me regularly.  We  spend considerable time in prayer for our families, our churches, current events, persecuted Christians and missionaries (the latter two greatly inspire me as well).  She has taught me to hang in there in prayer and we have been blessed to see God at work in many of the things we pray about.

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I am inspired by my children.  Each one is a blessing to us and has something unique.  Some of the traits that inspire me most among them are:  gentleness, graciousness, a sense of humor, humility, compassion, goodwill, helpfulness and cheerful enthusiasm.

brother's muscles

girls

I am inspired by Augustine’s mother, Monica.  She prayed fervently and persistently for her entire family, and at length for her wayward son.  She enlisted others in praying for him, also.  After 17 years of Augustine cruelly putting her off and breaking her heart while indulging in much sin, he converted to the faith of his childhood.  Shortly after his conversion and during a family discussion on the subject, Monica said her life hope and purpose had been fulfilled.  Within five days she came down with a fever and on the ninth day died in Augustine’s arms (A.D. 387) at the age of 56.

Augustine & his mother, MonicaTo be inspired is to be enlivened, stimulated, and energized by divine influence.  Who inspires you?

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Warm Wednesday Words: No Matter What As “His”

be mineNo matter what happens you’re going to be okay if you’re “His”.   As Valentine’s Day approaches, you may see fun “Be Mine” messages everywhere, but the best “Be Mine” message is from Isa. 43:1b and it is, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  Know that to be His trumps all the trials and difficulties that you may find yourself in.

refiner's fire

As “His”, you are not defined by your mistakes.  He is constantly at work to refine you.  As “His” you can count on having your perspective changed  from lies to truths as you seek Him in prayer and the Word.  This leads to constant and refreshing renewal.  As “His”, you can always have hope in a better tomorrow.  As “His” you have a unique story and a purpose that no one else can fulfill.

climb is steepestAs “His”, you are part of a crowd that helps pick you up when you fall down, cheers you on when you’re discouraged or overwhelmed,  prays for you whenever you ask (or even if you don’t), and loves you with the kind of forgiving and forbearing love that can only come from Him.  As “His”, you belong to the One who made you, sees you, knows the number of hairs on your head, plans the best for you,  specializes in bringing down walls around you that are impossibly impenetrable, and deposits a part of His very self in you to do more than you could ever hope to accomplish on your own.

walls of Jericho

This Valentine’s Day if you have never truly made yourself “His”, then I hope you’ll consider the best “Be Mine” offer ever.  If you are already His, delight  in that and feel His arms of comfort around you, because no matter what happens, as “His” you’re going to be ok, maybe not yet, but definitely for eternity.

the one who holds the future

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Warm Wednesday Words – Encouraging Words

ok to not be ok

build someone upWhat are the encouraging words you want to hear when you’re having a hard day?  I have days when nothing seems to go right.  I have waltzed into a prayer meeting thinking it was church dinner night, casserole in hand and hungry guest in toll.  I have woken up from a nap in a fog and suddenly realized I was due to have a meal to a family with new twin babies in less than an hour without a single dinner plan formulated.  I have texted an unknown recipient for weeks thinking it was one of my kids.  I have forgotten the minutes for the church business meeting numerous times.  I could list many more bumbling annoyances and catastrophes, but you get the idea and probably have a few of your own.

mad cat

I have been overwrought on occasion by much more horrific pitfalls than self induced trivial embarrassments.  Like most, I have been mired down and burdened by misunderstandings, criticisms, gossip, slander, multiplied tensions, financial hardships, broken relationships, heartaches, troubling addictions and more.

blessings through heartaches

When I am having a bad day or going through a trial, these are some of the words that comfort me most, whether regarding the affliction or not:

“It’s going to be ok.  Maybe not just yet, but I know it will”.

“You have my support.”

“Here, this is for you.” (Anything that implies thoughtfulness).

“I know how you must feel.”

“I like what you’ve done,” or “Good job”, can make any little accomplishment worth the trouble.

While the words don’t need to be perfect, just any kind response speaks love and is far more comforting than the neglectful or disdainful silence of no response at all.  Some of the most poignant “words” to me are the silent words from a knowing smile or a tender hug.

animal hugsSo, back to Holley Gerth’s writing prompt for this week.  What are the encouraging words you want to hear when you’re having a hard day?  Can you think of a place for them in someone’s life this week?

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http://holleygerth.com/

Click on the above link for more posts on encouraging words.  You may like Holley’s devotional,  “If we could have Coffee” and the just released book “You’re Going to be Okay”.  These are books I devour like a medicine to dispel discouragement.

Warm Wednesday Words – You’re Never Alone

poverty of lonliness - Mother Theresa

When you feel alone it can distort perception leaving you in the dumps, but the truth is you’re never really alone.  Being by yourself or in a crowd is irrelevant to this feeling.   It is often the result of seeming to have been left “alone” emotionally in relationships, especially ones that went from warm to lukewarm or cool; or the result of standing alone in certain viewpoints whether or not you arrived there with a friend who since deserted you to them.

lonliness

But in all these trials and more, you really aren’t alone.  Your Heavenly Father, who knit you together fearfully and wonderfully and knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7), is there for you.  He says that if you are walking in obedience to Him, you are His friend and that He actually calls you “Friend“.  There cannot be a truer friend.  He delights in you  and will keep you as the apple of His eye.  As you worship Him, He lifts you up.  He will never tire of pursuing you, guiding you and working all things out for good for you.  He promises to be with you always, that He will never leave or forsake you, and that when your heart is broken He will be close to you and heal you (Matt. 28:20, Ps. 27:10, Josh. 1:5, Ps. 147:3, Ps. 34:17-18).  I love the old hymn “What a Friend we Have in Jesus”.  Here’s just a snippet of those lyrics:

Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.

lay down life for friends

Because God knows you also need friends “with skin on them”, and sometimes need friends outside your family, He will guide you into friendships that will be mutually good for comfort, empathy and sharpening.   And when you know the blessing of friendship, then by all means love earnestly, humbly and selflessly because this will cover for many mistakes. (1 Pet. 4:8-10, Phil 2:3-4)  A wonderful place for Christian women to connect with like minded friends is the (In)Courage online groups.  Registration for new group sessions happens to be going on this week.  If you’re interested check out the link and find the custom fit group for you from over fifty choices.

brother's muscles

aprons

In his book “The Four Loves”, C.S. Lewis says,  ‘Alone among unsympathetic companions, I hold certain views and standards timidly, half ashamed to avow them and half doubtful if they can after all be right.  Put me back among my Friends and in half an hour – in ten minutes – these same views and standards become once more indisputable.  The opinion of this little circle, while I am in it, outweighs that of a thousand outsiders; as Friendship strengthens.  It will do this even when my Friends are far away.’

add you as a friend

Remember the childhood song, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold.”?  So first revel in the faithful, ironclad friendship of the Lover of Your Soul.  Then, do that gutsy thing and step out in fresh friendship with both the silver and the gold.  You are loved with a devoted, victorious love that went all the way to the cross for you, and you are never alone.

one is silver the other gold

Alone is not true - Holley                 http://holleygerth.com/free-words/

Read many other great posts on “You Are Never Alone” here:  Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

(In)Courage Friendships

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Today marks a fresh start for friendships as registration begins for a new session of (In)courage groups for Christian women.  In these groups you will find amazing camaraderie, heartfelt prayer support, cheering  you on type encouragement, humble empathy and more.  There is an empty spot needing what only you can pour into it among like minded friends.

As C.S. Lewis said in his book “The Four Loves”,  ‘Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden)..It is when…they share their vision – it is then that friendship is born….The opinion of this little circle, while I am in it, outweighs that of a thousand outsiders, as friendship strengthens.  It will do this even when my friends are far away.’

I can attest to this in the (In)Courage groups I have been in for near empty nesters in the last couple years. Even though I have been involved in different groups during different sessions, the friendships formed have been tenacious.  If you are approaching an empty nest or already knee deep in finding your way through that season, there are several groups just in that category alone for you to choose from.  But the mind-blowing thing is that there are over fifty groups covering a a large variety of interests you can choose from to connect with friends who will cheer you on shoulder to shoulder while pointing you to Christ in a closed group setting.  Check out this (In)Courage link and find a group for you this week.  You will not regret it.