Tag Archives: friend

I Am…In You

I am thankful for my struggle because without it, I would not have stumbled across my strength. – Alex Elle

For the first time in several years, I woke up lacking the desire to face the workday that was before me.  I prayed for the strength to do it, dragged myself out of bed, and headed into the office.  My entire drive in, I questioned His melodious subtle voice that kept saying, “Do this for Me.”  As I entered the lobby area of my building, I noticed a colleague walking towards me.  She had a look on her face that seemed devoid of hope.  I mustered up a smile, called her by name, and opened my arms wide.  She looked up, walked towards me, buried her head in my chest as I hugged her, and began to cry.  We embraced for a moment as she regained her composure.  She said, “Oh my God!  Thank you.  I needed that hug more than I realize.  It has been a hard day already.  I have been through so much lately.  Thank you!”  She wiped her eyes, kissed my cheek and went on her way.

As I continued through the lobby, He said, “I urged you to get out of bed for the very moment you just experienced.  I sent you to show Me to her.  She was at the end of her rope and needed to see a ray of hope so she could regain the strength required to do her part in My kingdom.  She has a special role in my vineyard but has been feeling too discouraged lately.  That hug answered her prayer asking Me to show her that I care by making her feel better.  Your obedience illuminated My face to one of my children.  Never underestimate how I may use you and the impact that your faithfulness can have.  I have used the two sibling traits, stability and a smile, to accomplish many things throughout time.”  I was reminded of Psalms 90:2,4 (ERV) – 2 You were God before the mountains were born, before the earth and the world were made.  You have always been and will always be God!  4To you, a thousand years is like yesterday, like a few hours in the night. 

As I continued through my day dealing with budget issues, briefings, meetings, personnel matters, and the like, God’s whispered words stuck with me.  The song that came to my mind over and over throughout the day was Mark Shultz’ I AmI am the maker of the heavens.  I am the bright and morning star.  I am the breath of all Creation who always was and is to come.  I am the One who walked on water.  I am the One who calmed the seas.  I am the miracles and wonders.  So come and see and follow me.  You will know I am the spirit deep inside you.  I am the word upon your heart.  I am the One who even knew you before your birth; before you were. 

The struggles continued to build throughout the week to a crescendo as each day presented greater challenges than the one before.  Each sunrise was his wake up call to put my feet on the floor to go about doing His business.  Every morning, I praised His name for the chance to serve Him again yet simultaneously asked Him what these challenges were all about.  With each question, I felt the warmth of His smile and gentle purr as He nudged me through the uncertain moments.  Alas, the week’s end of zenith power and intensity transitioned to an auditory petal-breathe space, like delicate fingers tickling ivory keys, whispering “Affettuoso.  Ssshhhhh!”  Romans 8:27-30 tells us, “27 Don’t you know that He who pursues and explores the human heart intimately knows the Spirit’s mind because He pleads to God for His saints to align their lives with the will of God?  28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.  29-30 From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future.  You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters.  As for those He chose beforehand, He called them to a different destiny so that they would experience what it means to be made right with God and share in His glory.  (The VOICE)

The week ended with an unobtrusive evening with an old friend who reached out with an eager petition to connect.  Over dinner, we talked about our journeys since our last heart to heart.  We laughed about the silliness that life brings, mused about our dreams for the future, and smiled about the good favor God has extended our way.  Although my original preference was to just go home, spending time with another one of His children enriched my life.  Her parting words were, “Thanks, I really needed that.  Let’s connect more often.”  Our souls are fed and our minds are guided in community with one another to take care of each other’s needs.  Acts 2:42

On my slow ride home on a cool drizzly night after an excruciatingly long week, the Lord began to softly speak to me again.  He said, “Yes, I know it was a long week.  Testing the limits of your spirit of courage grows and humbles you.  I am not a sadist.  I am your loving father who encourages you towards your purpose.  You have told me you want to follow my son.  Doing so is not a sprint.  Taking up your cross daily is a marathon.  Likewise, at certain points along the way you will get very tired or hit a wall and want to quit.  My desire was for you to never give up.  You play like you practice.  I want you to train hard so you finish strong.  I am always with you and will never forsake you or tempt you beyond what you can bear.  Hang in there.  I love you!  Oh, and thanks for listening to my voice when I called you to hug your colleague and break bread with your old friend.  These are the things that let you see My purpose for you.”

Before the Earth (I am); the universe (I am); in every heart (I am); oh, where you are (I am); the Lord of love (I am); the King of Kings (I am); the Holy lamb (I am); above all things…Yes, I am almighty God your father; the risen son of man; the healer of the broken and when you cry, I am your savior and redeemer who bore the sins of man; the author and perfecter; beginning and the end, I am.  “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Be the love!  He is in you.

Beloved, My Friend

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

Looking someone in the eyes right now does not necessarily tell you the story of what it took for them to arrive in front of you.  Nor does it tell you about their struggles or baggage.  As believers we are called to meet them where they are and love them as they are.  Sometimes, it is their brokenness and their willingness to share their challenges that allows them to shine the light that lets so many others see the way to Him.  Sometimes they are as lost and confused as the next person, but a seed of goodness in their heart opens up underneath the warmth of what was left by the last person they encountered.  She passed along the comfort of the care to the next person that had previously been given to her because she remembered how good it felt.  He was patient and kind because someone was that way towards him yesterday.  One sitting on the up side of down and the other standing on the down side of up.  Both reckoned with the emotion of the basement yet pursuing the sensation of the penthouse.  Neither understanding the blessings of balance that they received and then gave in those short moments.  How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in peace!  2 It is like the finest oils poured on the head, sweet-smelling oils flowing down to cover the beard, Flowing down the beard of Aaron, flowing down the collar of his robe.  3 It is like the gentle rain of Mount Hermon that falls on the hills of Zion.  Yes, from this place, the Eternal spoke the command, from there He gave His blessing—life forever.  (Psalm 133 – VOICE)

The freedom ride on the path that leads to the cross was never intended to be walked alone.  God sends many souls our way to meet us at specific points along our journey.  Some are fleeting spirits that dust us with a blessing and then quickly move on.  Some are there for a longer season while others are stalwart companions up the hills, through the curves, down in the valleys, around the bends, in the creeks, and on the mountaintops.  Through life, friends may come and go, but to have a lifelong, close, personal friendship is truly a great blessing.  A true friendship that stands the test of trials and time is rare.  As we focus on Him and love them deeply and closely, God delivers balance in our lives with these blessings; these lifelong friends.  So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well.  Learn to love appropriately.  You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.  Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.  Philippians 1:9-10 (MSG)  As Celine Dion says in Because You Loved Me: You were my strength when I was weak.  You were my voice when I couldn’t speak.  You were my eyes when I couldn’t see. You saw the best there was in me.  Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach.  You gave me faith ‘coz you believed.  I’m everything I am because you loved me. 

Most weekends are not complete without a thought-provoking conversation with an intimate friend who has walked many miles, hand-in-hand, with me on my journey.  This weekend was no different.  We exchanged honorable greetings, shared the week’s trials and triumphs, and released our momentary embrace with the utmost love and care.

We met as two wandering souls and have endured as two kindred spirits.  Through all that life has brought us, (hard conversations, encouraging words, thankful praises, as well as sleepless nights full of prayer) we have remained attached at the hips and always there for one another.  We have grown up as we have grown together.

The Bible gives us a great example of the generational impact an intimate friendship can have.  1 Samuel chapters 18-20 tells us a story of two people who had a special fondness for one another.  They were closer than many siblings, confiding and trusting each other.  They were friends who shared hopes and dreams.  They remained close, even when separated, through the good times and the bad.  Through thick and thin, neither one deserted the other.  18 1By the time David had finished speaking to Saul, Saul’s son Jonathan was bound to David in friendship, and Jonathan loved David as he loved himself… 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as he loved himself.  4 He took off the robe he wore and gave it to David, and also his armor, sword, bow, and belt.  20 41And then they kissed one another and wept, friend over friend, David weeping especially hard.  42 Jonathan said, “Go in peace! The two of us have vowed friendship in God’s name, saying, ‘God will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever!’”  “For all those times you stood by me; for all the truth that you made me see; for all the joy you brought to my life; for all the wrong that you made right; for every dream you made come true; for all the love I found in you; I’ll be forever thankful baby.  You’re the one who held me up; never let me fall.  You’re the one who saw me through, through it all.”  The commentary in chapter 19 of the VOICE translation tells us, “In the friendship between Jonathan and David, Jonathan stands to lose everything he has if David becomes king, yet he betrays family and ambition by befriending him. These two young men make a pact to protect and love each other in life; and if something should happen to Jonathan, David agrees to honor Jonathan’s descendants out of the love he bears for Jonathan. Later that promise results in David elevating one of Jonathan’s sons to the king’s table.”

On our journey, we have been through a great many things.  Our experience is an ambition of giving that causes each to receive in abundance.   Through it all, we have learned that shared pain is half the pain and shared joy is twice the joy.  We encourage each other as friends to have:

  1. A spirit of courage
  2. A heart of perseverance
  3. A timeless bond and
  4. An unfailing love

She is my David.  I want her to know that she has a faithful Jonathan beside her,  to remember that her Lord is with her, and to believe that her Savior lives in her.  She is in a battle of epic proportion.  As she faces this behemoth Goliath and the wrath of Saul, my prayer for her is that she always remembers to pray and never forgets who she is or whose she is.  May she feel the favor God has offered and have faith to know He will continue to see her through.  May she continue to fight the good fight in the face of evil, doing good despite the chips being down.  His people are with her.  His prayer warriors are around her.  She is not alone.  She is loved.  She is my friend.  You gave me wings and made me fly.  You touched my hand, I could touch the sky.  I lost my faith, you gave it back to me.  You said no star was out of reach.  You stood by me and I stood tall.  I had your love.  I had it all.  I’m grateful for each day you gave me.  Maybe I don’t know that much, but I know this much is true: I was blessed because I was loved by you. 

And so I ask you: Who is your David?  Are you a faithful Jonathan?  Who is walking along side you?  When facing your Goliath, who do you turn to?  Are you on this path alone?  Where are you looking for those God-honoring relationships?  What are your best and most beautiful things?  Can you feel them with your heart?  Be the love!  8 People who won’t settle down, wandering hither and yon, are like restless birds, flitting to and fro.  9 Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.  10 Don’t leave your friends or your parents’ friends and run home to your family when things get rough; better a nearby friend than a distant family. Proverbs 27:8-10 (MSG)

Ties That Bind

In the (VOICE) prologue of Romans chapter 15, “Paul says he is free to eat, but he is not free to injure another in what he eats.  Personal freedom must always give way to corporate responsibility.  To put it another way, the gospel of love demands that we surrender individual liberties for the sake of our brothers and sisters.  We see this demonstrated powerfully in the example of Jesus who gave up His life and freedom for the sake of the world.  When we live by this ethic, we create a community marked by warmth and hospitality.  Food, drink, and holidays may well be personal options within the kingdom.  But justice, peace, and joy are communal essentials for life in the Kingdom.” 

My good friend and great teacher is also a musician.  I had the great opportunity to attend one of her concert performances last night.  It had been a full day beginning with a graduation followed by a lunch engagement and then the concert.  I had committed to them all, separately, weeks ago.  Although all of them were pleasant and inspiring experiences, the thought of leaving home at 8am on a Saturday, knowing that I wouldn’t return until after 11pm, was cognitively challenging.  However, my long drive home from the concert gave me a chance to reflect on the many blessings laid at my doorstep during the day.

The commencement ceremony was a small celebration with the family and friends of the 250 or so graduates of a local institution of higher learning.  It was a festival of achievement for the 19 to 62 year olds receiving associates to doctoral degrees.  It was a proud moment and a joyous occasion to see the fruits of the hard work and sacrifices that the students as well as their support systems had endured to experience this day.  My friend, married with a 15 month old baby, received her PhD in Information Assurance.  It was a journey of many years, walked on the paving stones of diligence, creativity, tenacity and perseverance.  If the image of her beauty and stateliness in her regalia is indicative of her future impact in her field, this world is guaranteed to become a better place.  I was honored to be there for her and am privileged to be a part of her life’s journey.  My takeaway was the role you play in someone else’s life is not tied to rank, rather the essence of who you are.  Never under-estimate that position!

My lunch engagement was with a close friend and confidante.  Our schedules have been such that we have not been afforded the opportunity to break bread with one another and catch up on the intimacies and intricacies of our lives.  To accentuate the experience, we ate family style at an Ethiopian restaurant; sans dinnerware with injera on our laps.  We spoke of my relational transition and navigating the narrowing and treacherous roads in front of her.

The late day meal and conversation seemed to exponentially slow time compared to the previous seven days.  It was re-enforcement of my yogic lesson of the week of “the space between our thoughts is where the learning occurs.”  Prior to receiving and practicing that lesson, my mind had a hum that was louder than usual.  The audio was as if an entire hive of bees had commandeered the microphone connected to my inner ears.  The visual was like trying to read fast-moving ticker tape in Sanskrit or Arabic, where I could not tell where one word ended or another began.  I had also been having recurring dreams of the downward curvature of words that ended with a period.  In the dreams, the words were in English but I could not read them.  I knew that the part I could see was a fragment, but I didn’t know if it was designed that way or if I was only able to see a portion of a complete message.

Stillness after the meal allowed me to practice the lesson. I was then able to understand the dream as well as the essence of the engagement.  I knew that the punctuation of the mind creates the clarity that allows growth.  In other words, symbols are given to us that warn us or cause us to stop.  The cessation of motion does not impede forward progress, rather it allows it.  Without an understanding of where one thing stops and another begins, we would have no clarity or discernment and our thoughts and lives would run in perpetual, nonsensical circles; i.e., slow your roll.

Near dusk, I finally made it to the concert.  It was a locally sponsored private outdoor musical event held on acreage adjacent to the host’s residence.  There were 15 to 20 guests in attendance.  My friend and her band of professional musicians entertained and enthralled us for two hours with titillating originals and sultry cover songs.  The purity of her voice and the creativity of the music, through the backdrop of a star-dazzled sky on this crisp spring night, stirred my heart and warmed my soul.  As I began to formulate the question asking why she was not playing to a larger audience or on a national stage, the thought collapsed on itself and dissipated – thankfully.  In that moment, I realized that my friend is a highly accomplished musician who was gracious enough to invite me to a private showcase of her music.  She is not in search of stardom because she is already there.

After the thought marinated in my mind for a few moments, the band played a Curtis Mayfield song – and the lesson hit me like a ton of bricks: There is a distinction between making it and being discovered.  There have been several people who have made it in their field who have been great influencers in my life.  I have been acquainted with a few people who have been discovered and although they did well in their own right, they pale in comparison to the numbers of influencers.

Today, the notorious names are factoids discussed over cocktails while the influencers are household names who have made a difference in my lineage and legacy.  Curtis Mayfield was my uncle’s mentor and frequently visited my grandmother’s house; my mother went to high school with former Oakland A’s baseball player Dave Winfield; my cousin dated rapper M.C. Hammer’s brother; singer Larry Graham from Sly and the Family Stone sang at another cousin’s wedding; etc.  I met these folks but I don’t have a relationship with them.  However, it is the many unnamed villagers who nestled me in, loved me and provided structure and sustenance to bring me this far.  It is to them that I owe so much.

The long drive home helped me to bring the cascade of thoughts, experiences, and lessons together:

  1. Dream big and dare to fail
  2. We each play a significant role in the lives of those around us
  3. The small sacrifices we make for one another pay forward huge dividends
  4. Time is not ours to make, take, spend, or save.  Instead, give this moment 60 seconds worth of distance run
  5. We are called, not to reason why, but to tie ourselves together and bind as the fabric of His community
  6. He uses entire villages to support just one of His children – but each one counts
  7. The worth of the individual in His community cannot be calculated in currency
  8. Our small acts of obedience are large cries of worship to Him

Jason Gray sums it up with Every Act of Love, “I said, God put a million, million doors in the world for his love to walk through; one of those doors is you.  Oh – we bring the Kingdom come; Oh – with every act of love.  Jesus help us carry You alive in us.  Your light shines through; with every act of love we bring the Kingdom come.”  Romans 15:1-6 says, 1-2Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us.  Strength is for service, not status.  Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’  3-6 That’s exactly what Jesus did.  He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.  ‘I took on the troubles of the troubled,’ is the way Scripture puts it.  Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us.  God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.  May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all.  Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!”  (MSG)