Gratitude Day 149 – Friendship

book study group

Tues., Nov. 6, 2018

Proverbs 27:9 – The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still.

I am fortunate to have many meaningful friendships in my life. Some of my very first friends were ones started at the church were my family attended.  As little girls, we attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School together. Some of these friendships continue yet today.

From my elementary and high school days, I also have friends with whom I keep in touch. Growing up in a small community, those same church friends were also my school friends. I also developed friendships within the youth organizations that I participated in, like 4-H, Junior Holsteins and FFA. These groups allowed me to meet people outside of the small community and school where I attended. Through these groups, I traveled to places I would not have otherwise experienced as a teenager.

I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The first lecture I attended had as many students in it as my entire high school. While the whole experience could have been very overwhelming, it wasn’t. Why? I found a great group of friends very early in my college career. We remained dear friends throughout and after college. We lived together, played together, studied together and dated together. We learned how to become adults together. I could call any of these ladies and they would be available to me in an instant, as I hope I would be in reverse.

Through various work positions, I have made friends. Dear ones, in fact. When I attended seminary and began working in ministry, another layer of friendships were created. There were certain fellow students which I simply felt more at ease with. One of these friends performed my marriage.

1st focus group

At each church where I have served as a pastor, friendships have developed. Things became complicated when Hubby Rick and I began to date. He was a member of one of the church’s I was serving; in fact, he was the council chair. We were instructed to only date if we anticipated getting married. After 18+ years of marriage, I think the friendship worked out.

When a United Methodist pastor leaves a congregation, we are to drop all association with those affiliated with the congregation. This is hard. For example, dropping my relationship within a congregation would have meant me not having a relationship with my in-laws. This was not realistic. Being friends with someone does not mean I am also their pastor.

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Last December, I voluntarily stepped away from full-time ministry to explore other opportunities. On Sunday mornings, Hubby Rick and I have been bouncing from church to church. We miss the feeling of being with the same church family every week. We miss out on happenings in these family’s lives.

When I was in seminary, a professor asked each student to share a word they felt best describes our relationship with God. A variety of words were offered: parental, love, grace, etc.

If I were to answer this today, what word would I use?

college friends

Friendship. I see friendship written all over the relationships between the three persons within the Trinity. Friendship exists between humans and God. We see friendship between the participants within the faith community. Jesus, himself, gave a wonderful example of how we are to treat other others as friends, when he said, “Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has this no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Wow. What a definition of friendship.

Here’s the deal. Contrary to popular belief, friendship is not something we build. It’s something we seek, built and pray for. When we make ourselves available as a friend to someone, we pray they are willing to reciprocate friendship as well.

When we see each other as friends, we should determine to be a little easier on each other. Choose to be a little more understanding and not expect something in return. A true friend is able to see the good in someone even when they have made a complete mess of things. This friend simply shows up at the right moment with no expectations. These friends start right back where the last conversation ended with little or no effort, where it’s been one, two, five or a lot more years since they last saw each other.

Our world, collectively and individually, needs a lot more friendship these days.  People who simply show up and make their hands and feet available to someone who needs help with no anticipation of a reciprocation of help. We all need a place where we feel loved, cared up and safe: a small group that welcomes us with open arms.

For deep friendships in our lives, I am thankful.

Lord God – You give us such a wonderful example of friendship right within the Trinity. May we seek, desire and create meaningful relationships in our lives.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 54 – These Ladies

book study group

Fri., June 1, 2018

Proverbs 27:9 – The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still.

These ladies. Most have been a part of my life since I begin the ministry as a pastor. Most were involved in one of the two churches that were part of my first appointment.

These ladies. We have personal connections. For the first five years Hubby Rick and I were married, one of these ladies and her husband were our neighbors. One of these ladies is a pastor who has been like a mentor to me. She was an important part of my ordination service. One of these ladies has endured more health challenges than can be counted on two hands. Yet, her faith in God has never wavered. One of these ladies was one of the first people who became of aware of when Rick and I started dating. One of these ladies knew in advance the day Rick was going to propose to me. One of these ladies has a son who Rick mentored while he was in confirmation.

 book

These ladies. This spring, we participated in a book study together. We learned from Max Lucado’s book “Anxious for Nothing.” Reading the book and discussing it was great. We explored ways to reduce anxiety in our lives; depend upon our faith; not sweat the small stuff. While the book was helpful, just being together with these ladies every other Wednesday night for the last couple of months was most important.

These ladies. I appreciate the sharing, the laughter, even the moments of silence when maybe we didn’t have a quick comeback.

These ladies. Have faith, yearn to explore new understandings of faith, were willing to share within the confines of a small group.

These ladies. Have been a great inspiration to me. Provided a place for me to simply be as I make a transition in my life.

These ladies. Remind me of how important it is to have a safe place to explore things in my life.

These ladies. For them, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for these sisters in Christ. Thank you for allowing us time to explore our faith, encourage each other and learn together. I pray we remember how important it is to be part of a community of faith where we can feel supported, uplifted and encouraged. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 8 – Friends

1st focus group

Mon., Apr. 9, 2018

1 Samuel 18:1 – When David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan and David became bound together in close friendship. Jonathan loved David as much as he did his own life.

I am in the process of writing a book! This is a project I have been dreaming about for a while. While the book writing is a little slower than I would like, each week, I make a bit more progress.

A couple weeks ago, I determined a little research for the book would be helpful. Who would help me? How about some friends?

Sunday night, a few friends came to my house. I explained in advance the reason for the gathering. I called it a “focus group” and said I anticipated it would last about 90 minutes.

Three hours later, we were still saying our good-byes!

I do not get to see these women very often. There was some major catching up to do. We were able to zero in on some areas I felt some practical insights would be helpful for me. A couple times, we wandered a little off subject, but we were always able to make our way back to the book’s topic.

What did I learn last night? I share a few things:

  • Some of us were raised by women who continue to influence our lives today. Seriously influence our lives. I put myself in this camp. Eleanor spoke of folding napkins like her Mom prefers. And we caught her perfectly folding her napkin before she left the table!
  • These parents are all interested in raising their children to be well-grounded adults who have a wide variety of opportunities. This includes teaching children how to contribute to the family, help themselves and make good choices.
  • The word of the night: fulfillment, followed by contentment.
  • There was a little hinting that possibly the guys (spouses/partners) were feeling a little left out? Unfortunately, Rick was working so the invite did not include the guys.

I plan on doing a few more of these focus groups. If you live in Wisconsin and would like to be a part of one, please let me know! Hanging out with friends, as well as getting a few insights for my book excite me.

Unfortunately, Sarah Luedtke left before we snapped the picture. Sorry Sarah! Next time. Thanks, ladies for participating in this focus group. For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – you are an advocate for connection and friendship, as there is connection and friendship within your own Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We see this in many relationships within scripture, just like the friendship between Jonathon and David. Thanks for bringing into my life people who can support and encourage me. I pray we can do this for each other through your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Investing in Relationships

DSC03191Mar. 7, 2015

Romans 12:15-16

Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. Live in peace with each other. Do not act or think with pride. Be happy to be with poor people. Keep yourself from thinking you are so wise. 

Relationships are interesting. They can be the root of some of the most rewarding times in our lives. They can also be the most challenging and difficult times.

In recent months, Rick and I have had the opportunity to be involved in a couple “Pay It Forward” situations in which resources are dedicated towards helping someone else. Last night, we gathered with other people part of a “Pay It Forward” campaign sponsored by a company. Folks could share how they paid it forward. Some people were very emotional and touched by their experience. Most of these people helped a specific person and related a personal story. The last person to share was an employee. He had made more general investments to organizations. While his experience was noteworthy, he knows next time he will find a more personal situation.

Relationships have many caveats. A relationship will only develop as much as both parties allow it to grow. We can all probably think of a relationship that got held up because the other person halted it. Sometimes, we have to pick and choose which relationships we invest in the most. We can’t have the same level of vulnerability with everyone. My relationship with my spouse should be more invested. That’s why he’s my spouse. I also know there are some people I am more naturally drawn to than others. These friendships are closer. My introverted husband often reminds me that for him, relationships are harder than for extroverted people.

We don’t have to read very far into the Gospel accounts to discover quickly how much Jesus invested into relationships. Even Jesus had a closer “inner three” of Peter, James and John within the disciples. At times, even relationships frustrated and taxed Jesus.

Yet, relationships were worth the investment for Jesus. Ultimately, he wanted his relationship with God to be what he pointed people back to. The investment of time, energy, listening and patience was more valuable than any other investment. He demonstrates that relationships are worth the investment. May we see investing in relationships with our Heavenly Father as well as those on this earth as worth their weight in gold.

Lord God, thank you for investing into a relationship with me. Even when I’m not sure that I want a relationship with you, you never walk away. Thanks for being ever available to me. Help me choose the most important relationships to invest in and model the value of relationships as Jesus did. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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