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Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

the soul is like a birdIt’s that time of the year once more – when we’ve reached the end of that horse- or scenic-themed wall calendar and prepare to hang up a new one.

When we try to wrap our brains around the fact that, yes, the year actually is over, and wonder where exactly it went because it flew by so quickly.

When our thoughts turn to resolutions and goals for the New Year.

A friend of mine just wrote on his Facebook page that he began one of his resolutions in October and reached his goal by the end of the year. I will try to keep that in mind for 2013. But as I did not have that foresight, here I am at the end of 2012 thinking about my New Year’s resolutions.

There are the usual … eat more healthy food and less junk food, exercise more, finish all cookies and pies by 11:59 pm so that I don’t break the resolution due to a sugar and gluten infested home, etc.

But New Year’s resolutions need to be more than just weight loss and exercise goals, I think … something that outlines growth of the soul.

During this past summer I began to read a book titled Between Heaven and Earth, by Ken Gire. The introduction follows:

Between heaven and earth lies the firmament of our prayers. In one sense, the firmament is ethereal as air. In another sense, it is substantial as atmosphere. In a sense, it is a mere wisp of who we are. In another sense, it is rich with the elements of life, gritty with the dust of our humanity.

Within this ever-changing sky funnels a maelstrom of faith and doubt. Turbulent at times. Galing with emotion. Wild and windswept and full of fury. A swirling vortex of questions, arguments, and confusion.

But that is not all there is to the weather of the heart.

There are calm days, too. Serene as a sunset. A tinting of thankfulness on the horizon. A billowing of praise. And, thank God, for most of us, there are more blue skies than storms.

Some … prayers have been sighed into the heat of day. Others have been shivered into the cold loneliness of night. Together, they make up the atmosphere.

And together they celebrate an intimate God.

A God who listened and spoke, cleaving all of human history with a word.

Immanuel.

God with us.

Prayer is, I think, an expression of our deepest longing. Unspoken syllables tearfully ascending an expansive sky. Snowflaking into a word. Something beautiful from heaven, coming down.

Glistening with grace and truth. Settling on our shoulders. Touching us with wonder. And love. And hope.

Immanuel.

Perhaps it is more than a name.

Perhaps in the firmament between heaven and earth

            It is both a prayer

                        And an answer to prayer.

It took me a few months to read through the book, and it was a journey of sorts, as I sat on my balcony on quieter mornings, or curled up in the corner of the couch to fit in a few pages on busier days.

The book, contains thoughts on prayer, and prayers from various walks of life and perspectives. I felt a stirring in my heart as I read, of the need to make prayer more a part of my life. Yet the hope hasn’t quite taken off in my life as I would have hoped it would. Not quite the eagle soaring life of prayer I envisioned as I read. So I will start in the New Year with perhaps a fledgling resolution: yes, to pray.

More specifically, to quiet my heart long enough to listen and feel that stirring in my heart of someone to pray for.

My New Year’s resolution is to pray for someone every day, someone that is in a way a part of my life, whoever comes to mind as I stop and listen and pray. It is, in a way, a hope to give a little of myself in a way that will matter. A way to say thank you to those who have touched my life in some way.

The prayer might be in my heart one day, or spoken aloud the next. It might be a verse, or a whole Psalm. I might write a note to the person, or post a prayer on this or my other blog. Or it might just be a prayer offered up in silence, trusting God to answer the prayer in His time and way.

Prayer is a mysterious thing, as Ken wrote above. It is ethereal and heavenly, yet at times answered in surprising, miraculous, and tangible ways.

So if   you see more posts on prayer, or more prayers in this blog, or my writing or parenting blog, this is the reason.

It is my New Year’s resolution … one that I pray to keep all year long.

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Window to Let the Sunshine InIt never ceases to amaze me. It’s a feeling that I can’t quite explain, but that never fails to fill my heart with wonder.

Ken Gire, one of my favorite authors, in his book Windows of the Soul, writes of the windows that give us a glimpse into things that lie beyond the surface. In his unique, lyrical voice, Ken writes . . .

“We have all had moments when we’ve experienced something . . . we can’t quite explain, yet can’t explain away. Moments when God has touched our lives like a soft hand of morning sun reaching through our bedroom window, brushing over our eyes and waking us to something eternal.

At some of these windows, what we see offers simple a moment of insight, making us slower to judge and quicker to show understanding. At a few of them, though, what we see offers a word spoken to the very depths of who we are. It may be a word to rouse us from sleep and ready us for our life’s journey . . . It may be a word telling us who we are and why we are here and what is required of us at this particular juncture of our journey.

Or, in a startling, sun-drenched moment of grace, it may be a word telling us something we have longed all of our lives to hear – a word from God – a word so precious it would be worth the most arduous of climbs to hear the least audible of its echoes.

Windows of the soul is where we hear those words.

And where the journey begins.”

In the book, he writes about many windows – windows of dreams and of depression, windows of writing and of wilderness, windows of movies and of memory.

Another window – one that was not mentioned in Ken Gire’s book – is the window of friendship.

The dynamics of friendship have altered somewhat with the rise of social networks. It is simple to add hundreds of people to your list of friends with nothing more than a simple click.

I don’t doubt that real friendships exist within these parameters, and commenting back and forth on random happenings is not necessarily a bad thing. But I would venture to say that they seldom offer a glimpse into the soul.

Those are the places we often keep partitioned off, closed to others. Why we do so is anyone’s guess.

We have fears of being misunderstood, fears of being laughed at, or of standing alone as the only one who thinks or feels a certain way.

We keep the curtains closed. And so often we dwell in darkness.

Accepting a shadowy, colorless existence as a life.

Certain moments, however, let sunlight stream into the windows of the soul that we so seldom allow others to see.

I recently read a book about sight to one of my kids. It started that our eyes and brain capture over 60 images per second in the light. When it’s dark, they only capture about ten images per second.

I think the same could be said for the questions that lurk around in the darkness of the soul. We only grasp shadowy images – outlines, really.

And so many questions remain.

But when we let go of our fears and open our hearts to the illuminating love of a friend, the gloom dissipates.

Let the Sunshine InColor and light replace the darkness and shadows.

Suddenly the focus is clear, as details fill out the sketchy outlines.

Images start to make sense with all the brilliance of a new morning.

The curtains draw back to let the sunshine in.

The wonder that never ceases to amaze me is the gift of true friendship – a window to our own soul, and a bridge to another’s.

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It was mid-July when I heard some great news: the family I had traveled with to India and had been staying with were planning to move to Lonavla. They invited me to come along and I jumped at the chance. They had found a bungalow outside of town, and we planned to move in early August.

Besides this family, another young couple with a newborn baby planned to move with us. They were good friends of mine and I was happy about this turn of events.

We traveled back and forth between Mumbai and Lonavla over the next couple of weeks—cleaning, packing and moving. We arrived just in time for monsoon, the rainy season. I loved the magical feeling of rain falling all around, green fields and hills in every direction. The walks and hikes we took were great fun and full of discovery. We often made it home just in time to watch the afternoon downpour from the safety of our cozy home; we didn’t always make it back in time, though, and ended up looking as if “the bridge fell in.”

After a couple of weeks, Jonathan and his family asked if I would be willing to return to Mumbai for a couple of weeks to help with a couple of projects. Of course I agreed. The couple of weeks passed quickly, involved in projects and programs for the underprivileged.

Mid-August found everyone back in Mumbai to celebrate India’s Independence Day together. We had been invited to a friend’s house for dinner. “I could get used to this,” I remember saying to a friend over the dinner, which was arguably the tastiest food I ever had; it ended with fresh mangoes and vanilla ice cream—still a favorite of mine.

The family was returning to Lonavla the evening of August 18—my seventeenth birthday. I had originally planned to return with them, but a friend asked if I could stay on in Mumbai for one more week, to plan her mom’s birthday. So I stayed an extra week…it passed very slowly. The highlight of that time was a birthday card and letter from my best friend. She hadn’t forgotten my birthday, and I was so happy to hear from her.

It was at the end of the week that I got the phone call, which came from Lonavla, letting me know that my best friend had passed away. (Read the full story, “We Shared a Heart”)

Two days after that, I was still reeling from the shock when the young couple returned to Mumbai, on their way to the airport. Their newborn baby wasn’t granted a visa, so they had to return to the States.

I wished I could go back to Lonavla right then, but there had been a misunderstanding and those I had been staying with in Lonavla were under the impression that I had wanted to stay in Mumbai for good. They wouldn’t be able to pick me up for another two weeks.

It’s not easy to describe how I felt during those couple of weeks. My best friend had died; any other close friends or family were thousands of miles away. I felt every comfort had been removed and the familiar ground pulled from beneath my feet.

Had I done something wrong? Did I make a big mistake somewhere along the line to bring me to where I was now standing (and felt like falling)? Why was everything crumbling apart around me? I had nothing to hold on to, and I never felt so alone. I wanted to call my mom—to whom I could always talk and find some form of comfort—but she was away from home at the time and I didn’t have a phone number to reach her.

I had only one place to turn. It’s strange—almost funny if it weren’t so pitiful—how, when everything is going fine, we find it difficult to draw close to the only one who is always with us. Yet it was at this time that I grew to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and the depth of His love, a comfort that could only be felt through deep sorrow and a peace that could only be understood through great turmoil of spirit.

I realized that no matter how alone I might feel, how far from friends and family I was, how distant from the comforts in which I always found solace—I still wasn’t alone. Beyond feeling, I knew that there was a purpose. Perhaps it would take time to find it. Perhaps there would come more sorrow and difficulty. Perhaps the path of life would be just that—a path—with rocks and boulders and hills, rocky and cold mountains, lonely and sunless valleys.

I knew I was meant to walk the path and I knew where the path led. One day the path will eventually lead to a home where no tears will again dim the eye, where pain will finally be drowned out in abiding joy. Yet I knew that as long as I traveled this road, I would not be home, because there were still many things to experience, learn and understand upon this path. Sometimes I would feel I walked the road alone, and sometimes I would have those beside me with whom I finally felt at home. The journey beckoned, and I was only just beginning.

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The Last Supper, woodworkingHe knew that their hearts were troubled.

“Let not your hearts be troubled” is what He said, but He didn’t stop there. Were they all thinking the same thing? Were their hearts all troubled about the exact same topic? Yes… and no… for even if everyone is facing the same issue or problem, they never all face it in the exact same way. Their fears were unique, as unique as the personalities of each of His disciples. Like I said, He didn’t stop there.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.” (John 14:1, 2, 3b)

That where I am, you may be also. Regardless of what their fears were, their unique thoughts, perhaps even misunderstandings of the entire situation, He cut out all of that. He didn’t refer to each particular trouble that their hearts were in. He just gave hope. He gave hope by giving the most amazing and wonderful promise that could ever be given. “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.”

“In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Were the disciples looking for mansions? Disciples who had spent the greater part of the past few years with Jesus following Him, more or less homeless, traveling from one place to another with no promise of where they would be staying that night, sometimes even no knowledge of what they would be eating that day, or where. Somehow I doubt that their main focus was on mansions.

“That where I am, you may be also.” That was where their hope lay, that they would be with Him, with the One who by that time they had realized that He knew their hearts, that He had changed their lives, and that He was more than just a man, that He was the Son of God. Regardless of personal trials, difficulties, questions or even doubts that each one of them faced—their struggles with their own humanity, their own desires, their own difficulties in following Him, in letting go of the things that had once been their livelihood, their friends, their homes and loved ones. He didn’t tackle each thing. All He did was bring in another perspective, one deeper, one greater than anything that we could ever hope for or dream of. For if His purpose had been—as some of them originally thought—to cast off the burdens and the yoke of Rome, their rulers of that time, and to free them, how long would that freedom have lasted? Until the next insurrection? The next uprising? The next overtaking? The next bloody war? The next betrayal?

That was not His plan. His purpose was so much deeper than that, so much deeper that many could not even understand. For what Savior would do so many wonderful things and then die? What Savior? Only the Savior, the only One who could, as He said, lay down His life, and then take it back again, the building that could be broken down and then built up again in three days, the only One whose promise could remain today, every bit as strong and sure as it was on the day that He gave it:

“I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.”

In the world today, there are a thousand thoughts, issues, demands, problems, a thousand things that can cause the heart to be troubled, but His plea today is the same as it always has been. “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, you may be also.”

The promise of a man, and yet a Savior; the promise of a word, and yet an incomparable action; the promise of a feeling, and yet a Love so deep that none could ever compare and no promise could ever be as great as that which He has given. “I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also.”

A promise of Heaven, with all that we ever loved—and even that which we thought we lost—together, for eternity.

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One element made the “adjustment period” easier. She wasn’t an element actually; she was a friend.

Then, much as now, I could “get along” with just about everyone, but it was a rare person to whom I would open my heart or share my thoughts. With her, though, I knew my secrets were safe, and that my thoughts were not only understood, but even mirrored at times. You know, those times you think that you’re the only one who sees life a certain way and finally someone comes along who says, “that’s what I’ve always thought too”. Or you say something and they say, “that’s just what I was about to say.” It’s not just conversation; you feel comfortable with silence too. No awkwardness or, feeling that “I need to say something. It’s been quiet for too long.”

And of course there was the invariable finishing of each other’s sentences or adding to the other’s train of thought.

A year before I traveled to India, she thought it sounded like a great idea…for me. Three months before I made the journey, she wasn’t sure what her plans for the near future were. One month before I was to travel, she was already in India. I thought it somewhat ironic that I had been planning for about a year, and she spontaneously made it there in about a month. I didn’t mind though. Having her already there when I arrived added that element of stability and reassurance to my otherwise rather topsy-turvy sense of being at that point in my life.

That first evening, we took a walk around the neighborhood. I pretended not to be overly overwhelmed by the new sights, strange sounds and smells—both pleasant and on-the-opposite-end-of-the-spectrum. After all, I lived here for three years when I was young. Hadn’t I seen it all before?

As we headed to a little shop, she spoke of her adventures shopping over the past month, and the few phrases she had picked up so far.

“Hide and seek?” she said to a shopkeeper with her ever-present smile. I looked sideways at her questioningly. Did she just invite him to play a kid’s game? He didn’t seem too surprised as he turned to get something. He presented a package to her and she, in turn, handed it to me. Hide and seek—a brand of chocolate chip cookies. They might not have been chips ahoy, but they weren’t bad.

Those evening walks became a bit of a tradition, and when we didn’t feel like being a spectacle in the rural area we were living, we chose to sit and chat up on the roof. Our discussions were never superficial. To this day, I still can’t abide surface relationships and conversations. There’s gotta be a deeper side, some substance and it’s been a rare blessing to find a friend as deep as she.

View from the roof, trees and flowers

View from the roof

Unlike me, she had only a three-month visa. What I knew was going to be somewhat of a life journey for me I realized was a short trip for her. It was not long before I was to realize that would be the case in more ways than one.

Since she had arrived about a month before us, it seemed I had barely arrived when she began talking about going back to North America. She had plans to return to India though. We discussed so many plans that now it’s hard to remember what had just been great ideas, and what were actual concrete plans.

I made pineapple up-side-down cake the evening she left. It wasn’t a favorite of either of us. I just hadn’t yet discovered a single local shop that sold baking powder. We sat on the roof. I was quiet. These last couple months had brought so many changes. It sounds silly now, but a concern on my mind was, did she still consider me a close friend?

It was one of those times we sat in silence.

Somehow though, she knew what I was thinking. Over plates of juggery-sweetened cake, and under a darkening monochrome sky, she thanked me for being the best friend she ever had, and I knew she knew I felt exactly the same.

We headed back downstairs and said goodbye. She left carrying a single suitcase and a backpack. She always vowed that she would never own more than she could carry on her back and in one hand, leaving the other hand free to help someone else. After she left, I noticed the pile of things she had left of things had decided not to take with her, not to be bogged down with. She was always a traveler, just passing through. I sat at the foot of my bed, going through the items, feeling a hole in my heart bigger than the pile in front me. It felt like my adjustment stage in a new land was starting all over again.

Funny how a hundred people can come and go and not make much of an impression, and yet just one person can be in your life for but a moment by comparison, and change your life and perspectives forever.

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A Friend Is:

Friends Holding HandsSomeone who sees you at your worst, but chooses to see only your best

Someone who understands the deepest part of you, and loves it

Someone with whom you can be yourself, and without whom you know that their presence is still with you

Someone who believes in you at those times you lack belief in yourself, until you choose to believe as well

Someone you feel like you’ve known for ages, even if it’s the first time you’re meeting them

Someone whose counsel you can always depend on, even if at times it is hard to take, because you know they have your best interests at heart

Someone who makes life what you need it, sometimes an adventure and sometimes a calming presence

Someone whose prayers you can always depend on

Someone whose heart was intertwined with yours before you could remember with a link that will always remain

 

Other classic expressions on friendship:

A true friend is a gift of God, and only He who made hearts can unite them.—Robert South

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.—George Eliot

Good friends are like stars; you don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.—Unknown

A friend is one who strengthens you with prayers, blesses you with love, and encourages you with hope.—Unknown

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.—Helen Keller

Friends are like angels following you through life.—Unknown

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.—Anais Nin

No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.—Francois Mocuriac

How blessed I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye to.—Unknown

We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.—Tim McGraw

No lapse of time or distance of place can lessen the friendship of those who are truly persuaded of each other’s worth.—Unknown

The most beautiful discovery that true friends can make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.—Elisabeth Foley

There is no distance too great between friends, for love gives wings to the heart.—Unknown

With every friend I love who has been taken into the brown bosom of the earth, a part of me has been buried there; but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world.—Helen Keller

True friends are never apart, maybe in distance, but not in heart.—Unknown

 

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“There” for him

The thought kept coming to my mind, and I couldn’t shake it: “fail”! I did it. I know. I failed. I always promised to be there for my friends. It was just a part of my nature. There is not much that is more important to me than being there for others, especially at the times when they need someone the most.

Even if it’s someone I don’t know, or have never met, when I hear of a personal problem or difficulty someone is facing, my heart goes out and I wish that somehow I could do something to help them. I stopped reading the newspaper years ago, because with so many heart-wrenching stories, my mind was perpetually trying to figure out if there was some way to get in touch with this person who I read about—that faced a life-threatening illness, or who just lost someone dear to them—to let them know that I am praying for them, and that everything is going to be okay.

So why and how did I fail?

A close friend is at what he deemed the lowest point in his life. He has been at that point for a little while, and hasn’t been able to get up out of it. I have been in touch; I have prayed; I have chatted; I have talked; I have listened. But still, I haven’t really been there for him. How could I be? I’m half a world away. I can’t give him a hug and cry with him. I can’t hold his hand and pray with him. I can’t look him in the eyes and tell him everything is going to be okay. As much as my logic told me, “there is nothing more you can do”, that thought kept needling again and again: “You failed. You weren’t there for a friend when they needed you the most.”

What was the truth? How could I find assurance and the peace of knowing that I did what I could?

In asking this, the words of a poem kept coming into my mind. The funny thing is, the same friend for whom I was now so concerned sent me this poem years ago, at a time when I was struggling and felt I was alone.

Say not I do not understand the fierceness of your fight
For I was with you many times in the darkness of your night
Though you were many miles away and we were years apart
I felt oft’ times your agony, the pain within your heart

Say not you felt the battle grim in darkness all alone
For I was with you there in prayer, stood by you at the Throne
With shield of faith and spirit’s sword, I answered at His Word
And came to battle by your side when first your call I heard

Say not, “‘Tis fantasy that one should hear such distant cry”
For we are one in Him we love, His Spirit draws us nigh
And oft He whispers to my heart the call to quickly pray
So I have reached you there in prayer, though you are far away

I realize I will never be able to be “there” for every one of my friends, family, loved ones, those for whom I feel concern and wish there was something more I could do for them. At the same time, though, I can be—more than even I could if I was there in person to help them through a tough spot, to loan them money, to make a difference in some way. Prayer makes that difference, and more. It draws the spirit of love. It brings a feeling of peace. It shows the way to hope through faith that everything really will work together for the best in the end.sillhouette of woman praying

Did I fail? Not if I prayed with all my heart. And if you ever hear me say, “I’m praying for you”, please believe it, because it comes from a heart of concern that is starting to realize just how powerful a prayer of intercession can be.

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